Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Texas' Top Ten Percent

In Texas, if a senior graduates in the top ten percent of their class, they are automatically accepted into any college in Texas that they choose. This law was originally put into place in order to boost the minority population in colleges. At first glance, the law seems logical, fair, and rewarding. It is definitely an incentive for a student to work towards. Though the law does not allow for differences in schools or which classes a student took. It also does not account for extra curricular activities or other normal criteria that a college generally considers.

Some schools are weaker than other schools. They are easier, and therefore, the playing field is off set. If an average student attends a weaker school, although they may make A's and try very hard, they may not be equal to a student who makes A's and attends a stronger school. Or if a very intelligent student attends a stronger school, they may fall just short of the top ten percent of their class. Both cases are unfair. That is one reason there are SATs and ACTs. If a student does very well in school but makes just an average grade on their standardized test, the college can get a better feel for the student. They can also factor in extra curricular activities or the level of classes they took. With the ten percent rule, there are no other factors. The school looses their privilege of choosing their own students. The school looks at all of the student's strengths and weaknesses, and is able to choose students who will compliment their school. This also allows students who may make lower grades or have a lower score on the SATs, to have a chance at being accepted because they have other qualities that they could bring to that campus.

When the college looses their privilege of choosing their students, the level of the school may also drop. For instance, UT is a very popular school, and many students dream of attending. If most of the students choose to go to UT, then the college's maximum number of students is filled quickly. The school only has a few spots available for students who were not automatically accepted, even if they were better qualified to attend UT. This is unfair to both the students and the school. Some, but not all of those students would have gotten into UT; the rule took away many spots that could have gone to students who deserved to be accepted.

Also, students may "cheat" by purposely going to a weaker school, where the classes are much easier. Or they may take easier classes all together. As a student who took many honor classes in high school, I know how it feels to compare report cards with someone who took regular classes, and who I know didn't work nearly as hard as I did for the same grade. I'm not saying that the person who took regular classes didn't work very hard for their grade, I just feel that the person who took honor classes should be given some kind of credit for challenging themselves.

Another less obvious factor is that many students of lower income schools may still not apply to the school of their choice because of money issues. The application fee alone is $40. Attending college costs several thousands of dollars. There is definitely not enough information given to these students about grants and scholarships that could help with these costs. Without this information, they believe that they couldn't afford to attend anyways, and therefore don't apply or attend college at all. So the minority population may still not even be improving in colleges.

There are many obvious, and not so obvious, points as to why this law does not work, at least not how it is supposed to. I believe first we need to work on bettering our education in elementary, middle, and high schools. Once that is improved, students will have an equal chance to attend any college they want to, regardless of race or percentile. The ten percent rule doesn't fix the minority problem, it just creates other problems. Students need better education, and more information about colleges and opportunities.

1 comment:

Desiree' said...

In response to my classmate’s Government blog, “talking texas politics”, I would like to add some thoughts and make some suggestions. My classmate defined Texas’ Top 10% rule by explaining that a high school student that graduates in the top ten percent of their class is guaranteed automatic acceptance to any Texas college of their choice. This Texas law was instituted to increase minority attendance in colleges, but has seemed to lead to other problems as well. While my classmate has very valid points, I would like to extend an additional point of view.
There seems to be a dispute between the students who attend “stronger” schools, graduating below the top ten percent line while taking harder courses, and the students who attend “weaker” schools, graduating in the top ten percent while taking the minimal required courses and while also maintaining a much lower GPA. Many are frustrated because the student who graduates in the top ten percent of the class at a “weaker” school is guaranteed acceptance regardless of his GPA, SAT or ACT scores, or extra curricular activities. Many students feel this is unfair, due to the fact that there are many students carrying 3.9 and 4.0 GPA’s, mastering the SAT’s, and holding leadership positions in many activities, but yet are not guaranteed admission to the college of their choice. While I understand the frustrations of some students (and I will present a solution in a moment), I also can see how some assumptions can create this tension.
First, it is important to define “weak” schools. Are people referring to a school zoned in a low-income area? Or, is “weak” in reference to a small school? If referring to a small school, where the competition may seem less, thus giving some students the opportunity to make their way to the top of their class, I have a personal testimony to bring some misconstrued ideas to rest. I, personally, graduated from a small 3A school with only 89 in my graduating class; the competition was intense, to say the least. I managed to graduate eighth in my class with a 3.87 GPA. This success did not come from just taking the minimal course requirements, but rather- it was the victory at the end of a long, hard road that took much dedication and hard work on my behalf. Coming from a family to be the first in many generations to even hope to attend college, I worked sacrificially in order to land myself a place in the top of my class. Not only did I keep good grades, but I took advanced placement classes, held three leadership positions in extra curricular activities, volunteered in the community, worked a twenty-hour work week outside of class, and managed to make somewhat decent SAT and ACT scores. With only graduating eighth in my class, having so many accomplishments, the competition was tough. I hope this sheds some light on the fallacy that graduating in the top ten percent of a 3A school class is easy. Needless to say, I was admitted to the Texas school of my choice, Texas A&M University. Do I feel that I was able to attend a college of my choice at the expense of someone else? I absolutely do not.
Those that view “weak” schools as those schools located in low-income areas, full of minority students, must also consider the atmosphere those students live in. One might complain, stating that a student that attends a low-income school could graduate valedictorian with a 3.6 GPA. Is this not note-worthy? Forgive me, but a 3.6 GPA from a person who may be the first in their entire family to ever pursue college is a pretty good grade! Although a student who graduates in the top ten of a low-income school may not have taken advanced placement courses nor have participated in as many extra curricular activities, does not determine his/her readiness for college or determine whether or not they deserve college acceptance. It is important to note that schools zoned in poverty stricken areas, have students who may not have the motivation and confidence to succeed. The teachers may not be as motivated to teach or to encourage the students to pursue their dreams through furthering their education. I see it as exceptional that students from these communities soar to new heights through their own personal motivations. And, I applaud our Government for allowing these students opportunities to be accepted to the university of their choice.
Now, do I feel that there should be restrictions on the amount of students allowed to attend each University? Yes! I suggest the idea of universities only being allowed to accept top ten percent students estimating fifty percent, nor more than sixty, of their incoming freshman class. This would allow for fifty percent of the freshman class to consist of those other, hardworking and dedicated students who maintained high GPA’s and good resumes, but were not able to graduate in the top ten percent of their class.
I can understand the frustration among students who see no hope of attending the college of their choice due to overpopulated schools (because of the top ten percent guaranteed admission rule). I present the idea of setting limits on the number of top ten percent students a university can accommodate. In return, I hope that students who do not graduate in their top ten do not disregard the hard work that other students, who did graduate in the top ten, have contributed.