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The University of Texas at Austin is a star student among the top colleges in the U.S.

A new ranking from education information and review platform Niche ranks UT Austin as No. 8 out of the 601 best public colleges in the country — and the very best public school in Texas.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology holds the top spot nationally for overall best college, with Houston's Rice University coming in at No. 6 and UT Austin holding the No. 46 spot. Rice also beat out UT Austin for best overall college in Texas.

UT Austin also ranked highly in other categories, including:

  • No. 1 of 70 in best college athletics in Texas (perhaps the data did not include UT football?).
  • No. 1 of 43 in best colleges for communications in Texas; No. 7 of 925 nationally.
  • No. 1 of 77 in colleges with the best student life in Texas.
  • No. 1 of 43 in best colleges for accounting and finance in Texas; No. 7 of 829 nationally.

Here's how other top colleges in Texas stacked up, according to Niche:

  • Rice University in Houston, No. 6 in the U.S. and No. 1 in Texas. Rice also ranks sixth on the list of best private colleges in the U.S. and first in Texas.
  • Texas A&M University in College Station, No. 75 in the U.S. and No. 3 in Texas.
  • Southern Methodist University in Dallas, No. 82 in the U.S. and No. 4 in Texas.
  • Trinity University in San Antonio, No. 99 in the U.S. and No. 5 in Texas.
  • Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, No. 104 in the U.S. and No. 6 in Texas.
  • Texas Tech University in Lubbock, No. 148 in the U.S. and No. 7 in Texas.
  • Baylor University in Waco, No. 172 in the U.S. and No. 8 in Texas.
  • University of Texas at Dallas, No. 220 in the U.S. and No. 9 in Texas.
  • University of Houston, No. 232 in the U.S. and No. 10 in Texas.

To create the college rankings, Niche combines data from sources such as the U.S. Department of Education with user input — reviews and ratings from current students, alumni, and parents — in an analysis of factors such as academics, campus, and value for the financial investment. The rankings compare more than 1,000 colleges and universities across the country.

“We know that choosing where to go to college is a major life decision, and we’ve always been committed to helping students and their families make their choice with as much information as possible,” says Luke Skurman, founder and CEO of Niche. “With a mix of comprehensive data and millions of reviews, our 2023 best colleges rankings are a guide to the thousands of excellent institutions across the country.”

Photo courtesy of Huston-Tillotson University

Austin's historically Black university named to National Register of Historic Places

A Historic Moment

KVUE — Huston-Tillotson University, the only Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Austin, is now a part of the National Register of Historic Places.

The school will receive several benefits from register membership, including some protection from federal projects, connection to technical expertise, and opportunities for grant funds meant for restoration and preservation.

Huston-Tillotson University is not only an HBCU but Austin's oldest higher learning institution, first established in 1875 and coming under ownership by Tillotson Collegiate and Normal Institute in 1877. That purchase marked the beginning of the school's history as "a nexus of African American higher education," a July 20 news release from the university said.

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Read the full story and watch the video on KVUE.com.

Photo by dszc/Getty Images

New report card ranks Austin among 10 most educated cities in the U.S.

Write Up

As much as Austin is a music town, a foodie town, a wacky arts town — it can be those things because it’s a college town. (Even though Janis Joplin never finished college, her singing career really broke out when she started hanging out with fellow University of Texas students). This July, personal finance website WalletHub found that the Austin metro area ranked No. 10 in its list of the most and least educated cities in the United States.

WalletHub started with the country’s 150 most populated metropolitan areas, and compared them over 11 metrics addressing population shares by highest level of education (the great majority of the weight of the study), quality of schools, summer learning opportunities, and education equality.

The top 10 most educated U.S. cities, according to WalletHub, are:

1. Ann Arbor, Michigan
2. San Jose, California
3. Washington, D.C.
4. Madison, Wisconsin
5. San Francisco, California
6. Boston, Massachusetts
7. Durham, North Carolina
8. Raleigh, North Carolina
9. Seattle, Washington
10. Austin, Texas

(CultureMap has simplified these cities from metropolitan areas for readability.)

Of these 10 cities, half are capitals, including the nation’s capital at No. 4. This could be as much a fact of population-based methodology as an indication that capitals tend to be very well educated (i.e. states like Maine are represented only once, by its capital city, which happened to do quite well at No. 16). However, the least educated capital was Salem, Oregon (No. 116), demonstrating a much lower prevalence in the lower rankings.

