A Reprieve for the 10 Percent Plan in Texas

Two weeks ago JBHE reported that the state Senate in Texas passed a bill which would have permitted the University of Texas at Austin to limit the number of students admitted under the state’s so-called 10 percent plan. The program was established in 1996 after the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Hopwood case ruled that race-sensitive admissions were not permitted at state universities. That ruling was overturned by the 2003 Supreme Court decision in Grutter.

Under this admissions procedure, the top 10 percent of each high school graduating class in Texas was guaranteed a spot in the first-year class at a state-operated university of their choice. The 10 percent rule obliges the University of Texas at Austin to admit students from often lower-quality (predominantly minority) high schools who have significantly lower grades and test scores. Critics of the 10 percent rule believe that the admissions program is lowering the overall academic quality of the students at the University of Texas.

The Senate bill would have permitted the University of Texas to cap the number of students who gained automatic admission under the 10 percent plan. The Texas House was expected to go along because it had passed similar legislation twice in the recent past. But in a surprise to many observers, the black and Hispanic members of the House put together a coalition to reject the bill altering the 10 percent plan.