Dewhurst wants review of college admission law

By Ken Herman
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Friday, September 26, 2003

The push for changes in the state law that guarantees admission to public universities for top high school graduates got a boost Thursday from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who wants the topic addressed next spring.

Dewhurst said there is "no question" that the law, which allows graduates in the top 10 percent of their classes to attend the state university of their choice, has become a significant problem.

"We've got a brain drain going on of really smart youngsters who can't get into our flagship schools that are going out of state," he said.

Critics complain the law has made it difficult for students from competitive high schools to get into state universities if they do not graduate in the top 10 percent.

Officials at the University of Texas, where more than 70 percent of the Texans admitted this year qualified under the top 10 percent law, say the measure has become cumbersome.

Dewhurst rejected the idea, pushed by Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, that the law should be repealed. Instead, Dewhurst favors legislation that would cap the number of slots universities had to reserve for top 10 percent graduates.

Earlier this year, the Texas House passed a measure that would have done that. The measure died in a Senate filibuster led by Royce West, D-Dallas.

The topic could come up again next spring when Gov. Rick Perry is expected to convene a special legislative session on public school finance.

The top 10 percent law was passed in 1997 after a court case resulted in the end of the use of affirmative action in admissions to state universities. The law has helped UT attract minority students.

Wentworth said he thinks the law is no longer needed because the U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled that ethnicity can be used in college admissions decisions.

West, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education, said Thursday the law is ripe for review but not repeal.

"Repeal, as far as I'm concerned, is out of the question," he said. "I think we can look at some changes that need to be made, but that needs to be done in consultation with the governor's office, the lieutenant governor's office and the academic leadership of the state."

kherman@statesman.com; 445-1718