Texas students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class would no longer be guaranteed automatic admission to a public university under a bill that passed a Senate panel Wednesday.
The legislation, passed 4-1 out of the Senate Higher Education Committee, would cap top 10 percent admissions to 50 percent of a school’s entering freshman class.
The bill has strong backing from the University of Texas, where more than 80 percent of current freshmen gained admission through the automatic-entry guarantee.
Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, sponsor of the cap legislation, said talented musicians and would-be scientists are going elsewhere because they can’t get into UT.
“It has caused many of our very good students that are in the 12th or 15th or even 20th place to go on to other universities, to go out of state, in order to meet their needs,” she said. “It’s a brain drain.”
Practically speaking at UT, the bill would mean that only students graduating in the top 6 to 8 percent would be guaranteed admission under current trends, Shapiro said. It only affects colleges that admit 50 percent or more of entering freshmen under the automatic guarantee provisions.
Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, voted against the legislation. West raised concerns about efforts to recruit minorities without the law. He said Texas, which has a history of racial discrimination in college admissions, could see less diverse campuses.
“How do you keep pressure on the system to make certain that we don’t repeat the sins of the past,” West said. “How do you keep institutional pressure on the system?”
UT President William Powers said UT is allowed to use race-based affirmative action and described that as a preferable and more flexible route to diversity. He said the top 10 percent law has provoked an unintended “capacity problem” on campus, noting that UT was already planning to eliminate the summer entering freshman class as a result of the law.
“It is a crisis on our campus right now,” Powers said.
The move to modify the top 10 percent law has failed in past sessions and it was met with some skepticism Wednesday. Along with West, some minority groups, including the NAACP and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, warned that ending the policy would lower the numbers of minorities going to college.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, said he was concerned that the effort to boost diversity could come at the expense of qualified White students.
“I also want to be sure that those students who are not minority students who may not be in the top 10 are not pushed aside because they’re not a minority,” he said.
The legislation still has a long way to go before becoming law. It now heads to the full Senate, but its fate there and in the state House are far from certain.
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com