UT Austin’s Race-Conscience Admission Policy Fails to Promote Diversity and Inclusion (2023)

UT Austin’s Race-Conscience Admission Policy Fails to Promote Diversity and Inclusion (1)

While the achievement gap between underrepresented minorities and Whites has improved over the last decade, racial diversity at the most-competitive public universities demonstrates it is far from being representative to students in the Texas Public Education System [1] an issue that has consecutively headlined concern about Texas Education. And it is no secret that UT-Austin has long been criticized for not creating a diverse and inclusive environment for students of color. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, UT Austin ranked 47 out of 50 in how well the freshmen class reflected racial diversity among underrepresented college minorities in the state. The article has since raised awareness that race is still an issue on college campuses. In Texas, out of the 36 public four-year universities in Texas, UT- Austin is the only institution that considers race as a factor in the admission process.

In an effort to reinforce diversity initiatives, UT-Austin reinstated their race-conscious admissions policy soon after Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) in which the Court affirmed the constitutionality of race in holistic review. While the consideration of race in college admissions was recently contested in Fisher v. University of Texas, UT-Austin validated that automatic admission and recruiting efforts are not enough to increase student diversity. But has holistic review necessarily contributed to more representation among underrepresented minorities at UT Austin? This article demonstrates that while racial composition is notably more diverse, the race-conscience admission policy has fallen short from promises of diversity and inclusion, most notably among the black community.

In an initial effort to increase minority enrollment, The University of Texas School of Law set different admission standards between non-minorities and minorities underrepresented in the legal profession in 1971.[2] With the consideration of race in the admissions program, UT was able to produce more Mexican American and African American graduates than any other law school in the United States. Unfortunately, the constitutionality of race was challenged in 1993. Constituted as “reverse discrimination,” the decision in Hopwood v. Texas (1996) ended all consideration of race in admissions for institutions of higher education. In response to the court ruling, the Texas Legislature passed Texas House Bill 588 (otherwise referred to as the Top Ten Percent Plan) in 1998 to maintain racial diversity in the most-competitive public universities.[3] The rule guarantees automatic admission to all state-funded universities for Texas residents that graduate at the top ten percent of their class. The rationale behind the rule is that not all students receive the same education. District boundaries separate communities where there is a widespread indifference in educational achievement among races.[4] Performance ranges from high school competition rates, scores on standardized tests, and college participation- minorities have much lower educational achievements than whites.

The new admission policy was successful therefore, in making state flagship institutions more accessible and attracting underrepresented students to UT Austin. The data collected demonstrates the number of first-time freshman students admitted from 1998 to 2003 (Figure 1.A) (Figure 1.B).[5] It has been most effective; however, among first-time freshmen who classified as Hispanic. The freshman admissions rate among the black community unfortunately did not witness much change. The number of black students increased less than one percent; their presence on campus remained at less than four percent.In an effort to reinforce diversity initiatives, UT Austin reinstated their race-conscious admissions policy soon after Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) in which the Court affirmed the constitutionality of race in ‘holistic review.’

Figure 1.A

UT Austin’s Race-Conscience Admission Policy Fails to Promote Diversity and Inclusion (2)

Figure 1.B

UT Austin’s Race-Conscience Admission Policy Fails to Promote Diversity and Inclusion (3)

While the new admission policy was successful in attracting underrepresented students to UT Austin, common admission trends demonstrate African Americans remain underrepresented at UT Austin. Figure 2.A demonstrates while racial composition is more representative than a decade ago, it is far from being representative to the number of black students enrolled in the Texas Public High School Education System. It has been more successful, however, among first-time freshmen who classified as Hispanic.

Figure 2.A

UT Austin’s Race-Conscience Admission Policy Fails to Promote Diversity and Inclusion (4)

Demonstrated with (Figure 3.A), students of color are less likely to get admitted under holistic review. From the 9,096 Hispanics who sent an application in 2014, 3,201 were admitted.[6] However, only 14 percent of these students were admitted under holistic review. From 10,731 Hispanics who applied in 2015, more than 3,000 students were admitted. The percent of students admitted under holistic review remained stagnant. In 2016, the number of Hispanics admitted rose to 4,613. The data reflects a three percent increase in the number of students who were admitted under holistic review. In 2018, almost 5,000 Hispanics were admitted in 2018. Only 16 percent of those students were admitted under holistic review.

While the number of admitted Black students has increased as well, the collective number of students has remained stagnant at 6 percent. The Office of Institutional Reporting, Research, and Information Systems reported that out of 2,434 students who applied to UT-Austin in 2014, only 645 were admitted. The data reveals that only 5% of these students were admitted under holistic review.[7] In 2015, 2,798 Black students applied and 812 were admitted.[8] That means less than 8 percent of these students were admitted on holistic review. In 2018, 967 students were admitted but only 7% were accepted under holistic review.[9]

Figure 3.A

UT Austin’s Race-Conscience Admission Policy Fails to Promote Diversity and Inclusion (5)

To better assess the profile of admissions and student demographics at UT Austin, we can compare the admission of first-time freshmen students by ethnicity at other selective universities in the UT system. While UTSA does not consider race as a factor in their admissions policy, the institution witnessed a dramatic increase in their admission numbers since 2014. From the 8,221 Hispanics who applied as first-time freshmen in (2014), 6,135 were accepted.[10] In 2016, the number of Hispanics who were admitted climbed to 6,466.[11] Two years later, 7,612 students were admitted.[12] More representative to the Black community, 1,001 students were admitted from the 1,631 who applied.[13] In 2016, the number of black students who were admitted rose to 1,134. In 2018, UTSA admitted a total of 1,156 black students from the 1,708 who applied. The acceptance rate for 2018 amounts to 68% compared to 6% at UT-Austin.

The University of Texas at Tyler Office of Information Analysis reported in 2014 that their incoming freshman class had 944 students (16.1%) who classified as Hispanic and 520 students (8.9%) classified as African American. In 2016, the number of Hispanics increased to 1,254 (17.8%) and the number of Black students rose to 670.[14] In 2018, Hispanics accounted for 1,482 of the freshman class (an estimated 20.2%). While the number of Black students declined in 2018 from the previous year, they still totaled 655. The acceptance rate for 2018 amounts to 8.9% compared to 6% at UT-Austin.[15]

While both UT institutions do not consider race in their admissions, the data reveals a more diverse and inclusive academic environment than UT Austin. It is important to note, that UTSA and UT-Tyler are less selective institutions which attract larger numbers of minorities. The current acceptance rate for UTSA is 76.4% while acceptance at UT-Tyler is 63.9%. However, the number of minorities at these institutions are more representative to the number of Black and Hispanic students in the Texas Public Education System.

Ultimately, data comparison reveals while racial composition is more diverse than a decade ago, it remains unrepresentative to the number of black students in the Texas public education system. According to the Texas Educational Agency, 13 percent of students are Black, more than double the acceptance rate of black students at UT-Austin. It is clear that the gap between black students and a higher education remains an issue in Texas Education. However, flagship institutions such as UT-Austin should explore other options beside ‘holistic review’ to attract this targeted group. The results from other UT institutions such as UTSA and UT Tyler demonstrate the numbers are possible, even without the consideration of race in admission.

The data demonstrates the consideration of race in admissions has not drastically contributed to the racial composition of the freshman class. The ‘Top Ten Percent Rule’ has admitted far more minorities than those under holistic review. It is important to note that 75 percent of students are admitted under automatic admission while 25 percent of students are evaluated under holistic review (which explains the notable difference in the number of freshmen students admitted). Nevertheless, Figure 3.A demonstrates Hispanic and Black students are less likely to get admitted under holistic review compared to Whites and Asians.

It is clear that a holistic review that encompasses race has fallen short from the promises of diversity and inclusion among underrepresented minorities at UT Austin. While a holistic evaluation is a second chance at admission for first-time freshmen students, the odds tilt in favor to students who not only have exemplary academic records, but strong standardized test scores and an array of extracurricular achievements. In what clearly defines the achievement gap between minorities and non-minorities.

