Equitable allocation of resources to schools will lead to increased diversity

Tam Cheetham-West

Efforts to increase the diversity of UT’s student body often result in byproducts such as the Top Ten Percent Rule. However, the inability of this policy to produce the desired end over time highlights the need to consider one of the major chronic causes of the disparity in college readiness and attendance which disadvantages students from low-income and minority families: a lack of needed academic resources and opportunities.

As a policy that encourages excellence among high school students, the Top Ten Percent Rule has had some success. For college-bound, high achieving students, the tension that accompanies the application process is lifted and students can focus on improving their college readiness and securing needed financial aid. However, if the purpose of the Top Ten rule is to increase minority attendance, the policy has not been so successful. A look at the demographics of the student body here on the Forty Acres reveals that we still have some way to go to get to the point where our University is a more accurate representation of the diversity in the state.

The resource gap makes it harder for under-equipped students to compete, which leads to the demographic disparity we observe. If a student comes from a school that has few academic counsellors and where the science teacher comes from a non-science background, such a student is likely to have difficulty getting into and thriving in college. In an under-resourced environment, the lack of resources may lead to decreased motivation for students, which in turn leads to student disengagement. If a student has such a state of mind and there is no motivation from any other source, the student may start skipping class prior to dropping out altogether.

Efforts aimed at increasing diversity in state colleges must therefore prioritize making educational resources available to more students from under-represented social and economic groups in society, preparing them to thrive in college and in the workplace. As part of these efforts, the state of Texas must invest more in its teachers; working to improve job satisfaction and allowing more school districts to recruit, retain and retrain qualified teachers.

If all students in Texas are given the needed resources and opportunities, it is far more likely that there will be increased diversity and a higher standard of excellence at the top of high school graduating classes statewide.

Tam Cheetham-West is a mathematics senior from Lagos, Nigeria.