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Perceptions and Opinions of University of Texas Entering Freshmen:

The Impact of The Texas Top 10% Automatic Admissions Law

by
Gary M. Lavergne, Director of Research
Office of Admissions
The University of Texas at Austin
Cindy Hargett, Senior Systems Analyst
Office of Admissions
The University of Texas at Austin

Note: The authors wish to thank Priscilla White, Information Analyst, Student Information Systems, and Keith Baird, Assistant to the Director, Office of Admissions at The University of Texas at Austin, for their very valuable contributions to this project.

This report is also available in a more printer-friendly PDF version, which requires Adobe Acrobat Reader to view and print.

Introduction

This project is a complement to the many reports produced by The University of Texas at Austin Office of Admissions since the passage of HB 588, or the Texas Top 10% Automatic Admissions Law (see http://www.utexas.edu/student/research/reports/admissions/ResearchHome.htm).

The automatic admissions policy mandated by HB 588 has had a well-documented impact on enrollment at The University of Texas at Austin. In short, diversity levels for entering freshman classes since the fall of 1998 have met or exceeded diversity levels of the fall of 1996, the last year in which a classic admissions model involving affirmative action was used.

What has not yet been documented or studied are the perceptions and opinions of students admitted under top 10% rules. Did the law encourage top 10% students to apply to UT? What do UT students think about the top 10% law? Do they feel the law has had an impact, positively or negatively, on the makeup of the UT freshman class? Who do the students feel benefit most from the implementation of the automatic admissions law — and who is penalized? More globally, according to freshmen, what contributes to — and hinders — a successful application to UT?

This study also seeks to determine the extent to which UT freshmen were informed, while still in high school, about possible benefits of HB 588. During the legislative session of 1999, some Texas legislators were concerned enough about this issue to introduce SB 510, which requires public secondary schools to post notices outside of every administrative and guidance office on campus. The law also included official notification requirements. These notices inform students of how they might benefit from HB 588. SB 510 was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor George W. Bush. At the time of this survey, the notices should have been posted at schools throughout Texas for well over one year.

The Approach

Because of time and expense considerations, this is a web-based survey. E-mails were sent to 7,052 freshmen enrolled in the fall of 2000. This included summer students continuing to the fall 2000. Each communication was tagged to identify the students’ demographic, racial/ethnic, and other characteristics. The e-mails had a link to the web-based survey. A reminder was sent to non-respondents after one week. Another was sent after the second week, and the survey was shut down after a total of three weeks. This took place during late October and early November of 2000. A total of 1,172 students responded. Of that number, 944 students were admitted from Texas High Schools. That population (n=944), hereafter referred to as the "Survey" group, is the subject of this study since HB 588 and SB 510 deal only with Texas high schools.

All references to "top 10% students" include only those students who were assigned a class rank among a specific class size by their high school. These students are often called "explicit top 10%" students.

Limitations

Web-based surveys, of course, depend upon respondents reading an e-mail message and clicking on a link to the Internet. This introduces the possibility of what has been called the "web effect." These respondents may be more technologically savvy than their classmates, but the computer literacy required of the respondents was minimal.

Table 1 illustrates racial/ethnic and gender differences between the Survey group, all freshmen admitted from Texas high schools, and All Enrolled freshmen.

Table 1
A Comparison of Survey Respondents, Texas Students, and all Enrolled Freshmen
Racial/Ethnic and Gender Breakdowns
Fall 2000

  SURVEY TEXAS ALL ENROLLED
N % N % N %
White 634 67.16 3791 62.75 414562.13
Native American 8 < 1.0 26 < 1.0 28 < 1.0
African American 23 2.44 232 3.84 243 3.64
Asian American 147 15.57 1092 18.08 1157 17.34
Hispanic 122 12.92 857 14.19 878 13.16
Foreign 10 1.06 3 < 1.0 217 3.25
Unknown     3 < 1.0 3 < 1.0
Total 944 100.00 6041 100.00 6671 100.00
Male 375 39.72 2861 47.36 3211 48.13
Female 569 60.28 3180 52.64 3460 51.87

The Survey group represents 15.63% of the Texas group. More importantly, the Survey group resembles the Texas group. Whites are slightly over-represented while each minority group is slightly under-represented, but the differences are small. For example, the difference between Hispanic representation in the survey group and the Texas group is only 1.27%. African-Americans are more under-represented with 23 respondents from a population of 232 students. Great care should be taken when interpreting African-American responses.

