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Access to the University of Texas at Austin and the Ten Percent Plan:
A Three-year Assessment

David Montejano, Ph. D.
Department of History
The University of Texas at Austin

[David Montejano is an Associate Professor of History and Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin.  He is the former director of the Center for Mexican American Studies, 1996-2000.  As director, he led the research efforts that yielded the “top ten percent” policy.   Comments can be directed to him at monte@mail.utexas.edu.]

Abstract

The following is a partial assessment of the “Top Ten Percent” higher education admissions policy enacted into law in 1997.  This study examines the change in the makeup of high schools sending students to the University of Texas at Austin.  Looking only at the UT-Austin in the period between 1996 and 2000,  this study finds that:

(1)   in 2000, as in 1996, the distribution of the entering class at UT-Austin is highly skewed, with a relatively small of number of schools contributing nearly half of the entering class;

(2)   nonetheless, some change is evident, and the number of high schools sending students to UT-Austin increased from 622 in 1996 to 792 in 2000, or a 27.3% increase;  most of the increase occurred among high schools that sent low numbers, indicating greater access to the UT flagship school;

(4)   a closer look at the “new senders” reveal that they come from seventy-one counties across Texas, with East and Northeast Texas prominently represented;

(5)   a profile of the “new senders” uncovers two distinct clusters of inner-city minority high schools in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston and San Antonio, and rural white high schools in East and Northeast Texas;  and there is also a suggestion of a third cluster of minority and “mixed” rural schools in West and South Texas.

In short, after three years the “Top Ten Percent” law appears to have broadened, in a modest way, the high school “sending” or “feeding” pattern to UT-Austin.  And it has done so in a way that benefits all regions of the State. This preliminary look at the “new senders” suggest that the law has made the State flagship university more accessible to the best high school students, regardless of race, economic standing or residence.  In so doing, the “Ten Percent” law has helped ensure that the diversity of the State is reflected at UT-Austin.

Introduction

Previous studies and reports on the impact of the “top ten percent” law (HB588) have focused on the questions of racial diversity and academic performance.   These questions have been settled.  The top ten percent law has restored diversity at the UT-Austin campus to pre-Hopwood levels.  In terms of academic performance, President Larry Faulkner noted recently that “top ten-percenters” at the University have outperformed non-top ten percent students with “SAT scores that are 200 to 300 points higher.” [1]

No previous study, however, has considered the impact on the high school sending or “feeding” patterns to the University.  The legislative sponsors of the “Top Ten Percent” bill –Representative Irma Rangel, Senator Gonzalo Barrientos, and others—had made it clear that this law was intended to help all Texans from every part of the State.  The philosophy behind HB 588 was that the very best students of each high school in the State should have an opportunity to attend the flagship universities --or to put it another way, that the flagship universities have an obligation to serve all areas of the State.  In this sense, HB588 had a populist bent. The top ten percent law, in other words, holds the promise of significantly broadening the ranks of   “feeder” or sender schools to the University.  

This is a partial assessment of that promise three years after the law’s enactment.  I look only at the new high schools that have appeared on the UT-Austin enrollment listing.  A full assessment would have to consider the impact    on the pre-existing high   school sending pattern, with particular attention paid to previous “marginal” or “low” senders.  Unfortunately, that research will have to wait.  One final caveat: as with any policy that has been in effect for a short time, this assessment must be considered preliminary.

This study is divided into two parts.  The first draws on data from the UT-Austin Office of Admissions to look for changes in the high school sending patterns.  The second combines this data with that from the Texas Education Agency in order to take a closer look at the “new sender” high schools, those which were not previously represented in the entering classes at UT-Austin.

I.  On High School Sending Patterns

Table 1 suggests how skewed access to UT-Austin   was in the pre-Hopwood period.  A handful of high schools (64) contributed fully half of the entering class.  The other half came from 558 high schools.  Missing from this table are approximately 900 high schools that sent no one!    It should be noted that 1996 was the last “affirmative action” class.

