Supreme Court ruling puts new focus on whether Texas' 'Top 10 Percent' admissions rule is working

Tim Goral's picture

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court kicked the University of Texas affirmative action admission plan back to lower courts for “strict scrutiny.” The “Top 10 Percent” rule will likely get a closer look.

The rule, created by the state Legislature in 1997, guarantees admission to state colleges for students with the best grades in any Texas high school. It was created after courts killed the state’s prior affirmative action plan.

The rule’s designers wanted to open the door to more blacks and Hispanics, bring in more rural applicants and blunt the effect of the SAT and ACT tests.

How well did it work? The University of Texas at Austin’s answer to the Supreme Court is: Not well enough; other measures are needed to ensure sufficient diversity.

But the data needed to broadly assess the effects of the rule are hard to come by. The rule cannot create more diversity than can be supplied by the entire pool of Top 10 Percent graduates. So how diverse are the 10 Percenters? State officials acknowledge that there’s never been a formal effort to find out.

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