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Texas House Approves Limiting Top Ten Percent Rule

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
May 28, 2009

The Texas House approved legislation on Monday aimed at limiting the number of students with top grades automatically admitted to the University of Texas at Austin.

A law passed in 1997 automatically guarantees that students graduating in the top 10 percent of their high school class may enroll at any of the state's public universities. UT-Austin sought to limit the law after students admitted under the policy filled 81 percent of the freshman class this year. Admission officials argued that the policy unfairly forces the school to refuse admission to promising students who excel in art, music or athletics but may not fall in the top tier.

The new measure allows UT-Austin to scale back the number of students admitted under the top 10 percent law to 75 percent of the class. Beginning in 2011, the school will admit the top 1 percent, the top 2 percent and so on until the limit is reached.

The bill will be sent back for approval to the Senate, which approved a previous bill in March that set the limit at 60 percent. House members decided to increase the limit because of concerns that the new bill may hamper efforts to enroll more minority students.

"This is a balanced approach," said Rep. Dan Branch, who sponsored the bill and was quoted in the Austin American-Statesman. "I think we will improve one of the great universities in this country and in fact the world."

Rep. Mike Villarreal pointed out in The Dallas Morning News that the issue is not the rule, but the "undersupply of desirable, top-tier universities."

Referring to the University of Houston, UT-Arlington, UT-San Antonio and other campuses, he argued that "Until we make an increased investment to build those universities up, we will continue to tinker with how we mete out those limited seats at UT-Austin."

The new measure would only apply to UT-Austin, but other colleges could take advantage of the 75-percent limit if their admissions became inundated with students graduating in the top 10 percent.

William Powers Jr., president of UT-Austin, had sought a cap of 50 percent and pledged to admit more minority students. But some lawmakers weren't convinced.

"The (UT) system says, 'Trust me,'" said Rep. Sylvester Turner, who is black, and was quoted in the Statesman. "Quite frankly, I don't believe them. But I will vote to move this bill forward on the trust that they will do better."

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