Texas Bill Ties College Admissions, Economic Need

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High school graduates from needy families and low-performing schools would get special consideration when applying to Texas' selective colleges under a bill passed this month by the state Senate.

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Supporters say that the bill is a race-neutral way to "zero out" the impact of a federal appeals court ruling last year that struck down race-based admissions and financial-aid policies in the state's public colleges.

California has a similar ban on racial preferences, and other states are considering such policies. But replacing racial preferences with economic-based preferences would make Texas a pioneer.

"I ... support class-based preferences as a means of increasing the chances that more minorities will be enrolled," said Sen. Royce West, the Dallas Democrat who co-sponsored the bill.

Texas officials have gotten mixed signals recently from the U.S. Department of Education on the impact of the 1996 decision in Hopwood v. Texas.("Federal File," in This Week's News.)

Allocating Admissions

Under the measure, which now goes to the House, 50 percent of successful applicants to the state's eight selective universities would be admitted based on the usual criteria--primarily standardized test scores and class standing.

But the bill would require the automatic admission of students whose grade-point averages put them in the top 10 percent of their classes, regardless of their test scores.

Forty percent of all students accepted would be admitted under policies that consider parental income and education levels, as well as whether the applicant is bilingual or comes from a low-performing high school.

The final 10 percent of admissions would target academically marginal students who show the potential to succeed.

The Senate passed the measure April 11 by a vote of 23-7. Opponents said the bill would interfere with admissions policies.

College officials reacted with guarded support for the idea. "For this thing to work, they would have to increase the amount of money (for higher education) in order to give students a chance to succeed," said Alfred Hurley, the chancellor and president of the University of North Texas in Denton.

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