Bush School Researcher Studies Effect of Texas’s Top 10% College Admissions Policy

December 20, 2018

Kalena Cortes

Kalena E. Cortes

A new study, conducted by Kalena E. Cortes, an associate professor of public policy at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service, and Jane Arnold Lincove, an associate professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, found that low-income, highly qualified students are more likely to choose selective universities that match their academic profiles when they know state automatic admissions policies guarantee their admission.

Lincove said that previous research showed low-income students do not match with universities with their academic profile because of lack of information on college options. But her and Cortes’ research shows automatic admissions works to overcome that lack of information that dissuades highly qualified, low-income students from not applying to good institutions.

The researchers studied the effect of the “Top 10% Plan” admissions policy in Texas, which had been created as a replacement for affirmative action. During the time of the study, Texas granted automatic admissions to any public university for all students who achieved a class rank in the top 10 percent in their high school during their junior year.

The study was published online in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association, (AERA) is the largest national interdisciplinary research association devoted to the scientific study of education and learning. The study can be found at:

“We found that the automatic admissions policy in Texas can influence student application and enrollment behaviors,” said Lincove. “Because the effect of admissions certainty on low-income students with both high class rank and high SAT scores was larger than on their high-income peers with similarly strong academic performance, admissions guarantees may help close the income gap in college matching.”

Cortes added, “The difference in access to elite universities often begins with the student’s application choice and the information she has about her college options,” said Cortes. “Demystifying college admissions policy is a pathway to greater inclusion.”

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