Table 1
Distribution of Entering Class by High Schools
1996

Sending Level # of High Schools Total # Enrolled % of All Enrolled
Low (1-9 per HS) 481 1,470 28.9
Intermediate (10-19 per HS) 77 1,048 20.6
High (20+ per HS) 64 2,564 50.5
Total 622 5,082 100.0

[Derived from Office of Admissions Data, University of Texas at Austin]

Table 2 demonstrates that in 2000 a skewed distribution pattern still exists.  Again a handful of high schools (74) provided nearly half of the entering class. The remaining half came from 718 high schools.  And approximately 700 public high schools sent no one to UT-Austin in 2000. 

In comparison with Table 1, it appears that there may have been a slight proportional increase of slightly more than 3 percent for the “low sending” category.   In 1996, the number of students from “low sending” schools constituted 28.9% of the entering class; in 2000, it constituted 32.5%.    This suggests a very modest broadening effect in the high school sending patterns.

Table 2
Distribution of Entering Class by High Schools
2000

Sending Level # of HS Total # Enrolled % of All Enrolled
Low (1-9 per HS) 624 2,060 32.5
Intermediate (10-19 per HS) 94 1,269 20.0
High (20+ per HS) 74 3,007 47.5
Total 792 6,336 100.0

Table 3 shows that the number of high schools sending students to UT-Austin has increased by 170 in the past three years. The bulk of the increase has come from high schools sending low numbers (or 1-9 students per high school). This suggests that the “ten percent” policy is reaching out to schools that had previously sent no one to UT-Austin.

Table 3
Change in Distribution by Number of High Schools
1996 and 2000

  1996 2000  
Sending Level # of HS # of HS % Increase
Low (1-9 per HS) 481 624 29.7
Intermediate (10-19 per HS) 77 94 22.0
High (20+ per HS) 64 74 15.6
Total 622 792 27.3

[Derived from Office of Admissions Data, University of Texas at Austin]

Table 4 demonstrates that the proportion of students being sent by “low senders” has increased notably –40.1 percent--in the past three years. Again this suggests a “broadening” effect in the sending patterns to UT-Austin.

Table 4
Change in Distribution by Number of Students Enrolled
1996 and 2000

  1996 2000  
Sending Level # of Students # of Students % Increase
Low (1-9 per HS) 1,470 2,060 40.1
Intermediate (10-19 per HS) 1,048 1,269 20.1
High (20+ per HS) 2,564 3,007 17.3
Total 5,082 6,336 24.7

 [Derived from Office of Admissions Data, University of Texas at Austin]

II.  On the “New Sender” High Schools

In order to have a better idea of the impact of the “Ten Percent” law, I took a closer look at the “new sender” high schools.  Understanding the characteristics of these high schools, in terms of geographic location,  size, racial makeup, and economic status, should suggest the kind of communities or localities that have benefited from the “Ten Percent” law.  A profile of these new sender schools might also suggest what the non-sending universe of 700 high schools looks like.

I defined a “new sender” high school as one that sent a student to UT-Austin in 2000 but did not send a student in 1996 and 1997. Again, it should be noted that 1996 was the last “affirmative action” class, and that 1997 was a Hopwood class.   Controlling for these two years should give us a slightly more rigorous definition of a “new sender.” This definition reduced the total of 170 additional schools to a group of 114 high schools.[2]   A listing of these 114 high   schools has been appended. These schools sent a total of 210 students to UT-Austin in 2000.

Surveying the listing of these 114 “new senders,” the first point that should be made is that they come from all across Texas.   Seventy-one counties are represented:  20 from West Texas and the   Panhandle, 17 from the Northeast, another 16 from East Texas, 9 from Central Texas, and 9 from South Texas.  The four heavily-urbanized counties –Tarrant, Dallas, Harris and Bexar—are represented, but the geography of the new senders clearly points to a rural base.  The Northeast and East Texas regions are well-represented.  One can also discern a band of rural counties that begins in the Panhandle and runs through West Texas to South Texas.  I have appended a map illustrating the geographic distribution of the new high school senders.

Combining data from the Academic Excellence Indicators System ( AEIS) of the Texas Education Agency with that from the UT Office of Admissions allows the construction of a basic profile of the “new sender” high schools.  In order to see if these“new senders” were racially-diverse, the 114 high schools were classified according to whether they were “minority” high schools (less that 33% white), “mixed” (between 33% and 66% white), or “white” (more than 66% white). The resulting profile is shown in Table 5.

