U. Texas Admissions Office Struggles With Top 10 Percent Rule

This story was written by Sean Beherec, Daily Texan
The University of Texas will admit a record number of high school students who qualify under the top 10 percent law this year.

The number of students admitted under this law is up 10 percent since last year, said Gary Lavergne, program manager of the Office of Admissions.

"About 81 percent of the spaces that we have for Texas high school graduates will be taken up by these automatic admissions," Lavergne said.

He added that this number is preliminary and may be as high as 85 percent.

The top 10 percent law was passed in Texas House Bill 588 in 1997 after the Hopwood v. Texas lawsuit against the University's affirmative action policies. The bill was designed to "increase the chances of enrolling a diverse class," according to a report prepared by Lavergne and Bruce Walker, associate vice provost of student affairs and director of admissions. Lavergne said the diversity of the admitted students under the law in 2008 will remain about the same from the 2007 freshman class despite the increase.

The class enrolled in 1998 was the first affected by the change. That year, 41 percent of the students who applied were enrolled under the top 10 percent law, and since then that number has increased each year. Lavergne said Texas A&M University's percentage of automatically admitted students has hovered around 50 percent the past couple of years.

"We are the only University that is having a problem with the top 10 percent law because we have such a high amount of students that are being admitted by only one thing," Lavergne said.

Changes to the admissions law must be approved by the Texas Legislature, which next meets in January 2009. University administrators have spoken against the law numerous times in the last few years.

Alice Reinarz, assistant provost for enrollment at Texas A&M University, said she can appreciate the dilemma that UT faces with the law but that from an admissions perspective, the top 10 percent law has been working for Texas A&M. She said the freshman class increased in 2006 and that the university has kept that number steady in the following years.

"In the years it has been utilized, the Texas A&M population has become increasingly diverse, but these changes are affected by many factors," Reinarz said.

She added that new freshmen scholarships, better communication with prospective students and their families and permanent recruitment offices around the state also help to improve diversity at the university.

UT President William Powers said the University would be better served in diversifying its class if half of the students were admitted under the top 10 percent law and half under traditional, holistic review. He said the University will not be able to keep expanding its class size to admit students.

"It's a capacity problem for us, and we need to get some control over that," Powers said.
© 2008 Daily Texan via U-WIRE