Today’s top headline in UT’s student paper, The Daily Texan, read: “Top 10 percent may hurt minorities, report says: Black, Hispanic students less likely to go to select universities, study finds.”
The report was based on an unpublished study by Marta Tienda a Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs and Sunny Nui, a research associate at the Office of Population Research. The study consisted of a sampling of more than 13,000 high school seniors interviewed in 2002 and cross-referenced a smaller sample of more than 5,000 of the same students interviewed a year later.
Interestingly, the headline should have read the opposite. In fact, UT’s own research reveals that in 2003, 79% of Hispanic and 73% of Black students admitted were HB588 automatic admits and constituted a combined total of 20% of all incoming freshmen. On the other hand, A&M has not been as successful, experiencing two years of decline in 2001 and 2002. In 2003, Black enrollment declined by 4.7% and Hispanic enrollment increased by a mere 0.7% constituting almost 12% of the overall campus headcount.
Additionally, the byline of the story states that minorities are unlikely to attend flagship institutions. Although the Tienda study does not directly address Hispanic preferences, in referring to Black student choices it explicitly states, “…that black students are 34 percent more likely than white students to prefer non-Texas institutions to four-year Texas institutions, and that they prefer other four-year Texas institutions over the Austin and College Station campuses.”
The Austin American-Statesman has reported Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Gov. Rick Perry as saying that the law causes ‘brain drain’ forcing many qualified students to enroll in out-of-state schools. However, the study dispels this myth concluding that students from high-performing or “feeder” schools are not in fact being “crowded out” of Austin and College Station. It stated that an equal number of these students prefer out-of-state schools as much as they prefer the Texas flagships. Moreover, 75% of the seniors aspiring to attend either campus did so and 88% attend other colleges that were their top choice.
Critics such as Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio), who has authored a bill to repeal the law, was quoted in the Houston Chronicle as saying, “the top 10 percent law is inherently unfair because it uses only one criterion on which to either accept or reject applicants.” However, the study also reveals that high-performing students from lesser performing high schools were readily admitted to prestigious private schools such as “New York University, Smith College, the University of Chicago and leading institutions” which base their admissions on a plurality of factors.
The civil rights organizations MALDEF, Equal Justice Society, Society of American Law Teachers and Americans for a Fair Chance have recommended that Texas lawmakers integrate racial considerations and the top ten percent law and reconsider the effects of legacy policy in admissions. Their published report is entitled “Blend It Don’t End It.” The Tienda study not only backs this recommendation but also states that lawmakers should look seriously at school equity and spend much needed tax dollars on low-performing schools - once again bringing school finance to the forefront.
Indeed, it is becoming ever more apparent to those who care about the future of Texas kids that fair and equal funding for all schools - best achieved through a progressive tax structure - will open the door to opportunity and access for every Texan. The remaining question: When will our leadership choose equality over electoral politics and shell game tax plans?