Larger differences, however, can be found when comparing the proportion of top 10% students among the different groups. Table 2 illustrates the percentages of top 10% students among the populations. Top 10% students make up a larger portion of the survey group than the Texas group (+6.96%), which means that a larger portion of them were automatically admitted. Presumably, they may be more disposed to favor a top 10% policy. (Which is why some results below are a bit surprising.)

Also, the large number of top 10% students (see Table 2) suggests that the survey group is a higher performing group of students.

Table 2
Percentages of Top 10% Students
Fall 2000

  SURVEY TEXAS ALL ENROLLED
# Top 10 N-count # Top 10 N-count # Top 10 N-count
Numbers 576 944 3266 6041 3394 6671
Ratio 61.02% 54.06% 50.88%

Table 3 provides more evidence that the Survey group is a higher performing set of students. A comparison of students by SAT score interval shows an under-representation of lower-scoring students (SAT < 1200) and an over-representation of higher scoring students (SAT > 1200).

Table 3
Survey Respondents, Texas Students, and All Enrolled Students by SAT Score Intervals
Fall 2000

  SURVEY TEXAS ALL ENROLLED
N % N % N %
< 900 14 1.48 129 2.14 139 2.08
900-990 35 3.71 271 4.49 294 4.41
1000-1090 101 10.70 730 12.08 765 11.47
1100-1190 184 19.49 1449 23.99 1582 23.71
1200-1290 278 29.45 1631 27.00 1846 27.67
1300-1390 191 20.23 1128 18.67 1278 19.16
1400-1490 117 12.39 543 8.99 594 8.90
1500+ 24 2.54 160 2.65 173 2.59
Total 944 100.00 6041 100.00 6671 100.00

Because of these limitations, small differences in trends by racial/ethnic group, gender, and SAT score intervals should not be over-interpreted. Neither can sweeping conclusions be made using "borderline" data. But as we shall see, the students in the Survey group tended to be definite and cohesive in their responses to nearly all of the questions posed.

The Instrument

The survey instrument consisted of thirteen (13) multiple-choice questions and one open-ended question. For some, respondents were limited to one choice; for other questions, respondents could select multiple responses.

Each of the questions is treated below in much more detail. The survey can be reviewed at http://dpdev1.dp.utexas.edu/adsurv/html/20009/Fall2000ttsurvey.html

Results

The results throughout this report illustrate a freshman class that is surprisingly astute about the admissions process at the University of Texas. Whether automatically admitted or not, students understand what is important in the UT admissions process — both for top 10% and non-top 10% students. As stated above, there were no significant areas of disagreement or variance in perceptions and experiences among the disaggregated subgroups.

Question 1: Did you graduate in the Top 10% of your graduating class?

The purpose of this question was to gauge the extent to which students were aware of their class ranking and its central role in the admissions process. Only 2.02% of the respondents answered that they did not know if they were in the Top 10% of their high school graduating class and almost all of them (15 of 19) were White. 66.31% of the students stated they were in the top 10%, which is slightly larger than the 61.02% who actually were. (Top 10% students were accurate 98.26% of the time compared to non-top 10% students who were accurate 79.02% of the time.) Some of the discrepancy may have come from students who, indeed, were in the top 10%, but were not ranked by their school (non-explicit top 10%). These students are not considered top 10% for purposes of HB 588. Regardless, the students were accurate in their responses to this question indicating that they appreciated the value of such a ranking. Each of the racial/ethnic groups answered in the affirmative about 65% of the time. Hispanic students, however, answered "yes" 78.15% of the time. Females were more likely to say "yes" than males (69.31% to 61.76% respectively).

