Why should Los Angeles area students consider the University of Houston? I’ve visited UH twice, spending two and a half days at the urban campus in 2014 with another (shorter) visit in 2015. I’ve met with administrators, students and faculty, and learned about much that the University of Houston has to offer.
1. The academic programs are strong. UH’s engineering, business, theatre and dance, music and hotel and restaurant management programs are all well-recognized and highly ranked programs.
- The Honors College allows students to have a smaller cohort – about 2,000 undergraduates – which means smaller classes, priority registration, dedicated dorm floors and organized group study abroad programs led by faculty. Specialized curriculum includes a required writing-intensive Great Books course. Honors students can major in any discipline and about half were in the top 10% of their high school class.
- The Cullen College of Engineering has especially strong programs in civil, biomedical and petroleum engineering. Industrial engineering is an emerging field in which engineers study and improve safety and efficiency. There are about 3400 undergraduate engineering students in the 8 engineering majors; their test scores are very strong and scholarships for high-performing students are ample. The petroleum engineering program takes advantage of the fact that UH resides in the energy capital of the country.
- The Bauer College of Business has the number-two ranked entrepreneurship program, challenging Babson College for the top spot every few years. The entrepreneurship program takes students step by step through the process of how to build a business, and emphasizes mentorships with active alumni who are business owners in the area. There are 4400 undergraduate business students in the program, which has a 24:1 student-to-faculty ratio, allowing close relationships between professors and students. New programs in commercial banking, real estate, and energy business offer students immediate options for internships and jobs following graduation. Dean Latha Ramchand said to my group of counselors that her goal is “for students to graduate on time, with no debt, with a job offer in hand.”
- The Theatre and Dance program and the Moores School of Music helps students hone their artistic skills through personalized instruction from teachers who have worked in their respective industries. Being in a big city also gives students the tremendous opportunity to work professionally while they earn their degree. Each of the theatre, dance and music programs are very career-oriented; because Texas has full arts curriculum for K-12 students, University of Houston students have the option to graduate with a teaching credential.
- The Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management program is a hidden gem at the University of Houston. The 1100 undergraduate students in this program learn all aspects of the hospitality industry and can “emphasize” in a number of concentrations including casino/gaming, resort, cruise line and hotel management. UH is one of only two hospitality/restaurant management programs with a working hotel ON campus (the other is Cornell University). With a huge tourism industry in the region, Hilton College students get real-life, hands-in experience. The Hilton college offers students many of the benefits of a small liberal arts college environment on a large spirited campus, and has the highest retention and graduation rates on campus.
2. University of Houston offers very strong financial aid incentives for well-qualified students. Out-of-state students who qualify for a minimum of $1000 in merit scholarships, which are offered without a separate application by both the university and individual schools, are given the in-state tuition. This is about a $10,000 value for strong students, bringing the cost of room and board combined to about $18,000 per year (less than either a Cal State or a UC school). U of H is consistently ranked high among the “best bang for your buck” schools and students graduate with minimal debt.
3. University of Houston has traditionally been a commuter campus, but new dorms and a focus on the residential student population are aimed at changing this dynamic. Students who live on campus share a strong connection, and the campus is the second-most diverse college in the nation (second to Rutgers). Nearly 3,000 students live in the recently-built Cougar Village I and II and overall, 8,000 students live on campus.
4. President Renu Khator, who spoke to my visiting counselor group, is as ambitious about U of H’s future as she is impressive. A native of India, Khator earned her Ph.D at. Purdue while she taught herself English (by watching “I Love Lucy!”). Khator is passionate about giving students the opportunity to succeed and building a culture of innovation at U of H. I would trust my students to thrive under her leadership!
5. With big oil and gas as well as a strong arts community in the immediate area, student internship and job prospects are strong. NASA headquarters are just a few miles away, and the Ports of Houston and Galveston are among the largest ports in the U.S. The Houston Medical Center is the largest medical complex in the world, so there are many opportunities for students to be involved in research.
6. A few other things that may seem incidental, but they may not. Houston is about a 3 hour plane ride, with direct flights from Los Angeles. The school’s Division I athletics give students a strong sense of school spirit (you can’t walk across campus without seeing a sea of red shirts and hearing “Go Coogs!”). Students looking for that “big school” experience would enjoy University of Houston’s vibe.
I spoke with many students during my visit to the University of Houston; you can see a few short videos here. Students seem very happy with their choice. You can see all of my photos here.