The 10 Best “Hidden Gem” Universities In Texas

Texas is home to some of the best universities in the country. No matter what you want to study, there’s likely a great program for you in Texas. Texas’s warm weather, excellent education opportunities, and friendly Southern attitude make it a very desirable place for many students. 

You’ve likely already heard of the biggest universities in Texas, like Texas A&M and University of Texas at Austin. This is just the tip of the iceberg – there are plenty of incredible smaller universities in Texas too. Going to a smaller university has its perks for many students – more personalized attention, specialized programs, and a tighter-knit community. 

Many colleges in Texas are what we call “hidden gems” – excellent schools with highly-rated programs preparing students for employment in the real world after graduation.

Here are our picks for the 10 of the best hidden gem universities in Texas. 

Angelo State University (San Angelo, TX)

Angelo State University
NativeTexan55, Center for Human Performance, CC BY-SA 3.0

This west Texas university is known for its affordable prices and welcoming atmosphere. They offer reliable financial aid packages, and a large percentage of students receive scholarships as well. 

Most notably, they offer the Carr Scholarship to a large percentage of their students just based on having a strong GPA and ACT/SAT score. Students here can get a good education without the student debt that comes with attending a private school or a larger university. 

Class sizes here are small, so students can really get to know their professors. These smaller classes provide more hands-on and interactive learning experiences, instead of just lectures. Their versatile business and marketing majors are some of the most popular, but there are plenty of other excellent programs, including strong nursing and health majors. 

There is also a ranch on campus for agriculture classes!

The atmosphere here is friendly and welcoming, with plenty of activities to help new students get to know each other. At the center of campus social life is the strong athletic programs, with several teams that frequently make conference finals. San Angelo is a charming and safe town known for its beautiful parks along the river, which is great for students looking for true Texas charm. 

West Texas A&M (Canyon, TX)

This university is part of the broader Texas A&M system, which is one of the most renowned educational institutions in the state.

If you want the caliber of a large university, but the atmosphere of a smaller school, this may be a good option for you. It’s located in the small town of Canyon, which is just outside of Amarillo. 

West Texas A&M is very well-rounded, with plenty of excellent programs to choose from. Their business, health, and liberal arts programs are the most popular, but you’ll find a wide range of majors to explore here. The school is moderately selective, so you’ll need a strong academic background to be admitted.

This school has a very friendly atmosphere with a beautiful and well-maintained campus. The town of Canyon is very walkable, with plenty of restaurants and necessities within walking distance of the school. 

There are plenty of resources for students to help them tackle the challenges that come with campus life. Classes are small, with an average student-teacher ratio of 18:1. The classes are well-reviewed, and professors here are often described as caring and helpful. 

Tarleton State University (Stephenville, TX)

Tarleton State University
Michael Barera, Tarleton State University August 2017 09 (Clyde H. Wells Fine Arts Center), CC BY-SA 4.0

TSU is a school that really focuses on personal attention, with a small campus where you can really get to know everyone. 

It is part of the larger Texas A&M system, so students can expect classes that meet the high standards of a big university. Their campus culture includes plenty of fun traditions, including Duck Camp, which welcomes new freshmen and helps them feel welcome. 

Homecoming week at Tarleton also includes a number of fun traditions, including a large bonfire, campus scavenger hunt, and midnight breakfast. 

The town of Stephenville has true Texan charm, and is known as the ‘cowboy capital of the world’ due to the high concentration of professional rodeo cowboys that live there. However, it’s still only an hour away from the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area for students that crave the excitement of a large city. 

Lamar University (Beaumont, TX)

Lamar University
Shellyvitanza, Setzercenter, CC BY-SA 4.0

Lamar University is a respected public institution located in the town of Beaumont, which is a short drive east of Houston. They have an excellent range of programs to choose from, many of which are well ranked. Some of the best-ranked programs include their healthcare and engineering programs. 

They also offer a wide range of classes online, which gives students flexibility during their college experience. Many students commute to campus and work while studying, but there’s also a very strong community on campus. 

Lamar is highly praised for its diversity. The environment is very welcoming, and students come from a variety of different backgrounds to create a great campus culture. 

Although Beaumont has a small town feel, its proximity to Houston makes it easy for students to enjoy the conveniences of a large city when they want to. 