Table 4
Question 1: Did you graduate in the Top 10% of your graduating class?
Percentages of students answering "Yes"

White 65.30
African American 65.22
Asian American 65.31
Hispanic 78.15
 
Top 10% 98.26
Non-Top 10% 16.35
 
Males 61.76
Females 69.31
 
All Students 66.31

Question 2: While you were in high school did you know about the "Top 10% Automatic Admissions Law" in Texas?

Only 22 (2.33%) of the 944 respondents indicated that they had never heard of the Top 10% Law while in high school. Legislative attempts to "spread the word" through initiatives like SB 510 appear to have worked. There is little difference in the level of awareness among the different racial/ethnic groups.

The best-informed group was the Hispanic group (98.32%). The group with the lowest percentage was African American, but even this group had 95.65% indicating they knew of the law while still in high school. There was virtually no difference in the rate of affirmative responses among gender groups: 98.12% of males and 97.35% of females answered affirmatively.

Table 5
Question 2: While you were in high school did you know about the "Top 10% Automatic Admissions Law" in Texas?
Percentages of students answering "Yes"

White 97.95
African American 95.65
Asian American 95.89
Hispanic 98.32
 
Top 10% 98.08
Non-Top 10% 97.00
 
Males 98.12
Females 97.35
 
All Students 97.66

Question 3: Do you feel like you have benefited directly from the Top 10% Law?

Interestingly, in a group in which 61.02% of the students were automatically admitted, only 48.40% indicated that they benefited from HB 588. This is more remarkable because, as stated above, the top 10% students were well aware of both their class rank and the law. Only 4.47% indicated they did not know if they benefited while 47.13% asserted that they did not benefit. Clearly, many students believe they would have been admitted to UT anyway. (See below.) On this question there are racial/ethnic differences:

Table 6
Question 3: Do you feel like you have benefited directly from the Top 10% Law?
Percentages of students answering "Yes"

White 47.94
African American 39.13
Asian American 45.58
Hispanic 59.17
 
Top 10% 71.08
Non-Top 10% 12.84
 
Males 41.82
Females 52.73
 
All Students 48.40

There is a 20-percentage point spread between the group believing that they benefited the most (Hispanic) and the group feeling they benefited the least (African American). In addition, more than a 10-point spread exists between males (41.82%) and females (52.73%).

Question 4: Do you feel that your chances of being admitted to the University of Texas were hindered by the Top 10% Law?

Less than one third (27.42%) of the respondents believed that the Top 10% Law hindered their chances of being admitted to The University of Texas. Of course, that is not surprising since the survey population is of enrolled students. But among non-top 10% students the percentage answering "yes" was 60.49%. Males considered themselves more hindered than females (30.21% compared to 25.57% respectively). A racial/ethnic breakdown shows that African Americans answered "yes" more often than others:

Table 7
Question 4: Do you feel that your chances of being admitted to the University of Texas were hindered by the Top 10% Law?
Percentages of students answering "Yes"

White 28.48
African American 30.43
Asian American 25.85
Hispanic 21.49
 
Top 10% 6.27
Non-Top 10% 60.49
 
Males 30.21
Females 25.57
 
All Students 27.42

Question 5: Do you believe that you were admitted to UT because of the Top 10% Law?

The respondents clearly believe that they would have been admitted to UT whether or not the Top 10% Law was in place. Only 21.77% of the students answered "yes" and only 9.07% answered "don’t know." Even among actual top 10% students who were automatically admitted the rate was only 30.31%. Interestingly, African Americans, the group considering themselves hindered most by the law (see Question 4), answered "yes" at a rate higher than any other racial/ethnic group.

Table 8
Question 5: Do you believe that you were admitted to UT because of the Top 10% Law?
Percentages of students answering "Yes"

White 20.19
African American 34.78
Asian American 23.97
Hispanic 25.62
 
Top 10% 30.31
Non-Top 10% 8.26
 
Males 16.67
Females 25.13
 
All Students 21.77

Females were more likely than males to believe they were admitted because of the Top 10% Law (25.13% and 16.67% respectively).

Question 6: Did you apply for admission to the University of Texas because of the Top 10% Law?

