Natalie Fogiel, an 18-year-old high-school senior in Dallas, has SAT scores higher than the Ivy League’s collective average–she scored 1490 out of 1600. She’s a National Merit Scholar semifinalist and is active in Student Congress. Fogiel doesn’t want to go to Harvard or Yale. She wants to go to the business school at her state university’s flagship campus, the University of Texas at Austin. But under Texas’s five-year-old “affirmative access” policy–which guarantees admission to any state university for all seniors graduating in the top 10 percent of their classes–Fogiel isn’t sure she’ll get in. At Highland Park High School in Dallas, one of the top-ranked public schools in the country, she’s only in the top 15 percent.
As the Supreme Court prepares to review the constitutionality of affirmative-action programs, President Bush has been championing programs such as Texas’s, which passed when he was governor. But at some of the state’s best schools, the policy has been attacked with the same words–”unfair” and “divisive”–that Bush uses to describe affirmative action. “If I had gone anywhere else, I probably would be in the top 10 percent,” Fogiel says. While Texas’s program prohibits using race as a factor, Texas’s many segregated high schools mean the result is much the same. Since the 10 percent plan was implemented, minority enrollment at UT Austin has returned to roughly the same levels as when affirmative action was in effect.