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March 24, 2009 (512) 463-0300

TOP TEN REFORM BILL GETS TENTATIVE NOD

Sen. Shapiro
Sen. Florence Shapiro of Plano answers questions about her bill to limit the number of students given automatic college admissions under the top-ten percent rule.

(AUSTIN) — The Senate has given preliminary approval to a bill aimed at capping the number of students admitted to state universities under the top-ten percent rule. The rule provides that a high school senior graduating in the top ten percent of his or her graduating class can attend the state university of their choice. According to bill sponsor and Education Committee Chair Florence Shapiro of Plano, this policy has led to a glut of students admitted to the University of Texas at Austin based on this criterion. She warned that soon all students at UT will be admitted under the top-ten rule, denying the university the choice to holistically review applicants. "Students are not one-dimensional," said Shapiro. "Let's give the universities the opportunity to dig down and look at all of our student body and let fifty percent of their entering freshmen, be looked at with a holistic, multi-dimensional view."

Shapiro added in laying out the bill before the Senate that while UT is the only school with such a high percentage of top-ten admissions, Texas A&M and UT-Dallas are both close to surpassing 50 percent automatic admissions.

Shapiro's bill, SB 175, would cap admissions under the top-ten rule at a state university at half the incoming class. The process would start at the top and work its way down: first, applicants in the top one percent of their graduating class would be admitted, then the top two percent applicants and so on, until the cap is reached. Then, remaining top-ten applicants would go into a pool, to be reviewed holistically, and admissions from that pool could make up an additional 10 percent of the incoming class. The rest of the applicants would be reviewed under the standard admissions process.

Several amendments were added to the bill, including one that would trigger an automatic legislative review of the top-ten rule changes after eight years. Opponents of the bill warned that it could make it harder for minority and rural students to attend college, so Shapiro added the sunset amendment to force the Legislature to look at the issue in the future.

Another key amendment, proposed by Bryan Senator Steve Ogden and Senator Eddie Lucio of Brownsville, would create a scholarship program for poorer students who graduate in the top ten percent of their high school class. Top ten percent students that demonstrate financial need could have their full tuition paid for at a state university under the amendment. The amendment would also require the Legislature to set aside money to fund these scholarships in each budget.

The bill passed to third reading Tuesday, and will likely come before the full Senate for a final vote Wednesday. The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, March 25 at 11 a.m.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

Sen. Harris
Senator Chris Harris of Arlington (center) poses with his son, Chris Harris, Jr (right) and Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Commissioner Karl Stressman after a resolution honoring Texas cowboys who advanced to the National Finals Rodeo. Sen. Harris' son is a nationally ranked rodeo competitor.

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