By Alex Gonzalez
This week, The Supreme Court decided hear the case that seeks to reverse a lower court decision that uses race as a determining factor when seeking admission to the University of Texas. The controversy started when a white applicant was denied admission to the University in 2008. In her lawsuit the Abigail Fisher, the white student, alleges that her academic credentials were superior to many African-American and Latinos candidates who were admitted after receiving preferential consideration because they were deemed to be “underrepresented minorities.” However, attorneys for the University of Texas, including Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on behalf of Texas, have advised The Court to refrain from hearing the case. They defend the University’s use of race in considering admission applications, saying it is narrowly tailored (which is the test used when there is a claim to laws being unconstitutional and discriminatory) to help the University achieve a critical level of diversity.
The decision of this case has bigger implications and repercussions that are more important to the state of Texas than the simple accusation of “preferential” treatment. Notwithstanding that the Top Ten Percent Plan is based on merits– academic achievement—not on race or “preferential” treatment. The policy needs to be left intact and further increased to woo Latinos into higher education institutions. Moreover, the Republican Legislature in Texas is aware of the disparities, which is why Republican politicians have promoted this policy since George W. Bush was Governor, and when Perry took over as Governor.
For these reasons, the Fisher v. UT case in Texas is more than a case of “preferential” treatment to increase the levels of “diversity” at University of Texas. If we consider that there is a disparity in education of Latinos and the large aging population of “Anglos” in Texas, it would be not only prudent to keep the “Top Ten Percent Plan” intact, but in fact, the state needs to devote more funds to educate Latinos to create high-income tax payers. Moreover, Texas needs to do this even before Latinos reach college-age. Contrary to what the Fisher v. UT case argues, Texas needs to increase programs to lure Latinos to the state educational system. UT needs to make more room for young Latinos and to turn them into high-income tax payers to subsidizes services for aging “Anglos.”
Conservatives assume that since Justice Samuel Alito has replaced Justice O’Connor (who oftentimes ruled center/left) they can halt Affirmative Action at the federal level, or in Texas in this case. However, in Texas a conservative state, Republican legislators are correctly enacting laws to entice Latinos into higher learning institutions so as to keep the future of the state economically strong by investing in future generations, as it was the case with Top Ten Percent Plan and in-state tuition for undocumented students .
Consequently, in Texas, these higher education policies are not about “diversity” and affirmative Action, but rather as tools that will help to prepare the large bloc of Latinos to become high-income earners and tax payers. Economically speaking, these type of policies like the “Top Ten Plan” are not policies born out the need for diversity but out of necessity; hence, the State and Republican legislators enacted laws that are intended to do something for the future of Texas. And, this is evident in the UT system.
For example, The Texas Top Ten Percent Plan significantly boosted the level of minority enrollment at UT without any reliance on race as a factor in admissions. In fact, by 2004, The University says its use of race as a selection criteria was not necessary to achieve its goal of increasing the minority student population to be close to equally represent that population in Texas. Race has not been a factor in the admission process in years, but rather scholastic merit was considered. But, although race has not been part of UT admission process in the past years, and are based on merits under the “Ten Percent Plan,” Latinos are still largely proportionally unrepresented in higher education. Currently, the percentage of Latinos attending the University of Texas is only 21% while the total population in the state is 37%. Yet they are more than ½ of the population of the students enrolled in K-12 programs.
Moreover, a majority of Latinos come from poor school districts–especially in the South where the number of Latino students have doubled since 2000. Consequently, salaries are only 2/3 of the average Texas salary in this region. Thus, this proves that there is a large generational gap in Texas between “Anglos” and Latinos that can be remedied with the programs that promote higher education policies for Latinos. In turn, these policies serve to strengthen the ties that colleges have with elementary and secondary schools and broadened access to the state’s most competitive public universities. Therefore, it is in the best interest to invest in a culture of high achievement, high income earning potential, which in turn will result in more revenue for the state in the long run.
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