Only 11.46% of the respondents indicated that they applied to UT because of the Top 10% Law. African American and Hispanic students answered "yes" more often than the other racial/ethnic groups:

Table 9
Question 6: Did you apply for admission to the University of Texas because of the Top 10% Law?
Percentages of students answering "Yes"

White 10.90
African American 17.39
Asian American 10.20
Hispanic 15.70
 
Top 10% 16.00
Non-Top 10% 4.36
 
Males 9.09
Females 13.03
 
All Students 11.46

While not conclusive, and considering the limitations stated above, the percentages appear to support the notion that HB 588 encourages minority students (when compared to the traditional majority) to apply to UT. Females also appear to be more likely to apply because of HB 588 (13.03% and 9.09% respectively).

Question 7: Place a check next to each of those factors that you think contributed to your being admitted to the University of Texas at Austin.

This question was followed by ten choices. The students were able to select more than one. The choices are listed in Table 10 below, which illustrates the rate of student selection.

Large percentages of students in all racial/ethnic groups selected class rank, high school grades, AP courses, and ACT/SAT scores. The only choice in which there were significant differences among the groups was racial/ethnic background. Nearly two-thirds of African American (65.22%) and Hispanic (62.30%) students believed that their racial/ethnic background contributed to their being admitted to UT. Only 1.10% of White students selected this choice. White (77.13%) and male (80.53%) students chose ACT/SAT scores more often than other students. It is not surprising that there is an observable relationship between the rate in which these groups selected ACT/SAT and the mean scores for the group.

Table 10
The Percentages of Students Selecting Given Choices To:
Question 7: Place a check next to each of those factors that you think contributed to your being admitted to the University of Texas at Austin.

  White African American Asian American Hispanic Males Females All
Students
% % % % % % %
Class Rank 82.18 73.91 82.31 88.52 78.67 84.89 82.42
HS Grades 89.12 82.61 89.12 90.16 83.73 92.79 89.19
AP Courses 75.71 69.57 69.39 63.11 70.67 74.34 72.88
Essays 63.88 56.52 57.14 45.08 57.60 61.34 59.85
ACT/SAT 77.13 60.87 66.67 63.11 80.53 68.89 73.52
Racial/Ethnic Background 1.10 65.22 24.49 62.30 17.60 12.65 14.62
HS Counselor 7.73 8.70 10.88 18.03 10.13 9.31 9.64
HS Coursework 51.58 60.87 53.06 47.54 50.67 51.67 51.27
Financial Need 3.79 26.09 8.84 23.77 6.67 8.61 7.84
Willing To Attend A Summer Session < 1.0 < 1.0 < 1.0 < 1.0 < 1.0 < 1.0 < 1.0

Table 11 below looks at Question 7 and breaks it down by separating those students who were, in fact, explicit top 10% students, and those who were not. The students in this survey are very astute when it comes to what the university considers for admission. For example, non-top 10% students are correct when responding that grades, AP courses, essays and ACT/SAT scores contributed to their being admitted to UT.

Table 11
The Percentages of Students Selecting Given Choices To:
Question 7: Place a check next to each of those factors that you think contributed to your being admitted to the University of Texas at Austin.

  Explicit Top 10% Students Non-Top 10% Students
% %
Class Rank 98.44 57.34
HS Grades 95.14 79.89
AP Courses 73.96 71.20
Essays 53.99 69.02
ACT/SAT 69.79 79.35
Racial/Ethnic Background 15.97 12.50
HS Counselor 7.99 12.23
HS Coursework 51.56 50.82
Financial Need 9.20 5.71
Willing To Attend A Summer Session < 1.0 < 1.0

Question 8: Place a check next to the one factor that you think contributed most to your being admitted to the University of Texas at Austin.

This question is like Question 7, but through the use of "radio buttons" the students were allowed only one choice. This had the effect of forcing students to prioritize. Table 12 illustrates the rate of the answer "yes" to each of the choices for all students and for each racial/ethnic and gender group. Again, the respondents in each of the groups chose class rank far more often than any other choice. For the entire group, 45.78% answered class rank, but that is still far below the 61.02% who were automatically admitted through HB 588.

Table 12
The Percentages of Students Selecting Given Choices To:
Question 8: Place a check next to the one factor that you think contributed most to your being admitted to the University of Texas at Austin.

