Are They the Best Colleges in Texas for You? - Do It Yourself College Rankings

Are They the Best Colleges in Texas for You?

University of Texas tower representing Best Colleges in TexasWith 81 public and private higher education institutions with 500 or more full-time undergraduates in Texas, how do you decide which are the best colleges in Texas? Well, a lot of people will just look at US News Best College Rankings and consider it problem solved. In that case, the list of best colleges in Texas is easy:

US News Best Texas Colleges Ranked Nationally
Rice University (16)
The University of Texas at Austin (42)
Southern Methodist University (66)
Texas A & M University (66)
Baylor University (76)
Texas Christian University (80)

Best Colleges in Texas by the Rankings

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US News isn’t the only college rankings around. Fiske Guide to Colleges lists 12 Texas colleges worthy of consideration:

Austin College
Baylor University
Rice University
Southern Methodist University
Southwestern University
The University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Dallas
Texas A&M University
Texas Christian University
Texas Tech University
Trinity University
University of Dallas

They consider these the best and most interesting colleges in the nation that students want to know about.

Princeton Review’s of the Best 386 Colleges includes:

Angelo State University
Austin College
Baylor University
Rice University
Southern Methodist University
Southwestern University
Texas A&M University
Texas Christian University
Texas State University
The University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Dallas
Trinity University
University of Dallas
University of Houston

These schools are included because of student responses to their survey. They have different ratings they apply to schools. In other words, being in the book doesn’t mean they are the best 386 schools in the nation.

There are a variety of other rankings out there that you can use to see how Texas colleges rank. They all use different methodologies to determine which is “best.”

Best Texas Colleges by the Numbers

The thing is that if you like determining “best” by numbers, there are quite a few numbers to choose from.

Let’s start with the basic numbers. With 81 colleges and universities, Texas ranks 4th in the nation in the number of colleges behind New York, Pennsylvania, and California. It ranks 2nd after California in the number of public institutions which outnumber private in the state. Not surprisingly, it ranks 7th in the number of private colleges and universities.

Size is a critical factor for many students when choosing a college so you may want to first select colleges by size and then figure out which ones are the best. In Texas, half the colleges have 2,500 or fewer full-time undergraduates. Your choices decrease dramatically as the school size increases.

Size Private Public Total
2,500 or less 29 12 41
2,501-5,000 5 5 10
5,001-10,000 2 14 16
10,001 plus 1 13 14
Grand Total 37 44 81

 

While fewer choices may make it easier to decide, it can have a significant effect on how much merit aid students receive.

10 Hardest Texas Colleges to Get Into

One way to measure the value of something is by scarcity. Think gold or diamonds. And everyone knows that Harvard and Stanford are in a race to see who has the lowest acceptance rate, which is now down around 4%. As far as college admissions goes, the theory is that if a school is really hard to get into then it must be really good as well. Texas has 14 schools that accept less than 50% of applicants.

Name Tye Full-time Under-grads 4 yr Grad Rate  % Admitted  Avg SAT (1600) Avg ACT  Avg Net Price 2018-2019
Rice University Private          3,949 84 9 1520 34.0 $20,335
Trinity University Private          2,394 66 29 1370 30.5 $30,505
The University of Texas at Austin Public       37,352 66 32 1355 30.0 $15,502
Texas Wesleyan University Private          1,330 18 42 1065 21.5 $26,434
Texas A & M University-Commerce Public          6,209 25 43 1050 21.0 $12,477
Texas A&M University-San Antonio Public          3,340 44 1030 19.0 $14,059
Baylor University Private       13,967 63 45 1290 29.0 $38,372
LeTourneau University Private          1,345 49 45 1200 25.5 $24,609
McMurry University Private          1,014 28 45 1020 20.0 $21,719
University of Dallas Public          1,446 68 45 1245 27.0 $26,761
Southern Methodist University Private          6,509 72 47 1390 31.0 $40,404
Texas Christian University Private          9,190 71 47 1250 28.0 $37,509
University of North Texas at Dallas Public          2,427 11 47 840 18.5 $9,062
Southwestern University Private          1,496 63 49 1230 26.0 $27,757

 

The list above includes all but one of the colleges ranked nationally by US News College Rankings.  But it also includes colleges in the last tier of US news College Rankings as well as one that is unranked. Self-selection plays a bigger role than people realize. In other words, it’s hard to be accepted for those who want to go there. And if everyone wants to go there, it’s even harder. Acceptance rates have their limitations.

Texas Colleges with the Best Test Scores

You can also consider the quality of the school based on the quality of the students it admits. The theory here is that good students go to good schools and better students go to better schools. Now our list of the Best Colleges in Texas is looking a lot like the US News College Rankings. The following tables list the top 10 Texas colleges by average SAT and ACT scores.

Top 10 Texas Colleges with Highest SAT Scores

Name Type Full-time Under-graduate 4 yr Grad Rate  % Admitted  Avg SAT (1600) Avg ACT Avg Net Price 2018-2019
Rice University Private         3,949 84 9 1520 34.0 $20,335
Southern Methodist University Private         6,509 72 47 1390 31.0 $40,404
Trinity University Private         2,394 66 29 1370 30.5 $30,505
The University of Texas at Austin Public       37,352 66 32 1355 30.0 $15,502
The University of Texas at Dallas Public       17,847 52 79 1350 29.5 $10,455
Baylor University Private       13,967 63 45 1290 29.0 $38,372
Texas A & M University Public       47,874 55 58 1275 28.5 $19,237
Texas Christian University Private         9,190 71 47 1250 28.0 $37,509
University of Dallas Private         1,446 68 45 1245 27.0 $26,761
Southwestern University Private         1,496 63 49 1230 26.0 $27,757

