New Senate Higher Ed Chair Not Sold on Top 10 Percent Law

Texas politics website Quorum Report published a quote from newly appointed Texas Senate higher education chair Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) on Tuesday that throws the future of the state’s Top 10 Percent law into doubt. While Seliger supports the general concept of increasing diversity at Texas universities, he’s not sure the Top 10 Percent Law is the best way to do it.

The 1997 law guarantees admission to Texas public universities for all high school students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their class, as determined by grade point average. The rule proved so popular that the Legislature was forced to cap automatic admissions to UT-Austin at 75 percent of the freshman class.

The law is intended to create greater diversity in Texas public universities without using race as a factor. It was created between two major court decisions—one that ruled against affirmative action and one that ruled for it. UT-Austin’s current admissions process, now under review at the U.S. Supreme Court, uses both the Top 10 Percent rule and a process for non-automatic admissions called “holistic review,” which includes race, along with several other factors, such as volunteer and extracurricular activities.

Seliger’s remarks, given to the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association:

“It is there to increase minority enrollment, which I think is a very good idea. I don’t think the [Top] 10 Percent [law] really works to do that. If so, then we should do away with it.”

So why’s this important? Because the same law that capped automatic admissions at 75 percent (Senate Bill 175) also included a trigger that removed the cap if holistic review was ended or overturned. The Fisher v. University of Texas case may end holistic review, meaning likely 100 percent of UT-Austin freshman will be admitted under the Top 10 Percent law. Put another way, the state’s flagship institution could find itself in a position of not getting to select even a single one of its incoming freshmen.

Unless, of course, the Legislature eliminates Top 10. If that’s the case, the University may have to completely restructure its admissions process.

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst appointed Seliger higher education chair during a mass reshuffle on October 4. He replaces long-time committee chairwoman and Texas Ex Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo).

Seliger confirmed his comments Wednesday afternoon, praising the University’s diversity goals and emphasizing a willingness to re-examine the Top 10 Percent law. “I intend on doing the research with the universities” to review whether the law is effective in creating diversity, Seliger told Promote & Protect.

According to a 2010 UT-Austin report, top 10 percent admissions made up 82 percent of all African-American students admitted. Only 63 percent of UT’s white students were admitted under the rule.

Editor’s Note: The Texas Exes does not have a position on the Top 10 Percent Law.


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