University students in fall 2014 hail from 226 out of 254 different Texas counties, primarily from the eastern half of the state, according to data from the Office of Institutional Reporting, Research, and Information Systems.
In both 2013 and 2014, the greatest number of UT students from each county adjusted for population came from Travis, Austin, Houston and Williamson counties — all of which are within a 200-mile radius of the University. This means that for every 201 people that live in Travis County, one person goes to UT. Austin, Houston and Williamson counties’ student numbers are 202, 221 and 275, respectively.
Student numbers were calculated by dividing each county’s population by the number of students in the county enrolled at UT.
David Laude, senior vice provost for enrollment and graduation management, said location is one of the primary reasons why many UT students are originally from Travis or Williamson counties.
“There are lots of people who don’t want to go far from home,” Laude said. “They’ll look at UT being in Austin, and they’ll realize they have this flagship university, which is literally just around the corner [and] is one of the best universities they can find for 1,000 miles in any direction.”
Kathy Ryan, associate superintendent for Austin Independent School District high schools, said many students from AISD might attend the University as a result of mentorship and school programs, especially Advise Texas.
Advise Texas, run out of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at UT, hires recent University graduates to advise first-generation and low-income high school students about the college application process.
“Personal connections with teachers or staff members just make [students] all the more want to go to that university,” Ryan said.
Of counties in Texas that have populations greater than 500,000 people, Fort Bend, Collin and Harris counties all top the list in the number of students who attend UT per capita. Collin County is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, while Fort Bend and Harris counties help make up the city of Houston.
“Houston has always been an exceptional feeder for UT,” Laude said. “I think that once students are looking at the options for universities to attend, and they’re looking for a university of high-caliber, UT-Austin, being two-and-a-half to three hours away, affords a really great opportunity for them.”
Laude said when students have prominent universities in their hometowns that are farther from the city of Austin, they become less likely to attend UT. He said this is why high school students in El Paso — which has a per capita rate more than 4.5 times that of Travis County — may opt to enroll at UT-El Paso over UT-Austin.
To reach out to more high school students in the El Paso area, associate director of admissions Caroline Enriquez said the University opened the El Paso Admissions Center in 2011.
“We also host events for high school counselors in the fall and prospective students at different points in the admissions process to recruit them to apply and celebrate them when they’re admitted,” Enriquez said in an email.
Although there are fewer students who attend UT from El Paso than Travis County, Laude said undergraduates from El Paso tend to be more successful at the University than those who don’t travel too far from home to go to school.
“If you look at students here in the city of Austin or from Williamson County, they are less likely to live in a dorm,” Laude said. “One of the ideas about what promotes success is the building of community on campus.”
According to Laude, students who live on campus have more time to integrate into campus life, while those who live at home may not.
“If you live up in Cedar Park, you [could be] responsible for taking care of your little brother in the afternoon,” Laude said. “So when you drive into school in the morning [to] go to class and then leave in the afternoon, it decreases the likelihood that you’re going to be able to develop that relationship with the campus.”