March 16, 2012

The Top 10% Debacle

In response to the 1996 court ruling that banned the consideration of race in college admissions, the state of Texas instituted a law that requires publicly funded universities in the state to automatically admit students who are in the top 10% of their graduating class.  Ultimately, the University of Texas got a waiver to cap their top 10% admissions at 75% of their freshman class each year, as they were literally not able to admit anyone else.

The idea was to give equal opportunity to kids all over the state.  What it does is screw the kids who go to really good schools.  I think it also affects the quality of many college courses, but I don't have the time or inclination to research that hunch.

Case in point, Boom.  4.0 GPA.  Numerous extra-curriculars, volunteer gigs, leadership positions.  Solid SAT scores.  Not top 10%.  Why?  Because she is in a Really Good School.  The top 10% at her school are the valedictorian and salutatorian.  (out of 24 seniors total).

It really makes me feel like I made a stupid decision, trying to ensure that my kid got the best high school education she could get.  It put her at a disadvantage.

The bottom ranking kid at Boom's school could be the valedictorian at hundreds of high schools in the state.  This is the case for so many schools and so many other kids. 
"The current situation in Texas is that you can have a young man who is an Eagle Scout, who's president of his student council and captain of his football team. But because he's in the top 12 percent, he's not automatically admitted," says (Senator Jeff) Wentworth. "But somebody else who's in the top 10 percent, who didn't even take the recommended curriculum for college work, who took the minimum curriculum, automatically goes to the University of Texas at Austin -- and that's not fair."
Boom's school is a K-12 International Baccalaureate School.  A curriculum that the state of Texas thinks so highly of, that they enacted a law requiring state universities to award a minimum of 24 college credit hours to students who receive the IB diploma.  Kids at her school can get into Columbia, MIT, Stanford - but not be automatically admitted into Texas' flagship schools.

That is a crock of shit.

Boom applied to Kansas State University on a Sunday afternoon, online.  It was a fairly simple form, no essays.  She had sent her SAT scores when she sat for the test.  She had her acceptance letter, via snail mail, the following Thursday.  KSU accepted her without ever seeing her high school transcript.  Without knowing her GPA.  When I called and talked to admissions, they said that her SAT scores and a Texas diploma were enough for admittance.  Then the scholarship money started coming.  And the personal letters and cards.  The invitation to secure a place in grad school, simply by doing her undergrad work there.  Boom could be a big fish in a small pond on that campus.  She would come out with the same degree, the same knowledge and be on the same career path.  (Though probably 10 pounds heavier due to the proximity of Aunt Sue's home cooking).
It is almost worth the other sacrifices (except for the winters), for Boom to go to a college that is fighting for her, rather than her fighting to get in a college that has to take people ahead of her that are a whole lot more unmotivated, less intelligent, and less likely to ever finish college.


CenTexTim said...

"It really makes me feel like I made a stupid decision, trying to ensure that my kid got the best high school education she could get. It put her at a disadvantage."

No. It may have put her at a short term disadvantage for admittance into a couple of Texas state universities. But what she learned in that Intl. Bac. school - not the facts, but how to reason, how to learn, how to think - will, in the long run, help her succeed regardless of where she ends up going to college.

I used to hire entry-level college graduates for one of the top 20 banks in the country. A year after we hired them their college and GPA were totally irrelevant. All that mattered was how they performed.

InsomniacSeeker said...

I say send her to K-State and tell Texas to go screw themselves, but that's me and you know how I feel about Texas. :)

Harper said...

Notice I never mentioned that school in Stoolwater. She refused to even apply there, even though they have an excellent animal science program.

InsomniacSeeker said...

Thank goodness. Smart girl.