Maryland high school students in the top 10 percent of their class could be guaranteed admission to the state’s publicly-funded colleges and universities through a proposed Maryland General Assembly bill.

The legislation would require the University System of Maryland, Morgan State University and St. Mary’s College of Maryland to adopt the guaranteed admissions policy. Sen. Malcolm Augustine (D-Prince George’s), the bill’s sponsor, said it aims to protect diversity in Maryland’s higher education institutions post-affirmative action.

“I think that it will help make the student body, the undergraduate student body, at the University of Maryland more accurately reflect the state of Maryland,” Augustine said.

The bill comes after a June 2023 Supreme Court decision that barred colleges and universities from considering a student’s race in their admissions processes.

Augustine said the bill would guarantee admissions to between 6,500 and 7,000 Maryland high school students.

[UMD administration, students hope to maintain campus diversity post-affirmative action]

This university admitted nearly 27,000 first-year students in the fall 2023 admissions cycle, according to its Office of Institutional Research, Planning and Assessment.

The bill is modeled after a similar piece of legislation passed in Texas in 1997, Augustine said. At least a dozen states have some form of guaranteed admissions policy.

If the bill passes, high schools in Maryland that do not provide student rankings could work with the state’s publicly-funded universities and colleges and the state education department to form a policy for guaranteed admissions, Augustine said. The schools could also change their policy on student rankings.

He said colleges and universities would likely implement the policy for the fall 2025 admissions cycle.

Krisha Patel, a junior at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, said it’s important for the state’s colleges and universities to maintain a diverse student body.

The idea of guaranteed admissions policy is reasonable, Patel said, but “it would be a comfort” if the policy included more students than just the top 10 percent.

Shannon Gundy, this university’s assistant vice president for enrollment management, testified against the bill at a Senate hearing on Jan. 24, saying it would disrupt the university’s current holistic admissions process.

Gundy said students in the top 10 percent of most Maryland high school classes are predominantly white and Asian.

“A top 10 percent plan would fill two thirds of our entering class with students who would do little to increase diversity outcomes and fails to recognize our mission as the state’s flagship,” Gundy said at the hearing. “It would also limit our efforts to enroll students who have exceptional talent that is defined more broadly than simple grade point average.”

[Maryland legislators aim to ban legacy admissions post-affirmative action]

In written testimony submitted to the Senate’s education, energy and environment committee, Gundy said the bill would eliminate consideration of 23 of the 24 factors this university considers in a student’s application. Those factors include a student’s extracurricular activities, community involvement, leadership roles and economic background.

James B. Massey Jr., this university’s undergraduate admissions director, said the university believes that “merit is not a singularly defined measure.”

“By evaluating the entire student and going beyond where they fall in terms of rank and file, we know that we’re able to shape a class that ultimately represents the very best of our state,” Massey said during the hearing.

Drayton Jules, a high school sophomore at Eleanor Roosevelt High, said a guaranteed admissions policy could affect students unequally.

The policy could leave out students who work hard in high school and have great extracurriculars but are not at the top of their class, Jules said.

“It’s only giving certain groups of students actual opportunities to go to these schools,” Jules said.