Remove top 10 percent rule, make holistic review standard

Mohammad Syed

And UT wins once again.

On a 4-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in Fisher v. The University of Texas that the University’s use of affirmative action in its admissions policy is constitutional. Twitter has blown up with supporters of affirmative action tagging their tweets #staymadabby. However, while the SCOTUS ruling allows the admissions process to remain as is, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking the current admissions system at UT is working in its promotion of diversity.

The current admissions system is broken into two processes. Texas House Bill 588 guarantees automatic admissions into UT to the top 10 percent (amended to seven percent) of students from Texas public high schools. The rest of the class is admitted via a holistic admissions process, where race is part of the applicant’s bigger picture. The problem with the current process isn’t holistic admissions, which most universities across the nation use. The problem with the current admissions process is the top 10 percent rule.

The rule was created after affirmative action was banned in Texas in 1996, essentially as a replacement. Its rationale was based on the idea that Texas public schools are segregated. If UT admits the top 10 percent of students at primarily “white high schools” and the top 10 percent of students at primarily “black high schools”, then diversity will be achieved. Statistically, this rule just doesn’t work that well. Texas has an African American population of 12 percent. UT, as of 2015, has an African American population of 4.6 percent. Since 2000 to 2015, there has been a mere 1.4 percent increase in African American population.

In addition to the law not working, it’s easy to manipulate. Students with the same grades are more likely to get into UT from a sub-par high school than from an academically excellent high school. Studies have shown that in light of this rule, some students would transfer from rigorous schools to less rigorous for the express purpose of getting admission. Other experts warned students would take classes exclusively to boost their GPA to gain admission rather than to prepare themselves for college.

Just because you were in the top seven percent of your graduating class doesn’t mean that you’re able to keep up with UT’s rigorous curriculum. Look to the four-year graduation rate which is currently at a record high, 57.7 percent. Oftentimes, the students who aren’t able to keep up are forced to either take an extra semester or drop out of UT.

While programs such as TIP and ULN help increase the graduation rate, they don’t solve the underlying problem that UT is admitting students they shouldn’t have admitted. No university should have an admissions criterion solely based on one relative factor: high school class rank. Standardized tests like the SAT and ACT are called “standardized tests” because they help establish a universal measure of academic capability. The fact that UT doesn’t consider these scores when admitting most of their class is ridiculous. And this isn’t the fault of UT, this is the fault of the Texas legislature. Both Chancellor McRaven and President Fenves have spoken about their concerns of such a rule.

If you’re adamant supporters of affirmative action, we now have an opportunity. The Top 10 percent rule was created to replace affirmative action. Today, affirmative action was reaffirmed and stands tall. It’s our job now to pressure our legislators to remove the failing, unfair top 10 percent rule and replace it entirely with holistic admissions.

Texas Legislature 2017, it’s your move.  

Syed is a biochemistry and humanities honors sophomore from Houston. Follow him on Twitter @mohammadasyed.