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The 25 Best Colleges in Texas for 2017

As everyone knows, Texas is a very big state, and colleges in Texas can be just as big. Thousands of students choose to attend colleges or universities in Texas every year. The Lone Star State ranks near the top of the list in terms of the number of colleges and universities and the number of students enrolled. Even community colleges in Texas are grand.

There are many good reasons to choose to attend colleges in Texas. Students enjoy the mild winters and warm springs, as well as the diversity of landscapes and people the state has to offer. In addition to being national leader in business, technology, agriculture, aerospace, and biomedicine, Texas also has the advantage of being one of the safest and most affordable states to live in.

For the Top 25 Colleges in Texas for 2017, we used the same methodology used in our inaugural 2016 edition of The Best Colleges Top 50 Colleges and Universities in America. In our attempt to create a college ranking system that takes into account what really matters to students and their parents, we’ve gone beyond investigating standard indicators of academic quality and student satisfaction used by other major ranking systems to also consider indicators of the economic value of a school and the quality of life offered by the city or town in which it is located.

At the top of this year’s ranking is Rice University, which has long been recognized as one of the premier universities in Texas and the world, as have the schools in the second and third spots, Trinity University and the University of Texas at Austin (though we imagine a few people might take issue with UT-Austin being ranked higher than Texas A&M).

Many exemplary religious schools have made the list, and they cross various Christian denominations from Baptist to Lutheran to Catholic. Those wanting to add a spiritual component to their education will have no trouble finding a school in Texas. The big metropolises are well-represented, with a wide variety of colleges and universities in Houston, Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio. Students who want to stay connected to vibrant and dynamic population centers have some amazing choices in the best colleges in Texas.

We believe our ranking of the top colleges and universities in Texas provides prospective students an excellent starting point for investigating the best colleges and universities in the Lone Star State. We measured each school across a dozen (12) different data points to come up with an overall score for each school. You can read a more detailed explanation of our Texas ranking methodology and data sources by clicking here.

First, we offer a few notes to help you navigate the rankings list. Underneath the school’s name is a brief introduction to the school, as well as a little information about the city or town in which it is located. Below that is the school’s classification, setting, population and student-to-faculty ratio. By clicking on the magnifying glass icon next to the student-to-teacher ratio, the profile will expand to display additional information on the school and city or town.

What Are The Best Colleges in Texas?

1

Rice UniversityHouston, Texas

A small research university known for its programs in the applied sciences, the school also has a strong commitment to undergraduate education, operating on a residential college system with a student-enforced honor code that allows for all tests and exams to be taken home and completed unsupervised at the student’s convenience.

Students on the large wooded campus near the Houston museum district have easy access to the amenities of the big and relatively low-cost city, all while attending one of the best colleges in Texas.

2

Trinity UniversitySan Antonio, Texas

This academically rigorous university with a Presbyterian heritage offers a close-knit student body and a campus on top of a hill overlooking downtown San Antonio.

The home of the Alamo, San Antonio is the second-largest city in Texas, offering students a number of cultural and entertainment possibilities in addition to a low cost of living.

3

University of Texas at AustinAustin, Texas

One of the original "Public Ivies," the biggest university and one of the best colleges in Austin, Texas, has the largest endowment of any other public university in the nation, allowing it to offer outstanding research opportunities in addition to being generous with financial aid.

Billed as "The Live Music Capital of the World," Austin is a youthful and active city with a reasonable cost of living and an eclectic personality.

4

Texas Christian UniversityFort Worth, Texas

Affiliated with but not governed by the Disciples of Christ, Texas Christian University has been guiding men and women to their degrees since the 19th century. It is a dedicated liberal arts college, with all students expected to show proficiency in across a wide range of subjects in addition to their major. Students can choose between 119 undergraduate majors, 53 master's programs, and 28 doctoral programs, with business and journalism being the most popular programs among its 10,394 students.

