The Future of Texas

Administration October 2023

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s Remarkable Rise in Higher Education Rankings

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley kicked off its 2023-24 academic year as the No. 1 university in Texas.

 Yes, you read that right. UTRGV – an eight-year-old dark horse in a field of long-established, well-funded thoroughbreds like Texas A&M, UT Austin, Baylor, Rice, and Texas Tech – is ranked the top university in Texas.

 UTRGV’s bragging rights are based on Washington Monthly magazine’s annual college guide and rankings, which of late has challenged U.S. News and World Report’s rankings in terms of credibility and clout in education circles.

 According to Washington Monthly, instead of rewarding schools for their prestige, wealth and exclusivity, its rankings give points to universities that help non-wealthy students earn remunerative degrees, encourage students to vote and serve their country, and produce the scholars and scholarship that drive economic growth and human betterment.  

So, how does an upstart like UTRGV climb to the top among such formidable competition?

UTRGV President Guy Bailey said the ranking is no accident and the answer is simple.

“Hard work,” he said. “Our students and their families, our faculty, and staff – truly believe in the power of higher education. And they’re buoyed by amazing community pride and support from across the Rio Grande Valley. 

“We’re located way at the geographic end of the state,” Bailey said, “but we like to think of it as a gateway, a clear portal to success. We genuinely see ourselves as the Future of Texas.”

Recognition in More Rankings 

In just eight years, UTRGV has become a university that is not just accessible and affordable, but one that offers high-quality education. The university was also highlighted by Washington Monthly rankings in several other areas:

• 1st in Texas, 2nd in the country among public schools for performance of Pell Grant students.

• 1st in Texas, 4th in the nation among public schools for net price of attendance.

• 1st in Texas, 9th in the nation among public schools for social mobility.

Also, this fall, ranked UTRGV No. 1 among Texas public universities for best relative economic value, and No. 15 overall nationally — one spot ahead of Vanderbilt.

And when it comes to this year’s U.S. News rankings, UTRGV improved an unprecedented 72 positions nationally, ranking sixth among Texas public schools – the university’s highest-ever ranking.

Texas Sen. Juan Jesús “Chuy” Hinojosa, who represents the Rio Grande Valley and obtained his bachelor’s degree from UTRGV legacy institution Pan American University, said UTRGV has exceeded the expectations of many during its first eight years.

“UTRGV is not only uniting and transforming the Rio Grande Valley, but President Bailey and his team are putting us on the national map,” Hinojosa said. “The Valley is a better place because of UTRGV, and the university is only getting started. I can’t wait to see what they are able to accomplish in the future and how they will continue to uplift South Texas over the next decade.”

 Providing More Opportunities 

One area in which UTRGV has helped transform the Rio Grande Valley has been in the creation of new degree programs.

“People say that the Rio Grande Valley’s top export is citrus, but I think it’s our people,” Bailey said. “Our goal is to keep our brightest and most talented students in the Valley, and the expansion of our academic offerings is providing opportunities that previously were unavailable in the Valley.” 

Since 2015 – again in unprecedented fashion – UTRGV has created 16 bachelor’s, 15 master’s, five doctoral and four professional degrees. Among the new degree programs are the UTRGV School of Medicine, which has been critical in helping the region address healthcare disparities, and the UTRGV School of Podiatric Medicine, the only one in Texas and one of only 10 in the country. 

Moreover, several new programs currently are in development, including a bachelor’s degree in Medical Humanities, a doctorate in Physical Therapy, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science. 

 Most recently, UTRGV launched a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering, the first doctoral program for the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

 All About Value 

 UTRGV has been able to achieve new heights while having one of the lowest average net academic costs in the country.

 The university has not raised tuition and mandatory academic fees since the 2021-22 academic year. That year, UTRGV’s average total academic cost was $9,042 for full-time resident undergraduates, the lowest among UT System’s eight academic institutions. For full-time resident undergraduates who received financial aid, the average net academic cost was $1,245 per year, again, the lowest in the UT System.

 Overall, 86.2 % of UTRGV’s full-time resident undergraduates received need-based aid in 2021-22. And all 86.2 % had their tuition and academic mandatory fees covered.

 In addition to a low average total academic cost, UTRGV implements several initiatives to help keep tuition low for students:

 • Tuition Advantage: Unveiled in Fall 2020, this program covers the cost of tuition and mandatory fees for students with a family income of $125,000 or less who have unmet financial need. 

Guaranteed Tuition: UTRGV’s tuition is guaranteed for all students for four years, meaning tuition costs will not increase during this period.

12-Hour Cap: UTRGV caps tuition charges at 12 hours – which means any additional courses a student enrolls in after 12 hours are free. For example, if a student enrolls in 15 hours, the extra class is free; for 18 hours, the two extra classes are free. 

UT System Chancellor James B. Milliken said the creation of UTRGV was historic, because it established a new model for public higher education in Texas.  

“Under President Bailey’s leadership, the university has worked ambitiously to provide new opportunities for residents of the Valley through high quality education that is affordable and accessible, with campuses located throughout the region,” Milliken said. “Additionally, the UTRGV School of Medicine and its clinical arm, UT Health RGV, are actively shaping a healthier future for the Valley’s growing population.”


About the author:

Patrick Gonzales is the Vice President for Marketing and Communications at UTRGV. He has been with the university since it opened in 2015.


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