An Introduction to Colleges & Universities in Austin

by Jessica Ponden
An Introduction to Colleges & Universities in Austin

Austin, Texas - It is little wonder Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. With its vibrant music scene and thriving business climate, this capital city has a lot to offer. Plus, with an average of 300 days of sunshine annually, Austin truly is a hot place to be.

Austin is known as the "Live Music Capital of the World" for having more than 150 live music venues - that's more music venues per capita than Nashville, Memphis, New York, Las Vegas or Los Angeles, according to Austin's Chamber of Commerce. Big names like Willie Nelson and the Dixie Chicks have helped build the city's rockin' reputation.

Rounding out the city's cultural offerings are more than 100 art galleries and studios. Austin is also home to several museums including the Austin Museum of Art, the George Washington Carver Museum, the Elisabet Ney Museum, and Texas Music Museum.

Young people are understandably attracted to the area because there is so much to see and do. Census information indicates that nearly half of the region's population is between the ages of 18 and 44. The median age is 31.7, versus the national median of 36 years. Census data also shows the population of those 25 and older to be well educated, with 83.8 percent having a high school diploma and 36.7 percent having a college degree, as of 2003.

Those of college age have eight area colleges and universities to choose from, including the University of Texas, the nation's largest public university and alma mater of Michael Dell. Dell started selling computers from his UT dorm room and went on to establish Dell Computers, now Austin's largest private sector employer with a staff of 16,000 and "America's Most Admired Company," according to Fortune magazine.

Going to School in Austin

More than 114,000 students are enrolled in Austin's eight area colleges and universities, according to information from the Chamber of Commerce. The largest number attend the University of Texas and Texas State, both state universities, and Austin Community College. Enrollment at these three institutions accounts for nearly 93 percent of the student population.

"Central Texas is one of the fastest growing areas in the country and that's certainly affected enrollment," said Mark Hendricks, interim director of media relations at Texas State. "Our enrollment has grown by leaps and bounds. It's up every year."

The following is a list of the schools and their enrollments for 2004, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.



Community Colleges

Areas of study include traditional liberal arts, business and science programs. Other interesting options include UT's Jackson School of Geosciences and Texas State's geography program.

"Our geography program is consistently ranked top in the nation. It includes everything from natural resources to cartography to urban planning," Hendricks said. "It's a lot more than just knowing your state capitals."

Those who opt to study at a community college also have a wide selection of majors. They can take advantage of the Virtual College of Texas, a collaboration of the state's 50 community colleges and Texas State Technical Colleges to provide online distance-learning opportunities.

State officials are working to provide even more opportunities to community college students as their numbers continue to increase.

"The enrollment growth at our two-year colleges strongly supports the need for additional resources for those institutions," said Texas Commissioner of Higher Education Raymond A. Paredes.


The cost to attend school in Austin varies. An undergrad at the University of Texas pays $3,719 in tuition if he or she is a Texas resident, or $8,737 for nonresidents. Texas state students pay $2,680 for tuition as a resident, or $6,520 for nonresidents.

On the other end of the scale, private universities charge a bit more. St. Edwards, for example, costs $18,800 and Concordia's tuition is $16,160. Southwestern's tuition comes in at $20,220.

Financial Aid

Financial aid is offered from a variety of sources. Grants, scholarships, work-study programs, loans, fellowships and teaching assistantships are all available to eligible students.

One of the most impressive opportunities is the newly announced Mitte Laureate Scholars Program at Texas State. Four academic scholarships for as much as $100,000 over four years will be awarded annually.

"The Mitte Laureate Scholars Program is significant because it is of a magnitude that exceeds that of almost any major scholarship nationwide, especially when institutional cost of attendance is considered," said Texas State Prof. Christopher Frost, director of the university's Mitte Honors Program.

More details about this and other awards at individual universities are available by contacting the schools.


Internships play an important role in many schools' curriculums. "[Internships] are becoming increasingly important among employers who want students with real world experience and a demonstrated work ethic," Hendricks said.

At the University of Texas, students can use AccessUT to search for internships. The Web site includes postings from the school's Career Services Offices and state and national employers. Recent internship work sites have included the Neighborhood Housing Services of Austin, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Women's Coalition. Many students also intern in Washington DC or abroad.

Students can also take advantage of the Dell Internship Program, a 10-12 week session held during the summer at the computer company. Opportunities are available in finance, human resources, logistics and other areas.

Employment in Austin

Austin prides itself in fostering the entrepreneurial spirit. Michael Dell is the poster child, having started a multimillion-dollar company with only $1,000 and a dream back in 1984. Since then, many other new businesses have gotten a start in Austin, and The Austin Technology Incubator of the University of Texas' IC2 Institute and The Capital Network have been established to aid fledgling companies.

With a population of 1.4 million in the Austin metropolitan area, the unemployment rate is at 4.3 percent and has remained fairly consistent throughout 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Currently, the area's largest employer is the University of Texas with more than 20,000 employees. Other notable employers include Dell, Freescale Semiconductor, IBM Corp. and Seton Healthcare Network.

Those seeking work can take advantage of, a website by Texas Workforce Solutions, a partnership between the Texas Workforce Commission and the 28 workforce development boards. The site was created in June 2004 and since then more than 14,000 job seekers have been hired, according to the Chamber of Commerce. There are currently more than 50,000 open positions posted.


Austin is one of the most exciting places in the nation. The blend of art, music, and educational and start-up opportunities attract many young people every year. There are several schools to choose from, and almost every degree program imaginable.

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