Table 5
Profile of "New Sender" High Schools
2000

Type & # Avg. Size % White % Eco Disadv Avg Size Sr Class % Sr at UT # at UT
Minority HS (37) 1089 4.4 64.3 199 1.2 89
Mixed HS (18) 571 53.5 34.7 123 1.3 29
White HS (59) 405 84.4 22.4 87 1.8 92

[*New Sender = Schools not represented in entering classes of 1996 & 1997; Minority HS= white<33%;   Mixed HS=66%>white>33%; White   HS=white>66%]

There are several interesting points that can be drawn from this profile, but I will focus on the main contrast.   Table 5   suggests that the new sender schools are comprised of two very distinct groupings. 

On the one hand, we have the minority high schools (37), which are   large (average school size of 1,089 students)  and with a dense concentration of “minorities” (4.4% white) and impoverished (64.3% economically disadvantaged).  These figures suggest urban or inner-city schools.[3]    The average size of their   senior class was 199 students, and 1.2% of this class enrolled at UT-Austin.  Together the 37 minority high schools sent 89 students to the Austin campus.  

On the other, we have the white high schools (59), which are small (average size of 405   students), fairly homogeneous (84% white) but with a notable impoverished fraction (22.4% economically disadvantaged).  These numbers clearly suggest rural schools.  The average size of the senior class was 87 students, and 1.8% of this class enrolled at UT-Austin.   The 59 white high schools altogether sent 92 students to the UT flagship school in 2000.

Controlling for size allows for more precise descriptions of the relevant groupings.  Organizing the new sender schools according to the Univesity   Interscholastic League designations for school size gives us Table 6.   [The UIL designations “1A,” “2A” and “3A” refer to school populations between 6 and 844; the designations “4A” and “5A” refer to school populations between 845 and 5030.]

Table 6
New Sender High Schools by Size and Race
2000

  Small

(1A, 2A, 3A*)

Large

(4A, 5A*)

Minority 14 23
Mixed 14 4
White 56 3
Total 84 30

[*UIL designations for school   size; 1A, 2A, 3A:  6 – 844; 4A, 5A:  845 - 5030; Minority HS= white<33%;  Mixed HS=66%>white>33%; White   HS=white>66%]

The summary profile offered in Table 6 makes clear that the great majority of “new senders” are small high schools.  And all of the 84 schools classified as 1A, 2A and 3A   --with the exception of six urban programs-- are rural-based.  Conversely, it should be noted that all 30 4A and 5A schools are urban-based.

Table 6 also suggests that the rural-urban distinction reflects or parallels a racial distinction.  Although the minority high schools include a sizable number of small schools (14), the bulk are large, urban schools (23 ).   Looking at a map of Texas, one sees that these large minority schools are located in Dallas-Ft.Worth (6), Houston (8), San Antonio (5), the Rio Grande Valley (2), El Paso (1), and Waco (1). 

Of the white high schools, the overwhelming number –56 of 59-- are small and rural-based.  The majority are located in Northeast Texas (24 schools) or East Texas (16 schools), with the remainder scattered in West Texas, the Panhandle and Central Texas. 

A third grouping appears if we look closely at the small minority schools (14) and the small mixed schools (14).  Of their combined number, 17 are rural schools located in a band that stretches from the Panhandle to South Texas.

    This, then, describes in a preliminary way the social geography of the “new sender” high schools that have likely benefited from the ten percent law.

Summary

In short, after three years the top ten percent admissions policy appears to have slightly broadened representation in the entering class of UT-Austin.   The “new sender” high schools come from across Texas.  There are two principal clusters, comprised on the one hand of inner-city minority high schools in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston and San Antonio, and on the other of rural white high schools, located mainly in East and Northeast Texas.  There is a third grouping consisting of minority and “mixed” rural schools in West Texas and South Texas.  The change in high school sending patterns since 1996 is very modest, but it points in the direction of increased access to the University of Texas at Austin for all areas of the State.