Austin did well, but did not stand out dramatically, in the composite categories of “educational attainment” and “quality of education and attainment gap,” at Nos. 11 and 13, respectively. The University of Texas at Austin, the highest nationally ranked school in Texas at No. 38, also ranked second-highest statewide for investment efficiency in 2022. (Plus, there are 19 other colleges within 60 miles, according to the Austin Chamber of Commerce.)

The rest of Texas lags significantly behind in the WalletHub rankings, with Dallas cracking the top half at No. 73. Houston (No. 88) and San Antonio (No. 105) hung around the middle, with other Texas spots (Killeen, El Paso, Corpus Christi, Beaumont) falling even lower. McAllen and Brownsville came third and second to last overall.

One limiting factor in this survey of education is its focus on formal, in-school education. Although most of Texas could stand to improve its numbers in these realms, Austinites are afforded one more luxury as Texans: an opportunity to look deeper at the community values around them that elude or resist standardization. Maybe wait until school’s out, though.

Photo courtesy of University of Houston

Texas university powers up futuristic robotic device to help stroke patients

next-gen RECOVERY

Almost 800,000 people in the United States suffer from a stroke annually — and the affliction affects each patient differently. One Texas researcher has created a device that could greatly improve the lives of patients whose strokes have affected motor skills.

University of Houston engineering professor Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal developed a next-generation robotic arm that can be controlled by the user's brainwaves. The portable device uses a brain-computer interface (BCI) developed by Contreras-Vidal. Stroke patient Oswald Reedus, 66, is the first person to use a device of this kind.

Reedus lost the use of his left arm following a stroke that also caused aphasia, or difficulty speaking. While he's been able to recover his ability to speak clearly, the new exoskeleton will help rehabilitate his arm.

When strapped into the noninvasive device, the user's brain activity is translated into motor commands to power upper-limb robotics. As patients like Reedus use the device, more data is collected to improve the experience.

“If I can pass along anything to help a stroke person’s life, I will do it. For me it’s my purpose in life now,” says Reedus in a news release from UH. His mother and younger brother both died of strokes, and Reedus is set on helping the device that can help other stroke patients recover.

Contreras-Vidal, a Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen distinguished professor, has led his device from ideation to in-home use, like with Reedus, as well as clinical trials at TIRR Memorial Hermann. The project is funded in part from an $813,999 grant from the National Science Foundation’s newly created Division of Translational Impacts.

"Our project addresses a pressing need for accessible, safe, and effective stroke rehabilitation devices for in-clinic and at-home use for sustainable long-term therapy, a global market size expected to currently be $31 billion," Contreras-Vidal says in the release. "Unfortunately, current devices fail to engage the patients, are hard to match to their needs and capabilities, are costly to use and maintain, or are limited to clinical settings."

Dr. Gerard E. Francisco, chief medical officer and director of the Neuro Recovery Research Center at TIRR Memorial Hermann, is leading the clinical trials for the device. He's also chair and professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston. He explains that TIRR's partnership with engineering schools such as the Cullen College of Engineering at UH and others around the nation is strategic.

“This is truly exciting because what we know now is there are so many ways we can induce neuroplasticity or how we can boost recovery,” says Francisco in the release. “That collaboration is going to give birth to many of these groundbreaking technologies and innovations we can offer our patients.”

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This story originally appeared on our sister site, InnovationMap.com.

UT Austin hooks No. 2 ranking on list of best college investments in Texas

Hook 'Em

By one measure, earning a degree at the University of Texas at Austin is one of the smartest moves in the Lone Star State.

In its eighth annual ranking of colleges and university that give students the best return on their educational investment, personal finance website SmartAsset places UT Austin at No. 2 in Texas, behind Houston's Rice University, also earned No. 10 in the U.S. Rice is the only Texas school to break into the national top 10.

To determine the best-value colleges and universities in each state, SmartAsset crunched data in these categories: scholarships and grants, starting salary for new graduates, tuition, living costs, and retention rate.

Regarding tuition ($10,610) and student living costs ($15,896)), UT's numbers are in the middle range among the top 10 Texas schools on the list, but the average amount of scholarships and grants ($10,643), average starting salary ($65,900), and retention rate (97 percent) are among the highest.

According to UT, tuition, fees, on-campus room and board, books, and personal expenses for the 2022-23 academic year range between $29,406 and $32,346. That range, which excludes financial aid, applies to a full-time, degree-seeking student (and Texas resident) living on campus.

