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Even the best colleges are bigger in Texas.
Rice University is Money’s top private college in Texas, while Texas A&M University — one of the largest colleges in the country — is the highest-scoring public college in the state.
Overall, big public universities are the (lone) star of the show in the country’s second-largest state. Of the top 15 universities in Texas in Money’s latest annual analysis, 12 are public schools.
Tuition, average financial aid, and typical student and parent borrowing all come into play in Money’s Best College rankings. But beyond affordability, we also consider graduation rates and average earnings after college to build a list of schools that are solid educational and financial bets. (You can read the full breakdown of how we rank colleges here.)
Surveys consistently show that most students attend a college that is close to home; 56% of freshmen, for example, enrolled within 100 miles of their home, according to a survey out of the University of California, Los Angeles. So in addition to our main rankings, we’ve also sliced the results by geography.
To rank the Best Colleges in Texas, we looked at the top-scoring colleges on our main list of about 600 colleges, plus the schools on our separate selective colleges list.
Read about the top 10 below:
Classes are small at this Houston-based university with a tiny 6:1 student-faculty ratio. The social scene on campus revolves around residential houses, where some 75% of undergrads live. Members of the residential houses compete in activities like water balloon fights and the annual Beer Bike relay race, which requires cyclists to chug beer (or water, for younger participants) and then pedal laps.
With more than 53,000 undergraduates, Texas A&M is one of the largest schools in the country. It’s also big in size, covering 5,200 acres in College Station. The university’s business, agriculture and engineering programs are popular, and Texas A&M also has one of the country’s largest programs in recreation, park and tourism management.
It’s hard to choose just one (or even a few) strong programs at this sprawling university, which offers bachelor’s degree-seekers more than 170 fields of study across 13 colleges and schools. (We’ll still try, though: Advertising, architecture, business and engineering are all top-notch.) Students can also take advantage of more than 400 study abroad programs and 1,100 organizations.
Students here get some serious bang for their buck: UTRGV is ranked No. 4 for affordability on Money’s 2022 Best Colleges list, with an average annual cost of attendance of just over $4,500 for students receiving financial aid.
A relatively new college, the University of North Texas at Dallas welcomed its first freshman class in 2010. Enrollment has grown every semester since, and the campus is expanding, too: The university’s first residence hall opened in 2017, and a new, $63 million student center opened in 2019.
Founded to educate teachers in the western part of the state, West Texas A&M University still primarily serves students from its surrounding region. In 1921, students voted on the university’s mascot, deciding between a badger, a chaparral, a coyote, a rattlesnake, a prairie dog and a buffalo. The buffalo won out; today WTAMU is one of the few colleges that still have a live mascot.
Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) is a standout for economic mobility. The university ranked third in the nation in a recent analysis from think tank Third Way that looked at which colleges were enrolling and graduating large numbers of low- and moderate-income students.
Founded in the 1960s as a research center affiliated with semiconductor company Texas Instruments, the University of Texas at Dallas has been training scientists since its opening. Today, engineering, computer science, neuroscience and biology all draw large numbers of Comets (that’s the UTD mascot).
The University of Houston’s student body ranks second in the nation among research universities for its diversity, with no ethnic majority on campus and students from 130 nations. The university is also designated by the federal government as both a Hispanic-serving institution and an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institution because it enrolls large numbers of students from both of those populations.
With roughly 2,000 undergraduates, the University of Texas Permian Basin is relatively small, particularly for a public university. But it packs a punch: Business and psychology are the most popular majors, and the university also has strong programs in petroleum engineering, geology and energy land management. (No surprise, given its location in oil-rich Odessa.)
Sources: U.S. Department of Education, Money/Witlytic calculations and Peterson’s. Graduation rates include first-time and transfer students. Median earnings for recent graduates are the earnings 10 years after enrolling, as reported in the federal College Scorecard.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct a reference to Texas’ population. The state has the second-largest population in the country. The story originally described Texas as the third-largest state.
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