The key to greater access lies in the fact that the “top ten percent” law assures the very best of each high school admission to the state university of their choice.  Because high schools generally reflect local communities and environments, this is also the key to creating a diverse student body that roughly reflects the make up of the State. As should clear by now, this diversity is more than a matter of race: the new high school senders clearly point to a diversity of region, economic class and social background.  In essence, HB 588   is helping the University of Texas at Austin   achieve its motto, “We’re Texas.”

Data and Caveats

The high school data for this study came from two sources. The Office of Admissions at the University of Texas at Austin provided the high school breakdown for the entering classes of 1996, 1997 and 2000.  The Academic Excellence Indicators System (AEIS) of the Texas Education Agency provided basic information for each high school –size, percent white, percent economically disadvantaged,  and size of the senior class.   These various data were extracted, matched and organized to yield the tables.  It should be noted that this assessment covers only the period 1996-2000.   This short time period makes for   a very tentative review.   Another caveat to keep in mind is that this is only an indirect test of HB 588, since the “ten percenters” make up only half of the entering class.   The admissions data do not make a direct assessment possible.  Finally, this study focused only on the new sender high schools, those who were previously not represented in UT entering classes.  A full assessment would have to detail the impact on previous high school sending patterns.

Footnotes

1.      See the research reports prepared by the UT-Austin Office of Admissions at http://www.utexas.edu/student/research/reports/admissions/ResearchHome.htm

2.      I also excluded 11 new high schools and 23 private schools.

3.      The 37 minority high schools consisted of 23 predominantly Mexican American schools, 8 predominantly African American schools, and 6 mixed African-American and Mexican-American schools.