  White African
American
Asian
American
Hispanic Males Females All
Students
% % % % % % %
Class Rank 45.80 43.48 46.58 48.74 37.30 51.32 45.78
HS Grades 20.76 17.39 18.49 16.81 15.95 22.40 19.85
ACT/SAT 20.60 8.70 17.12 11.76 28.65 13.05 19.21
HS Coursework 5.71 4.35 6.16 6.72 6.76 5.11 5.76
AP Courses 3.33 4.35 4.79 4.20 4.86 3.00 3.74
Essays 3.33 0.00 6.16 3.36 3.24 3.88 3.63
Racial/Ethnic Background 0.32 21.74 0.00 4.20 1.89 0.88 1.28
HS Counselor 0.16 0.00 0.00 1.68 0.81 0.00 0.32
Financial Need 0.00 0.00 0.00 1.68 0.54 0.00 0.21
Willing to Attend a Summer Session 0.00 0.00 0.68 0.84 0.00 0.35 0.21

Table 13 below illustrates differences in responses between explicit top 10% students and non-top 10% students. A plurality of non-top 10% students believes their ACT/SAT scores got them admitted to UT.

 

Table 13
The Percentages of Students Selecting Given Choices To:
Question 8: Place a check next to the one factor that you think contributed most to your being admitted to the University of Texas at Austin.

  Explicit Top 10% Students Non-Top 10% Students
% %
Class Rank 65.62 14.56
HS Grades 18.85 21.43
ACT/SAT 9.42 34.62
HS Coursework 2.62 10.71
AP Courses 1.40 7.42
Essays 8.24 0.70
Racial/Ethnic Background 0.70 2.20
HS Counselor 0.35 0.27
Financial Need 0.17 0.27
Willing to Attend a Summer Session 0.17 0.27

Question 9: If you knew about the Top 10% Law how did you find out about it?

Eleven choices followed Question 9. They are listed below in Table 14. When the choices are considered in isolation, White students are more likely to have obtained information about HB 588 from the news media and parents/relatives. Hispanics relied more heavily on university representatives, notices and posters at school, and their high school counselor. When compared to their peers, Asian Americans obtained their information from friends, attending college nights, and using the UT website.

Somewhat disturbing is the low rate of positive responses by African American students in the categories HS Counselor and HS Teacher (47.83% and 26.09% respectively compared to a whole group average of 68.11% and 43.54%). Table 15 shows differences between explicit top 10% and non-top 10% responses. The greatest differences are in the choices HS Teacher and College Night; non-top 10% students were more likely to have chosen those options.

Table 14
The Percentages of Students Selecting Given Choices To:
Question 9: If you knew about the Top 10% Law how did you find out about it?

  White African
American
Asian
American
Hispanic Males Females All
Students
% % % % % % %
News Media 36.44 26.09 24.49 31.15 35.20 31.99 33.26
University Representative 15.77 17.39 23.13 31.97 17.07 21.27 19.60
Notice Posted at School 30.76 30.43 23.81 37.70 31.20 30.93 31.04
Parents/Relatives 47.79 13.04 30.61 22.95 38.67 41.65 40.47
Friends 60.41 26.09 63.27 48.36 58.40 59.23 58.90
HS Counselor 68.61 47.83 61.90 74.59 64.80 70.30 68.11
HS Teacher 44.64 26.09 42.18 42.62 44.27 43.06 43.54
Poster at School 20.50 21.74 13.61 30.33 20.53 21.44 21.08
College Night 18.30 17.39 23.81 21.31 20.00 19.86 19.92
UT Website 10.73 8.70 13.61 7.38 11.20 10.54 10.81
I did not know < 1.0 < 1.0 < 1.0 < 1.0 < 1.0 < 1.0 < 1.0

 

Table 15
The Percentages of Students Selecting Given Choices To:
Question 9: If you knew about the Top 10% Law how did you find out about it?

