MAKING THE GRADE

See how Houston fares on report on best college cities

The report dug into Houston colleges' affordability, social environment, and academic and economic opportunities. Courtesy of Rice University

As high school seniors decide where to attend college, they examine degree programs and campus amenities, calculate job prospects, assess school spirit, and consider location. To help make the decision a bit easier, personal finance website WalletHub crunched the numbers on more than 400 cities across the U.S. to determine 2020's Best & Worst College Towns & Cities in America — and Houston appears near the top of the class.

The report, released on December 9, examined 415 cities across the U.S. and broke them down into three categories: large city (more than 300,000 people), midsize city (125,000 to 300,000 people), and small city (less than 125,000).

To determine the best and worst college cities, WalletHub used 31 metrics, each assigned a different weight, in three key areas: academic and economic opportunities (50 points), wallet friendliness (25 points), and social environment (25 points).

Houston, with a score of 56.89 ranked No. 18 among big cities and No. 30 among all cities. Houston's highest marks came in social environment, where it earned No. 27. Houston ranked 72nd in wallet friendliness and a surprisingly low 254th in academic and economic opportunities.

The title of best college city in Texas — and the U.S. — goes to Austin. The Capital City not only took the top spot among large cities, it also ranked first on the overall list.

With a score of 66.49, Austin's best grade, unsurprisingly, came in social environment, where it ranked No. 2. (With its beaches and perfect weather, only San Diego fared better.) Austin scored a rather middling 196 in wallet friendliness, but it ranked a solid 54th in academic and economic opportunities.

Elsewhere in Texas, Dallas ranked No. 23 among big cities and No. 55 on the overall list. Big D had a total score of 54.89. Its highest grade came in social environment (46), followed by academic and economic opportunities (186) and wallet friendliness (236).

Neighboring Fort Worth earned the 86th spot overall, 36th among big cities. Fort Worth earned an overall score of 53.4 and clenched the 125th spot in social environment, 126th in academic and economic opportunities, and 256th in wallet friendliness.

San Antonio earned a score of 54.37, securing the 65th spot overall and the 29th spot among big cities. It earned high scores in social environment (24) and wallet friendliness (83) but fell hard in the academic and economic opportunities category (343).

Joining Austin on the combined list are Orlando (No. 2); Scottsdale, Arizona (No. 3); Tampa (No. 4); Ann Arbor, Michigan (No. 5); Seattle (No. 6); San Diego (No. 7); Las Vegas (No.8); Salt Lake City (No. 9); and Provo, Utah (No. 10).

So where is the worst college town? That unpleasant distinction goes to Germantown, Maryland. The Washington, D.C. suburb is joined by Kendall, Florida (No. 414); Shreveport, Louisiana (No. 413); Bridgeport, Connecticut (No. 412); and New Rochelle, New York (No. 411).

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Moonflower Farms grows lettuce hydroponically. Courtesy of Moonflower Farms

A Houston urban farm has earned national recognition for its innovative approach to water conservation. Moonflower Farms won the American Heart Association's Foodscape Innovation Excellence Award, which recognizes positive changes in the foodscape, a term for all of the places where food is produced, purchased, or consumed.

The Heart Association selected Moonflower's submission, titled "Sustainable Farming Through Water Conservation," from 26 entries. Dallas' Restorative Farms earns the Foodscape Innovation Consumer Choice Award.

"These two innovations demonstrate a way of producing food that promotes affordability and equitable access, and the American Heart Association is proud to recognize these efforts," AHA chief medical officer for prevention Eduardo Sanchez said in a release.

Located in a 20,000-square-foot greenhouse south of downtown, Moonflower operates what it describes as Houston's first vertical indoor farm. The method both reduces the amount of space needed to grow the farm's microgreens, lettuces, herbs and edible flowers and it eliminates the disruptions caused by adverse weather conditions, which allows the farm to produce year round.

Moonflower uses a closed-loop system for capturing rainwater to feed its crops. The water is treated and oxygenated so that it can be reused. Not having to pay for water from the City of Houston allows the farm to operate more economically and sell its produce at an affordable price to restaurants and individuals.

"Our hydroponic farm uses 90-percent less water than conventional farms," Moonflower founder and CEO Federico Marques said in a statement. "We provide year-round produce to residents in historically underserved communities and donate produce to local charitable food systems."

One of those charities is Houston non-profit Second Servings, which "rescues" food from restaurants and events and distributes it to food pantries and other resources.

"The donations we receive from Moonflower Farms are incredible," Second Servings founder and president Barbara Bronstein said. "Their hydroponically grown greens are so appreciated by the needy Houstonians we serve, who lack affordable, convenient access to fresh produce."

Recently, Moonflower introduced a SupaGreens subscription box that allows customers to purchase greens weekly, bimonthly, or monthly. The box is delivered directly to consumers.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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