Education News

New Research Finds Top 10 Percent Plan Impacts Students Differently

Researchers looked at 17,000 students at a large Texas school district.

The University of Texas uses the state’s Top 10 percent plan to admit the top graduating seniors at high schools across Texas. (Wikipedia image)

If you graduate in the top 10 percent of your high school class in Texas, you’re guaranteed a spot at one of the flagship universities.

But new research shows the plan doesn’t impact all students the same.

Isaac McFarlin is a researcher at the University of Michigan. He and others looked at 17,000 students at a large Texas school district.

“If you take two schools …”

And one of them sends a lot of students to college and the other school doesn’t.

Then look at two students there who are very similar …

“Except one qualifies for automatic admissions and the other does not.”

Basically one is in the top 10 percent and the other just barely missed it.

“The student that is attending schools that have this college-going culture, they’re more likely to respond to being eligible for the 10 ten percent.”

A student there who barely misses the cut off is still likely to go to college. What’s more, they’re likely to attend college that’s the same quality as one of the Texas flagship universities like Texas A&M.

But it’s a different story for that other student who attends the other school.

“Where there isn’t a strong college-going culture or more aptly put where a large number of students do not attend college, we don’t find evidence that eligibility for the top 10 percent has an impact on students going to the flagship.”

McFarlin says students in the top 10 percent are more likely to be white girls and less likely to be from low income families.

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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