A&M Improves Diversity Without Affirmative Action

This is interesting.

The Texas Tribunereports that Texas A&M University has seen a 114 percent increase in black and Hispanic student enrollment since 2003 — effectively more than doubling its minority student population — despite the fact that it refuses to employ affirmative action. In comparison, black and Hispanic enrollment has only grown by 45 percent over the same time period at UT Austin, which proudly uses affirmative action.

What’s Texas A&M’s secret? Campus officials told the Tribune it’s because they use the state’s controversial Top 10 Percent Rule:

Texas’ Top 10 Percent Rule … promises automatic admission into public Texas universities for students who rank near the top of their high school’s graduating class. The rule ignores the SAT and other factors, which on average benefit white and Asian students, and was meant to ensure that a certain number of students from the state’s poorer, lower-performing schools can also get into a top public college.

With the rule in place, then-President Robert Gates figured A&M could achieve more diversity without changing other admissions policies.

“Every student who is at A&M must know … that he or she and all students here have been admitted on personal merit,” Gates said at the time.

On the other hand, I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the 10 Percent Rule. Imagine that your kid is brilliant so you send him or her to the best high school you can. In a school of other exceptional kids, your kid is in the 11th percentile. He or she is still brighter that 99% of the kids at a lot of other schools, but since he or she is in the 11th percentile at this school, the 10 Percent Rule doesn’t apply. Meanwhile, a lot of slots at some of the better schools are being filled up by kids who are in the top 10% of crappy high schools. Many of those kids don’t graduate because they lack the skills, but they took a slot nonetheless.

I don’t think I would like to see a similar rule passed in Wisconsin, but the consequences – both negative and positive – are instructive.