Monday, September 21, 2009

Top 8% Auto Admit... What Will the Impact Be?

In the educational community, many of us have been waiting for change in the way U of Texas - Austin admits their freshman class for quite some time. Last week, the University of Texas at Austin announced they will automatically admit all eligible 2011 summer/fall freshman applicants who rank only within the top 8 percent of their high school graduating classes, with remaining spaces to be filled through holistic review. They will admit automatically enough students to fill 75 percent of available spaces set aside for Texas residents in an entering freshman class. I have to ask the question, "Will the new Top 8% auto admit law really satisfy our desire for a truly diverse, talented pool, full of students who perhaps bloomed later in life?" I am not convinced that the Texas legislature went far enough to ensure a different student body than we currently have. The current class of 2013 is comprised nearly entirely of students from the top 10%; 86% is the number I have seen quoted in The Daily Texan.

I find it absurd that a student possibly could be accepted to Rice (A Top 20 Ranked Private University), but be denied to the largest public university in Texas. Believe it or not, this has happened and will continue to occur under the new law. I propose that we eliminate the concept of "auto-admit" for all students, but set a minimum level of standardized test scores or AP scores for the top 10% to gain a conditional auto admit status. University of Texas' standardized test averages would most certainly rise and the calibur of the students would as well. I find it unjust that a student at Westlake HS (Eanes School District) who is ranked in the 48th % of their class with a 92 average and 1200 SATs (CR and Math) has literally less than a 5% chance of admission to U of Texas at Austin as a freshman, while a student at LBJ (Austin School District)with a 2.9 GPA, less than 900 SATs (CR and Math) and a 9% ranking will automatically be accepted to UT. This is way too large of a discrepancy in academic standards and reducing the auto admit law from top 10% to top 8% will not eliminate these types of examples.

Background: William Powers Jr., president of the university, said that automatically admitting students in the top 8 percent of their high school graduating class to the 2011 entering freshman class would fill 75 percent of available spaces. A new state law, Senate Bill 175, passed by the 81st Legislature, modified the university's admissions program, which previously had been required to automatically admit students in the top 10 percent of their high school class. The top 10% went into effect in 1997, originally intended to increase diversity in regards to ethnicity, SES, and geographics. The Top 10% Law (originally styled “Texas House Bill 588”) was passed in 1997 and went into effect the following year. The law was a response to the Hopwood decision, in which the U.S.Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit prohibited public universities from using a student’s racial or ethnic background as a consideration in admissions decisions.

While Top 10% students on average earn slightly higher grades at UT than non-Top 10% students, the performance is not uniform throughout the Top 10%. Those students in the 6th through the 10th percentile of their high school graduating class earn on average a grade point average equal to students in the 11th through the 20th percentile. (Source: The Top 10% Law and its impact on The University of Texas at Austin from

Posted by: Lauren Kahn,M.A. College Educational Consultant

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