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Class rank matters to many Texas universities

Representatives from eight Texas universities shed light on the way they select students during a recent discussion about class ranking with Spring Branch school district trustees, who are pondering what to do regarding the ranking of students.

While Rice, Texas Tech, Sam Houston State, Texas State, Texas A&M, University of Texas at Austin, University of Texas at Dallas and University of Houston each have their own criteria for selecting students, they all said class rank was important. But for some, rank is more important than others.

Ka’rin Thornbury of UT Austin said her university doesn’t mind if a student doesn’t have a class rank, because the university will assign one. The more information the university can get get about a student and their high school, the more accurate it can be in deriving a rank, Thornbury said.

This is the first year for UT to take a holistic approach to all applicants, even those in the top 8 percent of their class with automatic admission, Thornbury said. She said UT Austin officials look at test scores and if reported, class rank. They also examine the school profile, a student’s extracurricular activities, adversities, essays and talents.

“We will work with whatever policy you have,” Thornbury told the board and Spring Branch district administrators at the Jan. 23 meeting. Jeff Fuller of UH said class rank is a good indicator of how successful students will be in college. “Yes, class rank is a factor, but it’s not the only factor,” he said.

Megan Greene of Sam Houston State said her school wants a class rank because it doesn’t assign one, but she said the university will adjust to district policy.

Spring Branch has been grappling with how to handle class rank since implementing a temporary this-year-only policy that allows students below the top 10 percent to choose whether to report their class rank on college applications. Districts are required by law to report the rank of students in the top 10 percent. The idea was to maximize the chances for district students to get into the college of their choice and to force colleges to look at all the attributes of applicants.

After receiving public input through emails, calls and a series of meetings held in the fall, district administrators and trustees wanted to input from colleges before putting in place a permanent policy about class rank, starting in the 2012-13 school year.

Rice takes into account an applicant’s rank, test scores, rigor of courses taken, success in those courses and the context of high schools. Rice’s Julie Browning said whatever the district’s policy, it should be clearly articulated in the school profile that accompanies an application.

“Class rank speaks to a student’s willingness to compete,” she said. “My concern in getting rid of class rank for larger school districts is people make up data.” Texas A&M’s Lynn Barnes Jr. said his university’s main criteria for admission is rigor of course and class rank. Texas A&M requires a class rank if the school ranks students, otherwise applications are deemed incomplete.

He said it assigns a rank to unranked students, which results in longer time being required to review their applications. Board President Susan Kellner said that from the input the district received, most students like having the option of reporting rank. But she said, “Logistically it makes it difficult for (the universities).” Kellner expects the board will vote on a policy before spring break.

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