NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Texas' "10 Percenters"

June 20, 2003

The Supreme Court is nearing a decision on the University of Michigan's affirmative-action preferences in admissions. In 1997, as governor of Texas, President Bush signed into law a "race neutral" plan conceived by backers of affirmative action after a 1996 federal appeals court ruling barred public universities in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana from using racial preferences.

Under the program, Texas residents who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high-school class can be automatically admitted to any state university.

  • At the University of Texas at Austin, for example, Hispanics will make up 16.6 percent of this fall's freshman class, up two percentage points from 1995.
  • The proportion of African-Americans will be down only slightly, at 3.9 percent.
  • Ten percenters will account for 69 percent of this fall's freshman class at UT-Austin, and officials have capped their enrollment.

Hispanics and African-Americans accounted for about 52 percent of all 15- to 19-year-olds in Texas in 2000, according to a recent Harvard University study, and about 35 percent of the freshmen admitted to state universities.

  • The 10 percent plan makes no distinction between high-schools, so students who take the bare minimum curriculum or graduate from low performing schools are ranked the same as those who enroll in more challenging courses or graduate from more competitive schools.
  • Some parents acknowledge that, to boost class rank, they have steered their children away from tough courses.
  • Many private schools don't rank their students academically, so graduates can't be considered for automatic admission.

State Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) proposed restricting automatic admission to students who complete a college-prep curriculum recommended by the state, but his bill was filibustered in the now-ended state legislative session.

Source: Robert Tomsho, "Texas's 'Race-Neutral' Diversity Plan May Be Facing an Overhaul," Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2003.

For WSJ text (requires subscription),,SB10560563916541100,00.html


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