NPR for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Lawmakers Branch, Shapiro at Odds Over Top Ten Bill

Rep. Dan Branch and U.T. Austin President William Powers hear from Sen. Florence Shapiro who is unhappy with college admissions bill passed in House.
Judylynn Lilly
Rep. Dan Branch and U.T. Austin President William Powers hear from Sen. Florence Shapiro who is unhappy with college admissions bill passed in House.

By Shelley Kofler, KERA News

Austin, TX – State Senator Florence Shapiro and Rep. Dan Branch are at odds over a House vote that will reform the top- ten percent college admissions rule. KERA's Shelley Kofler is in Austin where Shapiro called the vote a disappointment.

After some 13 hours of debate and a lot of compromise the Texas House voted 121-24 to relax the automatic college admissions policy. It entitles Texas high school students who graduate in the top ten percent of their class to enroll in the state's public university of choice.

That policy uniquely affects the University of Texas at Austin where more than 81-percent of freshmen are top-ten students and UT says it has little flexibility to enroll other talented applicants.

Dallas Representative Dan Branch carried the House legislation that originally called for limiting top-ten students to 40 percent of incoming freshmen. When opponents threatened to torpedo the measure Branch compromised and ultimately passed a bill allowing UT to limit the number of top ten percent freshmen to 75-percent beginning in 2011.

Branch: It was an amazing victory given the sensitivity of the subject and the difficulty in which we're working in the current slowdown in the House

But Branch's celebration was short lived. Shortly after the House vote Branch huddled with UT-Austin President William Powers, UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, and an unhappy Senator Florence Shapiro. Shapiro had passed a stronger bill in the Senate that limited top ten admissions to 60 percent. She said Branch didn't consult her about the dramatic change.

Shapiro: I'm not pleased at all I'm very disappointed in how it was handled I'm disappointed in the fact it doesn't look like the bill we worked very hard on in the Senate. It's now 75 percent of the students have to be in the top 10 percent, which quite frankly doesn't really change very much -current law is 82 percent

Shapiro said the 75 percent cap shortchanges a lot of families.

Shapiro: A lot of the parents and children I know from the metroplex will be very disappointed because they saw, once again, the Senate came out with a more favorable ruling. And the favorability of that goes to the students in the North Texas area that don't get in because they are in the top 12 or 15 percent but they have very high scores. They are the best debater in the state. They could be the best violinist. But they don't have an opportunity to go to the University of Texas because all the slots are being filled by top ten percent from around the state.

As he left the capitol President Powers declined to comment.

Powers: I ll just have to talk later.

Senator Shapiro said she'd discuss the House decision with Senators but did not say whether she thought the House and Senate could iron out differences
and agree on a new college admissions policy that would become law.