 

Top 10 Texas Colleges with Highest ACT Scores

Name Type Full-time Under-graduate 4 yr Grad Rate  % Admitted  Avg SAT (1600) Avg ACT Avg Net Price 2018-2019
Rice University Private         3,949 84 9 1520 34.0 $20,335
Southern Methodist University Private         6,509 72 47 1390 31.0 $40,404
Trinity University Private         2,394 66 29 1370 30.5 $30,505
The University of Texas at Austin Public       37,352 66 32 1355 30.0 $15,502
The University of Texas at Dallas Public       17,847 52 79 1350 29.5 $10,455
Baylor University Private       13,967 63 45 1290 29.0 $38,372
Texas A & M University-College Station Public       47,874 55 58 1275 28.5 $19,237
Texas Christian University Private         9,190 71 47 1250 28.0 $37,509
University of Dallas Private         1,446 68 45 1245 27.0 $26,761
Austin College Private         1,294 68 51 1210 26.5 $23,824

 

These college lists include all of the schools ranked by US News College Rankings. You can see that the only difference is at the 10th position where Southwestern University and Austin College exchange places.

The problem with using college tests scores and other similar criteria is that you’re looking at the “inputs.” You know the students had a certain level of academic qualifications when they entered but it tells you nothing about what happens to them once they entered college. In some ways, it can be compared to hospitals taking the least sick patients and then having a great cure rate.

Best Texas Colleges for Graduation Rates

Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of indicators available to show the college’s effect on the student. There’s an increasing amount of data on salaries but it’s something you really have to break down by major. Perhaps the simplest indicator you can use is college graduation rates. The following tables list Texas colleges with the highest graduation rates. Since private and public colleges generally have different costs, I’m using the 4-year rate for private schools and the 5-year rate for public schools.

Private Texas Colleges with Highest Graduation Rates

Name Type Full-time Under-graduate 4 yr Grad Rate 5 yr Grad Rate  % Admitted  Avg SAT (1600) Avg ACT Avg Net Price 2018-2019
Rice University Private         3,949 84 91 9 1520 34.0 $20,335
Southern Methodist University Private         6,509 72 80 47 1390 31.0 $40,404
Texas Christian University Private         9,190 71 81 47 1250 28.0 $37,509
University of Dallas Private         1,446 68 71 45 1245 27.0 $26,761
Austin College Private         1,294 68 72 51 1210 26.5 $23,824
Remington College-Dallas Private            620 67 67 $20,126
Trinity University Private         2,394 66 75 29 1370 30.5 $30,505
Baylor University Private      13,967 63 77 45 1290 29.0 $38,372
Southwestern University Private         1,496 63 68 49 1230 26.0 $27,757
Saint Edward’s University Private         3,202 50 61 88 1153 25.0 $28,214

 

Public Texas Colleges with Highest Graduation Rates

Name Type Full-time Under-graduate 4 yr Grad Rate 5 yr Grad Rate  % Admitted  Avg SAT (1600) Avg ACT Avg Net Price 2018-2019
The University of Texas at Austin Public      37,352 66 83 32 1355 30.0 $15,502
Texas A & M University Public      47,874 55 79 58 1275 28.5 $19,237
The University of Texas at Dallas Public      17,847 52 66 79 1350 29.5 $10,455
Texas Tech University Public      27,949 36 56 69 1165 24.5 $16,463
University of Houston Public      28,176 32 54 65 1225 24.5 $13,212
University of North Texas Public      26,049 35 51 74 1155 24 $14,020
Sam Houston State University Public      15,232 32 50 83 1065 21.0 $13,055
Texas State University Public      27,812 29 49 81 1095 22.0 $13,178
Stephen F Austin State University Public         9,195 32 49 68 1085 21.5 $12,866
Tarleton State University Public         8,172 30 45 56 1045 20.5 $14,631

Best Texas Colleges for National Merit Scholarships

Students in the running for qualifying as a National Merit Scholar should be on the lookout for schools sponsoring National Merit Scholarships. Texas A&M and UT Dallas sponsored over 100 scholarships each this past year.

Name Total Sponsored
Texas A & M University 110
The University of Texas at Dallas 100
Southern Methodist University 15
University of Houston 10
University of Dallas 10
Texas Tech University 3
University of North Texas 3
Texas Christian University 3
Trinity University 3
Southwestern University 3
Abilene Christian University 3

 

If you’re surprised at how few colleges offer national merit scholarships, you really need to read 10 Reasons Why National Merit Scholarships aren’t that Big of a Deal.

What’s Important to You

Obviously, how you determine which are the best colleges in Texas depends on what you’re looking for from a college. Just consider some lessor known colleges listings. Three Texas institutions are among the best Public Honors Colleges according to the Public University Honors website:

  • UT Austin Plan II Honors Program
  • Houston Honors College
  • Texas Tech Honors College

For those looking for Liberal Arts Colleges, Austin College and Southwestern University are both among the Colleges that Change Lives.  If you’re more interested in social mobility, Texas A&M, UT-Austin, UT-Rio Grande Valley, and Rice University rank in the top 100 of the Washington Monthly’s ranking.

And we haven’t even begun to address costs. After all, isn’t that usually the way most people compare major purchases? They have a certain budget and then start comparing the items within that price range.  College comparisons are complicated by the need to factor in the likelihood of being accepted as well. It doesn’t matter if Rice has great financial aid if you can’t get in.

Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be any rankings based on the combination of costs and acceptance rates. But if you’re interested in pulling the data together to create your own, save yourself time and use the DIY College Rankings Spreadsheet.

Are They the Best Colleges in Texas for You?

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