The Texas experiment on the border : analysis of student access and success of Borderland top 10% students at Borderland and top tier public universities

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Rodríguez, Cristóbal

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This study analyzed trends in access and success of students admitted through the Top 10% admissions policy. The study employs a comparative analysis between public universities from the Borderland region and the two top-tier public universities in Texas. This Texas admissions policy provides students in the top 10% of their graduating high school class admission to any state 4-year public university. Therefore, this policy implies that being a top 10% student equates to being college ready for any public university in Texas, regardless of selectivity or top tier status. Research on the Texas Top 10% policy has focused on its success in improving diversity and student performance at the two top-tier public universities in Texas, The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University. However, enrollment disparity continues at these elite institutions between Whites, Latina/os and Blacks. Additionally, the Texas Borderland region is an intersection of large Latina/o demographics; distance from top-tier institutions; and great disparities in economic development, health, and education. Combining the aforementioned conditions, we know little about the access and success of Borderland top 10% students, particularly in comparing the two public top tier universities in Texas to the alternative choice of their local Borderland university. This study used mixed methods to compare the trends in access and success of Borderland students admitted under the Top 10% admissions policy at Borderland universities and at top-tier public universities, and additionally controlled for student characteristics in explaining student persistence and graduation. The quantitative analysis used student-level descriptive and inferential statistics with data facilitated by Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The qualitative section of this dissertation used focus-group interviews with 36 students at 5 Borderland universities and 1 top-tier university to explain their success. This study applies Bourdieu's theoretical framework of social and cultural capitals and habitus to interpret the findings. Results indicated student differentiation between institutions in access, success, and explanations. Ethnicity, gender, family income, and college generation status influence differences in enrollment between institutions, in which all together influenced differences in graduation and persistence. On the other hand, the interviews revealed that personal effort and institutional resources also explained differences in student success. This study provides implications for further research and policy considerations.



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