Texas 'Top 10%' Law Helps Increase Minority Enrollment

University Testing

New University of Texas (UT) admissions policies, designed to blunt the impact of the Hopwood federal court decision barring the consideration of race in reviewing applicants (see Examiner, Summer 1997), have resulted in an increase in the number of under-represented minorities who plan to enroll this fall.


While the total size of the UT entering class was designed to be smaller than last year, both the absolute number and percentage of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans accepting admissions offers is higher. Final enrollment figures will not be calculated until school opens, but it appears that the total of first year students from under-represented groups will increase by about five percent (see chart, page five).


Campus officials attribute the results directly to the new state law granting automatic admission to students in the top 10% of their high school classes without regard to test scores, as well as to more aggressive recruitment activities. According to Bruce Walker, admissions director at the flagship UT-Austin campus, "We were working hard, we were reaching into schools, we were talking to students. And when you have a top 10 percent bill, that sends a pretty clear message." UT officials also say they gave more individualized attention to applicants' complete admissions folders this year, thus further reducing the emphasis on standardized test scores.


About 43% of students who received University of Texas admissions offers graduated in the top 10% of their high school classes. The ethnic makeup of these high academic performers is not yet known.


Though the top 10% admissions rule applies only to publicly-funded undergraduate col-leges, many state-run graduate schools also are reporting increases in African American and Latino enrollment. At the University of Texas Medical Schools, for example, the number of entering African Americans and Latinos has been restored to the pre-Hopwood level. Some observers believe that the climate created by state educational leaders in challenging Hopwood and fighting for alternative admissions procedures has stim-ulated minority interest in all University of Texas programs.


In addition to implementing the 10% rule aggressively, University of Texas officials recently appealed the Hopwood decision, which bans any form of affirmative action. Civil rights groups such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and NAACP Legal Defense Fund are also seeking to intervene in the case. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans may take up the case this fall.


The Texas admissions results stand in marked contrast to California, where the most selective public universities experienced huge declines in minority enrollment after educational officials were unable to overturn affirmative action bans (see Examiner, Spring 1998). Once again, admissions rules which emphasize genuine academic performance -- not filling in standardized test bubbles -- prove their merit in enhancing both equity and excellence.