Texas College Tour
Written by Lisa Bleich
I spent the last week touring Central Texas schools. Texas government has communicated a clear message to its public institutions: “Graduate students in four years!” All the public schools, University of Houston, Texas A & M, and UT Austin echoed this mantra and have focused their efforts on helping students achieve this goal with mottos such as “UH in Four” at the University of Houston. UH has sweetened the deal by offering students a fixed tuition for four years provided they graduate within the four-year time frame. Each of the private schools on our tour, Rice, Southwestern, Baylor, St. Edward’s, and Trinity University had a distinct personality making the Texas offerings as “big” as the state.
University of Houston is an urban campus with a racially and ethnically diverse student body. It has several excellent pre-professional programs including hospitality (with a student-run Hilton right on campus), engineering, business, architecture and health sciences. The business school faculty develops curriculum based on industry needs. The energy and medical industry are huge in Houston. Out-of-state students receiving a merit scholarship of $1,000 or more receive in-state tuition.
Rice University is a beautiful campus with strong research opportunities and outstanding academics, particularly in the STEM fields. Its residential college system provides an excellent sense of community and opportunity for leadership. Students are serious about their academics and music opportunities abound. Rice is the most select of the Texas schools.
Texas A & M began as a military academy and while it is now the second largest public university in Texas, the sense of tradition and decorum associated with its military roots permeates the campus. As we walked through the campus we noticed the preponderance of mostly male students dressed in Corps Cadet uniforms. Football, Greek life and service dominate the social life. Out-of-state students receiving a merit scholarship of $1,000 or more receive in-state tuition. It is great for students looking for a big rah, rah school filled with tradition, strong pre-professional programs and a commitment to service.
Baylor University is an unapologetically Christian university located in Waco, TX. The campus is expansive and quite beautiful with outstanding facilities, especially the recreation center and brand new football stadium set on the river. Students “sailgate” pre-games. Students are wholesome, friendly and attractive. Christian faith drives professors to help students outside of the classroom. Baylor has excellent pre-professional programs including business (they are in construction on a new, state-of-the-art business building), engineering, computer science and health sciences.
Southwestern University is a small liberal arts college located 30 minutes outside of Austin in Georgetown, TX. Its president, Edward Burger (insert twitter handle) is impressive. His dynamism and commitment to engaging his students permeates the campus from his formal President’s dinners for students at his house to his philosophy that failure leads to success. A Southwestern education equals connection and engagement. Students are continually pushed to look at topics through multiple lenses and across disciplines, to find connections between math and art or music and science. Southwestern is a great school for students who want to learn to think critically and push themselves to take an active role in their lives and education.
St. Edward’s University is located right in the heart of Austin. Students are funky, independent, accepting, and open to the world. Many of the international students come from Europe (10% of students are international) and it’s not uncommon to hear multiple languages being spoken while students share a cigarette. St. Edward’s emphasizes global learning and encourages students to not only see the world, but find a way to impact it. Its tagline “take on your world” supports this philosophy. While St. Edward’s is a Catholic university, only 40% of students are catholic. Students welcome diversity and as a result are able to express themselves openly; many students sport colored hair, nose piercings and tattoos. Austin offers a plethora of live music, outstanding food, and funky neighborhoods to explore.
University of Texas at Austin is the flagship university in the Texas state system. The campus itself is fairly compact for such a large university in such a big state! The facilities are impressive from the new Dell/Bill and Melinda Gates Computer Science Center to the McCombs Business School to the expansive recreation center. UT knows how to build ‘em. Football and Greek life are widely available, but its location right near the capitol in the heart of Austin allows for students to explore the city, enjoy food on one of the many food trucks or great restaurants, listen to live music, get internships, and expand their horizons outside of campus.
Trinity University is tranquil, orange brick campus set upon a hill overlooking San Antonio. Trinity is a hybrid liberal arts college providing students the ability to combine pre-professional programs such as engineering and business with a classic liberal arts environment. Research opportunities are abundant and students take advantage of them within the sciences and social sciences. The newly finished, state-of-the-art science center is impressive with its open, hands on environment for students to engage in projects and inquiry. Students have a strong sense of intellectual curiosity and enjoy exploring multiple subjects such as math and music or computer science and Chinese.