Testimony on HB 52 Relating to the Texas Top Ten Percent Plan
Submitted by the Intercultural Development Research Association
March 11, 2009

It is ironic that at a time when expanding global competition requires better educated citizens,
Texas is discussing ways to limit access of its top students to its institutions of higher learning.

The Intercultural Development Research Association is a non-profit research and professional development organization based in
San Antonio that works to create schools that work for all children. Based on research we have been conducting related to expanding college access to the state’s minority and low-income students, we have come to the following conclusions related to the impact of the Texas Top Ten Percent Plan and the probable effects of proposed changes that would limit the number of students offered automatic admission based on their top ten percentile ranking. We would like to share a few of our more critical conclusions with this committee.

1. The Top Ten Percent Plan has helped expand the diversity of students applying, being admitted and actually enrolling in
Texas universities.
Since the adoption of the Top Ten Percent Plan, the percentage of minority students enrolled at the
Texas public colleges and universities has increased. For example, at the University of Texas at
Austin minority enrollment has increased from 33.6 percent of the entering freshmen class in 1997 to 47.6 percent of the class in 2007.

2. Analysis of UT Austin data reveals that minority Top Ten Percent students admitted into UT Austin enroll in greater proportions than do White Top Ten Percent students admitted – meaning that caps in the admission of Top Ten Percent students would negatively impact minority students more heavily than they would impact White students.
Review of University of Texas applications, admissions and actual enrollments among Top Ten Percent students sub-grouped by race and ethnicity reveals that a higher proportion of minority students admitted under the Top Ten Percent Plan actually enrolled. For example, of 4,244 White Top Ten Percent students admitted in the 2007 freshman class, only 2,360 or 55.6 percent wound up actually enrolling at UT Austin. In that same year, of the 458 African American Top Ten Percent students admitted, 284 or 62 percent actually enrolled. Of the 1,571 Asian American Top Ten Percent students admitted, 1,005 or 64 percent actually enrolled. Of the 1,974 Hispanic Top Ten Percent students admitted, 1,109 or 56.2 percent enrolled. Moreover, in the eight years for which data on Top Ten Percent students were available, there appears to be a clear trend of increasing percentages of Top Ten Percent minority students enrolling.

3. Capping Top Ten Percent admissions to 50 percent of a university’s entering class could actually reduce the number of freshmen Top Ten Percent enrollees by a larger number of students than the cap suggests.
Since only about 50 percent of Top Ten Percent students admitted to UT Austin actually enroll, the 40 percent cap on admissions may well convert to an actual 20 percent cap on Top Ten Percent enrollments, meaning that four out of five enrollment slots would be filled on the basis of alternative criteria developed by the university. If the intent is to limit Top Ten Percenters’ automatic admits to 40 percent of the entering freshmen students enrolling in a given year, history indicates that Top Ten Percent students admitted would need to represent closer to 90 percent of the admitted group, since only one half of the admitted Top Ten Percent group would actually wind up enrolling.

4. Limits on the Top Ten Percent Plan will have the greatest negative impact on those high schools that already send high numbers of their Top Ten Percent students to the University of Texas at Austin or Texas A&M.
Under current law, all students ranking in the top ten percent of their graduating class qualify for automatic admission. This means that a school with 500 graduates has 50 students who qualify for guaranteed admission to a
Texas state-funded college or university. With the proposed 40 percent cap, 30 students from that school would lose automatic admissions, meaning that the number of guaranteed slots would decrease from 50 to 20. Those 30 students, formerly guaranteed admission, would have their high academic ranking neutralized and would be subjected to a college or university’s more subjective review process. IDRA research on UT Austin feeder high schools indicates that suburban affluent schools account for a higher proportion of freshmen enrolling at UT Austin. If one assumes that a large number of those students were admitted on the basis of their Top Ten Percent ranking, it will be those schools that will most feel the impact of the proposed cap – since inclusion of any students in the larger applicant pool does not guarantee automatic admission. The number of automatic admissions lost to the cap will be directly related to the size of the school’s graduating class with larger central city and suburban schools most likely bearing the brunt of the impact.

Given these findings, IDRA proposes that placing limits on the proportion of Top Ten Percent admissions, while addressing the complaints of a few, will result in dysfunctional consequences, including reducing minority student access, restrictions in the flow of entering freshmen from some schools that enrolled large numbers as a result of the plan, and no assurance any alternative plan adopted will produce improved student quality or equitable access. If some institutions feel a need to free up admission slots to be used at local discretion, one option is to preserve a set number or percentage of an entering class. At the University of Texas at
Austin , preserving 10 percent of 7,000 slots would produce a pool of 700 targeted admissions. A second option is for the university to limit entrants from what may be over-represented high schools. Analysis of feeder high school data indicates that a small subset of
Texas high schools enrolls a higher percentage of their graduates at UT Austin than most other high schools. A third option is simply to increase the size of the entering freshman classes, with corresponding appropriation of required funding to support that expansion.