UT student body grows more diverse

By HOLLY K. HACKER
The Dallas Morning News
Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The student body at the University of Texas at Austin keeps getting more diverse, enrollment numbers released Tuesday show.

Forty percent of the 6,796 entering freshmen are minorities, up from 38 percent last year. University officials say the numbers reflect their efforts to make UT more diverse without factoring race into admissions, in keeping with a 1996 federal court ruling.

Bruce Walker, UT's admissions director, said the growing diversity can't be explained by any one practice or event. "This is something we work on constantly and over time," he said.

This fall's freshman enrollment breaks down like this: 57 percent white, 18 percent Asian-American, 17 percent Hispanic, 5 percent black and 3 percent other (including foreign students and those whose ethnicity is unknown). Ten years ago, the entering freshman class was 64 percent white, 15 percent Asian-American, 14 percent Hispanic, 5 percent black and 2 percent other.

At that rate UT, like most public universities, falls short of mirroring the state's diversity anytime soon. Together, blacks and Hispanics make up 51 percent of the state's population age 15 to 34, but only 38 percent of students in public colleges and universities, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Experts in higher education say the state's Top 10 Percent law has helped keep campuses multiethnic. Under that law, the top tenth of students from every public high school are guaranteed admission to any Texas public university.

UT has taken extra steps such as opening admissions offices in Dallas and Houston to encourage nearby students to apply. UT also named "Longhorn Opportunity" high schools that typically send few students to the Austin campus, and targets them with recruiting visits and scholarships.

Staff writer Karen Brooks in Austin contributed to this report.

E-mail hhacker@dallasnews.com