Without ever showing how the top ten percent rule was hurting the University of Texas at Austin, UT President Bill Powers managed to get a cap on the number of admissions.
After admitting half of its 2008 freshman class under the top 10 law, UT would then be required to admit another 10 percent of the top-ranking high school students using such criteria as college test scores, leadership traits and special talents.
That would leave 40 percent of the incoming class it could admit for whatever reason.
UT President Bill Powers, who directly negotiated with senators in closed-door meetings behind the chamber, helped forge a compromise allowing the cap to expire in eight years.
“We have to keep the onus on the back of universities. That’s why I wanted the sunset,” said Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, whose allies to block the bill entirely had begun dwindling.
“It keeps the pressure on the University of Texas or any other institution to come back to the Legislature and show that they are doing what we want them to do as it relates to maintaining diversity,” he said.
The bill that emerged after more than two hours of debate would expire in 2015 and give top 10 students at least $1,500 a year in tuition breaks.
The idea to reward top 10 students with tuition breaks was hatched by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan.
Under his amendment, top 10 students would no longer pay state-set tuition of $51 per semester hour, starting with the 2008 school year.
Even though $1,500 would probably only cover a third of tuition and fees at most public universities, Senator Williams makes it sound prohibitive:
Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, said the proposal sounded too expensive. The two-year cost would start at $25 million but balloon to $200 million by 2012.
But lets put this into perspective. Remember the sporting goods tax that wasn’t being used to fund the state parks? The parks were only getting $20 million of the over $100 million generated by the tax annually. Now I’m not suggesting we raid the sporting goods tax to fund colleges. I am suggesting that it probably isn’t that difficult to find the money if we had a little leadership.
And ultimately, $1,500 isn’t enough of a bribe to make these “undeserving” top ten percent go away. Why? Think of it this way. Would all those prospective UT Austin students from Collin county change their preference for UTSA for $1,500 a year? No. In fact, their parents are willing to spend a lot more than $1,500 to send their kids to out of state schools rather than have them go to some other school than UT Austin.
What is needed are some serious improvements in our other state schools to make them as attractive as UT Austin and Texas A&M. Given that UT Austin spends $11, 344 per student and UTSA spends $5,396, I think the state could redirect some of it’s efforts to non-“flagship” schools. Imagine what UTSA could do if it had twice the amount to spend on its students which would be just under $1,000,000. Whatever it would take to get a UT Austin wannabe to enroll in UTSA is what it’s really going to take to change the system.
There is plenty of evidence that the system needs help. Only 37% of the students attending public universities in Texas are at institutions that have a 50% or higher six year graduation rate according to College Results Online. Of the ten most populous states, only Georgia has a lower rate.
But what do you expect? Some very well to do parents got the state to take care of their interests. They don’t have to worry about any tax increases, they actually save money since they don’t have to send their kids out of state. And just how diverse do you think the student population will be at UT-Austin in ten years? I know, I know, the poor people should take their $1,500, be grateful, and shut-up.