Texas Senate votes on controversial plan for college admission

May 15, 2009

Senate approves tougher standards
By Patrick McGee
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Saturday, May 7, 2005

The bill would grant automatic acceptance by state universities only to students who take harder courses and rank in the top 10 percent of their graduating class.

AUSTIN — The Texas Senate voted Friday to toughen a college admission law by limiting automatic admission to students who take a more rigorous curriculum in addition to ranking in the top 10 percent of their graduating class.

The top 10 percent law guarantees admission to any state university to Texas students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class.

Opponents have called the law unfair to students who just missed top 10 percent status because they attend more demanding high schools.

State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, had sought to strengthen the top law with Senate Bill 333, which would limit guaranteed admission to students to take the state’s recommended or advanced high school curriculum and attain top 10 percent ranking.

He won the battle to pass the bill and fought off several amendments.

An amendment by state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, would have repealed the top 10 percent law. Sen. Kyle Janek, R-Houston, introduced an amendment that would have capped automatic admissions at 50 percent of the entering class.

Wentworth cited a University of Texas at Austin committee, whose members said that admitting students based on one criterion is bad policy.

“I believe the university should be unshackled to consider a wide range of things,” Wentworth said.

Janek proposed capping automatic admissions at 50 percent of a university’s freshman class because automatic admissions to UT-Austin account for more than 60 percent of the incoming freshman class.

Those amendments failed by close votes, but senators approved two other amendments to tighten standards.

One of the approved amendments calls on the Texas Education Agency to standardize high school grade-point averages to level the playing field.

The other calls on admission officers, after accepting all top 10 percent applicants, to give priority to students who took difficult high school courses.

General acceptance of the top 10 percent law seemed to hold sway over the Senate, and several senators said figures from UT-Austin indicate that top-10 students are doing well academically.

“Our best and brightest are being admitted to the university,” said Sen. Kip Averitt, R-McGregor. “That’s why I think, stick with the top 10 percent rule. It’s important for the university, it’s important for the state.”

This week, the House Education Committee approved a bill that would preserve the top 10 percent law but cap the number of students admitted under it. The bill the Senate approved Friday now goes to that committee for consideration.