Appendix

NEW HIGH SCHOOL SENDERS TO UT-AUSTIN, 2000
County City High School HI SCH POP White % % ECO DISADV # Seniors # UT Stu. % SNR @UT
ANGELINA POLLOCK CENTRAL INDEPENDENT 410 94.4 24.1 83 1 1.2
BELL ROGERS ROGERS 256 82 25.8 54 1 1.9
BELL SALADO SALADO 302 87.4 10.3 78 2 2.6
BEXAR SAN ANTONIO HIGHLANDS 2169 11.8 76.9 409 14 3.4
BEXAR SAN ANTONIO LANIER 1724 0.9 83.3 318 5 1.6
BEXAR SAN ANTONIO LUTHER BURBANK 1483 1.3 79.3 306 2 0.7
BEXAR SAN ANTONIO SAM HOUSTON 1306 3.2 76 241 6 2.5
BEXAR SAN ANTONIO SOUTHSIDE 1025 17.4 67.3 181 3 1.7
BOWIE DE KALB DE KALB 322 70.5 48.4 84 1 1.2
BRAZORIA DANBURY DANBURY 250 82.4 8.8 58 1 1.7
CAMERON BROWNSVILLE RIVERA 1705 1.7 85.2 308 3 1.0
CAMERON BRUNI BRUNI 97 8.2 64.9 20 1 5.0
CAMERON RIO HONDO RIO HONDO 574 6.4 79.3 114 2 1.8
CAMERON SANTA ROSA SANTA ROSA 308 1 91.2 63 1 1.6
CASS HUGHES SPRINGS HUGHES SPRINGS 272 82 35.7 66 1 1.5
CHAMBERS WINNIE EAST CHAMBERS 302 75.2 24.2 75 1 1.3
CHILDRESS CHILDRESS CHILDRESS SENIOR 364 65.7 30.8 79 1 1.3
COLLIN PROSPER PROSPER 253 85 11.5 65 1 1.5
COOKE LINDSAY LINDSAY 165 96.4 1.8 36 2 5.6
CULBERSON VALENTINE VALENTINE 22 32.8 75.9 6 1 16.7
DALLAS DALLAS JEFFERSON 1405 3 57.1 207 2 1.0
DALLAS DALLAS KIMBALL 1565 0.7 51.1 238 1 0.4
DALLAS DALLAS LAW MAGNET -TOWNVIEW 315 5.4 43.8 54 1 1.9
DALLAS DALLAS LINCOLN 1102 0.1 71.1 199 3 1.5
DALLAS DALLAS NORTH DALLAS 1874 2.2 58 256 1 0.4
DALLAS DALLAS PINKSTON 828 1.3 56.2 166 1 0.6
DALLAS DALLAS ROOSEVELT 845 0.2 48.4 135 2 1.5
DALLAS IRVING LAKE HIGHLANDS 1816 59 20.4 604 1 0.2
DELTA COOPER COOPER 266 86.1 30.5 65 1 1.5
DENTON KRUM KRUM 274 92 10.2 58 1 1.7
DENTON LITTLE ELM LITTLE ELM 402 77.1 21.9 69 3 4.3
DENTON PILOT POINT J. EARL SELZ 325 85.2 20.6 68 1 1.5
EASTLAND EASTLAND EASTLAND 367 83.7 24 98 1 1.0
EASTLAND TYLER GORMAN 146 70.5 48.6 27 1 3.7
EL PASO EL PASO YSLETA 1869 2.8 64.6 437 3 0.7
ELLIS PALMER PALMER 267 71.2 22.8 50 1 2.0
FAYETTE FLATONIA FLATONIA 268 57.5 41.4 33 2 6.1
GARZA POST POST 253 50.2 38.3 54 1 1.9
GRAYSON POTTSBORO POTTSBORO CONSOLIDATED 395 98.2 10.9 72 1 1.4
GRAYSON WHITEWRIGHT WHITEWRIGHT 190 85.3 28.9 42 1 2.4
GREGG GLADEWATER GLADEWATER 629 75.4 31.6 133 1 0.8
HARRIS GALENA PARK GALENA PARK 1679 13.7 60.1 329 1 0.3
HARRIS HOUSTON BARBARA JORDAN 1240 0.9 64.7 232 1 0.4
HARRIS HOUSTON FOREST BROOK 1427 0.3 37.4 323 1 0.3
HARRIS HOUSTON GEORGE I.  SANCHEZ 352 2 68.2 81 2 2.5
HARRIS HOUSTON GEO WASHINGTON CARVER 491 16.5 51.9 62 1 1.6
HARRIS HOUSTON JACK YATES 1613 0.3 56.6 310 3 1.0
HARRIS HOUSTON JAMES MADISON 2073 1.7 65.4 237 2 0.8
HARRIS HOUSTON KASHMERE 931 0.3 80.1 130 1 0.8
HARRIS HOUSTON KERR 654 35.5 20.2 119 5 4.2
HARRIS HOUSTON REAGAN 1945 5.4 73.3 394 6 1.5
HARRIS HOUSTON SMILEY 1632 1.5 56.1 300 4 1.3
HENDERSON EUSTACE EUSTACE 385 92.2 28.6 74 1 1.4
HIDALGO ALAMO PHARR-SAN JUAN-ALAMO 1665 2.2 86.8 300 1 0.3
HILL BLUM BLUM 171 89.5 36.3 39 1 2.6
HILL ITASCA ITASCA 150 52.7 50.7 29 1 3.4
HOUSTON LOVELADY LOVELADY 147 83.7 21.8 29 1 3.4
