Deciding where to go to college is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. If you’re not already a Texas resident and you’re eager to explore unfamiliar parts of the country, there are many excellent reasons to add the Lone Star State to your list.
General Texas Facts
If you’ve never been fortunate enough to visit Texas, here are some important facts to keep in mind while you’re researching postsecondary education options within the state:
- Texas is the second largest state in the United States in both land area and population.
- If Texas were an independent country, it would be the 40th largest in the world.
- Houston, the largest city in Texas, is also the fourth-largest city in the United States.
- The state is home to 54 Fortune 500 companies, giving it the number two spot for the United States. The Dallas-Fort Worth area is home to 21 of the Fortune 500 companies within the state, while 25 are in Houston.
- Even though Texas is often associated with the Southwestern deserts, just 10% of the Lone Star State’s land area is comprised of desert. Visitors to Texas will see terrain including swamps, woods, hills, mountains, prairies, grasslands, and more.
- Texas weather is highly variable because the state encompasses multiple climate zones. This means you’ll see wide variations in precipitation patterns and maximum temperatures. Bring an umbrella and a rain coat though, since thunderstorms strike Texas on a regular basis.
Overall Cost of Living
Whenever you’re looking into moving, one of the first factors to consider is an area’s cost of living. This term is used to refer to how expensive housing, food, and other necessities are for the average resident.
Cost of living indexes are calculated based on a U.S. average of 100. If a state has a cost of living index of less than 100, it is cheaper than average. If a state has an index of over 100, you’ll likely find it more difficult to make ends meet each month.
According to Sperling’s Best Places, the cost of living index in Texas is as follows:
- Overall: 90
- Groceries: 89.6
- Health: 97
- Housing: 81
- Utilities 96
- Transportation: 97
- Miscellaneous: 95
To get more specific, Fixr attempted to determine the cheapest places in the state for different demographic groups. The site reported on the most affordable cities for a single adult in their 20s who earns minimum wage and wants to live in a one-bedroom apartment, as this is the profile most people think of when they imagine the “typical” college student. The top 10 most affordable cities are:
- Wichita Falls
- El Paso
Critics often point out that wages are lower than average in Texas. This is true, but the state’s low cost of living helps balance out the discrepancy. Texans also save big come tax time, since the state has no personal income tax.
Even though the rest of the country has been slow to recover from the recession of 2008, Texas is thriving.
According to The Texas Economy, Texas has added jobs in seven of the 11 major industries over the last year: professional and business services, trade, transportation and utilities, leisure and hospitality, education and health services, construction, financial activities, and other services. As of February 2016, the Texas unemployment rate was 4.4%, compared to a national rate of 4.9%. Texans are quite proud of their state for having an unemployment rate that is equal to or below the national average for 110 consecutive months.
In 2014, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the Texas real gross domestic product increased by 5.2%. In comparison, the entire United States experienced a growth of just 2.39% for the same time period.
Historically, the Texas economy was dominated by cotton, timber, oil, and cattle. Today, however, a wide range of companies make their home in the Lone Star State. No matter what type of career you’re interested in, you’ll find that Texas is a land of unlimited opportunity.
College students who desire internship experience or want to remain in Texas after graduation will be impressed by the diversity of the Texas economy. Top industries include:
- Agriculture: Texas has the most farms in the United States, leading the nation in cattle, sheep, and goats. Texas is also the top cotton producer in the United States and an important producer of watermelons, grapefruit, and cantaloupes.
- Aeronautics: Texas is home to the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, a vital hub of the aeronautics industry in the United States. SpaceX, a top American aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company, has recently invested heavily in a private launch site near Brownsville. Their investment is expected to further solidify the state’s position as a leader in space exploration.
- Defense: The Army is a prominent player in the Texas economy. Notable facilities include Fort Hood near Killeen, Fort Bliss near El Paso, Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, and the Corpus Christi Army Depot in Corpus Christi. The Air Force and Navy also operate multiple bases within the state.
- Defense Contractors: Due to the state’s number of military bases, Texas is also home to many defense contractors. These include Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Fort Worth, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Grand Prairie, Bell Helicopter Textron in Amarillo, KBR in Houston, Boeing in Richardson, and Alliant Techsystems in Fort Worth.
- IT: Austin is often referred to as “Silicon Hills” because the area is home to semiconductor design companies such as AMD, Cirrus Logic, Freescale Semiconductor, and Silicon Labs. Dell has its headquarters in Round Rock, while offices for Google, Apple, Facebook, and EA Games are located in the Austin area.
- Energy: The oil companies ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil, Exxon-Mobil, Tesoro, and Valero are all located within Texas. The state is also home to Halliburton, Schlumberger, and Dresser, as well as many other oilfield services and firms.
- Tourism: Thanks to an abundance of travelers seeking out resort areas along the Gulf of Mexico as well as a glimpse at the state’s Hispanic culture, Texas has a large tourism industry to provide thousands of jobs for residents. Dallas and San Antonio are also well known as destinations for business conventions, drawing in visitors from all over the world.
- Entertainment: Movie buffs might be surprised to learn that Austin is one of the most popular film-making locations in the country. Additionally, Clear Channel Communications, a media conglomerate, is based in San Antonio.
- Healthcare: Healthcare is a thriving industry in many parts of the United States, and Texas is no exception. The Texas Medical Center in southwest Houston has the honor of being the largest medical center in the world and is home to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, a global leader in cancer research.