  Explicit Top 10% Students Non-Top 10% Students
% %
News Media 31.60 35.87
University Representative 18.06 22.01
Notice Posted at School 31.60 30.16
Parents/Relatives 38.19 44.02
Friends 55.73 63.86
HS Counselor 69.62 65.76
HS Teacher 39.93 49.18
Poster at School 22.05 19.57
College Night 17.36 23.91
UT Website 9.90 12.23
I did not know 0.69 1.09

Question 10: Place a check next to the group you feel benefits most by the Top 10% Law.

Students were allowed to choose from sixteen choices, which are listed below in Table 16. In this question the respondents could make more than one selection. The affirmative rates were fairly consistent among the different groups.

The respondents believed that HB 588 benefits African Americans and Hispanics more so than other racial/ethnic groups (though not by much), as well as poor students and students with low SAT scores. African American and Hispanic students are more likely to believe that foreign students benefited from HB 588 (which could be true only if the foreign student graduated from a Texas high school).

Table 16
The Percentages of Students Selecting Given Choices To:
Question 10: Place a check next to the group you feel benefits most by the Top 10% Law.

  White African
American
Asian
American
Hispanic Males Females All
Students
% % % % % % %
Males 15.62 17.39 14.97 21.31 15.20 17.05 16.31
Females 16.88 13.04 17.01 26.23 16.80 18.63 17.90
Texans 62.15 65.22 65.31 68.03 62.13 64.50 63.56
Non-Texans 3.31 0.00 2.72 3.28 2.67 3.53 3.07
Foreign Students 3.47 8.70 2.72 5.74 4.00 3.69 3.81
US Citizens 10.57 8.70 10.20 9.02 10.67 10.37 10.49
Whites 16.88 30.43 19.05 15.57 17.60 17.57 17.58
African Americans 22.56 43.48 25.17 23.77 21.07 24.78 23.31
Asian Americans 16.25 21.74 19.73 18.85 17.87 16.70 17.16
Hispanics 23.66 34.78 24.49 31.15 23.47 25.48 24.68
The Wealthy 11.36 17.39 14.29 11.48 10.93 12.65 11.97
The Middle Class 17.35 30.43 19.05 24.59 17.33 20.04 18.96
The Poor 25.71 26.09 25.85 31.15 25.07 26.71 26.06
High SAT Scores 11.83 13.04 15.65 13.11 11.47 13.53 12.71
Average SATs 32.02 26.09 26.53 32.79 28.80 32.34 30.93
Low SATs 48.74 30.43 48.98 54.10 50.13 47.63 48.62

Table 17 below illustrates the same selection rates by students broken down by whether or not they were explicit top 10% students. Explicit top 10% students are more likely to believe that HB 588 benefits the middle class (22.40% compared to 13.59% of non-top 10% students). They are also more likely to believe that students with average or low SAT scores benefit from HB 588.

Table 17
The Percentages of Students Selecting Given Choices To:
Question 10: Place a check next to the group you feel benefits most by the Top 10% Law.

  Explicit Top 10% Students Non-Top 10% Students
% %
Males 16.84 15.49
Females 18.75 16.58
Texans 68.06 56.52
Non-Texans 2.78 3.53
Foreign Students 3.13 4.89
US Citizens 10.59 10.33
Whites 17.01 18.48
African Americans 24.48 21.47
Asian Americans 15.97 19.02
Hispanics 26.39 22.01
The Wealthy 12.33 11.41
The Middle Class 22.40 13.59
The Poor 27.60 23.64
High SAT Scores 11.28 14.95
Average SATs 34.03 26.09
Low SATs 51.91 43.48

Question 11: Place a check next to the group you feel is penalized most by the Top 10% Law.

The same sixteen choices were offered to the students as were offered in Question 10. Table 18 illustrates the affirmative response rates. Interestingly, Whites, African Americans, and Asian Americans consider themselves penalized the most by HB 588. The same was true among males and females who considered themselves penalized more than the opposite sex. African Americans were most hesitant to believe that students with high SAT scores were penalized (13.04%).

Table 19 shows that non-top 10% students are more likely to feel that students are penalized by HB588; they were more likely to have checked nearly all of the choices listed.

Table 18
The Percentages of Students Selecting Given Choices To:
Question 11: Place a check next to the group you feel is penalized most by the Top 10% Law.