Texas Christian University is in Fort Worth near the city’s world-class zoo (which is well worth the day trip to visit). Students will have access to a dynamic downtown filled with some of the best art museums in the state. Bicyclers will find the area around the university well-suited for two-wheeled travel.

5

Southern Methodist UniversityDallas, Texas

A private Methodist university with strengths in business and management, the Cox School of Business is widely considered one of the best in the country, and a prestigious Texas college.

Known as "The Big D," Dallas, is one of the biggest cities in Texas and a center of business and commerce for the state.

6

Southwestern UniversityGeorgetown, Texas

With nearly 200 years of history under its belt, Southwestern University claims to be the first university in the Lone Star State. It’s one of the smallest colleges in Texas, sporting just over 1,500 students at a time. That gives its staff plenty of time to attend their charges as they pursue a classic liberal arts education. Civic-mindedness is a must, and students participate in community activities at more than twice the national average. There are 40 undergraduate majors and 36 undergraduate minors, divided between the art and science schools. New students should explore the First Year Seminar, meant to help them bridge the gap between high school and college.

The school is located in historic Georgetown, within easy driving distance of Austin for a weekend of music and restaurants. The city is a model of green energy, getting 100% of its power from renewable sources. You might spy some famous film locations there, as movies like Dazed and Confused and television shows like Friday Night Lights have been shot in the city.

7

Austin CollegeSherman, Texas

Founded in 1849 by a Princeton-educated Presbyterian missionary, Austin College is the oldest institute of higher learning in Texas. It’s a small, private liberal arts college with an emphasis on turning out great teachers. A five-year master of arts in education is currently their only graduate program, but students can pursue 55 other undergraduate majors, ranging from film studies to neuroscience. Its student body of around 1,300 is required to live on campus.

Sherman, where the school is located, is a quiet place. Students can enjoy quaint parks and regular music festivals, as well as a variety of water activities in the summer thanks to its various pools.

8

Baylor UniversityWaco, Texas

This private Baptist university with large ambitions and a rising national reputation is making an effort to provide a more affordable education through the President’s Scholarship Initiative, a fundraising campaign initiated by the school that provides National Merit Finalists with between $28,000 and $88,000 for undergraduate studies over eight semesters.

The home of Dr Pepper, Waco is a relatively youthful and inexpensive city north of Austin and south of Dallas on the I-35 corridor.

9

Texas A & M UniversityCollege Station, Texas

This Texas college shows it has a heart as big as its massive campus and student body, offering a full-need, no-loan financial aid package to qualified Texas students from families making less than $60K a year.

A youthful and highly educated town, College Station offers country flavor in a conservative atmosphere and an exceptionally low cost of living.

10

University of DallasIrving, Texas

A Catholic university that welcomes students of all faiths or none, 1,300 undergraduate students and 1,200 graduate students from across the U.S. and the world attend one of the best universities in Texas. The University of Dallas offers 29 undergraduate majors and more than 20 graduate programs, as well as other certification courses and noncredit education opportunities in the arts, humanities, sciences, education, business, and nursing. Students looking for an institute of learning with a staunchly conservative point of view will fit right in. William F. Buckley, Brad Miner, and Pat Buchanan have all been speakers there. Out of the online colleges in Texas, University of Dallas is ranked the best place to get a master’s in theology.

Students wishing to partake of the thriving culture and music scenes, the university is technically located in Irving--a suburb of Dallas--but who may not have a car, will find themselves well taken care of. The school has its own stop on the rail system, and can get you where you want to go within minutes.

11

University of Texas at DallasRichardson, Texas

Known for a willingness to cross disciplinary boundaries through its several multi/interdisciplinary degree programs, this university is making an effort to overcome class boundaries as well through its Tuition Promise Program, which covers tuition and fees through scholarships and grants for Texas students from families making less than $25,000 a year.

Richardson is an affluent and well-educated inner suburb of Dallas which manages to keep cost of living low for students.

