- The University of Texas is leading the nation's schools in enrolling students from in-state, with Texas residents comprising more than 88% of its incoming first-year student class in 2016, according to Washington Post's analysis of 2016 federal data. The number is partially driven by a Texas law requiring the institution to automatically admit students who finish in the top 6% of their graduating classes, according to the Texas Tribune.
- UT officials have taken issue with the law in recent years, with University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven saying to the Texas Tribune last year "we see a little bit of a brain drain from some of our high school candidates who decide to go elsewhere," as high-achieving students falling just outside of the threshold, particularly at more competitive high schools, could opt to attend college out of the state.
- Texas lawmakers have endorsed the plan as a diversity-building initiative; for example, in 2016, the number of Hispanic students admitted via automatic admission was much greater than those admitted outside the law, though others would contend out-of-state students can also diversify campuses and bring in needed tuition dollars.
Applications to the University of Texas system have grown steadily, with the University of Texas-Austin reporting last year that the number had risen from 38,000 in 2013 to more than 51,000 in 2017, which is consistent with growth trends in the state overall. Subsequently, the institution had to lower the acceptance value from the top 7% of the class to the top 6%.
There's no better recruitment pitch to a college student than automatic admission, and with this program, Texas has shown that high-achieving students can be engaged to enroll in state schools. But other schools are struggling with lawmakers on the business practice of awarding more admits to out-of-state students than in-state students. California legislators, in recent years, considered tying appropriations to in-state enrollment trends after parents in the state complained their tax dollars were going to fund education for more out-of-state students than in-state, which some system leaders rejected as a secondary level of budget cuts that forced higher ed to increase out-of-state enrollment in the first place.
Also at issue is the increasing demand for large flagship institutions to increase their student body diversity by race and socioeconomic status indicators. This requires very specific initiatives to not only engage high-achieving minority students but to also help them acclimate to campus climates and to persist regardless of the quality of education they received in their high school districts. For its part, the Texas plans seeks to mitigate this by automatically accepting top students from every school in the state, which levels the playing field a little more, controlling for disparities between schools.
These pressures almost demand institutions to consider strategic alignment with school districts to help oversee the secondary school product and to strengthen the capacity of the students they will likely target every year. Partnerships like a recent proposal for Ball State University to take over a proximate school district are outside of the norm for now but could be a real example of how colleges can eventually reduce costs, guarantee opportunities for state citizens, and shape the future of regional workforces.