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UTD's Green Center Wins Mellon Grant To Expand
Hopwood Decision, 'Top 10 Percent Law' Key Factors
RICHARDSON, Texas (Jan. 23, 2003) - The Cecil and Ida Green Center for the Study of Science and Society at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) has received a $350,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to expand and complete its critically important research into the access of minorities in Texas to higher education.
Dr. John F. Kain, director of the Green Center, and his colleagues have been working on the project since May 1999 under a previous $1.25-million, four-year grant from the New York-based Mellon Foundation, which is one of the largest contributors of funds to higher education in the country. The new grant will run through May 31, 2006, and, among other things, will enable the researchers to update and refine their extensive previous studies of the impact of the controversial Hopwood court decision and the so-called "Top 10 Percent Law" on Texas' three most selective public universities - The University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University and The University of Texas at Dallas - and to collect data on private and out-of-state colleges and universities attended by Texas residents and assess the impact of Hopwood and the Top 10 Percent Law on enrollments, particularly among minorities, at those institutions.
The Hopwood case, first filed in 1992, involved a white applicant to The University of Texas at Austin's School of Law, Cheryl Hopwood, who claimed she was denied admission because the school gave preferential consideration to black and Mexican-American applicants. The final word in the case came years later, from the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which in its ruling effectively eliminated any consideration of race in admitting students to the law school and other institutions of higher education in the state. The Top 10 Percent Law (officially, House Bill 588) was passed in 1997, largely in reaction to the Hopwood decision. It guarantees that Texas high school graduates who rank in the top 10 percent of their senior class will be admitted to any state institution of higher learning.
Preliminary analyses of the impacts of Hopwood and the Top 10 Percent Law contained in a Green Center working paper written by Kain and Daniel M. O'Brien indicate that Hopwood had a devastating impact on the number of disadvantaged minorities attending Texas' three most selective public universities and that while the Top 10 Percent Law increased the number of black and Hispanic students at those institutions, it was not the "magic bullet" that many of its advocates contended.
"While the numbers of blacks and Hispanics enrolling as first-time freshmen in Texas' selective public universities increased after the enactment of the Top 10 Percent Law, their enrollments as a percentage of total enrollments in all Texas public colleges and universities remained below pre-Hopwood levels in all years following enactment of the Top 10 Percent Law," Kain and O'Brien concluded in the paper.
Kain noted, however, that fully understanding the impacts of Hopwood and the Top 10 Percent Law would require further analysis and additional data. "More time will have to pass, because the full impacts cannot be adequately assessed until the students affected by those actions are further into their undergraduate careers," he explained, adding that the new Mellon grant would provide the Green Center with the time and funding needed to address those issues.
"Meanwhile, data will be collected during Phase Two that will allow us to assess claims that the Hopwood decision and the Top 10 Percent Law have made it difficult, if not impossible, for selective Texas colleges and universities to compete with out-of-state schools for the state's most qualified minority high school graduates," Kain said. "Many fear these talented minorities may be permanently lost to Texas."
Kain said that the Green Center's expanded study also would conduct research into what impact, if any, Hopwood and the Top 10 Percent Law have had on the incentives of minorities in Texas to seek housing opportunities in suburban communities with higher quality schools.
"It would be tragic if the combined effect of Hopwood and The 10 Percent Law were to discourage minority parents from seeking housing opportunities in suburban communities and from enrolling their children in the most competitive public high schools," Kain said.
The study also will assess the performance and retention of minority students admitted to Texas' public universities under the Top 10 Percent Law, "particularly those who most likely would not have been admitted in the pre-Hopwood period," and will extend the group's research into "the links between elementary and secondary education, high school graduation and college attendance and completion."
Kain noted that that linkage was one overriding constant in both Phase One and Phase Two of the research project. "The problem of minority access to higher education in Texas, and particularly to selective colleges and universities, is intimately related to their low levels of achievement in elementary and secondary school," he said. "That is what requires our greatest attention."
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