HUNT CADDO MILLS CADDO MILLS 273 90.8 15.4 45 1 2.2
HUNT QUINLAN FORD 816 91.5 28.7 164 1 0.6
JIM WELLS ORANGE GROVE ORANGE GROVE 448 47.3 44 85 1 1.2
JOHNSON GODLEY GODLEY 320 92.8 23.4 73 2 2.7
JONES STAMFORD STAMFORD 356 51.7 54.8 43 1 2.3
KAUFMAN FORNEY FORNEY 726 87.2 8.3 157 4 2.5
KAUFMAN MABANK MABANK 825 90.9 24.5 175 3 1.7
KIMBLE JUNCTION JUNCTION 238 70.6 27.7 45 1 2.2
KLEBERG KINGSVILLE ACADEMY 152 24.3 56.6 37 2 5.4
LASALLE COTULLA COTULLA 375 12 69.3 83 2 2.4
LUBBOCK SHALLOWATER SHALLOWATER 380 75.5 27.4 81 1 1.2
MADISON MADISONVILLE MADISONVILLE 534 59.4 48.5 96 1 1.0
MARION JEFFERSON JEFFERSON 438 57.8 46.6 87 2 2.3
MCLENNAN CHINA SPRING CHINA SPRING 490 94.1 11.4 115 2 1.7
MCLENNAN WACO UNIVERSITY 1084 10.2 56.2 192 1 0.5
MEDINA NATALIA NATALIA 284 29.2 54.9 53 1 1.9
MILAM ROCKDALE ROCKDALE 541 61.6 26.4 119 2 1.7
MONTAGUE BOWIE BOWIE 477 93.7 20.5 110 2 1.8
NAVARRO BLOOMING GROVE BLOOMING GROVE 217 87.1 21.2 49 1 2.0
OCHLITREE PERRYTON PERRYTON 577 70.2 35.7 111 1 0.9
OLDHAM VEGA VEGA 195 78.5 31.3 28 1 3.6
ORANGE BRIDGE CITY BRIDGE CITY SENIOR 822 92.7 15.9 195 2 1.0
PALO PINTO MINERAL WELLS MINERAL WELLS 922 79.1 35.5 170 1 0.6
PALO PINTO STRAWN STRAWN 72 77.9 51.3 16 1 6.3
PRESIDIO MARFA MARFA 146 21.2 53.4 35 1 2.9
RAINS EMORY RAINS 429 91.4 25.6 95 1 1.1
RANDALL CANYON CANYON 909 85.1 11.4 205 1 0.5
REAL LEAKEY LEAKEY 93 71.9 57.7 27 2 7.4
RED RIVER BOGOTA RIVERCREST 215 91.6 27.4 54 1 1.9
ROBERTSON FRANKLIN FRANKLIN 285 86.7 21.8 70 1 1.4
RUNNELS WINTERS WINTERS 225 60 48.4 38 1 2.6
RUSK NEW LONDON WEST RUSK COUNTY 277 67.9 41.9 42 1 2.4
RUSK OVERTON OVERTON 203 85.2 32 26 1 3.8
SABINE HEMPHILL HEMPHILL 279 79.2 46.2 59 1 1.7
SHERMAN STRATFORD STRATFORD 154 64.3 45.5 45 1 2.2
SMITH BULLARD BULLARD 356 88.5 19.4 54 1 1.9
SMITH MT PLEASANT CHAPEL HILL 888 60.7 28.8 170 1 0.6
STARR SAN ISIDRO SAN ISIDRO 93 1.1 74.2 23 1 4.3
STEPHENS BRECKENRIDGE BRECKENRIDGE 552 79.5 25.2 134 3 2.2
SUTTON SONORA SONORA 277 46.6 24.5 67 2 3.0
TARRANT FORT WORTH TRIMBLE TECHNICAL 1346 4.9 42.8 265 1 0.4
TARRANT FORT WORTH WYATT 1543 5.1 33.4 313 5 1.6
TARRANT KENNEDALE KENNEDALE 676 78.1 17.8 132 2 1.5
TARRANT N RICHLAND HILLS RICHLAND 2265 85.9 11.5 556 11 2.0
TERRY BROWNFIELD BROWNFIELD SENIOR 669 37.4 36.5 136 2 1.5
TOM GREEN SAN ANGELO LAKEVIEW 1187 48 38 217 1 0.5
TOM GREEN WALL WALL 297 77.8 24.6 57 1 1.8
UPSHUR DIANA NEW DIANA 287 86.1 21.3 75 1 1.3
VAN ZANDT WILLS POINT WILLS POINT 786 83.6 28.2 150 3 2.0
WICHITA IOWA PARK IOWA PARK 701 96 15.4 150 1 0.7
WICHITA QUANAH QUANHAH 234 69.2 32.5 55 1 1.8
WICHITA WICHITA FALLS HIRSCHI 1051 54.5 44.8 195 3 1.5
WILLIAMSON JARRELL JARRELL 195 69.7 9.7 37 1 2.7
WILLIAMSON THRALL THRALL 162 71 25.3 39 3 7.7
WILSON LA VERNIA LA VERNIA 593 86.3 15.7 120 1 0.8
WOOD MINEOLA MINEOLA 403 74.9 25.6 71 3 4.2
YOUNG OLNEY OLNEY 253 82.2 20.2 56 1 1.8
Total 74856 37.1 46.6 14794 210 1.4
 

Updated: 10 September 2006
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