Texas’ Top 10% automatic admission rule for state schools isn’t making student populations more diverse, study says

Education

AUSTIN (KXAN) — In Texas, if you’re in the top 10% of your high school graduating class, you’re automatically in to all state-funded universities.

But new research says that the state law — which has been in place for about 20 years — has done little to increase diversity at the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor Daniel Klasik and Texas A&M professor Kalena Cortes co-authored the study and presented the findings at the American Educational Research Association’s 2019 annual meeting back in April.

“People generally agree that the percent plan was not able to do as well as race based affirmative action at generating that racial diversity on the flagship campuses,” said Klasik.

He told KXAN they took the data analysis one step further and looked at how many public high schools are sending their students to UT and A&M.

After looking at admissions data from 1996 to 2016, Klasik said they found, “If you were sending students regularly before the percent plan, you were sending students regularly afterward. If you weren’t sending students before, chances are you were not establishing a new pattern of sending students afterward.”

The 10% rule went into effect in 1998.

UT’s student demographics data

When we looked at UT Austin’s student demographics data, back in 2008, 15% of UT’s students were Hispanic, and 15% Asian.

Those numbers did increase over the last 10 years to 19 to 20% for each group.

The number of African American students remained at around 4%.

Klasik said, the school’s diversity did increase “in terms of raw numbers, but not as much as you would expect given the demographic changes in the state. So those populations are growing faster in the state than the growth at the flagship institutions.”

UT officials said they look forward to reading the full study once it’s officially published and peer-reviewed.

They did tell KXAN, “The top 10% law has had a positive impact on increasing geographic diversity and providing more accessibility to UT Austin to students from all schools around the state.”

Recently, UT announced families earning less than $65,000 will get free tuition beginning fall 2020.

When asked if that may have an impact on the student body’s diversity, UT officials responded it may result in more socio-economic diversity as more families realize they can afford UT.

Klasik said proactive, targeted recruiting is still key.

“It’s one thing to say that you are going to be treated the same no matter what high school you go to. It’s another for students to understand that and actually take advantage of that opportunity,” he said. “What the recruiting does is it says not only can you get into these institutions, but you’re wanted on those campuses, and I think that makes a big difference.”

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