Fastest-Growing Texas Careers
If you’re still undecided as to your area of study, looking at the fastest-growing careers can give you an idea of what skills will be in demand after you graduate. The top 10 fastest-growing careers in Texas, based on their projected job growth by 2022, are as follows:
- Diagnostic medical sonographers: 58%
- Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) machine tool programmers: 55%
- Interpreters and translators: 49%
- Skincare specialists: 48%
- Agents and business managers for artists, performers, and athletes: 47%
- Petroleum engineers: 45%
- Information security analysts: 45%
- Mechanical insulation workers: 45%
- Cardiovascular technologists and technicians: 44%
- Physician assistants: 44%
Note that this list offers a wide range of options for college students who aren’t interested in a four-year degree. CNC machine tool programmers have on-the-job training, while skincare specialists complete short postsecondary non-degree programs. Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians have an associate’s degree. In Texas, you don’t necessarily need a bachelor’s degree to be successful.
Things to Do
Of course, there’s so much more to life than managing your finances and your career. When you’re looking for a little fun, Texas doesn’t disappoint. The state offers outdoor recreation, sports, music, art, and everything in between. College students can study hard, then play even harder!
The beautiful scenery in Texas makes outdoor recreational activities one of the most popular ways to spend your free time. Notable scenic attractions for hiking, biking, kayaking, and canoeing include the Palo Duro Canyon, Enchanted Rock, and Natural Bridge Caverns. Beaches, while not the first thing most visitors think of when they arrive in Texas, are in abundance, with more than 600 miles of coastline in the state. In addition, Texas has some of the most challenging scenic golf courses in the world, with over 750 courses scattered throughout the state.
Seasonal outdoor festivals are also quite popular. From the legendary Kaboom Town Fourth of July fireworks show in Addison to the State Fair of Texas in late September and early October, Texas has a number of fun festivals and events to keep college students entertained. Many of these feature amazing Texas-centric foods such as Blue Bell ice cream, brisket tacos, chicken-fried steak, fried okra, and chile con queso. Those who are over 21 can even enjoy one of Texas’ popular Shiner beers.
Sports fans will find much to love about the Lone Star State. Football is arguably the most popular sport in Texas, with many residents following high school and college football as well as the NFL games of the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans. Baseball also has a strong presence in the state, with Texas being home two MLB teams: the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros. Basketball fans have three different championship winning NBA teams to support: the San Antonio Spurs, the Houston Rockets, and the Dallas Mavericks.
The rodeo often isn’t considered a sporting event by the general public, but Texans are quite passionate about their state’s rodeos. The world’s first rodeo was held in Pecos in 1883, and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is the largest annual rodeo in the world. You can’t consider yourself a true Texan until you’ve attended at least one rodeo!
Obviously, Texans love country music. However, the state also has everything from techno to Tejano. See a concert at a large, modern music arena or show off your pipes at a karaoke bar for a chance to get discovered like college sophomore Edie Brickell. She hopped up on stage to sing with her favorite band one night in the mid-1980s, and they soon became nationally known as Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians.
Art aficionados will be pleased to hear that Texans consider art to be the ultimate expression of independence. As such, the state is home to many noteworthy collections. One of the largest modern art collections in the United States can be found at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. The San Antonio Museum of Art has one of the country’s most comprehensive collections of Latin American art. Smaller museums throughout the state often have free admission, which makes expanding your knowledge of art a budget-friendly choice for the cash-strapped college student.
Last but not least, Texans enjoy a wide range of shopping options, with several offering deals and discounts catering to the state’s college students. For college students, the outlet malls of San Marcos and Hillsboro are popular places to find top brands at rock-bottom prices. However, those with more eclectic tastes might enjoy checking out the vintage shops along South Congress Avenue in Austin.
Choosing the Right Texas School for You
Once you’ve decided you’re ready to go to school in Texas, you’ll have many different colleges and universities to choose from. If you’re interested in working in the fast-growing areas of business, technology, and health care or want to receive vocational training that will help you find a rewarding career that aligns with your interests, Vista College can help.
Vista College is an accredited, military-friendly school offering diploma, certificate, associate, and bachelor’s degree programs. Vista College has seven campuses in the state of Texas.
- Amarillo: Considered the economic and cultural hub of the Texas panhandle, Amarillo is home to about 200,000 people. It aggressively recruits new businesses, giving those in search of internships or their first professional position plenty of jobs to choose from.
- Beaumont: Although this area was historically known for oil production, the approximately 118,000 residents in Beaumont now enjoy a diversified economy with many service-oriented jobs.
- El Paso: The sixth largest city in Texas, El Paso is home to 840,410 people. Education is the city’s driving economic force.
- Lubbock: Sometimes called “The Hub City,” Lubbock is the intersection of a multi-county region called the South Plains.
- Longview: Located in Eastern Texas, Longview has a population of about 80,000 residents. Forbes Magazine declared Longview the sixth fastest-growing small city in the United States for the 2014 calendar year.
- College Station: The Bryan-College Station metropolitan area is the 15th largest metropolitan area in Texas, with 228,660 residents as of 2010.
- Killeen: Roughly 150 miles south of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and 75 miles north of Austin, Killeen is a rapidly growing community and home to the Fort Hood military base.
Nontraditional students who are balancing career, family, and school can also take advantage of Vista College’s many online offerings to make it easier to fit postsecondary education into their busy schedules. Call 1-866-442-4197 to learn more.