Saturday, July 11, 2009

Indirect affirmative action in Texas college admissions

When the state of Texas ruled out race as an explicit criterion in college admissions, it adopted a rule that any Texas students in the top 10% of their high school class would be given automatic admission to the state university of their choice. Because Texas high schools are collectively diverse, that guaranteed a diverse freshman class. But it proved to be a very rigid way of matching students to schools, and the policy is about to end: Texas Vote Curbs a College Admission Guarantee Meant to Bolster Diversity.

"The University of Texas, Austin, a top-ranked institution, had sought changes to the program for years because it allowed admissions officials almost no latitude in putting together a class and endangered some important but less popular departments, like music. Last fall, 81 percent of the members of the incoming class were admitted under the 10 percent rule.
Suburban parents with students at schools with rigorous standards also complained that the law discriminated against their children, since it was harder to make the cut at such schools than at smaller, rural and some urban schools. "
"The law given final approval by the Senate on Saturday caps the number of students let in under the rule at three-quarters of the class, giving university officials discretion over the makeup of the last quarter. Sponsors of the bill had wanted a lower cap — 50 percent — but their colleagues in the House would go no lower.
Supporters said it was not a moment too soon. The state has only three top-rated universities — the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University and Rice University — and it had been projected that the entire incoming class at the Austin campus would be made up of top-10-percent students by 2013."
"Bill Powers, the president of the University of Texas, Austin, said that, left untouched, the previous law would have forced the university, in the long run, to accept more students than it had the capacity to teach. What is more, the automatically admitted students tended to opt for popular majors, and it had become a struggle to find talented students for programs like architecture, engineering, music, art and geosciences, he said.
While still restrictive, Mr. Powers said, the new law would give admissions officers more flexibility to reach down into high school classes for students who may be brilliant in some regards, like in music, but not in the top 10 percent.
“Judging people on one criterion is not the way to do admissions policy,” he said. “No one else in the country does it.” "

No comments: