House and Senate Panels Approve Top 10 Exemption

Higher education leaders in both chambers of the Legislature have endorsed legislation to extend a cap on automatic admissions at UT.

House and Senate Panels Approve Top 10 Exemption

Update: Senate Bill 1530, which would extend the 75 percent cap, passed the full Senate Tuesday, April 9.

The higher education committees in both the Texas House and Senate approved bills Wednesday that would extend an exemption of the Top 10 Percent law that applies specifically to UT, capping the number of automatically admitted students to 75 percent of an incoming class.

The bills, which now must be voted on by the full Legislature, extend a provision passed in 2009 that established the 75 percent cap unique to UT-Austin. Without legislative action this session, the cap would disappear in the 2015-2016 academic year. President Bill Powers and admissions director Kedra Ishop testified to the Senate higher education committee Wednesday on the automatic admissions policy and UT’s diversity initiatives.

The Top 10 Percent law was created by the Legislature in 1997, and allows students who graduate in the top tier of their high school class to earn automatic admission to Texas public universities. The policy was designed to help diversify Texas universities after the use of race in admissions was struck down by the Supreme Court, and help keep talented students in the state. Though the use of race was once again made legal (but may once again be thrown out), the Top 10 law continues at Texas public universities.

While the effectiveness of the law has been debated, it became clear that the number of automatic admissions would swell to almost all of UT’s freshman class. Though the “top ten” threshold has shrunk as small as the top seven percent of graduating seniors, UT was still becoming increasingly limited in the number of students it could admit based on its own admissions criteria. The 2009 exemption allows UT to select 25 percent of its incoming class from non-top 10 percent students using a process called holistic review.

Powers noted Wednesday that, were the cap to expire, automatic admissions would make up “over 90 percent” of UT’s freshman class.

Photo by Trey Ratliff via Flickr Creative Commons.


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