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Assisted by its alumni, the University of Texas School of Law boosted its minority enrollment for the fall 2000 entering class, attracting more than double the number of African-Americans enrolled a year ago. Shelli Soto, assistant dean for admissions at the law school, says 18 African-American students enrolled this fall compared to seven in the fall of 1999. “We haven’t gone the distance yet, but it’s a nice, positive step,” Soto says. The law school reported only a small increase in its Mexican-American students. The class of 477 first-year law students includes 34 Mexican-Americans — two more than enrolled last year. “It’s not a big increase, but it’s still going in the right direction,” Soto says. The UT law school saw minority enrollment drop after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ 1996 ruling in Hopwood v. Texas. That ruling prohibits Texas higher education institutions from using race as a criterion in admissions. Soto says Hopwood has had the biggest effect on African-American enrollment at the law school. “That’s where we got hit the hardest,” she says. State Sen. Rodney Ellis, a UT law school alumnus, worked to encourage more African-Americans to come to the school. Soto says Ellis, D-Houston, convinced four airlines to provide 25 complimentary round-trip tickets for African-American students accepted by the school so they could visit the Austin campus. Other alumni also provided assistance in recruiting minorities. Soto says state Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, helped by writing letters to Mexican-American students who had been admitted to the school, and Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk spoke at several events for prospective students. The law school’s efforts to recruit minorities also were aided by the Texas Leaders Scholarships created for the Ex Students Association by alumnus Larry Temple of Austin, Soto says. Alumnus Joe Jamail of Houston provided much of the initial funding for the scholarship program, which provides assistance to 59 law school students, the institution reported.

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