UT seeking to cap top 10% admissions

University of Texas officials want lawmakers to consider capping the percentage of students admitted under the state's top 10 percent law.

By Sharon Jayson
Wednesday, April 2, 2003

University of Texas officials want lawmakers to consider capping the percentage of students admitted under the state's top 10 percent law.

Seventy-three percent of incoming freshmen from Texas were accepted under the 1997 law, which guarantees Texans who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class admission to the public university of their choice. Top 10 percent students make up 63 percent of the entire incoming freshman class.

Those admitted must give UT an answer by May 1, but university officials expect the percentages to hold up when enrollment time comes. UT President Larry Faulkner stressed that officials have just begun discussing a cap.

"I don't think we can afford not to discuss it," Faulkner said Tuesday. "We could get close to 100 percent. If this is going to be a serious university on the national scene, it can't be 100 percent Texans. That's not good for our students, and it's not good for the state."

Faulkner suggested capping top 10 percent admissions at 50 percent to 60 percent. A 75 percent cap on those admissions is now in place at the business and communications schools. Next year, biomedical engineering will also be capped, said Bruce Walker, UT's admissions director. The programs were filling up with students guaranteed admission under the law.

Texas enacted the top 10 percent law after a 1996 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that effectively dismantled affirmative action admissions in the state. President Bush has touted the Texas law as an alternative to affirmative action admissions policies, and his administration has joined a recent challenge to such policies at the University of Michigan. The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case Tuesday.

California and Florida also have percentage plans. California guarantees admission to any University of California System campus to students in the top 4 percent. Florida grants top 20 percent students spots at one of the state's public universities.

In part because the Texas law allows students to pick the campus they want, UT, the popular flagship, has seen applications rise to record levels. Faulkner said he won't ask legislators to restrict the control top 10 percent students now have over which campus they attend, however.

"I'm not interested in a modification that would change the character of the law," he said.

At Texas A&M University, which has also fielded record numbers of applications, 52 percent of those admitted for the fall were in the top 10 percent.

"If UT is having problems, it means we're going to have problems," said Frank Ashley, the admissions director. "Everything they do has such a drastic impact on us. If top 10 kids know they're not going to get into UT, then our numbers are going to jump."

sjayson@statesman.com; 445-3620