While affirmative action does increase the number of Black and Hispanic students as revealed in the data, it does not compensate for the distinct disadvantage to begin with. According to the Texas Education Agency, more than half of the students in the Texas Public Education System are minorities, but they remain underrepresented in highly selective state institutions such as UT-Austin. While the decision to consider race in college admissions was a step forward in the right direction for UT-Austin, under-representation stems from disparities in socioeconomic status that determine early education for Texas children. The problem therefore rests on a much larger crisis at hand.

While the fight to figure out how to create a more diverse and inclusive environment in Texas higher education remains, a holistic review that considers race as a factor in admissions is not the solution. Developing an institution that is representative to minorities must look for solutions beyond admissions. Diversity recruitment efforts such as expanding community outreach initiatives in low-income school districts and creating more college pipeline programs would truly foster more diversity in Texas higher education.

Footnotes

[1] Note: The Texas Education Agency (2018–2019) Report demonstrates that Hispanics accounted for the largest percentage of enrollment (52%), Whites followed at (28%), African Americans (13%), Asians (4%) and Multi-racial (2%).

[2] The University of Texas at Austin, Report to the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives on the Implementation of SB 175, 81st Legislature For the period ending Fall 2018, https://utexas.app.box.com/s/9nsecsdhsmwxh775cima680nu30hh32h.

3] Neena Satija, “Race and UT-Austin Admissions: A Snapshot of the Past Five Years, The Texas Tribune, Published 23 June 2016, https://www.texastribune.org/2016/06/23/race-and-admissions-ut-austin-last-five-years/.

[4] Rumberger, Russell W., and J. Douglas Willms. “The Impact of Racial and Ethnic Segregation on the Achievement Gap in California High Schools.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 14, no. 4 (1992): 377–96. www.jstor.org/stable/1164282

[5] The University of Texas at Austin Office Institutional Reporting, Research, and Information Systems, “Application/Admission/Enrollment Information for First-Time Freshmen By Ethnicity/Race (Fall and Summer Entrants Combined),” Statistical Handbook, (2004), https://utexas.app.box.com/v/SHB03-04Complete.

[6] The University of Texas at Austin Office Institutional Reporting, Research, and Information Systems, “Application/Admission/Enrollment Information for First-Time Freshmen By Ethnicity/Race (Fall and Summer Entrants Combined),” Statistical Handbook, (2014), https://utexas.app.box.com/v/SHB14-15Complete.

[7] The University of Texas at Austin Office Institutional Reporting, Research, and Information Systems, Statistical Handbook (2014).

[8] Ibid, 5.

[9] The University of Texas at Austin Office Institutional Reporting, Research, and Information Systems, Statistical Handbook (2018). https://utexas.app.box.com/s/9nsecsdhsmwxh775cima680nu30hh32h

[6] The University of Texas at Austin Office Institutional Reporting, Research, and Information Systems, “Application/Admission/Enrollment Information for First-Time Freshmen By Ethnicity/Race (Fall and Summer Entrants Combined),” Statistical Handbook, (2014), https://utexas.app.box.com/v/SHB14-15Complete.

[7] The University of Texas at Austin Office Institutional Reporting, Research, and Information Systems, Statistical Handbook (2014).

[8] Ibid, 5.

[9] The University of Texas at Austin Office Institutional Reporting, Research, and Information Systems, Statistical Handbook (2018). https://utexas.app.box.com/s/9nsecsdhsmwxh775cima680nu30hh32h

[10] University of Texas at San Antonio Office of Institutional Research, “First Time Undergraduate Applied, Accepted, and Enrolled by Ethnicity,” The UTSA Fact Book, (Fall 2018), “https://www.utsa.edu/ir/docs/resources/factbook/2018/UndergraduateAdmissions.pdf

[11] Ibid, 3.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] University of Texas at Tyler Office of Information Analysis, “Enrollment By Race/Ethnicity- Undergraduate Freshmen students),” The UT-Tyler Fact Book (2018–2019), https://www.uttyler.edu/institutional-analysis/files/2018-2019-factbook_20190604.pdf

[15] Ibid, 17.

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