Law & Courts

Texas Leaders See Flaws In Admissions Plan

By Sean Cavanagh — June 18, 2003 4 min read

As the U.S. Supreme Court ponders the fate of race as a factor in college admissions, some top Texas officials want to revamp portions of their state’s nationally watched “10 percent plan.”

Long promoted by supporters as an effective alternative to affirmative action, the state’s policy guarantees entry into any of its public universities for students finishing in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating classes.

Larry R. Faulkner, the president of the University of Texas at Austin, said he wants lawmakers to cap the number students automatically admitted to his campus—traditionally the most selective public university in the state—under the system.

And several legislators are pushing for changes that would require high school students to take more rigorous academic courses before they were granted university admission through the 10 percent rule.

“There’s going to be a lot of pressure to look at it,” said Harrison Keller, a spokesman for Speaker of the House Tom Craddick, a Republican. “There’s bipartisan support for revising the 10 percent plan.”

Some lawmakers hope Gov. Rick Perry will consider allowing the issue to be heard during a special session dedicated to education, possibly to be held as soon as July. A spokesman for the GOP governor said Mr. Perry was open to reviewing the law, but wasn’t sure it would happen during a special session.

Diversity Sought

Texas legislators passed the 10 percent plan in 1996, following a federal appeals court decision that effectively barred the use of racial considerations in university admissions. The plan was aimed at maintaining campus diversity, without the use of minority preferences, by setting a uniform admissions standard for all students, some of whom would come from heavily minority areas.

In April, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases challenging the legality of race-based admissions policies at the University of Michigan. Those cases pushed race-neutral plans like Texas'—and similar models in Florida and California—to the forefront of the affirmative action debate. (“Ed. Dept. Report Lists Alternatives to Race Use in College Admissions,” April 9, 2003.)

Backers of percentage plans, including President Bush, who was the governor of Texas when the state adopted its policy, view them as sound ways to promote diversity in a post-affirmative action landscape.

But critics say the success of those policies in bringing diversity is limited, and is reliant on external factors, such as back-door efforts to recruit minority students.

The percent plan has also drawn scorn from some Texans who say students from top-ranked high schools are unfairly denied admission to UT- Austin and Texas A&M University, in College Station, because their high schools are so competitive.

So far, the Texas plan’s record in diversifying state universities has been mixed.

Earlier this year, officials at UT-Austin, the flagship school, released data showing that Hispanics will make up 16.6 percent of the 2003 fall freshman class, up from 14.5 percent in 1996, the last year before race was prohibited as a factor in admissions decisions. Blacks will make up 3.9 percent of the campus’s freshman enrollment this coming fall, compared with 4.1 percent before the end of affirmative action in 1996.

Meanwhile, UT-Austin has seen students admitted under the 10 percent plan taking up ever-larger portions of its freshman classes. About 75 percent of UT-Austin’s incoming class of in-state freshman for fall 2003 are students whose admission was guaranteed by the 10 percent law, compared with only 42 percent shortly after the 10 percent law was passed, Mr. Faulkner said.

The flood of “10 percent” students has hurt the campus’ ability to admit students by weighing factors other than class rank, he said.

“We’ve asked them to cap it at 50 or 60 percent,” Mr. Faulkner said. Overall, he said, he isn’t seeking a major overhaul of the 10 percent plan. “Basically, the 10 percent [policy] works well,” he said. “As applications have risen, we need to adjust it.”

Sen. Jeff Wentworth, a Republican, sponsored legislation to require students to take the state’s recommended high school program before qualifying for automatic college admission under the 10 percent law.

Currently, Texas students can gain entry by taking any of three curricula offered at all Texas’ public high schools: distinguished achievement, recommended high school program, or minimum graduation. The “recommended” curriculum generally mandates that students take a more rigorous set of classes in core subjects.

Though his plan failed over an amendment to cap admissions under the 10 percent rule, he said the bill had broad support, and he predicted it would rise again, possibly in a special session.

“We’re trying to bring equity and fairness to the system,” the senator said. “If you want to go to college, you need to take the precollege curriculum.”


Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How to Power Your Curriculum With Digital Books
Register for this can’t miss session looking at best practices for utilizing digital books to support their curriculum.
Content provided by OverDrive
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Embracing Student Engagement: The Pathway to Post-Pandemic Learning
As schools emerge from remote learning, educators are understandably worried about content and skills that students would otherwise have learned under normal circumstances. This raises the very real possibility that children will face endless hours
Content provided by Newsela

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Law & Courts Some Takeaways for Educators in Supreme Court Rulings on Obamacare, Religious Liberties
The justices rejected a challenge to Obamacare on standing grounds while ruling narrowly in a case involving foster care in Philadelphia.
6 min read
Members of the Supreme Court pose for a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington on April 23, 2021.
Members of the Supreme Court pose for a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington on April 23, 2021.
Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP
Law & Courts The Opioid Crisis Hit Schools Hard. Now They Want Drug Companies to Pay Up
School districts have collectively spent at least $127 billion on services for students affected by opioid addiction, recent court filings say.
12 min read
An arrangement of Oxycodone pills in New York, pictured on Aug. 29, 2018. A new study shoots down the notion that medical marijuana laws can prevent opioid overdose deaths. Chelsea Shover of Stanford University School of Medicine and colleagues reported the findings Monday, June 10, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The painkiller Oxycodone is among the opioids implicated in a health crisis that has school districts joining with states and municipalities in seeking damages from drug manufacturers.
Mark Lennihan/AP
Law & Courts High Court Asks Biden Administration Views on Harvard Affirmative Action in Admissions
Some had expected U.S. Supreme Court justices to jump at the chance to reconsider the practices in education, but that's delayed for now.
3 min read
In this Nov. 10, 2020 photo the sun rises behind the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. The Supreme Court seemed concerned Tuesday, Dec. 1, about the impact of siding with food giants Nestle and Cargill and ending a lawsuit that claims they knowingly bought cocoa beans from farms in Africa that used child slave labor. The court was hearing arguments in the case by phone because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The U.S. Supreme Court is still weighing whether to hear a case challenging Harvard University's race-conscious admissions policies.
Alex Brandon/AP
Law & Courts If Critical Race Theory Is Banned, Are Teachers Protected by the First Amendment?
Bills to rein in how race and other controversial topics are taught have thrust K-12 teachers into a thicket of free speech issues.
10 min read
Image shows a teacher in a classroom.