Styles of colleges in Texas offer a range as broad and complex as the Lone Star State itself.
From one of the largest schools in the country to a jewel of a small liberal arts college with an architecturally-significant campus; from art retreats in the desert to creating a startup as an undergrad, students can find the ideal academic setting to start extraordinary careers in any field among these ten schools.
Many schools listed offer ample financial support, some with many students graduating without undergraduate debt of any kind.
Experiential learning and undergraduate research play a prominent role in most Texas institutions; depending on areas of interest, students at these schools can begin serious scientific research, participate in community service, start businesses, or create art while studying.
Every geographic region of Texas has its own kind of campus. Students from outside the state especially should be sure to consider the quality of life when choosing.
Some may envision a small college town centered on the university, while others may want the excitement of a campus in the middle of a cosmopolitan city.
There’s funky, tech-driven Austin with its culinary culture and annual SXSW global tech and music convention.
Or there’s the cultural diversity and old-world beauty of San Antonio.
Dallas and Houston, two of the biggest cities in the country, beckon with corporate opportunities and cultural resources.
Everything really is bigger in Texas.
The ranking is based on an aggregate ranking of multiple news sources, including US News and Niche. We reveal the sources at the end of this article.
10. Texas Tech University (Lubbock, TX)
Texas Tech is undergoing an ambitious, long-term expansion program; the school already has expanded enrollment beyond its goal of 40,000, indicating its wide appeal and diverse student body.
Now considered a tier-one research institution in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, Texas Tech also serves as one of 15 such research institutions to earn certification as a Hispanic-Serving Institution.
Popular majors include business, biology, mechanical engineering, marketing, and kinesiology—the school offers a broad liberal arts curriculum with strengths in many areas.
August 2021 marked the arrival of the first class in the new Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine.
Texas Tech School of Law ranks as a Best Value school by National Jurist. A separate medical school, Texas Tech University Health Science Center, offers a joint MD/MBA with Texas Tech.
Texas Tech’s broad online program gives students across the country access to quality bachelor’s programs, as well as numerous graduate fields. Non-degree certificates offer professional development opportunities.
With its reasonable tuition rates, regional teaching sites, and innovative e-learning techniques, Texas Tech’s program earns praise for overall excellence, disability outreach, and ease of use for military personnel.
Multiple satellite campuses in the state and study abroad campuses in Europe bring a global perspective and world-class research to west Texas.
Alumni include five astronauts, several state governors, Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes fame, and singer John Denver. They stand alongside Will Rogers and Soapsuds at Texas Tech, scanning the western horizon for a vision of a better future.
9. University of Houston (Houston, TX)
The University of Houston offers over 250 majors, including 108 master’s and 50 doctoral programs.
Based on the relation between graduate pay scale and program tuition, UH presents a good buy for students interested in attending a large, public research university.
Engineering, Business, and Education programs at UH receive top 100 rankings from U.S. News; overall, the school makes the list for Best Value and Top Performers on Social Mobility.
An excellent business faculty at the school’s Bauer College of Business, along with the facilities at Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, led the Princeton Review to name Houston as the number one undergraduate program for entrepreneurship.
Motivated undergraduates can apply to the Honors College, an opportunity for specialized seminars, study abroad, and undergraduate research. UH encourages undergraduate research across the disciplines with its new REACH program.
The UH campus offers access to a major metropolitan center while providing on-campus amenities like restaurants, concert facilities, even a bowling alley. Join a professional society, a community service project, a sports team, or any of the over 500 campus organizations.
Houston cougars always have Shasta’s paw to rub for luck, but the good fortune comes from the excellent preparation a University of Houston education provides.
8. University of Texas at Dallas (Dallas, TX)
In the 1960s, three Texas Instruments founders created the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest. Out of that original vision grew the University of Texas at Dallas.
The school enrolls more National Merit Scholars than any other university in Texas, offering funding, study abroad, and opportunities for community to National Merit Scholars.
Eight schools within the university cover communication, engineering, behavioral and brain science, management, economics, and political policy, in addition to arts and sciences.
The School of Arts, Technology and Emerging Communication offers students innovative coursework in new media, virtual environments, and interactive design.
True to its research origins, UT Dallas is home to numerous research centers in a wide range of fields.
