College due diligence for Leander ISD parents and students

Leander parents and students would be wise to exercise due diligence in assessing the value of Central Texas universities before spending $100k+ or incurring as much in debt.

Metrics for assessing value and competency of a university include graduation, retention, and admission rates, as well as annual tuition cost.

According to the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education, the following Central Texas Universities reported the corresponding retention rates, graduation rates, and first year expenses of first-year, full-time, on-campus students  for the 2017-2018 academic year.

InstitutionPercentage of First-Time Full Time Students
Pursuing a Bachelors Degree
Who Began Their Studies in
Fall 2017 and Returned in Fall 2018
Percentage of Full-time, First-Time Students Who Graduated
Within 150% of "Normal Time"
to Completion for Their Program
Estimated Expenses for 2018-2019 Academic Year
Tuition, Fees, On-Campus Boarding
Percent of Applicants Admitted
University of Texas95%83%$26,50639%
Texas A&M University92%82%$29,50668%
Baylor University89%79%$62,52739%
Trinity University91%76%$58,84034%
Southwestern University81%74%$55,97045%
St. Edwards University79%63%$61,67086%
St. Mary's75%56%$45,32075%
Texas State University77%55%$23,13046%
Texas Lutheran University71%53%$43,31054%
Incarnate Word74%49%$48,628
University of Mary Hardin Baylor73%45%$41,42687%
Schreiner University61%45%$40,14391%
Concordia University59%35%$47,24491%

Beware of low admission standards, especially if combined with a low-justification offer for a full scholarship. The scholarship is usually contingent upon the student maintaining a certain high GPA the first semester, which may be highly unrealistic for a student who has struggled to maintain a B+ average in high school. Missing that GPA threshold on the first semester may be result in complete scholarship loss.  This structure incentivizes the school to guide the first year, first semester student into at least one extremely challenging weed-out course.

When the student then misses the GPA condition for his/her first semester, all future scholarship funding is forfeited. The student without financial resources is then strongly encouraged (pressured) by the school’s financial aid department to pre-register for the next semester and apply for a federal student loan. This keeps the school’s gravy train running while loading up a student with $20k+ in unforgivable debt per semester in return for a low value degree, should the student even complete.

There are better metrics for choosing a college than the school’s landscaping/aesthetics, sports program, religious facade, family tradition, or proximity to home. A visit to the school’s Career Center would be a wise first stop.

Likewise, there are readily-available metrics providing a narrative on which schools to avoid.  College Navigator helps tell that story.


Copyright © 2019 Don Stroud