Texas’s Best Public Colleges & Universities of 2021

Public colleges and universities account for almost 75 percent of all undergraduate students in the U.S. The best public colleges in Texas provide broad access to reputable degree programs, affordable tuition, and sprawling educational communities.

Texas’s Best Public Colleges & Universities of 2021

Colleges and Universities in Texas

Texas offers more than 30 colleges and universities that serve communities of 10,000 students or more. The largest school in the bunch (and in the nation), Texas A&M University in College Station serves more than 65,000 students. The University of Texas at Austin is the next largest, serving about 45,000 students — but it too has a big claim to fame, as the wealthiest public university in the United States. Texas’s private colleges and universities, including Baylor University and Southern Methodist University, are also impressive in size and scope. The majority of these schools have religious affiliations and offer degrees in a variety fields, such as nursing, religious studies, criminal justice, business, and education.

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For students who prefer a more intimate educational environment, Texas offers a long list of smaller public and private colleges and universities, such as Abilene Christian University and University of Texas of the Permian Basin. Additionally, Texas has generous loan forgiveness programs for qualifying nurses, physicians, teachers, legal aid attorneys, and lawyers who work in the Texas Attorney General’s office.

Texas is known for doing things big. Big cities, big open spaces and, of course, big fun. Whether you’re hitting up the live music scene in Austin, catching a Cowboys game in Dallas, or strolling down the River Walk in San Antonio, you’re sure to have a good time. And, with more than 150 higher education institutes, it’s safe to say The Lone Star State is big on education too.

If you’re looking to earn your degree in the state of Texas, you’ll have plenty of higher learning institutes to choose from.

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What is a public college? And what is the difference between a private and public college?

Public and private colleges and universities operate under different business models — one is a private company with private funding; the other is owned by the state and receives both state and federal funding to operate. If you’re weighing the pros and cons of private vs. public college, consider that many public colleges provide diverse course offerings, influential professors, and an excellent return on your investment.

Public colleges are schools that receive most of their funding from tax revenues. As a result, the cost of a four-year degree at a public university is often lower than the equivalent cost at a private college — especially for students attending a public school in their home state. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average annual cost (tuition, fees, room and board for full-time students) at a four-year public university was slightly over $20,000. In contrast, private universities cost, on average, nearly $43,000 annually.

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This list is composed entirely of public colleges and universities that offer four-year undergraduate degrees. We’ve identified 36 public universities in Texas. The list below of the 15 best public universities in the state satisfies the following four conditions:

  1. It must receive direct funding from the state.
  2. It must be fully accredited.
  3. It offers a broad range of bachelor’s degree programs.
  4. It has a graduation rate of greater than 40%.

How do we determine Texas's best public colleges and universities?

The best colleges pound for pound!

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why, at the undergraduate level, we rank the best colleges and universities based on what we call Concentrated Influence. Concentrated Influence takes the combined influence score of a college or university’s top academic influencers (including faculty and alums) and divides it by the school’s total number of undergraduates.

Using concentrated influence gives small and mid-sized schools an opportunity to shine by taking away the size advantage of larger universities. A small school with proportionately more influential faculty than a large school, whose influence in absolute terms may be bigger, will nonetheless score higher in a concentrated influence ranking. Our approach highlights undergraduate schools that truly rank for excellence, regardless of size.

If you are serious about finding the best colleges and universities for a bachelor’s degree, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching and whether their graduates are themselves advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence.

Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Concentrated Influence provides a ranking that is free from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

Find out more about our ranking methodology here.

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15 Best Public Colleges & Universities in Texas

  1. University of Texas at Austin
    #1

    University of Texas at Austin

    #33 institution's overall influence
    #43 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    32%

    Graduation

    83%

    Student body

    45K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1355/30

    Austin, TX

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    What is University of Texas at Austin known for?

