University of Texas wants legislature to modify top 10 percent rule
05:56 PM CST on Wednesday, January 7, 2009
The Associated Press
AUSTIN – The University of Texas at Austin has "lost control" of its admissions policy and wants to change the law that guarantees automatic entry to students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class, UT President William Powers said Wednesday.
Powers said a record 81 percent of the Texas freshmen entering the university this fall gained admission through the so-called "top 10 percent rule." Unless the Legislature changes the policy during its upcoming 2009 session, Powers said the state's premier university soon would have no room to admit any Texas student who does not meet that standard.
"We've lost control of our entering class because we don't have any discretion on the admissions," Powers said a legislative preview meeting hosted by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors. Powers said the university supports some form of automatic admission based on high school grades but wants to modify existing law so that high achievers who happen to fall short of the top 10 percent can gain entry.
Powers suggested that one solution would be to adopt a more "aggressive" program allowing students to transfer to the university from community colleges.
The automatic admissions law was adopted a decade ago after a federal appeals court decision made affirmative action illegal in Texas college admissions. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed universities to use race as one of many decision-making factors.
Efforts to change the top 10 percent law, or place a cap on the number of students being admitted under it, have fallen apart in past legislative sessions. Many Democrats have argued against modifying it, saying the law has improved ethnic and geographic diversity at major universities over the past decade.
Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, who serves on the Senate panel that oversees higher education, agreed Texas has a "capacity problem" but he said any modifications to the top 10 percent law should contain a "sunset provision" that ensures the Legislature could revisit admissions policy if it's not producing the intended results. West also said studies have shown that students admitted under the provision do better than those who aren't.
"The top ten percent (rule) is working," West said.
The 81st session of the Texas Legislature begins Tuesday at noon and runs for 140 days.