12

St. Edward’s UniversityAustin, Texas

Fr. Edward Sorin set sail from France in 1841 specifically to found St. Edward’s University, and it has been providing an excellent liberal arts education ever since. A private school in the Holy Cross tradition with 5,000 students, the school has 38 undergraduate majors and seven graduate programs. It is also one of the nation’s top producers of Fulbright scholars.

13

Baptist Missionary Association Theological SeminaryJacksonville, Texas

Have you been called to serve as a Christian spiritual leader, and want a first-class education to aid you in that endeavor? Then this might be the school for you. Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary aims to turn out preachers and scholars. The school offers both a bachelor of arts in religion and an associate of divinity, as well as four different master’s in further religious study. Fairly unique to the online colleges in Texas, students can acquire both undergraduate and graduate degrees on the internet.

Jacksonville, where the school is located, is the "Tomato Capital of the World," and hosts an annual Tomato Fest to celebrate that glorious achievement. Students can enjoy a leisurely time away from studies at Lake Jacksonville when the weather is nice.

14

Abilene Christian UniversityAbilene, Texas

This private university affiliated with the Churches of Christ has ambitions as large as the West Central Texas plains that surround it, publicly declaring its intent to become the premier university for training global Christian leaders.

Home to three private universities, Abilene is a mid-size university town with a low cost of living.

15

Dallas Baptist UniversityDallas, Texas

For over a century, Dallas Baptist University has been one of the best colleges in Texas. It’s perfect for students who like a cozy learning environment with its average class size of 11. There are 73 undergraduate programs, 31 master’s programs, and two doctoral programs to choose from. A variety of living arrangements are available on campus, everything from dormitories to three-bedroom townhomes.

16

Remington CollegeDallas, Texas

The Remington College system includes 16 non-profit campuses looking to bring a non-traditional approach to secondary education. The Dallas campus is a hub of connections in the city where students can find networking opportunities in everything from technology to medicine to law enforcement thanks to the various partnerships the campus has with local organizations. They also have a fantastic online degree program for both associate and bachelor’s degrees. Business and medicine are two of the school’s main areas of focus.

17

Texas Tech UniversityLubbock, Texas

The flagship university of the Texas Tech University System boasts one of the largest contiguous campuses in the country and a generous financial aid program that promises to cover all tuition and fees with scholarships and grants for Texas students from families making less than $40,000 a year. It truly is one of the best universities in Texas.

Known as "Hub City," Lubbock, is the economic, education, and healthcare hub of the South Plains region and offers students a remarkably low cost of living.

18

St. Mary's UniversitySan Antonio, Texas

St. Mary’s University has long been recognized as both an excellent value for the education it provides and for their dedication to teaching the concept of public service. Founded in 1852, St. Mary’s has 52 bachelor’s programs, 19 master’s programs, and a law degree program. The university has many different initiatives designed to engage students in various good works in the community, particularly on the west side of San Antonio. Their latest annual staple is the 40 Days of Service during Lent, during which students can participate in hunger drives, blood drives, and other civic engagement activities.

19

LeTourneau UniversityLongview, Texas

This former technical college retains strengths in engineering and technology but has grown into a nationally recognized comprehensive Christian university with degrees in the liberal arts, education, and business, among others.

Longview is a small East Texas town with a low cost of living and the distinction of being the boyhood home of actors Matthew McConaughey and Forest Whitaker.

20

Texas Lutheran UniversitySeguin, Texas

Nestled in quiet Seguin, Texas, near both Austin and San Antonio, Texas Lutheran University is a small school with a lot to offer. Average class size is just 20 students, which helps build a tight campus community dedicated to mutual benefit and understanding. It boasts a faith-based approach to a liberal arts education, and aims to send its graduates off with knowledge of a wide range of subjects. Bachelor’s programs focus on business, music, arts and nursing, with a master’s in accountancy also available. Their music program is particularly renowned, and a long list of scholarships are open to students interested in pursuing a melodic path in their education.

