TXEXplainer: Why Top 10 Percent Is Now Top 7

UT’s automatic-admissions process is changing. The rule is commonly known as Top 10 Percent, but that just might need to change.

The San Antonio Express-News reported late Tuesday that UT will automatically admit high-school seniors who graduate in the top 7 percent of their class starting in fall 2014. While most know about the state’s so-called Top 10 Percent law, the practice of automatic admissions is more complicated.

    1. It’s actually a 75 percent law. And has been for about three years. In 2009, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 175, allowing UT-Austin to limit automatic admissions of Texas residents to 75 percent of the incoming freshman class*. The other 25 percent could be used to admit out-of-state and international students, and deserving students who didn’t graduate at the top of their class. Those students are admitted under holistic review, the practice now being reviewed by the Supreme Court in the Fisher v. Texas case. With the 75 percent rule, UT-Austin starts with the highest percentile, and works its way down until 75 percent of the class is filled with automatic admissions students.
    2. Smaller percentages have been used since 2011. The fact is, there are just too many top 10 percent graduates that apply to UT. For the fall 2011 semester, the first in which the University could tweak the number under SB 175, UT changed the automatic admissions benchmark to the top 8 percent. For the the current fall 2012 semester, it was raised to 9 percent, resulting in a record high number of incoming freshman. For fall 2013, it will again go to 8 percent, and down to 7 percent in 2014, according to the University, and echoed by education commissioner Michael Williams in a letter to Texas schools.
    3. It’s likely to change again. If the Supreme Court overturns holistic admissions, the University’s freshman class will be made entirely of automatic admissions, based on the provisions of—you guessed it—SB 175. Even if it isn’t overturned, Texas’ population shows no sign of slowing its growth, meaning more students, and more top 10 percent graduates. If UT is overwhelmed by top 10 percent graduates, the University will have a difficult, if not impossible time admitting out-of-state and international freshmen.
    4. The change means fewer students will be admitted, but not by much. The shift to top 7 percent is designed to keep the incoming class size roughly the same size—a sustainable size. Under SB 175, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has set rules allowing UT to change the percentage in order to maintain a manageable freshman class.
    5. But the entire system may be scrapped. Texas Senate Higher Education chair Kel Seliger has more-than-hinted that the Top 10 Percent law may be changing or even heading for the chopping block in the coming legislative session. With automatic admissions potentially nullified by the Legislature, and holistic admission potentially eliminated by the Supreme Court, UT may have to take its admissions policy back the the drawing board again.

See President Powers’ full letter to Commissioner Michael Williams notifying the Texas Education Agency of the change below:

President Powers’ Letter to Commissioner Williams

*Note: The Senate Research Center’s Bill Analysis includes the following:

A university needs the flexibility to consider criteria other than high school rank, such as test scores, special talents, leadership ability, personal achievements, or other relevant aspects of what the student can offer the academic environment. This bill places a cap on automatic admissions, limiting the percentage of the incoming class that must be admitted under that law.


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