Automatic admission requirement more rigorous for 2014

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The requirement for high school students to qualify for automatic admission into the University of Texas at Austin has become more rigorous for students planning to enter in 2014.

The University determined high school juniors interested in applying to UT will now be required to graduate in the top 7 percent of their class to qualify for automatic admission, UT President William Powers Jr. said in a letter to State Education Commissioner Michael Williams in September.

The Texas Education Agency announced the news on its website Tuesday evening. For the past three years, automatic admission to the University was restricted to students who graduated in the top 8 or 9 percent of their class.

Since 1997, all top 10 percent Texas high school graduates received automatic admission to any public Texas university of their choice. In 2009, the state legislature modified the automatic admission program for UT, allowing it to automatically admit enough students to fill 75 percent of its total admitted students instead of any top 10 percent graduate. The modified law first went into effect for students entering the University in 2011.

The University is required to determine high school class rank requirements two years in advance to notify current high school juniors of the change.

Kedra Ishop, vice provost and director of admissions, said the University uses its enrollment figures to predict the number of students who will qualify for automatic admission. The University then uses that estimate to determine the class rank requirement needed to limit automatically admitted students to 75 percent of incoming in-state freshmen, Ishop said.

“We have done this every year since the bill was passed, and this is the lowest the rank requirement has gotten,” Ishop said. “The first year the mark was 8 percent, the second was 9 percent and then back to 8 percent for those applying this year.”

She said the large number of incoming freshmen this year — the largest in UT’s history­ at 8,092 students — had an impact in determining the threshold for automatic admission to the University in 2014.

“Given that the incoming freshman class from 2012 was much larger than we expected it to be, we had to choose 7 percent in order to meet the threshold requirements dictated by the state,” Ishop said.

State Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, chair of the House Higher Education Committee, said he helped pass the legislation allowing UT to determine its own automatic admission requirements to give the University the ability to choose some of the students it admits using its holistic review process. He said nearly 85 percent of UT’s in-state freshmen were admitted automatically in 2011, the last year before the policy change.

“We want the University to be able to fill at least one fourth of [its] class through recruiting and holistic review so it can fill the various needs of the different colleges and keep the quality of the University,” Branch said.

Branch said no other university in Texas receives enough applications from students eligible for automatic admittance to warrant a similar limit anywhere other than UT-Austin.

The remaining slots available for students entering in 2014 will continue to be filled through holistic review, a process which considers an applicant’s academic and personal achievement.

Printed on Thursday, November 2, 2012 as: UT lowers automatic admission cutoff