The 10 percent rule was enacted in response to a 1996 federal appeals court decision, which struck down an affirmative action program at UT-Austin’s law school. But it quickly took on a political life of its own. As a candidate for president, and later as president, Bush touted the 10 percent plan as a conservative alternative to affirmative action programs that explicitly took account of race when deciding who to admit.
The idea behind the plan was that it would open the doors of Texas’s best public universities to students at predominantly Black or Latino high schools, many of whom historically were unlikely to attend places like UT-Austin.
And yet, this program, which was a centerpiece of Bush’s higher education proposals and which has been emulated by red and blue states alike, is now threatened by the Coalition for TJ case pending before the Supreme Court. Coalition for TJ involves a highly selective public high school that switched less than two years ago to an admissions process that mirrors the Texas rule, partially to create a more diverse student body. The arguments advanced by the plaintiffs in this case potentially threaten any program undertaken for the purpose of fostering diversity at selective schools.