UT wants to put cap on Top 10 admissions

More faculty, fewer students recommended

TODD ACKERMAN
The Houston Chronicle
May 12, 2004, Wednesday

The University of Texas-Austin will ask the Legislature to limit the number of students admitted under the state's Top 10 percent law, part of a new plan to shrink the state's largest public university.

UT President Larry Faulkner Tuesday endorsed recommendations of the task force on enrollment strategy that also include increasing the size of the faculty, getting more students to graduate in four years and making the school's target size 48,000 students.

"At stake is our ability to offer students an education comparable to the nation's best public universities," Faulkner said. "We have to get control of our size, our resources and our faculty-student ratio if we're going to deliver a superior product."

Faulkner said he has accepted the principles of the report, but stopped short of saying he will implement all of them.

He said his staff will define "practice and policy" related to the recommendations this summer.

UT has long struggled to lower its enrollment. It has 51,426 students, more than any other single-campus university in the nation, and a student-faculty ratio of 21-1.

To get to a 19-1 ratio, the ratio of institutions with which it likes to compare itself, the report calls for decreasing the student population to 48,000 over the next five years while increasing the faculty by about 170.

The report also calls for the 10 percent law to be changed to allow UT not to have to admit more than 60 percent of a freshman class through automatic admission. From 1998 through 2003, the amount of top 10 percent students enrolling at UT through automatic admission increased from 42 percent of the freshman class to 65 percent.

The law was passed, after a 1996 circuit court ruling prohibited Texas universities from using race-based admissions policies, as an alternative means of diversifying schools.

The court ruling was overturned last year, allowing Texas schools to bring back affirmative action, but most said they still want the law.

But the UT report said the law in its present form limits the discretionary power of the university to select the exact student body it desires.

Two years ago, UT's freshman class was 8,000 students. The report calls for it to be 6,800.

The report also recommends decreasing the time of graduation to five years by limiting to 10 semesters the time allowed to complete a baccalaureate degree.

It would also increase to 15 the minimum number of required hours to be eligible for certain honors programs and merit-based scholarships.

Students would need "a very good reason" why they need to return for a sixth year, said Faulkner.

Faulkner noted that the percentage of UT students graduating in four years has increased from 29 percent in 1998 to 42 percent today but still lags well behind elite public universities such as North Carolina and Virginia, where it is up to 60 percent or more.

Still, Faulkner said he is not yet ready to implement the recommendation that students must graduate in five years. That is one of the recommendations staffers will study.

ENROLLMENT STRATEGY

Other recommendations in the report:

Develop a policy to limit the number of times a student may drop a course or withdraw from the university.

Increase the number of credit hours a student must complete at another school before applying for transfer.

Build or develop additional classrooms from existing space.