Friday, April 03, 2009

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The Lufkin Daily News

Friday, April 03, 2009

A recent piece of state legislation on the top 10 percent rule could make it even more difficult for rural students to have the opportunity to attend state universities like the University of Texas in Austin.

The state Senate passed the bill, by Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) two weeks ago. It still has to go through the House, where it failed two years ago.

The bill, if passed, would limit automatic admissions under the top 10 percent rule to 60 percent of the incoming freshmen class at state colleges and universities. As the law currently stands, all high school graduates in the top 10 percent of their class are granted automatic admission into any state college or university.

Local school officials fear if this bill passes it will cater to students in urban areas, making it even more difficult for students in rural areas, such as Angelina County, to attend any major state universities.

Roy Knight, superintendent at Lufkin ISD, said current data shows outside of those admitted under the top 10 percent law, UT accepts more students from wealthy families, including those who grew up in Highland Park, Austin's West Lake area and Houston's Bellaire area. He believes if they change the law these students will replace students from rural areas.

"My kids are just as entitled," Knight said. "But in the end it's about the kids who come from affluence unable to get into the universities."

Mary Ann Whiteker, Hudson ISD superintendent, is just one of many local school officials who has always supported the top 10 percent rule and does not want to see it change.

"It's allowed opportunities for our rural students to go to flagship universities," Whiteker said. "Due to where our students live they are limited in the opportunities that are available to a lot of students in the urban and suburban areas."

Eric Wright, superintendent at Huntington ISD, said the top 10 percent rule makes admissions into major universities, like UT Austin, fair to all students based on grades.

"If they're having that much demand they need to expand their programs and allow entrance to more students," Wright said.

Gary Martel, superintendent at Diboll ISD, who has a daughter who got accepted into a major university through the top 10 percent rule, said he doesn't think UT really has an admission problem. Even though last year 81 percent of their freshmen admitted fell under the rule, he said not all students admitted choose to go to that school.

And not all students admitted can afford to go.

"I think they're just complaining," Martel said. "There's not that many. We might be trying to fix something that's really not a problem."

Knight also said data shows that of the 81 percent of freshmen admitted into UT last year under the top 10 percent rule, only 70 percent ended up actually attending.

David Flowers, superintendent at Zavalla ISD, also doesn't think changing the rule would be fair to students.

"A student that is in the top 10 percent of their graduating class should be welcome at our state's colleges and universities," Flowers said.

"These top graduates have worked extremely hard and deserve to be admitted to these institutions should they apply."

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