Does race matter? : Black student access to Texas public institutions of higher education in the context of automatic admission laws and race-based admissions policies



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This dissertation examines trends in access for Black students at public institutions in Texas, specifically, the University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin), in the context of automatic admission laws and race-based admission policies. Thus, the current study explores how Black students matriculate through the educational pipeline from high school graduation through college enrollment. For this study, I utilize Critical Race Theory as the framework to analyze data for Texas high school students from 2000 through 2010. I employed a quantitative methodological approach, which includes both descriptive analyses and logistic regression. Black people are facing seemingly bleak educational outcomes throughout the education pipeline -- they are less likely to graduate from high school, be college ready, apply to a competitive four-year institution, be admitted, enroll, persist and graduate. Automatic admission laws and affirmative action have been implemented to address these issues, especially for selective institutions. Increased access to Texas' most selective public institution, UT-Austin, may lead to higher persistence and graduation rates for Black students compared to other state colleges and universities. However, Black students remain the most underrepresented group at UT-Austin in spite of these laws and policies. This study is unique because no other research has examined how automatic admission laws and affirmative action operate simultaneously. Moreover, this study fills in some significant gaps in the literature as it relates to Black students in higher education. Findings from this study suggest that while there is progress toward access for Black students at UT-Austin, there is still room for growth. Despite perceptions that Black students do not want to attend UT-Austin, this study found that Black students were more likely to apply to the University compared to White students when holding other factors constant. However, the research findings indicate that White students still have an admissions advantage over Black students even when accounting for SAT scores, family background and the type of high school a student attended. Furthermore, Black students are less likely to enroll at UT-Austin compared to their White counterparts. Finally, the results from this study also suggest that affirmative action has not had the same impact for Black students under the top 10% plan as it has when the policy was used by itself.