Prairie View A&M University (Prairie View, TX)

Prairie View A&M University
Broadmoor, PVLib, CC BY-SA 4.0

Prairie View is a historically black university known for its small classes and safe environment. They have a number of majors to choose from, and some of their most renowned programs include their engineering, communications, and psychology programs. 

This school encourages students to get involved in a diverse range of activities outside of their academics for a well-rounded college experience. The beautiful campus is very walkable and offers plenty of fun perks and amenities for students, including a new rec center and bowling alley. 

This school has a very strong community where students are proud to represent their school. There are strong traditions on campus, as well as plenty of opportunities for new students to make friends and network. Unlike many universities, Prairie View is consistently applauded for the quality of the food in their dining hall as well. 

University of the Incarnate Word (San Antonio & Alamo Heights, TX)

University of the Incarnate Word
Nan Palmero, University of the Incarnate Word, CC BY 2.0

This school is one of the top Catholic universities in Texas. They focus on a strong liberal arts education that produces well-rounded individuals. 

They also have a strong focus on healthcare, with an excellent pharmacy school and optometry school. Classes here can be demanding, but there’s lots of personal instruction and professors make themselves available to help their students. 

This school has a large urban campus in northern San Antonio, in close proximity to many popular museums as well as the San Antonio Zoo. This means there’s plenty for students to do when they’re not in class. They also have plenty of organizations on campus where students can make friends. 

University of Texas-Tyler (Tyler, TX)

The University of Texas has many locations throughout the state, but this outpost in the town of Tyler is a great option for those who want a small town feel. 

Because this school is part of the UT system, they have a very wide range of degree programs to choose from, including excellent online classes and graduate degrees. It is also very affordable when compared with many of the other schools in the UT system. 

This campus at Tyler combines small-town friendliness with plenty of fun things to do. They have a respectable athletics program and plenty of activities on campus. 

The city itself is very pleasant and is in a beautiful part of the Texas countryside. While the vibe on campus is quiet, there’s a tight-knit community where students are supported through their academic challenges.

Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX)

Abilene Christian University
Michael Barera, Abilene Christian University (Moody Coliseum), CC BY-SA 4.0

There are plenty of great Christian schools in Texas, but this option in the small city of Abilene is a true hidden gem. In addition to great academics, they focus on giving students a path to grow in their spirituality and bond with one another. 

There are always activities happening on campus, and freshmen are immediately welcomed into the fold with traditions like Wildcat Week. This week happens at the beginning of the year and gives new students plenty of fun things to do and opportunities to become part of the campus. 

This school is large enough that students can have a traditional college experience – many people live on campus, and there are plenty of athletics, performances, and other fun things to attend. Class sizes are relatively small, with an excellent student to faculty ratio of 14:1, and professors take time to get to know their students. 

Stephen F. Austin State University (Nacogdoches, TX)

Stephen F Austin State University
Michael Barera, Stephen F. Austin State University, CC BY-SA 4.0

Originally a teacher’s college, this state university is now home to a number of incredible programs, including a top forestry degree and excellent nursing program. SFA is located in Nacogdoches, a small town surrounded by national forests. 

Although there is a small town environment, this university is also home to an advanced early childhood research center as well as a brand-new STEM center. 

This school is very friendly with incredible school spirit – students are always proud to support the Lumberjacks on the field, with 17 division I sports teams. 

The campus is very walkable, and there are plenty of dining options on and off campus. It’s also a great choice for anyone who loves outdoor activities, with multiple national forests and plenty of large bodies of water nearby.

Texas Woman’s University (Denton, TX)

Texas Womans University
Michael Barera, Texas Woman’s University (Pioneer Hall), CC BY-SA 4.0

TWU is a top-tier university in Denton, a small town north of the Dallas/Fort Worth area. They also have satellite campuses in Dallas and Houston. 

They are known for their excellent nursing and health sciences programs, but also have a number of other degrees to choose from in the arts, sciences, and business fields. The charming campus is small and walkable, making it easy to get around. 

Class sizes here are very small, so students can get to know their professors. The campus environment focuses on supporting women, and it’s one of the most popular schools in Texas for students who have children. 

The school is very safe, and it’s also very diverse, welcoming a wide range of students into its programs. Additionally, it’s very affordable, with the average tuition coming in at less than $10,000 per year.