Brain science, communication, and computer science programs produce groundbreaking research; additional centers in space studies, nanotechnology, urban policy, and many other areas show UT Dallas’s flexibility and commitment to solving global problems.
7. Trinity University (San Antonio, TX)
Over 80% of their undergraduate student body takes advantage of their many opportunities for experiential learning, and student entrepreneurs have started over 50 businesses while still on campus.
With a student body of around 2,500, students at Trinity enjoy small classes and access to faculty for mentorship.
The quality of its faculty across 27 academic departments allows this small liberal arts university to make a significant impact: U.S. News ranks it the top university in the western region.
Committed to recruiting student talent as well, Trinity offers more students merit aid than any other U.S. university.
Trinity cultivates student involvement with over 100 clubs and over 200 community service opportunities. Over 70% of students play a sport of some kind.
Service to community and self-care are foregrounded at Trinity, and community traditions—a full year of special events for Seniors—make for solid bonds.
Trinity’s after-graduation statistics show the effectiveness of its mission: 89% of Trinity graduates are employed or accepted to graduate school by the time they receive their diplomas. More than half graduate without undergraduate student debt, a key factor for students planning a professional degree program.
Students looking for strong academics, a close-knit community, and the promise of hands-on learning can find it all at Trinity. Besides, who wouldn’t want to be a Tiger eating nachos?
6. Baylor University (Waco, TX)
Located in Waco, Texas, Christian institution Baylor University earns high marks for value and for its role as an employer.
Beyond its College of Arts and Sciences, Baylor’s theological seminary, law school, and schools of business, nursing, social work, education, music, and engineering offer continuing professional programs.
The College of Arts and Sciences offers more than 60 academic majors leading to BA, BS, BFA, and BSAS degrees. Baylor ranks highly for college athletics, accounting, and music. Nursing and Biology are popular majors.
Part of the Big 12 conference, sports play a prominent role in the Baylor campus experience. Greek life factors prominently, and Homecoming has been celebrated since 1909, the oldest and one of the nation’s most extensive college Homecoming traditions.
Baylor grads include Chip and Joanna Gaines, former Texas governor Ann Richards, and former FBI director William Sessions. Baylor’s mascot is a bear, and the campus hosts an actual zoo-worthy bear habitat for its current representative, Joy.
5. Texas Christian University (Fort Worth, TX)
The Texas Christian University campus, only a few miles from downtown Fort Worth, ranks in the top 20 for categories related to facilities, dormitories, student services, internship opportunity, effective administration, and overall beauty, according to The Princeton Review’s 2021 assessment.
That’s before getting to the excellent Horned Frog academic programs.
With a liberal arts foundation, TCU offers 116 undergraduate majors, 65 master’s programs, and 38 doctoral paths.
Minors in specialized subjects like actuarial science, digital culture, deaf studies, Latinx studies, ranch management, and many others give students more ways to enhance their studies and chart a definite career path.
TCU ranks at number 1 in Texas for its nursing and education programs. Prospective math and science educators might take note of the recent endowment for scholarships to support training for STEM teachers through the Andrews Institute and the College of Education.
Other centers and institutes train students and conduct research in fields as diverse as lighting design, supply chain innovation, real estate, oncology, finance, and sales.
While the school maintains a covenant with the Disciples of Christ Protestant denomination, that agreement includes primarily a commitment to community service, and recognition of other religious identities. Students from over 60 different faiths call TCU home.
4. Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX)
An extensive research institution located in Dallas, Southern Methodist University houses a law school, an engineering school, a business school, and schools of theology, education, and fine arts. Founded by the Methodist Episcopal denomination, the private university is now nonsectarian in its mission.
Over 100 majors can be chosen at SMU; many rank among the top fifty programs in the U.S., including public policy, education, music, design, accounting, and sports management.
Around 3/4 of SMU’s freshmen receive scholarship funds, and nearly the same percentage of graduates leave with no undergraduate college debt.
SMU offers community-oriented housing options: after leaving freshman dorms, students can live in a service dorm with other volunteer-oriented students, or in unique residential communities offering support and activities of all kinds, each of which has a resident faculty mentor.
Students interested in studying gaming design and programming find a place at The Guildhall, SMU’s renowned graduate program for game design. Industry partners mentor students at the Guildhall; career fairs and workshops pave the way for Guildhall graduates to a career in gaming technology.
