The top 10 percent rule is a provision that allowed for all Texas high school students who finished in the top 10 percent of their graduating class to be guaranteed admission at any public university in the state.
The intent of the rule was to promote ethnic diversity at Texas colleges and universities. The rule was changed in 2009 to guarantee admission to the University of Texas at Austin to the top 8 percent of high school seniors instead of the top 10 percent.
This bill was a response to the 1996 Hopwood v. Texas decision by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which prohibited Texas universities from considering race in their admissions and financial aid decisions.
UT Austin, considered Texas' most prestigious university, argued that the top 10 percent rule tied its hands in the admissions process, preventing it from admitting students outside the top 10 percent who were otherwise qualified. By 2008, 81 percent of incoming freshman at UT Austin were admitted under the top 10 percent rule.
In 2009, the Legislature passed SB 175 by state Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, specifically allowing UT Austin to cap the number of students admitted under the rule at 75 percent of the incoming class. The rule change will take effect in the fall of 2011, effectively restricting automatic admission to UT Austin to students in the top 8 percent of their high school class.
"We like top 10 percent students," McKinney said. "They make great students — from any school. We appreciate that you have performed and you have learned all that was taught. We think the top 10 percent students from all schools make great students.”