For Cris Rubio, there wasn't much suspense about what came after he graduated high school in 2003. Rubio had been second in his class for much of his four years — he eventually finished fourth — and under the Texas Top Ten Percent Plan, any student in the top 10 percent of their high school class, by grade-point average, was given automatic admission to any state public university. Rubio knew he would leave San Juan, Texas, his overwhelmingly Latino hometown near the border, to head to the University of Texas at Austin, the state's sprawling, flagship university more than 300 miles away.
"It's a really good school but that kind of hurts it because everyone wants to go there," said Rubio, who graduated UT in 2007 with a mathematics degree. "When it comes to choosing a school, everyone's in the state is kind of" leaning toward UT. Eight out of every 10 students admitted as freshman to UT-Austin in 2008 got in under the rule.