As the Texas Senate began its debate this afternoon on Florence Shapiro’s bill to limit the Top Ten percent rule for university admissions, Royce West threw out some interesting numbers that call into question UT’s argument that it faces a “crisis” regarding its freshman class. UT has argued that its hands are increasingly tied by the rule, which now automatically fills more than 80 percent of each incoming class. According to West, UT accepted 1,000 less students in its 2008 freshman class than in 2007 and 1,200 fewer than it did in 2002. If the admission rate had remained the same, the freshman class would be composed of less than 69 percent of Top-Ten-percenters. Steve Ogden has picked up the theme: Who decided to limit UT’s freshman class? Not the Legislature. Ogden is arguing that the Legislature has deregulated UT so much — in tuition rates, in “how they manage or mismanage” endowment funds — that it basically is operating much like a private institution. If there are so many qualified students, perhaps UT should consider admitting them, Ogden says. Shapiro says the decision to limit the size of UT was made by an advisory committee, and notes there are few renowned universities over UT’s size. But she’s also announced she will take amendments to sunset her bill so that UT will be answerable to the Legislature in its admissions. Ogden points out another benefit of the Top Ten percent law: Legislators used to spend large amounts of time using their influence to gain admission for key constituents. “It was a fairly significant investment of time and effort. It’s a lot less now,” he said.
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