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Ten percent too much or too little?
Over two hundred years ago the country was founded by a group of white european christian men wanting to make a better home for themselves and their families. They wrote the Declaration of Independence to form the basis for their beliefs that all men are created equal. This was followed by another document, the Constitution. The Constitution set a foundation of expectations for the government and the people. The Constitution has been modified with amendments over the years. Some of these changes included basic rights for classes or groups of people that were not included in the original document. Today these changes have been incorporated into the life style of the American people and are considered as part of everyday life. One group of changes has been in the rights of different groups of people. This includes women’s rights, veteran’s rights, along with minority rights. The government also ensured the rights of people through civil rights acts and executive orders. These civil rights acts addressed discrimination in employment, government grants, loans or contracts and education.
The first executive order addressing equal opportunity in the work place was 10925 signed in March 1961. (1995) Another, Executive Order 11246 dated September 24, 1965 and amended by Executive Order 11375 dated October 13, 1967 put federal requirements in place that mandate employers to add affirmative action programs in business practices to aid hiring and advancement of minorities. This order was to support and help the recognition and treatment of the following categories; race, religion, color, national origin and sex. (Gutierrez) This was to help diversify the work place while assisting the incorporation of differences in society. The order would not allow quotes but directed the use of programs and goals to achieve the desired effects of incorporating more diversity in the work place.
There are other government methods to encourage the fair treatment of people, independent of the previously listed groups. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 has many regulations and rules against discrimination in educational institutions. These rules apply to institutions as an employer, but also to student admissions. These rules state that the “…affirmative action programs must be “narrowly tailored” to remedy past discrimination…” (Gutierrez)
Diversity and discrimination has been an area of concern and focus for over 50 years, as can be seen by the dates in the previously stated government actions.
The officials that are elected represent the people and move toward incorporation of all groups of people in society.
One problem is that when a person or group of people has the perceived notion that discrimination is being used to slow or extinguish their progress in the work place or as in the admission to a college; the judiciary system is used to correct the injustice. This leads to more issues or a conflicting determination in law for the institution to follow. An example of this is a ruling in 1996 by the United States Court of Appeals making use of race for admissions illegal (Axtman). This prompted Texas legislatures to pass the 10 percent rule for college admissions. This rule states a student attending a public school that graduates in the top 10 percent of their class will be admitted to any public university in the state. Then in 1978 the Supreme Court ruled in the reverse manner stating that universities are allowed to use race as one of the criteria for admission.
This battle in the judiciary system has opponents of affirmative action battling to change or remove the top ten rule. The statistics on student admissions and performance are staggering for keeping the rule in effect. 88 percent of top ten students who applied to Austin or Texas A&M were admitted, also 85 percent of those applying at other Texas state colleges were admitted. The complaint of some prospective college attendees is that this enormous enrollment of top ten students leaves only a fraction left for those who do not qualify under the top ten rule and rejections are common. This is unfounded; as over 75 percent of the students graduating in the 10 to 20 percentile of their class went on to enroll at their first choice college. The next statistic to address is the fall of minority enrollment under this plan. Comparing 2002 to the 1996 static’s for Texas’s top college, Texas A&M, the percentage of enrollment fell for blacks by 0.4 percent and Hispanic enrollment fell by 1.5 percent (Axtman). This fall of enrollment was also closely repeated at the University of Texas. This would lead you to believe that this program is a failure. The proponents insist that minority segregated schools guarantee the admittance of those students who qualify under the plan. This does not mean that the students at the schools with high minority populations will choose to go to these top ranked colleges but makes them available as never before. Another topic is the standardized testing scores requirement for college admittance. This enrollment criterion would make some of these students ineligible for the top schools and the top ten rule guarantees the opportunity of acceptance. Also some of the students have applied to other Texas universities and have been accepted under the ten percent rule. This has led to an increase in the total number of Hispanics being accepted at state universities and has shown an increase of over 15% between 1997 and 2001.
Other states as California and Florida also have similar opportunities for students graduating at the top of their high school class. California has a top four percent rule that guarantees acceptance to one of the University of California campuses. Florida applies its 20 percent rule similarly guaranteeing acceptance to one of the state’s institutions.
The success of these top ten students has been documented and finds that the students admitted under the top ten rule and scoring lower on standardized testing are doing as well if not better than those who scored higher on these tests.
This leads us to, why has the enrollment dropped for minorities even though the opportunity has been increased? The answer to this can be found in your pocket or pocket book. The cost of college seems to be the most contributing factor to the decrease in numbers of minorities in the top state schools. The answer to diversity in Texas schools will not be provided by the top ten rule only. The need for increased scholarships and financial aid programs to low income families is the next step. The top ten rule made attending the schools possible but the financial opportunity is missing. There are federal programs and state programs that are available but it would seem that it is well below the needed level.
There is another area that is being investigated to assist in increasing the number of minorities enrolling at the state universities is the early life development of attaining a college education. It has been found that when the younger mind is influenced by positive guidance including attending a college, that an increased number will attain the goal of college life. The development of a child’s mind can be seen as the tool to increase a diverse college enrollment and the cost to tax payer is minimal.
The top ten rule will not solve all of Texas’s diversity conflicts with the sweep of a broom. Some would like to take the broom and sweep it out of site and remove the notion that something has to be done to level the acceptance criteria for the state run schools. Texas and this nation have developed the most brilliant minds and problem solvers in the world. Solving this problem doesn’t seem to be beyond the capabilities of our people. It would take care, understanding, and a shift of attitude in developing the needed changes to making a possible solution. Census data and Texas school data can be used to understand the ratio of populations for economically challenged, race, sex and other categories. A plan to solve the current situation of diversity in these and other colleges should be developed using the data that is available along with the current studies and theories. Attending college should be imprinted on our youth from an early age, encouraged through the middle school years and made a priority to all high school students especially those in economically challenged areas. The top ten rule should not be abolished and replaced by another system that will need time to study and qualify its effectiveness. Use the current system and expand and make it better.
Axtman, K. (2003, February 12) Affirmative action, Texas style, stirs criticism. Http:www.csmonitor.com/2003/0212/p03so1-usgn.html
Cahn, S. (1995) Steven Cahn on the history of affirmative action. http: aad.English.uscb.edu/docs/Cahn.html
Gonzales, R. (2004, July 4). The idea that college must be cultivated. Fort Worth Star- Telegram.
Gutierrez-Jones, C. Laws applying to affirmative action in education institutions. http://aad.english.ucsb.edu/docs/Laws.html
Meritz, D. (2004, January 23). Top 10% plan has improved diversity at top Texas colleges. http: www.borderlandnews.com/stories/borderland/20040123-71954.shtml
Tienda, M. (2004, July 18). Focus on higher education upgrades in Texas; get past debate over top 10% law, make plan better. Houston Chronicle.
Tienda, M. & Niu, S. Texas’ 10-perecent plan: the truth behind the numbers. The chronicle review, 100 (20), B10.