"When you come to the University of Texas at Austin, you’ll get one of the best values in public education," says the school's office of admissions website. "Innovative, hands-on learning opportunities and a strong foundation in critical thinking will prepare you to lead in your chosen field. Texas is an experience, and a first-class education that will help define you for the rest of your life."

Other schools on SmartAsset’s list of the biggest-bang-for-your-buck schools in Texas are:

  • Rice University in Houston, No. 1
  • University of Texas at Dallas, No. 3.
  • Prairie View A&M University, No. 4
  • University of Houston, No. 5.
  • Texas A&M University-College Station, No. 6.
  • Texas Tech University in Lubbock, No. 7.
  • LeTourneau University in Longview, No. 8.
  • University of North Texas in Denton, No. 9.
  • Texas State University in San Marcos, No. 10.
RoschetzkyIstockPhoto/Getty

Austin declared the No. 1 city for grads to land entry-level jobs

Commencing a new journey

For newly minted college graduates from Texas and beyond, there’s one place that stands out as the best place to land an entry-level job.

Austin tops a new list from career platform LinkedIn of year-over-year hiring growth in entry-level positions, up 21 percent last year. No other Texas city made the top 10, and no other U.S. city broke the 20 percent mark.

Data scientists at LinkedIn analyzed millions of member profiles and job postings, as well as all new entry-level hires from 2020 to 2021, to come up with the list.

Jack Chamberlin graduated from the University of Arizona in 2020 and subsequently landed a job at Round Rock-based Dell Technologies as a data center sales executive. He tells LinkedIn that he was determined to move to Austin, whether his job was based there or not. It turns out that Chamberlin’s position is a remote one.

“I was like, ‘I’m moving to Austin when I start work. I don’t care if I’m working remotely from my apartment. I want this to feel like a new chapter,’” he says.

After living in Austin for nearly two years, Chamberlin says it’s been a great place to start his career “without breaking the bank.”

“I'm from San Francisco and I want to live there eventually, but I knew that it wasn’t in the cards for me immediately post-grad,” he says. “Austin felt like a really great way to have that California culture, California mentality but at a Texas price point.”

Here is LinkedIn’s list of the best places for college grads to jump-start their careers, based on growth in entry-level jobs from 2020 to 2021:

  1. Austin, 21 percent
  2. Chattanooga, Tennessee, 15.4 percent
  3. Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 15 percent
  4. Charlotte, North Carolina, 12.2 percent
  5. Cape Coral, Florida, 11.9 percent
  6. Denver, 11.8 percent
  7. Nashville, 11.4 percent
  8. San Diego, 11 percent
  9. New York City, 10.8 percent
  10. Boston, 10.7 percent
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H-E-B unveils merch for super fans, plus more hot Austin headlines

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. H-E-B unveils merchandise for brand super fans, available exclusively at one store. Kerrville was chosen to launch the company's new line of H-E-B-branded merchandise in celebration of its 117th anniversary.

2. Austin bar transforms into a magical winter wonderland this holiday season. Don your favorite elf socks and meet the lovely citizens of “Tinseltown.”

3. Draft 'Vision Plan' for Zilker Park unveils land bridge and more possibilities. Austinites are invited to comment on a vision plan that will inform the future of Zilker Park.

4. Austin ranks among world’s 100 best cities in prestigious new report. Austin is the No. 43 best city in the world, according to a new study. (And yes, we beat Dallas.)

5. Austin airport launches new SkySquad travel assistants in time for the holiday rush. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is keeping lines moving during a period of heavy travel with a new team of airport assistants.

Steven Spielberg opens up personal history in The Fabelmans

Movie Review

For over 40 years, director Steven Spielberg has been delivering some of the most popular blockbuster movies of all time as well as a bevy of Oscar-quality dramas, a combination that’s unique to him. For his latest, The Fabelmans, he’s decided to go more personal than ever, telling a thinly-veiled version of his own childhood.

Sammy (played mostly by Gabriel LaBelle) is one of four children – and the only son – of Mitzi (Michelle Williams), a concert pianist, and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano), a computer engineer. From an early age, Sammy is enthralled by the art of filmmaking, first remaking a train crash sequence from The Greatest Show on Earth, and gradually moving on to more adventurous stories.

Burt’s advancing career, which moves the family from New Jersey to Arizona to California, causes stress for various members of the family, most notably Sammy and Mitzi. Sammy must deal with anti-Semitic bullies, while Mitzi falls deeper into a mental health crisis. Sammy’s movies continually offer a respite for the family, though, giving him a creative outlet and the rest of them a chance to forget their troubles for a while.

