Wednesday, September 16, 2009

UT toughening admissions standard

Top 8 percent class ranking will be needed for automatic entry for 2011-12 school year.

By Ralph K.M. Haurwitz
Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The competition to get into the University of Texas is about to get tougher.

Under a 1997 law intended to boost racial and ethnic diversity, a student graduating in the top 10 percent of his or her Texas high school class was entitled to attend UT or any other public university in the state.

But under a new policy that applies to current high school juniors entering college in fall 2011, students will have to rank in the top 8 percent of their graduating class to gain automatic admission to UT. A top 10 percent ranking will still be good enough for the state's other 37 public universities.

The new policy comes as no surprise. State lawmakers passed a measure earlier this year that grants UT — and only UT — authority to limit automatically admitted students to 75 percent of freshmen from Texas.

"Using data from recent years, the University has determined that automatically admitting students in the top 8 percent of their high school graduating class to the 2011 entering freshman class will fill 75 percent of available spaces," UT President William Powers Jr. wrote in a letter Monday to Robert Scott, the state's education commissioner.

The remaining slots, Powers said, would be filled using a "holistic review" that takes many factors other than class rank into account.

Powers had testified to lawmakers that, with 81 percent of UT freshmen entering under the law last fall, his campus had too little discretion to admit applicants with musical talent, leadership skills and other qualities who didn't rank in the top 10 percent. Eighty-six percent of this year's freshmen from Texas got in under the law.

Although the university wanted to cap automatic admissions at about half of freshmen from Texas, House members were not inclined to grant that much leeway. The Senate, which had approved a 60 percent limit for UT and the other universities, went along with what House leaders described as a take-it-or-leave-it proposal for the Austin flagship.

The law did not allow UT to change the limit immediately. But if the new cap had been in place this fall, 8,434 students would have been automatically admitted, 1,714 fewer than the 10,148 who were granted such admission, said Kedra Ishop, vice provost and director of admissions. UT admits about twice as many students as it needs to fill the class because about half do not enroll.

UT enrolled 51,032 undergraduate and graduate students this fall, according to preliminary estimates.

Senate Bill 175 also limits UT's students from other states and countries to 10 percent of the entering class, about what they have constituted in recent years.

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