College Going and the Texas Top 10% Law: A Regression Discontinuity Approach

Sunny Xinchun Niu, Princeton University
Marta Tienda, Princeton University

The Texas legislature changed the college admission regime in 1997 when it passed H.B.588, popularly known as the top 10% law, which guarantees automatic admission to any public university in the state to all high school seniors who graduate in the top decile of their high school class. Using a representative survey of Texas high school seniors as of 2002, we use regression discontinuity methods to discern the impact of the top 10% law on four nested college enrollment decisions: college enrollment; enrollment at a 4-year institution; enrollment in Texas institutions; and enrollment at the Texas public flagships. We find that eligible seniors are more likely to attend college and to enroll in four-year institutions than seniors who do not qualify for the admission guarantee, but also that the law boosts overall minority students' college enrollment, their enrollment in 4-year colleges, and also at the two public flagships.

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Presented in Session 136: Educational Attainment: Trends, Determinants, and Consequences