Texas Lutheran University is housed in historic Seguin, the birthplace of the famous Texas Rangers (the lawmen, not the baseball team). Appropriately for a school famous for its music program, Seguin has the only symphony in the region. Both Texan and Mexican festivals are annual events in the town. You will want to mark your calendar for the yearly chihuahua races.

21

University of HoustonHouston, Texas

The University of Houston is a sprawling, enormous campus in the southern part of the city. You can become almost anything there, with over 100 undergraduate majors and another 120 master’s programs available. Its theater program is one of the best in the country, and for the hard science student, you can be a part of over 25 world-class research centers. It’s located within easy driving distance of some of the best museums and dining in the Lone Star State.

Houston is well-known as a cosmopolitan and diverse city. Its low cost of living and multi-national populace give the metropolis a unique identity that has made it one of the most dynamic places to live in America.

22

Houston Baptist UniversityHouston, Texas

More than 3,000 students are getting their higher learning through Houston Baptist University. Its 100-acre campus is located just minutes from downtown Houston. The school is dedicated to a Christian worldview, and all the values that implies. Students receive a personalized education in classes that often number 20 or less, and pursue degrees in business, Christian counseling, psychology, the liberal arts, visual arts, and education. A variety of master’s programs are available, primarily in religious or counseling disciplines. Both in-person and online programs are options for potential attendees.

23

Gemini School of Visual Arts & CommunicationCedar Park, Texas

The motto of the Gemini School is " "turning talent into a profession." This art school is turning out the next generation of visual artists, animators, video game makers, and other creators. Students earn a four-year diploma in visual arts and communications. It is only a single program, but it is extremely hands-on and dedicated to giving artists a solid foundation for whatever they might want to do after graduation.

The school is located in Cedar Park, a suburb of Austin. Skaters will feel right at home in the major skate park located in the city, and sports fans will be thrilled to attend top-tier minor league games in hockey and basketball.

24

Northwood UniversityCedar Hill, Texas

Northwood University is dedicated to the idea of free enterprise, but in a respectful and socially conscious way. It is consistently ranked as one of the best places to pursue online degrees in the United States. The focus is entirely on the world of business, though there are some interesting niche programs such as hospitality management and sports promotion in their undergraduate courses. There are also four master’s programs, including one specifically designed to prepare students for a career with General Motors. If you’ve ever wanted to be the best car salesman ever, this is the path for you.

The Texas campus is located in Cedar Wood, a suburb southwest of Dallas on the shores of Joe Pool Lake. The nearby state parks and canyon are popular with hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.

25

University of St. ThomasHouston, Texas

Founded in 1947, this is the only Catholic university in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. As you would expect from a school named for one of the greatest thinkers in history, St. Thomas has a first-rate philosophy program that goes all the way up to the doctoral level. Other students can pursue education, business, or nursing. It has one of the best-ranked study abroad programs for undergraduates, making it an ideal school for those with travel on their mind.

The school is located in the Montrose area of Houston, a bustling historical neighborhood popular with artists and musicians.

Detailed Ranking Methodology

A college education is among the largest and most important investments of time, effort, and money most Americans will make in their lifetime. The schools in our ranking were put through a rigorous selection process and then objectively evaluated across 12 unique data points in four different categories: economic value, quality of life, academic quality, and student satisfaction. Subjective decisions were limited to which data points to consider and the weight given to each one.

In order to be included in our rankings pool, a school had to be a regionally accredited four-year, bachelor’s degree-granting liberal arts college or university in Texas with at least 500 students, a 25th percentile score of 480 in SAT critical reading and math, and an acceptance rate at or below 80%. This ensured that all Texas colleges and universities considered were of significant size and demonstrated some level of selectivity in its admissions process.

Ranking Criteria and Weights

Economic Value – 35%

Quality of Life – 30%

Academic Quality – 20%

Student Satisfaction – 15%

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