  White African
American
Asian
American
Hispanic Males Females All
Students
% % % % % % %
Males 5.36 0.00 2.72 3.28 6.13 3.51 4.56
Females 3.15 0.00 0.68 4.10 2.67 3.16 2.97
Texans 4.73 0.00 3.40 4.92 4.80 4.39 4.56
Non-Texans 56.94 43.48 55.10 63.11 53.60 59.40 57.10
Foreign Students 36.28 21.74 38.78 45.90 35.47 39.19 37.71
US Citizens 5.52 0.00 5.44 6.56 5.07 5.80 5.51
Whites 16.56 0.00 9.52 11.48 14.93 13.88 14.30
African Americans 8.52 34.78 12.93 6.56 10.40 9.14 9.64
Asian Americans 5.99 0.00 6.80 3.28 6.67 4.92 5.61
Hispanics 8.52 26.09 13.61 8.20 9.87 9.67 9.75
The Wealthy 13.09 4.35 10.20 9.02 13.07 11.07 11.86
The Middle Class 11.36 17.39 7.48 6.56 10.67 10.02 10.28
The Poor 11.04 26.09 16.33 12.30 11.47 13.01 12.39
High SAT Scores 33.75 13.04 29.93 27.05 34.93 29.35 31.57
Average SATs 19.40 4.35 17.69 12.30 16.00 19.16 17.90
Low SATs 14.83 17.39 17.01 14.75 11.47 18.10 15.47

 

Table 19
The Percentages of Students Selecting Given Choices To:
Question 11: Place a check next to the group you feel is penalized most by the Top 10% Law.

  Explicit Top 10% Students Non-Top 10% Students
% %
Males 3.65 5.98
Females 1.91 4.62
Texans 2.95 7.07
Non-Texans 61.46 50.27
Foreign Students 40.10 33.97
US Citizens 5.56 5.43
Whites 12.33 17.39
African Americans 7.29 13.32
Asian Americans 3.99 8.15
Hispanics 7.29 13.59
The Wealthy 11.81 11.96
The Middle Class 7.29 14.95
The Poor 10.24 15.76
High SAT Scores 31.60 31.52
Average SATs 11.63 27.72
Low SATs 13.37 18.75

Question 12: How would you describe the high school you graduated from?

Table 20 lists the six available high school descriptors presented to students. Whites and Asian Americans clearly considered their high schools to be more competitive than their African American and Hispanic classmates. Hispanics are much more likely to characterize their high school as serving poor families.

Table 20 also supports a belief that middle class representation is significant among UT African Americans; 60.87% described their high schools as serving the middle class.

Table 21 shows a large difference between explicit top 10% and others when given the choice to characterize their schools as "very competitive." Non-top 10% students were much more likely to describe their school that way (70.65% compared to 48.26% of the top 10% students). There is also an observable difference when given the chance to describe the financial status of the families served by their high school. Non- top 10% students are more likely to choose "mostly wealthy" and less likely to choose "mostly poor."

Table 20
The Percentages of Students Selecting Given Choices To:
Question 12: How would you describe the high school you graduated from?

  White African
American
Asian
American
Hispanic Males Females All
Students
% % % % % % %
Very Competitive 60.25 56.52 53.74 45.08 52.27 60.11 56.99
Somewhat Competitive 35.02 26.09 40.82 38.52 39.73 33.92 36.23
Not Competitive 5.52 13.04 7.48 15.57 8.80 6.33 7.31
Families are Mostly Wealthy 22.71 26.09 19.73 12.30 19.20 22.67 21.29
Families are Mostly Middle Class 53.15 60.87 46.94 48.36 45.07 55.54 51.38
Families are Mostly Poor 5.21 13.04 5.44 24.59 10.13 6.68 8.05

 

Table 21
The Percentages of Students Selecting Given Choices To:
Question 12: How would you describe the high school you graduated from?

  Explicit Top 10% Students Non-Top 10% Students
% %
Very Competitive 48.26 70.65
Somewhat Competitive 42.36 26.63
Not Competitive 9.90 3.26
Families are Mostly Wealthy 14.76 31.52
Families are Mostly Middle Class 60.07 37.77
Families are Mostly Poor 10.76 3.80

Question 13: Do you feel you would have been admitted to the University of Texas without the Top 10% Law?

