According to Ruth Marcus: How many minority students attend the University of Texas at Austin, the system's prestigious flagship campus?
It's an important question. In Sunday's Washington Post, Ruth Marcus answered the question, or seemed to do so, with a brief history lesson:
MARCUS (12/13/15): The university, segregated by law until 1950, has been grappling with this issue for decades. After an earlier affirmative action program was invalidated in 1996, African American enrollment plummeted, from 309 students in 1995 to 190 in 1997, out of a freshman class of 7,085.Marcus' account of the matter ended there, in 2008. In her column, she suggested that this is hardly the time to curtail the university's efforts at increasing black enrollment.
In response, the Texas legislature adopted a program to grant automatic admission to those in the top 10 percent of their high school class, a nominally race-blind approach that ironically relies for its effectiveness on the state's continuing pattern of residential segregation, and consequent clusters of overwhelmingly minority high schools. Even so, the program's impact was debatable; just 3.4 percent of the 2002 freshman class was African American. (The numbers for Hispanics are healthier, reflecting the state's changing population.)
As a result, after a 2003 Supreme Court decision narrowly upholding racial preferences, Texas added a "holistic review" program, eventually endorsed by the legislature and expanded to include 25 percent of the entering class, that took race into account as one factor among many in determining admission. Enrollment of African American students nearly doubled between 2002 and 2008.
Rereading her account this morning, we were struck by the amount of murk it contained. Let's go back and tease out some basic facts.
According to Marcus, black enrollment in 1997 was remarkably small. She seems to say that Texas had just 190 black freshmen that year, out of a total freshman class of 7085.
For the record, that would have been a tiny black enrollment—just 2.7 percent.
According to Marcus, adoption of the "ten percent" program produced an increase in black enrollment, albeit a small one. In 2002, black enrollment in the freshman class was 3.4 percent.
Marcus says the addition of the "holistic review" component produced a larger increase. "Enrollment of African American students nearly doubled between 2002 and 2008," she writes. That would suggest that black freshman enrollment was close to 7 percent by the end of that period.
Marcus ends her history there, in 2008. We decided to see where matters stand today.
You'd almost think that such information would be easy to get. That isn't exactly the case. That said, this official UT fact sheet seems to give these numbers for total enrollment, including graduate students:
Apparent enrollment at UT Austin, fall 2015That's a small black enrollment. It may bump up to 4.5% if we include a group of students who checked two or more races/ethnicities.
Foreign students 9.7%
We'd call that a small black enrollment. Exuding green eyeshade, a second document seems to list this breakdown in total enrollment for the fall of 2014:
Apparent enrollment at UT Austin, fall 2014A third official document seems to put black enrollment in the freshman class at 4%. Except it isn't clear what year the document is discussing, and it isn't entirely clear that the document is discussing the freshman class.
(You think you live in the information age. Then, you try to look something up, especially from a bureaucratic source. Or you read a major newspaper column.)
Anyway you slice it, UT Austin seems to have a rather small black enrollment. For a final bit of context, you might want to know what student enrollment is like in the Texas public schools. An official state report breaks it down this-a-way for the 2013-14 school year:
TEXAS EDUCATION AGENCY: In 2013-14, Hispanic students accounted for the largest percentage of total enrollment in Texas public schools (51.8%), followed by White (29.5%), African American (12.7%), Asian (3.7%), and multiracial (1.9%) students. The percentages of enrollment accounted for by Asian, Hispanic, and multiracial students increased between 2012-13 and 2013-14, whereas the percentage accounted for by African American students stayed the same, and the percentage accounted for by White students decreased.That Hispanic enrollment at UT doesn't look gigantically "healthy" now.
None of this says what admission procedures the school should follow. This doesn't tell us which admission procedures are or should be legal or constitutional.
We're just showing you what we found when the fuzziness in a major column sent us hunting for facts. Do you think we live in the info age? Go ahead! Look something up!