Public Colleges and Universities

Texas's controversial alternative affirmative action plan, Texas House Bill 588, guarantees Texas students who graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class automatic admission to state-funded universities. The bill encourages diversity while avoiding problems stemming from the Hopwood v. Texas (1996) case.

Six state university systems and four independent public universities exist in Texas. Discovery of minerals on Permanent University Fund land, particularly oil, has helped fund the rapid growth the state's largest university systems: University of Texas and Texas A&M. The PUF principal in fall 2005 was approximately $15 billion, second in size only to Harvard University's endowment. The other four university systems are the University of Houston, University of North Texas, Texas State, and Texas Tech.

Texas has three Carnegie-designated Tier One public research universities: The University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, and the University of Houston. The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University are flagship universities of the state of Texas. Both were established by the Texas Constitution and hold stakes in the Permanent University Fund. The state has been putting effort to expand the number of flagship universities by elevating some of its seven institutions designated as "emerging research universities." The two that are expected to emerge first are the University of Houston and Texas Tech University, likely in that order according to the discussion on the House floor of the Texas Legislature.

As of 2008, Texas' six-year graduation rate of bachelor's students from is 49 percent, which is below the national average of 55.9 percent.

University of Houston System
The University of Houston System encompasses four separate and distinct institutions. Each institution is a stand-alone university and confers its own degrees. Its flagship institution is the University of Houston, a nationally recognized top-tier research university. The three other institutions are stand-alone universities; they are not branch campuses of the University of Houston.

The fourth-largest university system in Texas, the University of Houston System has over 65,000 students from the four separate universities. Its four distinct institutions award more than 13,000 degrees annually. The UH System has the largest presence in Houston with three stand-alone universities located within the city.

Admissions into each institution of the University of Houston System is separate, and each institution in the System has distinct admission criteria and requirements.

The University of Houston System's annual impact on the Houston-area's economy equates to that of a major corporation: $1.1 billion in new funds attracted annually to the Houston area, $3.13 billion in total economic benefit, and 24,000 local jobs generated. This is in addition to the 12,500 new graduates the UH System produces every year who enter the workforce in Houston and throughout Texas. These degree-holders tend to stay in Houston. After five years, 80.5 percent of graduates are still living and working in the region.

University of North Texas System
The University of North Texas System (UNT System) has three schools in the North Texas region, all of which are in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

The flagship institution is the University of North Texas (UNT) located in Denton. UNT is the largest university in the Metroplex and fourth largest in the state. The fields taught at UNT focus on such areas as business management, education, engineering, hospitality, music and science.

The UNT System also oversees the University of North Texas at Dallas, the only public university located in the city limits of Dallas, and the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth, the only college in Texas that specializes in osteopathic medicine.

University of Texas System
The University of Texas System (UT), established by the Texas Constitution in 1876, consists of nine academic universities and six health institutions. UT System institutions enrolled a total of 182,752 students in fall 2004 making it one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation. In 2004, the University of Texas at Austin, which is the largest institution in the UT System and in the state of Texas, maintained an enrollment of 50,377 students. The University of Texas at Austin was once the largest institution in the United States, but it is now one of the top three largest by population. Seven doctoral programs at UT Austin rank in the top 10 in the nation and 22 degree programs rank in the top 25, according to a comprehensive study of the quality of graduate schools conducted by the United States National Research Council. Four of the seven medical schools of Texas are within the University of Texas System. In 2004, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas was ranked the 12th highest ranking medical school in the United States, with four of Texas's 11 Nobel laureates.

Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System, established by the 1871 Texas legislature, is the second largest state university system of higher learning in Texas. Its flagship institution, Texas A&M University located in College Station, opened in 1876 and is the state's oldest public institution of higher education. Funded research generally exceeds that of all other Texas universities including UT Austin, and Texas A&M ranks among the top ten national universities in research. It is the second largest university in the state of Texas and also one of the top 10 largest schools in the nation. The University of Texas's rivalry with Texas A&M dates back to the late 19th century.

Prairie View A&M University a historically black university located in Prairie View, Texas (Northwest of Houston) and is a member of the Texas A&M University System. PVAMU offers baccalaureate degrees in 50 academic majors, 37 master’s degrees and four doctoral degree programs through nine colleges and schools.Founded in 1876, Prairie View A&M University is the second oldest state-sponsored institution of higher education in Texas.

Texas State University System
The Texas State University System, created in 1911 to oversee the state's normal schools (teachers' colleges), is the oldest multi-system University System in Texas. The system is unique to Texas because it is the only horizontal State University System; the system does not have a flagship institution and considers every campus to be unique in their own way.] Over the years, several member schools have been moved to other university systems. Today, the system encompasses eight institutions; Texas State University-San Marcos, located halfway between Austin and San Antonio in San Marcos, Texas, is the largest university the system with an enrollment of 30,816 students. Lamar University located in Beaumont, Texas and previously in its own system, joined the TSUS in 1995. It boast an enrollment of 14,384 students as of spring 2010 and is most notable for its highly respected engineering program.

Texas Tech University System
The Texas Tech University System was established in 1996, though Texas Tech University in Lubbock has existed since 1923. The Texas Tech system consists of two academic universities, Angelo State University in San Angelo, a nationally recognized regional university and Texas Tech University in Lubbock, the flagship campus, a research institution which has the second largest contiguous campus in the United States and is the only school in Texas to house an undergraduate institution, law school, and medical school at the same location. The system also includes the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Centers, found in Amarillo, El Paso, Lubbock, and Odessa and eight learning centers in Abilene, Amarillo, Fredericksburg, Highland Lakes, and Junction. It has international campuses in Quedlinburg, Germany and Seville, Spain.

Independent universities
Four public universities are unaffiliated with any of the six systems. They are:
    Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, the state's only public liberal arts college
    Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, which operates one of two schools of forestry and the only one in the East Texas (the state's timber-producing region)
    Texas Southern University in Houston, the first historically black university to house a law school and one of only two historically black universities in the state; it was also the first state-supported institution in the city of Houston
    Texas Women's University in Denton, the largest state-supported university for women in the United States (though the school is officially co-educational)

Texas State Technical College
The state also operates the Texas State Technical College System, a group of two-year technical colleges located throughout the state. System headquarters are co-located with the flagship campus in Waco.

Community Colleges
Several community colleges operate throughout the state of Texas. Although the state has established territorial jurisdictions for each college, the colleges themselves are governed by local boards of trustees, and are financed mainly through local property taxes.

The taxing area and the jurisdiction are not necessarily the same in all cases. As an example, the jurisdiction of North Central Texas College includes the counties of Cooke, Denton, and Montague, but only Cooke County property is subject to the property tax assessment. On the other hand, the jurisdiction and tax base for Tarrant County College are the same: Tarrant County.