The vast majority of the respondents (85.20%) feel like they would have been admitted to the University of Texas with or without the Top 10% Automatic Admissions Law. Hispanics and African Americans are slightly less confident, but even then, the "yes" answer rate is very high (81.82% for African Americans and 78.33% for Hispanics).

Table 22
Question 13: Do you feel you would have been admitted to the University of Texas without the Top 10% Law?
Percentages of Students Answering "Yes"

White 87.18
African American 81.82
Asian American 82.31
Hispanic 78.33
 
Top 10% 81.82
Non-Top 10% 90.46
 
Males 88.47
Females 83.04
 
All Students 85.20

Question 14: Do you have any comments you would like to make about the admissions process at the University of Texas? (Open-ended response)

(Note: Direct quotes below by students should be read in the context of a very informal e-mail communication. Therefore, [sic] is not used and the comments below do not reflect the writing skills of UT students.)

Most open-ended questions produce ambiguous student responses. Quantifying the responses was difficult and unscientific. And of course, since the survey did not require a response, analysts must take into consideration the self-selected nature of the respondents: This is a summary of a self-selected portion of a self-selected population.

The interpretation, however, was made easier by the clear consistency and preponderance of the responses. The single observation that overwhelmed all others, by a margin of nearly four to one, was that the Top 10% Law failed to take into consideration the competitive nature of disparate high schools. In one form or another, a plurality of the respondents to Question 14 voiced disapproval of the law and were very quick to argue what they considered its injustices.

This rule is sort of like communism: it spreads the unfairness evenly around the population.

I was screwed because of that stupid law because my graduating class only had 22 people. Most of the people I know in the businness college (the college I didn't get into) had an SAT 100-200 point lower than me, but they get a spot and not me? What a pathetic joke!

Any idiot can get into this school just because they went to a school that was hardly competetive and didn''t prepare them for college. Other students who come from college prep schools, where the environment is much more competetive, may not have been in the top ten percent of their class, but are better educated and better prepared for college than many others accepted into this school under top 10 %.

A significant number of students, however, supported HB 588 and were complimentary of the admissions process. Many of the students drew a distinction between what HB 588 mandated and how the University implemented it. Supporters of the measure appreciated how the bill reduced anxiety.

This piece of mind is priceless.

The top 10% rule eliminates a lot of anxiety about getting excepted into the college of your choice. Also, I feel that it benefits those who work hard during high school.

I got in, and I didn't graduate in the top 10%, so I see nothing wrong with it.

Many students thought being in the top 10% of a high school graduating class was meritorious per se.

I think it is a very good idea, and a reward for a good accomplishment. Graduating in the top 10% of a high school class is not easy, and should be rewarded.

But more students thought matriculates should be admitted on "merit" alone, though none actually defined what they meant.

A number of students commented that the university was too lax in its admissions standards, and as a result too many students were on campus. Most of the students making that comment specifically cited the Top 10% Law as the culprit. Many of them suggested the automatic admission of the top 5% of high school graduates instead.

Some of the students who identified themselves as provisionally-admitted students had very harsh words for that program. While a few were thankful for having the opportunity to "prove" themselves, about twice as many students did not see provisional admission as an opportunity or a second chance, but as an obstacle -- even punishment.

As surprising as any information to come out of this survey is the support students voiced for the use of college admissions tests -- the ACT Assessment and the SAT I. Students understood correctly that for the past few years the ACT/SAT has been de-emphasized in the UT admissions process. Their anecdotes about "friends" with high SAT scores who did not get admitted to UT, and their indictments of the Top 10% Law, were reminiscent of comments made about the ACT/SAT before it was de-emphasized.

When Texas colleges and universities utilized classic admissions models (before HB 588), which depended heavily on the use of ACT/SATs, comments were often heard that those instruments were unfair because they excluded otherwise qualified students. Today, the same comments are being made about the Top 10% Automatic Admissions Law, and will likely be made about any method used to admit -- and not admit -- students.

 

Updated: 10 September 2006
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