Monday, June 30, 2008

Texas GPA Law Will Affect UT Admissions


Last month, I wrote about two high school seniors who were suing over the admission practices of the University of Texas system. The young women were concerned that race and ethnicity can be a factor in determining whether or not they would be sitting in the student section and screaming, “Hook ‘Em, Horns!” Now, thanks to new legislation from the Texas state legislature, even those who previously assumed their grade point averages were in the top 10% and therefore guaranteed admission may be fighting for a spot in the next freshman class as well.

A Texas law that passed in 2007 will require that all public high schools use the same method for calculating grade point averages, as there is currently a wide variance in how this figure is determined. Should grades in Band and Strength Training be given the same weight as Calculus and Biology? Some students have concurrent enrollment at a community college – should grades from that additional institution be counted? High school counselors advise their students based on what would likely result in the best possible GPA at their specific school, and now that may all change.

The most significant point of contention is the fight over when the changes will take effect. Will students who are currently preparing for their junior or senior years see their GPAs adjusted after the fact to meet the new criteria? Or would this violate Texas’ constitutional prohibition of retroactive laws? The Texas Higher Education Commissioner, Raymund Paredes, wrote to the following to the Texas Attorney General –

"To the extent that the method 'rewards or penalizes' students for course selection decisions made in their freshman, sophomore or junior years before the effective date (of the change in the law), we are very concerned that it will result in legal challenges from adversely affected students and parents.”

For now, parents, students and counselors are in a holding pattern as they wait for a final decision on how grades will be calculated. We know from countless other instances of controversial decisions involving education, that new policies will not be installed quietly. Mothers and fathers will go to battle when their child’s educational future is at stake. In the final analysis, it is important that the legal decisions are made with as much attention to fairness and academic quality as possible.

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