Percent Plans, Automatic Admissions, and College Enrollment Outcomes
Lindsay Daugherty and Francisco (Paco) Martorell, Rand Corporation and Isaac McFarlin, Jr., University of Michigan
In 1997, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 588 – also known as the Texas Top Ten Percent Law – guaranteeing automatic admission to all state-funded universities for Texas students in the top ten percent of their high school class. Automatic admissions policies remain controversial, and the effects of these policies on college enrollment and choice remain unclear. Using regression discontinuity methods and data on 6 cohorts of graduates from a large urban school district, we examine the effect of eligibility for automatic admission on college enrollment and persistence. We find that the Top Ten Percent Law does have a substantial impact on enrollment at Texas flagship universities and increases the total number of semesters enrolled at a flagship university four years after high school graduation. This increase in flagship enrollment appears to displace enrollment in private or out-of-state universities, and we find no effect on college enrollment overall or on the quality of college attended. We find evidence of effects on flagship enrollment for both white and minority students. However, these effects are concentrated in schools that send large
(relative to the district) fractions of graduates to college, suggesting that automatic admissions may have little effect on the outcomes of students in the most disadvantaged schools.
Educational Attainment, Education and Training Programs