Senate Preserves Top 10 Percent Admission Law
Efforts to Curtail, Repeal It Fail Narrowly.
By Ralph K.M. Haurwitz
Saturday, May 07, 2005
The Texas Senate on Friday narrowly rejected efforts to repeal or curtail a state law guaranteeing public university admission to students graduating in the top 10 percent of their high school classes.
However, senators approved a measure that requires students gaining admission under the law to have taken the recommended or advanced high school curriculum. Current law allows students to take a less stringent curriculum. The measure, Senate Bill 333, now goes to the House.
The Senate's action was a victory for Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, the chairman of the Senate's higher education subcommittee who filibustered two years ago to keep the top 10 percent law intact. He says the law assures that the state's universities, especially the University of Texas, have student bodies that are racially, ethnically and geographically diverse.
UT officials were disappointed by the outcome. They have been urging lawmakers to revise the law, which was enacted in 1997 after a court case involving UT resulted in a ban on affirmative action in admission to the state's public universities and colleges.
UT President Larry Faulkner said he nonetheless remains hopeful about prospects in the House. He argues that it's unwise to accept a large number of students on the basis of a single factor. In addition, UT now considers race and ethnicity because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that colleges may do so.
"I think this is only one step in the Legislature's addressing of this issue," Faulkner said. "I think there will be more to come."
Faulkner contends that some sort of cap on admissions under the top 10 percent law would be the best approach and that repealing the law altogether would be better than no change.
Currently, any student graduat- ing in the top 10 percent of a high school in Texas can attend the public college of his or her choice.
UT, more than any other school in the state, is accepting an increasing portion of its student body under that provision. Seventy-two percent of students admitted from Texas high schools for this summer and fall qualified under the law.
An amendment offered by Sen. Kyle Janek, R-Houston, to West's SB 333 would have allowed universities to accept no more than half a freshman class on the basis of class rank. The amendment was tabled, 15-13.
Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, offered an amendment that would have essentially repealed the top 10 percent law. The amendment would have required admissions officers to consider 18 factors, including an applicant's academic record and socioeconomic background.
Senators tabled that amendment as well, 16-12.
Wentworth said afterward that two senators — John Carona of Dallas and Chris Harris of Arlington, both Republicans — had been expected to support repeal or a cap but were absent Friday.
Asked whether he would try again this session to repeal or modify the law, Wentworth said it would depend on whether he can line up sufficient support. "If I can't get people to change their mind, I am not going to waste the time of the Senate," he said.