March 18, 2008 6:59 PM
ADMISSIONS UNDER THE TOP 10 PERCENT RULE AT UT TOP 80 PERCENT
UT President Bill Powers urges lawmakers to change Top 10 Percent Rule, says that his campus soon won't have the space to accommodate all of its high GPA applicants.
Four out of every five Texas high school students admitted to the incoming freshman class at UT-Austin got in via the Top 10 Percent Rule, meaning that university administrators have less discretion than ever to admit freshmen using other criteria, UT President Bill Powers told a House panel today.
He added that the proportion of freshmen admitted under the rule created a decade ago to promote diversity on Texas university campuses has increased year after year. This year’s 81 percent figure for admissions under the Top 10 Percent Rule is 10 points higher than last year, he said.
If current trends hold, the number of applicants from the top 10 percent of their class would reach 100 percent of a freshman class within a couple of years or so. The university would not have the space to accommodate them. Powers said today that he’s not sure what would happen then because the law establishing the rule doesn’t give universities discretion to turn down the applicants.
Lawmakers have talked for several years now about making changes to the Top 10 Percent Rule, which was created in the aftermath of the Hopwood decision that prevented the use of race as a factor in the decision to admit a student. The thinking was that setting aside slots for the highest ranking graduates of every Texas high school would increase diversity at the state’s most prestigious institutes of higher education. Indeed, those campuses have become more diverse since the implementation of the Top 10 Percent Rule. However, the U.S. Supreme Court in the intervening decade has given universities more flexibility in using race in their admissions policies. Powers argues that his university can now use those tools to accomplish the same goals that were to be accomplished by the Top 10 Percent Rule.
The figure given today by Powers to the House Higher Education Committee, though, was obviously intended to give new urgency to reform efforts. Legislation proposed last session to limit the number of automatic admissions based on class ranking did not pass the House after many rural lawmakers objected.
UT has been the campus most affected by the consequences of the Top 10 Percent Rule. At Texas A&M, 46 percent of the Texas high school graduates in the incoming freshman class were let in through the Top 10 Percent Rule, according to Texas A&M President Elsa Murano.
Simply put, high school graduates guaranteed admission under the rule are disproportionately choosing to attend UT. Powers said that his campus doesn’t have the space to accommodate all the top 10 percent graduates in the state. The incoming freshman class will number about 7,400, he said. The number of high school students graduating last June in the top 10 percent of their class was a little more than 24,000.
"We don’t have capacity for all of these students," he said.
Administrators need the discretion to admit well-rounded students who fall outside the top 10 percent of their class or to place students in music, architecture or geoscience programs. Those programs are having problems filling out their classes as more students enter UT via the Top 10 Percent Rule, Powers said.
He added that he was not advocating doing away with the Top 10 Percent Rule but was asking lawmakers to consider limiting the amount of automatic admissions to half of an incoming class as was contemplated in the bill last session on the topic.
He also emphasized his belief that the students admitted to UT under the Top 10 Percent Rule are capable of handling the academic workload. In the past, some have criticized the Top 10 Percent Rule for allowing students to enter school who weren’t academically prepared for the demands of studying at UT.
"They are good students," Powers said. "For us, it is a capacity problem."
ã Copyright March 18, 2008 by Harvey Kronberg, Harvey Kronberg's The Quorum Report
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