From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
May 21, 1997
Contact: Rick Svataro, (512) 463-0113

Senate Passes Legislation To Monitor Minority Access to Higher Education in Texas

AUSTIN, Tx. -- The Texas Senate today passed legislation that would require the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to monitor minority participation at state colleges and universities in the wake of the federal court ruling prohibiting affirmative action programs in Texas. The legislation, House Bill 2146 by Representative Glen Maxey (D-Austin) and Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), would require the state to collect data on minority applications, recruitment, admissions, retention and graduation at state institutions of higher education.

"This legislation will serve as a constant reminder of how quickly the clock is being turned back," said Ellis. "I hope we can get the public's attention. Texas is in for a rude awakening."

Ellis said that only one African American and 14 Hispanic students have enrolled at the University of Texas School of Law for the 1997 fall semester. Traditionally, the law school enrolls about 30 to 40 African Americans and 50 to 65 Hispanics among the 500 new law school students each year. The university has offered admissions to only 11 African Americans and 33 Hispanic students for the fall semester.

"The students who attend our public colleges and universities should reflect the diversity of the State of Texas," Ellis said. "If UT becomes all white, I think we need to take a second look at how we fund our institutions of higher education. We ought to send the money where the students are."

Recently released data from the University of Texas shows that freshman offers of admission at the university to African Americans are down 25%. Offers to Hispanics are down 15%. Offers to Native Americans are down 24%. Offers to Anglos are up 4%.

Senator Mario Gallegos (D-Houston) said consideration of race in admissions has been necessary to ensure equal access to educational opportunity for all students.

"Affirmative action policies have helped thousands of Texas students succeed in higher education and achieve the American dream," Gallegos said. "We must do more -- not less -- to increase educational opportunity for all of the people of Texas."

"Race-based problems require race-based solutions," Ellis said. "As long as discrimination persists in higher education and the marketplace, I believe we have an obligation at all levels of government to attempt to remedy that discrimination."