Senator West takes a stance on Texas Top 10 Percent Rule for college admissions
AUSTIN -- With just more than 26 hours remaining in the 78th Legislature's Regular Session, State Senator Royce West (D-Dallas) engaged a filibuster bringing action on the Senate floor to a near halt. At issue was a House amendment to Senate Bill 86 that would limit the number of students eligible for college admittance under the state's six-year-old Top 10 plan to 60 percent. The Top 10 Rule was created by House Bill 588, authored by the late State Representative Irma Rangel during the 75th Legislature.
"At a time when this state is behind in it's attempt to bridge the achievement gap, along comes a short-sighted attempt that would limit the number of students that can attend Texas institutions of higher learning," said Senator West. "This session, I have watched good program after good program disintegrate under the mantra that the state can no longer afford them. I say that Texas cannot afford to allow it's next generation of citizens and leaders to fall further behind the rest of the country when it comes to higher education. The buck stops here."
The Top 10 plan is Texas' response to the impact of the 1996 Hopwood Decision reached by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled in March of that year that The University of Texas at Austin Law School had violated the 14th Amendment by considering race in its admissions standards.
The amendment was included in a conference committee report that was brought to the Senate floor late Sunday night. Senator West says it was not appropriate that the provision was put forth late in the session at a time that allowed no public input or debate. Senate Bill 86 proposed to require that for eligibility through Top 10 Percent admission, students must complete the Recommended High School Curriculum. The Texas Grants Program also created by the Legislature, post-Hopwood, also uses that criteria.
"When the time comes to make a major policy decision, there needs to be ample deliberation," said Senator West. "Some people may not think this a major decision, but I do. I don't want to stand here, but if that's what it takes, I will. Hopwood has had the effect of limiting diversity in Texas colleges and universities. Our state demographer has said that with the state's growing minority population, it is imperative that minorities and the disadvantaged have access to higher education."
The University of Texas has claimed that Top 10 Percent admissions have had the effect of limiting the number of slots available to non-Top 10 Percent freshmen enrollees. The Higher Education Coordinating Board's Closing the Gaps Plan requires 300,000 new students to be added to close the gap in higher education by 2015.
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