MariaCristina Moreno/ The Paisano
“Come game day I will wear a UTSA shirt, but the moment Texas A&M University San Antonio (TAMUSA) gets their own football team going, I’m switching back to my maroon and black,” said TAMUSA graduate Veronica Herrera as she sat next to her husband, UTSA graduate Michael Herrera.
Michael and Veronica married in 2012, after they both graduated from college. However, the two started dating when they were just undergraduates. While there is a respectable rivalry between the couple, eachhad his or her own reason for choosing their university.
Ironically, Veronica had planned on going to UTSA after she completed her associates at Northwest Vista, and Michael had plans for attending A&M in College Station but enrolled in UTSA after his high school graduation.
“UTSA was closer at the time to where I lived but I still went to the South Side to go to A&M,” stated Veronica as she explained her reasons for traveling the extra miles. “I started looking into it more, and it was more affordable and the class sizes were way smaller, so I wasn’t going to be in this huge lecture hall type of environment. It was like a community college atmosphere at a university level.”
Meanwhile, Michael wanted something more traditional. “UTSA was the best choice in town that wasn’t expensive. With UTSA I knew I was going to get the college experience without having to pay as much as I would if I went somewhere else in town,” explained Michael. His wife tried to convince him to attend TAMUSA, but he stood his ground for an obvious reason: “They didn’t have my degree program.” Michael graduated with a B.S. in Geology.
Although San Antonio is home to over 110,000 college students, most are enrolled at one of the city’s many community colleges or more expensive private colleges such as Trinity, Our Lady of the Lake or St. Mary’s. UTSA and TAMUSA are the only public, four-year institutions in the Alamo City and both have actively tried to make inroads with San Antonio’s growing population and a local economy that increasingly needs more workers with a degree.
Although TAMUSA is more affordable than UTSA, the university offers significantly fewer degrees than UTSA. TAMUSA has only three colleges for undergraduate students to choose from — College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business and College of Human Development—and one Masters program. UTSA offers seven colleges for both undergraduate and graduate students as well three colleges that offer doctoral programs. Additionally and perhaps most revealing is that TAMUSA accepts only transfer students and does not consider students directly out of high school.
While the two universities have distinguished names and credentials, each university is unique and complements two separate demographics. Over the past five years, an average of 82 percent of UTSA undergraduates enrolled full-time, while 54 percent of TAMUSA’s students only took classes part-time.
Michael agrees that UTSA is ideal for someone looking for a more traditional college experience, with large auditorium classes, an extensive list of degrees, on campus living — and of course a football team.
Veronica was attracted to the non-traditional atmosphere at TAMUSA.
“A&M takes pride for being on the South Side, in a place where no one thought ‘hey, let’s put a college here,’” said Veronica, who was impressed with the university’s vision. “The dream was to put a university that was affordable on the south side so that way the community there will have a better opportunity to go to college and not have to travel to the other side of town or more out of the city for school,” she said.
In the past five years, UTSA accepted on average 73 percent of applicants, 44 percent of whom went on to enroll. In the same five years, TAMUSA accepted on average 87 percent of applicants, 70 percent of whom enrolled.
Isaac Salazar, College Access & Success Advisor at Café College, has noticed a trend at the two universities.
“For A&M San Antonio, most of their students will be transferring from the Alamo Colleges to A&M. Right now that is what they are trying to build their reputation on. UTSA, while they do have a specific agreement with the Alamo Colleges, they have more first time freshmen enrolling there than at TAMUSA,” Salazar said.
For those trying to decide which university to attend, Michael offers some advice: “Don’t choose because of hearsay or tradition. Choose because you feel that school is going to give you the best opportunity at succeeding and enjoying your college experience.”