Bruce Walker, vice provost and director of admissions at the University of Texas, gave one of the most interesting and impassioned presentations of the conference. He described Texas’ “top 10 percent solution,” adopted 10 years ago. That guarantees admission to every in-state student in the top 10 percent of their high school class to any school in the University of Texas system. What he called a “grand experiment” is a great example of what this conference is about. Texas took a bold step and is an example of redoing admissions within the culture of a big university. Now after 10 years, they have great evidence to support that change.

Walker said that has brought a lot of students into Texas colleges who otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance, he said. He showed a number of great slides that showed statistics of how well those students have succeeded. “Students in low-performing high schools, if given a chance, can succeed in a major college, even when social structures work against them,” he said. But most colleges spend their time and money recruiting students at the top end of the income scale, he said. “What would happen if they spent all that time and money recruiting low-income students?”

The probability of students enrolling in college increases as their family income increase, he noted. “It’s easy to recruit those students,” he noted. “Down at the bottom, there’s very little family social capital, so institutions have to make up for that. It takes more energy and assets to lift the poor to college… You can create an economic engine to change that family’s future forever. You begin to deliver social capital to people who never had it before.”