Written by Spielberg – his first writing effort since 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence – and Tony Kushner, the film is heavy on emotions but presented in a way that those feelings don’t always translate. Spielberg is no stranger to depicting fraught family situations in his long career, but in showing ones from his own family, it feels like he pulled back, not wanting the scenes to be overwrought or schmaltzy.

The result is a story that isn’t as universal as some of his other films. As the film is told from Sammy’s perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in his pursuits and various discoveries as he gets older. The mindsets of the rest of the family are less clear, even though his parents and sisters are ever-present. Mitzi’s state of mind is a concern from the start, but it’s not always treated as such by other important characters.

Just as Sammy’s movies are an escape for his family, so too are they some of the best parts of the film. Sammy figuring out the process and secrets of filmmaking is informative and often thrilling, especially if you’re a cinephile. Spielberg has been considered a master for so long that watching him revisit the days when he was learning as he went is catnip for movie lovers.

In addition to being a dead ringer for a teenage Spielberg, LaBelle is a fantastic actor. It’s no easy feat to carry a movie on your shoulders, and LaBelle makes the assignment look easy. Williams’ performance will likely be more polarizing; she employs a very mannered speech pattern that works in some situations, but not all. The film also includes memorable short appearances by Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, and David Lynch.

Spielberg has provided the moviegoing public with such pleasure over the years that he deserves to have a movie that’s mostly for him. The initial viewing of The Fabelmans left this critic wanting, but perhaps it will gain more traction on a second screening.

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The Fabelmans is now playing in theaters.

Photo by Merie Weismuller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans

Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta acquires award-winning California resort

tilman goes laguna

Fans of Tilman Fertitta's nationwide hospitality brands are in for a treat. The Billion Dollar Buyer has just secured an award-winning, 30-acre resort in sunny Southern California.

Fertitta has purchased the acclaimed Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel, a premier beachfront property in the sunny SoCal getaway destination. Notably, the Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel is one of only six hotels in the U.S. to score the Forbes Triple Five-Star hotel status. The Montage has also been included among Travel + Leisure’s Top Hotels in the World.

Image courtesy of Montage Laguna Beach

Fertitta's newest purchase overlooks the ocean in Laguna Beach.

“I am truly thrilled to acquire this world-renowned property and add one of America’s most iconic trophy resorts to our luxury hotel portfolio,” Fertitta noted in a statement. “I have been traveling to Laguna Beach for over 30 years. It is one of my favorite places to visit and one of the most beautiful areas in the world. The Montage is a stunning oceanfront property and one of the premier hotel brands in the world.”

Press materials didn't list the property purchase price, but Law360 reports that the deal is in excess of $660 million.

The Craftsman-style resort sits on a coastal bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Impressive amenities are highlighted by the 20,000-square-foot Spa Montage, which offers eucalyptus steam rooms, dry redwood saunas, ocean air whirlpools, fireplace lounges, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a movement studio, and a lap pool.

More outdoor fun includes two pools and direct beach access, a museum-quality fine art collection, and more than 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, per press materials.

Every resident space — the 260 guestrooms, including 60 suites, beach bungalow-style rooms, and multi-bedroom villas — boast stunning views of the Pacific.

Dining destinations offer chef-driven interpretations of coastal California flavors inspired by region. The property is designated and included in the distinctive Legend Collection of Preferred Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

“We are thrilled that Tilman is the new owner of this one-of-a-kind property and welcome him into the Montage family,” said Alan Fuerstman, founder, CEO, and chairman of Montage International. Mary Rogers, the Montage's GM added, “The staff is thrilled to be working with Tilman. Everyone here at the property is tremendously excited about his purchase and look forward to continuing to provide a world-class experience to all of our guests."

Aside from his palatial Post Oak Hotel in Houston, Fertitta also owns 14 other hotel properties around the country, including the award-winning San Luis Resort in Galveston, plus five popular Golden Nugget casino and hotel locations.

Another feather in Fertitta’s luxury portfolio cap is the iconic Huntting Inn, one of the most charming and historic locales in East Hampton, New York.

No stranger to California, Fertitta's presence there includes Catch Seafood and Catch Steak, Mastro’s Ocean Club and Mastro’s Steakhouse, Morton’s The Steakhouse, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, The Palm, and more — all part of his 60 brands and more than 600 concepts nationwide.