Isaac McFarlin discusses his research on Texas Top 10 Percent Plan with NPR

April 23, 2014

Isaac McFarlin, assistant research scientist at the Ford School, discussed his research on the Texas Top 10 Percent Plan with NPR's Dallas affiliate on April 22. The Texas plan is simple: if you graduate in the top 10 percent of your high school class in Texas, you're guaranteed a spot in one of the state's flagship universities—the University of Texas or Texas A&M. McFarlin's research, however, demonstrates that the plan impacts students differently, based on their high school.

The research reveals that if you take two high schools, one school that sends a lot of students to college and another that does not, and look at two students, one qualifying for automatic admission and the other just missing, matriculation trends vary.

The student attending the school that sends more students to college, "[is] more likely to respond to being eligible for the 10 ten percent," says McFarlin, matriculating in the University of Texas or Texas A&M. The student from the same school who barely misses the 10 percent threshold is still likely to go to college and attend a high quality school.
But for students enrolled in high schools "where there isn't a strong college-going culture or more aptly put where a large number of students do not attend college, we don't find evidence that eligibility for the top 10 percent has an impact on students going to the flagship," says McFarlin. He adds that students who are eligible for the Top 10 Percent Plan are less likely to be either underrepresented minorities, or students from low income families.

You can find the interview on NPR Houston. The working paper analyzing findings of the project can be found via the National Poverty Center website.