Powers works to ensure veterans can maintain admitted status

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The UT System Board of Regents will meet Wednesday to discuss the search for UT’s next president. President WIlliam Powers Jr. will step down from his position in June.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

UT President William Powers Jr. is working to amend a bill to ensure students who are automatically accepted to UT, and who later decide to enlist in the military, will regain their admitted status to the University after their time in the service.

SB 175, a bill originally passed in 2009, modified UT’s admissions structure to limit automatically admitted students to 75 percent of a given class. It also provided a mechanism for automatic transfer admission, so students who are admitted into the University in the top 7 percent of their class have the option to attend a community college for up to two years and then come to UT, given they complete a certain portion of their degree plan and maintain a minimum GPA of 2.5.

Powers said he felt that student-veterans were left out of the plan outlined by SB 175.

“In the bill, we did not have a provision for [what happens] if a student goes into the military,” Powers said at a UT System Board of Regents meeting on Feb. 11. “One doesn’t want to penalize a student for having made that choice. [It’s] both a life choice for them, and … they’re serving their country. The law actually only says they keep [their automatic acceptance] for two years, but a lot of people go into the military for three or four years, so we would like to solve that problem.”

Powers said the bill outlines a clear path for community college students who are qualified to attend UT, but generally does not allow for an admissions timeline amenable to the military experience. 

“I think it was geared toward the community college experience, whereas many veterans will go in for a four-year hitch, come out and they don’t fall into that provision,” Powers said.

Linguistics graduate student Lauren Terzenbach said she thinks the same protections should be extended to student-veterans as those that are provided for veterans who leave the work force and return after serving.

“It’s the same for a job that has to be held for a [National Guardsman] or reserve soldier if they’re deployed. Why wouldn’t education do something similar?” Terzenbach said. 

Powers told regents he is currently working on the issue of how to classify returning veterans who were automatically admitted.

“There are a couple of legal issues that we have not yet worked out. For example, when those students come back, having been automatically admitted, do they count under our automatic admissions 75 percent, or do they count under the 25 percent discretional admissions?” Powers said. “Obviously, we would like them to count as the automatic admissions [students].”

Powers said returning student-veterans are classified as transfer students, but under a new plan, they would retain their automatic admissions status, going in the same pool of other automatically admitted students when they return to UT.

Regent Alex Cranberg said he agreed with Powers that the returning veterans, who were automatically accepted to UT from high school, should be counted with the 75 percent of an entering class that is automatically accepted. This would allow more room for students to be accepted under the holistic admissions process that the other 25 percent of the class is admitted through, he said.

“I think that if we come up with a solution which, if implemented, will fully address the problem and concern that we’ve talked about — that the transfer latitude seems to be the appropriate way of still preserving veterans’ auto-admit rights while allowing the University to be able to fully deploy its 25 percent toward holistic admission,” Cranberg said.