    University of Texas at Austin's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Law
    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Mathematics
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Physics
    • Communications
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. University of Houston
    #2

    University of Houston

    #186 institution's overall influence
    #1064 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    63%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    37K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1225/24

    Houston, TX

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    What is University of Houston known for?

    University of Houston's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Engineering
    • Literature
    • Law
    • Education
    • Medical
    • Computer Science
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. University of Texas at Dallas
    #3

    University of Texas at Dallas

    #600 institution's overall influence
    #222 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1350/29

    Richardson, TX

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    What is University of Texas at Dallas known for?

    University of Texas at Dallas's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Physics
    • Biology
    • Business
    • Chemistry
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. Texas A&M University
    #4

    Texas A&M University

    #133 institution's overall influence
    #91 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    63%

    Graduation

    82%

    Student body

    58K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1275/28

    College Station, TX

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    What is Texas A&M University known for?

    Texas A&M University's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • Computer Science
    • Physics
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. Texas Tech University
    #5

    Texas Tech University

    #346 institution's overall influence
    #1458 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    70%

    Graduation

    59%

    Student body

    34K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1165/24

    Lubbock, TX

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    What is Texas Tech University known for?

    Texas Tech University's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Law
    • Medical
    • Literature
    • History
    • Philosophy
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. University of North Texas
    #6

    University of North Texas

    #413 institution's overall influence
    #1391 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    84%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    33K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1155/24

    Denton, TX

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    What is University of North Texas known for?

    University of North Texas's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Literature
    • Education
    • Communications
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. Sam Houston State University
    #7

    Sam Houston State University

    #804 institution's overall influence
    #1048 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    92%

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    18K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1065/21

    Huntsville, TX

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    What is Sam Houston State University known for?

    Sam Houston State University's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Communications
    • Criminal Justice
    • Education
    • Medical
    • Business
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. University of Texas at Arlington
    #8

    University of Texas at Arlington

    #662 institution's overall influence
    #1113 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    88%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    38K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1145/23

    Arlington, TX

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    What is University of Texas at Arlington known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. Texas A&M International University
    #9

    Texas A&M International University

    #3363 institution's overall influence
    #896 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    59%

    Graduation

    44%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1005/18

    Laredo, TX

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  10. Midwestern State University
    #10

    Midwestern State University

    #3771 institution's overall influence
    #899 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    71%

    Graduation

    45%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1025/19

    Wichita Falls, TX

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    What is Midwestern State University known for?

    Midwestern State University's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Medical
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
  11. West Texas A&M University
    #11

    West Texas A&M University

    #2413 institution's overall influence
    #1327 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    58%

    Graduation

    41%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1040/20

    Canyon, TX

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    What is West Texas A&M University known for?

    West Texas A&M University's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Education
    • History
    • Biology
    • Law
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • Communications
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. Texas State University
    #12

    Texas State University

    #960 institution's overall influence
    #1318 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    33K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1095/22

    San Marcos, TX

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    What is Texas State University known for?

    Texas State University's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Business
    • Literature
    • Anthropology
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Criminal Justice
    • Medical
    • Communications
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. Stephen F. Austin State University
    #13

    Stephen F. Austin State University

    #2064 institution's overall influence
    #1254 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    44%

    Student body

    11K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1085/21

    Nacogdoches, TX

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    What is Stephen F. Austin State University known for?

    Stephen F. Austin State University's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Education
    • History
    • Biology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
    #14

    University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

    #1100 institution's overall influence

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    82%

    Graduation

    45%

    Student body

    26K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1040/19

    Edinburg, TX

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    What is University of Texas Rio Grande Valley known for?

    University of Texas Rio Grande Valley's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Education
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Criminal Justice
    • Law
    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. Tarleton State University
    #15

    Tarleton State University

    #3054 institution's overall influence
    #762 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    58%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    11K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1045/20

    Stephenville, TX

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    What is Tarleton State University known for?

    Tarleton State University's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • History
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Communications
    • Literature
    • Earth Sciences

    Most Influential Alumni

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