best in class

University of Houston System snags spots on list of schools with affordability and potential salary

The University of Houston-Clear Lake Campus is among the three UH System schools that give its students more bang for their buck. Photo via UHSystems.org

Three University of Houston campuses earn spots on a new list of the 111 U.S. colleges that excel when it comes to affordability and potential salary.

Showing up on the new Optimal Choice list produced by Optimal, a provider of higher education data, are the University of Houston-Clear Lake, the University of Houston-Downtown, and the main campus of the University of Houston.

Optimal researched salary and tuition information for more than 1,700 colleges that offer bachelor's degrees to find the schools that offer robust salary outcomes without the high price tag. To appear on the list, a school had to achieve a salary score in the 60th percentile or higher and a below-average tuition rate.

"Our Optimal Choice list provides affordable and accessible college choices for most students rather than focusing on elite schools that accept only a few," Sung Rhee, CEO of Optimal, says in a news release. "In other words, this list is the anti-U.S. News rankings list."

Here are the findings for the three Houston-area schools:

  • University of Houston-Clear Lake, $7,310 tuition and 71.77 salary score.
  • University of Houston-Downtown, $6,788 tuition and 66.75 salary score.
  • University of Houston, $9,221 tuition and 61.87 salary score.

Here's the full list of Texas schools that made the cut:

  • University of Texas at Austin, $10,824 tuition and 83.25 salary score.
  • University of Texas at Permian Basin in Odessa, $6,666 tuition and 76.33 salary score.
  • Texas Tech University, $9,300 tuition and 74.18 salary score.
  • Texas A&M University in College Station, $12,153 tuition and 72.97 salary score.
  • University of Houston-Clear Lake, $7,310 tuition and 71.77 salary score.
  • University of Houston-Downtown, $6,788 tuition and 66.75 salary score.
  • University of Texas at Arlington, $11,040 tuition and 64.84 salary score.
  • Lamar University in Beaumont, $8,494 tuition and 63.01 salary score.
  • University of North Texas in Denton, $11,044 tuition and 62.78 salary score.
  • University of Houston, $9,221 tuition and 61.87 salary score.

Optimal notes that more than 85 percent of the schools on the list are public. Of the private schools on the list, three-fourths offer courses primarily online.

"Choosing the optimal college has long been a difficult process that can take months of stressful research. Many students pore over college rankings that highlight elite, expensive schools," the company says. "However, for the majority, the best path is not the most costly or prestigious. Rather, the better determinant of an optimal choice lies in two factors: the cost of the school, and whether one can make a good living after graduation."

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Building Houston

 
 

Only time will tell, but this expert believes the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 will be a boon to energy tech startups in Texas. Photo via Getty Images

The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 includes $369 billion in investment in climate and energy policies, the largest investment in United States history to address climate change. The IRA could be a boon to Texas startups involved in clean energy, clean manufacturing and clean innovation.

Government policy and funding are critical to supporting the research and development for new technologies, which solve complex challenges and require significant upfront and long-term commitments of investment. Early government investment gives private investors more incentive to invest in the later commercialization and scaling of these businesses, and has a multiplier effect in accelerating the development, commercialization, and deployment of new technologies in the time needed in the market to capitalize on energy business opportunities and achieve climate goals.

The IRA’s biggest impact on climate tech businesses is through tax credits and direct investment. The IRA’s expanded tax credits will make it easier to fund and build projects, help reduce cost of construction, and help make renewable energy projects more competitive, encourage more funding and building of new projects, and bring new jobs and economic development. The IRA’s direct investments allow for companies developing new technologies to obtain grants and loans that help them develop their solutions while not diluting their investors, helping them build more value in their businesses and making them more attractive for later investment.

Texas is well positioned to be an energy transition and clean energy leader and beneficiary of the IRA. The state is home to major energy companies, and their technical expertise, know-how and experience in energy, and energy technology is unparalleled. There is huge momentum in innovation in energy transition and energy tech, and there is great research coming out of university and corporate R&D programs. For example, Texas is home to more than 20 energy-focused research and development centers and dozens of energy tech companies. And Texas is already the largest producer of wind power in the U.S.

Texas startups across industries were already attracting massive investment before the IRA became law. According to Pitchbook and the National Venture Capital Association, Texas startups overall raised a record-high $10.55 billion in venture capital in 2021, an increase of 123 percent from 2020’s $4.73 billion.

Early-stage investment in climate tech hit a record $53.7 billion in 2021. While the totals this year aren’t likely to reach 2021 levels, climate tech investors have said they aren’t seeing the size of pullbacks and slowdowns in other sectors. Despite the VC slowdown this year, clean tech and climate tech have remained attractive investments. This includes Texas. For example, the Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator reported in August that 17 of its early- to mid-stage startups have already raised more than $54.5 million this year. Also in August, geothermal startup Fervo Energy, based in Houston, raised $138 million in new VC funding. Earlier in February, Houston’s Zeta Energy, which has developed a battery for the electric vehicle and energy storage markets, closed a $23 million financing round. We expect continued funding in this space.

Large corporates in Texas are building external innovation programs such as venture arms and accelerators. For instance, Houston’s Halliburton Company developed Halliburton Labs, an accelerator that has backed a number of startups in the carbon capture, clean hydrogen, and solar energy tech developers. Big energy companies are also joining Texas-based accelerator hubs such as The Ion in Houston. The Ion’s founding partners include Aramco Americas, Chevron Technology Ventures, and ExxonMobil.

It will require long term efforts to achieve results in climate tech and clean energy projects, but as the benefits of the IRA materialize, more startups in Texas will have the ability to obtain more long-term financial support and resources from all of the sources – government, universities, and research organizations, venture investors and corporations — that are required to develop solutions to the energy and climate challenges and capitalize on the business opportunities of today and tomorrow. Startups are creating transformative innovations that are key to the United States being a leader in clean energy and fighting climate change. And there’s no better place to do that than in Texas.

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Michael Torosian is a partner in the corporate practice in the San Francisco office of Baker Botts. He is outside general counsel to emerging companies and their investors and advisors at all stages.

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