The Taos campus at Fort Burgwin offers outdoor classes and experiences, from science coursework to photography to winter sports.
The main Mustang campus hosts the George W. Bush Presidential Center and has been recognized by Condé Nast Traveler as one of the country’s most beautiful college campuses.
3. Texas A&M University, College Station (College Station, TX)
Texas A&M was Texas’s first public university, established in 1876. Located in the Texas triangle, the campus occupies the small-town College Station, but Dallas, Austin, and Houston each can be reached in under a couple of hours by car.
At nearly 70,000 students, the Aggies make up the second-largest student body in the nation.
Student retention and graduation rates remain high; 93% of students return after their freshman year, and 82% graduate within 8 years.
The LAUNCH office brings together six different support teams serving students and faculty in order to help students find the right opportunities for community and career development.
Agriculture and IT make sense at Texas A&M as popular majors and strong departments, but business and accounting programs also rank highly, along with sports management, architecture, and engineering.
As one of the largest research institutions in the nation, Texas A&M can provide ample opportunities for research experience to undergraduates. Sought-after programs like aerospace engineering and veterinary medicine draw students from across the country.
Before 1965, A&M required mandatory participation in the Corps of Cadets from all students. These days, enrollment is voluntary, but Texas A&M remains one of six United States Senior Military Colleges.
Labs on campus conduct research in areas from agribusiness to microelectronics, from coffee science to nuclear power.
2. University of Texas at Austin (Austin, TX)
Research, creative output, solutions from local to global: the University of Texas at Austin fosters the kind of experimental and critical thinking that leads to change.
With 786 individual patents stemming from UT research since 2008, UT engages with the immediate needs of society in a material way.
Visionary graduates like astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, director Wes Anderson, music tycoon David Geffen, artist Robert Rauschenberg, and political activist and attorney Ramsey Clark show how UT actively creates the innovators who move the world forward across all industries.
UT’s Texas Advanced Computing Center numbers among many centers of research on campus. TACC houses some of the most powerful supercomputers in the world, meaning research projects from around the world and in all industries take place on UT’s campus.
Undergraduates can take an active role in UT research, even as freshmen, in the largest undergraduate research program in the country.
Eighteen different colleges and schools, along with multiple centers and institutes for research and study, offer students majors in any conceivable field, along with opportunities to pursue coordinating interests.
Multiple centers for entrepreneurship encourage students to develop their ideas into real-world solutions, from the interdisciplinary support of Longhorn Startup to the wide reach of the Austin Technology Incubator.
Law, medicine, business, public affairs, geosciences, and others have their own schools, along with the James A. Michener Center for Writers, which supports UT’s MFA in Writing and draws world-renowned writers to campus for readings and workshops.
The city of Austin provides an ideal setting for a research school; consistently ranked among the best cities in the country, Austin attracts tech innovators, outdoor enthusiasts, artists, and entrepreneurs.
Ranked in the top ten in both public university and big colleges categories, UT Austin gives its students the tools they need to make a global impact.
1. Rice University (Houston, TX)
A private university in Houston, Rice ranks in the top 20 schools nationwide. A 6:1 faculty-student ratio means Rice undergraduates need not worry about being lost in large auditorium classes, and Rice’s residential college system, reminiscent of Ivy League structures, fosters community and support among students, staff, and faculty.
Rice further modeled itself on Ivy league programs by ensuring classes taught by distinguished faculty. The high ranking of so many of its programs reflect that commitment, as well as the overall ranking of Rice’s faculty among the top five schools in the nation. Rice’s undergraduate teaching and first-year experience earn praise from U.S. News as well.
While strong programs exist across departments at Rice, the school is known for its connection to NASA, and 14 astronauts are Rice graduates.
Writers Larry McMurtry and Joyce Carol Oates were once Owls, along with former Halliburton CEO Thomas Cruikshank and business titans John Doerr and Howard Hughes.
Mentorship is woven into the Rice experience, from faculty commitment to academic counseling and other student services. The Academic Fellows and Mentors Societies fold students into the mentorship role as well, offering upper-level students the chance to gain experience and demonstrate personal responsibility by helping students newer to the program.
Rice embodies an academic experience where learning constitutes a higher calling. Rice students dedicate themselves to acquiring the knowledge that will lead them to be better citizens of the world in any field.
This ranking list is based on an aggregate of the following lists, sourced close to the time of publication: