CONTACT: MARY GERAGHTY KENYON
300 Plaza Centre One
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0011; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Jan. 27, 2003
UI professor studies Texas affirmative action alternative
the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear challenges to the University of Michigan
affirmative action admission policies, a University of Iowa professor is part
of a research team that says at least one common alternative to affirmative
action doesnt work.
Kevin Leicht, a sociology professor in the UI College of Liberal Arts and
Sciences, was co-primary-investigator in a study of Texass 10
Percent Plan, which guarantees admission to any state university for
all high school students in the top 10 percent of their graduating class.
Texas implemented this plan after a federal court ruled in the 1996 Hopwood
v. Texas case that race could not be used as a factor in college admissions.
Leicht joined Princeton University sociology professor Marta Tienda in analyzing
application, admission and enrollment data from 1990 to 2000 for the University
of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University, the only public Texas universities
that had practiced affirmative action prior to the 1996 Hopwood decision.
Their study, Closing the Gap?: Texas College Enrollments Before and
After Affirmative Action, shows that rates of admission and enrollment
for minority applicants at Texas' flagship institutions declined significantly
after the ban on affirmative action. It also shows that students in the top
10 percent of their classes were nearly certain to be admitted to the flagship
institutions even before the Hopwood decision, indicating that the 10 percent
plan does not go far enough in expanding access for a diverse student population.
The 10 percent plan is not a substitute for affirmative action,
Leicht said. If the goal is to maintain and increase racial and ethnic
diversity, it is clear that this is not an effective alternative.
Leichts involvement with the study grew out of a 1998 conference, The
Future of Affirmative Action, hosted by the UI Obermann Center for Advanced
Studies. He said that his research residency at the Obermann Center and the
conference there provided a vital boost in the early stages of the five-year
study and allowed the group to put together a successful application for funding
from the Ford Foundation.
Jay Semel, director of the Obermann Center, said he is delighted but not
surprised that Leichts project has achieved national visibility and
importance. Leichts intensity and the timeliness of the topic
made the conference here an electrifying event.
Leicht and his colleagues plan to continue by analyzing recently obtained
data on applicants, admissions and enrollment from more than a dozen other
public and private Texas institutions. The team is also studying the results
of a statewide survey of Texas college seniors conducted in spring 2002 in
an effort to better understand the college decision-making process. They expect
that study to help explain why the percentage of minorities among college
applicants has declined in Texas since 1996.
Leicht can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A copy of the study and additional information is available on the Web http://www.texastop10.princeton.edu/