In 1998, Texas initiated a bold new statewide university admission policy aimed at increasing college access for traditionally underserved students in the state. House Bill 588 (known as the Texas Top 10 Percent Plan (TTPP)) guaranteed automatic admission to the college or university of their choice for all top performing students in Texas public high schools. Fourteen years after the plan’s implementation, we see great strides and complexities in understanding student outcomes as a result of the percent plan. However, the legal controversy over the percent plan both in Texas and other states incorporating similar yet distinctly motivated alternative admissions plans continues to play out from institutional decision boards to the highest court in the nation. This study seeks to add to that discussion by exploring two questions. Descriptively, what are the admission and enrollment patterns within racial/ethnic groups of percent plan eligible students, over time, for Texas elite, emergent elite, and remaining public institutions? Given that all eligible percent plan students may enter the institution of choice in Texas, does which type of institution a TTPP student chooses relate to their race/ethnicity? The descriptive story told by the admission and enrollment distributions of equally eligible TTPP students is a complex but compelling one. Fundamentally, it identifies that statistically different application and enrollment patterns exist for Hispanic and especially African American TTPP beneficiaries relative to their White and Asian American counterparts.

Key Take Away Points

•Statistically different application/admission and enrollment patterns exist for Hispanic and especially African American TTPP beneficiaries relative to their White and Asian American counterparts. From a policy perspective, then, these findings suggest that the Percent Plan has not been effective on its own at creating racially and ethnically diverse student bodies.

•The findings of this study also the importance of institutional autonomy in admission processes. The intractable patterns for African American TTPP students, for example, suggests that universities, particularly those most elite, need flexibility in their ability to increase representation within both the admitted and enrolled pools of students.

•From a legal perspective, these findings suggest both that the Percent Plan has not proven to be a successful race-neutral alternative in the creation of diverse student bodies from which the benefits of that diversity can be reaped.

Author Biography

Dr. Catherine Horn is an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Houston. Dr. Horn’s work focuses on the systemic influences of secondary and postsecondary high stakes testing on the learning trajectories of students. Dr. Horn is trained as a psychometrician, receiving her Ph.D. from Boston College. Her education research, to date, has concentrated on the net effects of assessment practices on student outcomes at the secondary and postsecondary level. Dr. Horn is currently serving as the associate editor of the Review of Higher Education and has served as Research Associate for The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University; Senior Research Associate for the Center for the Study of Testing, Evaluation and Educational Policy’s National Board on Educational Testing and Public Policy at Boston College; and Research Consultant to the World Bank. She has been honored with numerous awards including, most recently, a Fulbright Fellowship to Chile.

Dr. Stella M. Flores is Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Higher Education and Assistant Professor of Sociology at Vanderbilt University. She has written on the role of alternative admissions plans and financial aid programs in college admissions, demographic changes in higher education, the role of the Hispanic Serving Institution in U.S. higher education policy, and Latino students and community colleges. Dr. Flores’ recent work includes an examination of the effect college access and success policies in Texas funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, an evaluation of in-state resident tuition policies on the college enrollment and persistence of undocumented immigrant students across the United States funded by the Lumina Foundation for Education and the Association for the Study of Higher Education, an analysis of institutional response to federal and state changes in race-conscious admissions policies and programs funded by the Ford Foundation, and an investigation of the interaction of state and institutional financial aid policies targeted at low-income students also across the United States funded by Vanderbilt University. She holds an Ed.D. in administration, planning, and social policy with a concentration in higher education from Harvard University.