THE STREET – There are cars loading up with clothes, very few books, more clothes and various boxes. It is time to send Junior BJ or BettySueEllen, or Chip or Muffy, depending on their destination, off to college. If it’s their first year, the time to leave is a difficult goodbye for their mothers. Their fathers are busily putting up a “Room for Rent” sign in the yard. Tears, waves and don’t-forget-to-email. This last request is an anachronism since the kids will tweet, twitter, Skype or, if in need of immediate money, call. In some cases, it may be a bitter-bitter moment because Junior BJ is not going off to school at Yale or Cal-Berkley or Princeton, where he had applied, but to the Waco School of Tapestry Repair or the Marfa Ferrier College. He didn’t get into UT-Austin or Texas A&M, either. But to be fair, it is becoming harder and harder these days for kids to get into a flagship Texas school. This begs the questions: who does get in and how? As usual, I have a solution.
Consider UT-Austin, an elite school which former regent Frank Erwin wished: “I want a school the football team can be proud of.” UT has 51,832 students, about the population of Galveston. Surely there was room for Junior BJ on the Forty Acres. Texas A&M has 69,367 students (the state’s largest enrollment, bigger than Victoria) running around yelling, “Gig ‘Em.” Of course, the Fightin’ Farmers boosted their enrollment by quietly purchasing some unknown law school in Fort Worth. The Aggies had been trying to get a law school for years. Why? “Every time we go to the Legislature for money,” an Aggie former student told me (they are not alumni), “we find that half of the lawmakers are lawyers and half of them are UT-Law grads. It’s an uphill struggle.”
It is also a struggle to get in these two schools rather than apply to the many other fine Texas public universities. One reason is that 18-year-olds are easily impressed by the panache that the Longhorns and Aggies constantly claim. UT has East 6th Street, which has nothing to do with getting a college education but does have parties, drunks and the occasional shooting. It is rumored that many students at Texas State University, down I-35 from Austin, spend their weekends on East 6th, view all the bands and, when you look into it, there is no national TV show called San Marcos City Limits. Even the university’s web site notes the school is located “in the Austin Metropolitan Area.” Now, College Station is another matter. Years ago, I asked an A&M dean what Aggies did for fun on weekends stuck out there in the boonies. He replied: “When you get 25,000 young people in one place, they make their own weekends.” (That 25,000 number shows how long ago that was.) Nevertheless, unless there’s a home football game, on Friday nights you see a stream of cars leaving Aggieland. Maybe they’re headed to Austin.
Then there are the names. “UT” and “Texas A&M” have that panache, that recognition throughout the nation. But “Texas A&M-Commerce” just doesn’t make the same impression. There are also the football games. The Aggies and the Longhorns spend tens of millions of dollars on 22 young men fighting over a piece of inflated leather. In turn, their football teams make a lot of money and a national impact. James Michener, in “Travels With Charley,” wrote: “Sectional football games have the glory and despair of war, and when a Texas team takes the field against a foreign state, it is an army with banners.” He wasn’t referring to a game between Sul Ross and Eastern New Mexico. So we simply do away with “at Pampa” or “at Channelview.” Just call all the various branches of UT “UT,”and students can say they attend UT. Same thing with Texas A&M-Dime Box. “I attend Texas A&M.” No longer does the youth need to add, quietly, “at Dime Box.” When it comes to names, the aforementioned Texas State University, the only Texas college which has produced a U.S. President, has had several names. My father always thought it would be fun to be a cheerleader there. “By the time you finish yelling, ‘Go, Southwest Texas State Teachers College Bobcats,’ the game would be over.”
Again, Texas has many fine public universities, the University of Houston and Tech Tech spring to mind, but they are competing with the big dogs (or cows and farmers). To get into UT or A&M, change your name. UT’s student body is 19 percent Asian. Meanwhile, at Texas A&M, it’s 7.53 percent. The State of Texas is 4.5 percent Asian. Need I say more? There is another angle. UT brags that it has students from124 countries. There are 194 members of the U.N. On the form where it says: “Country” put down “Antarctica.” You’re a shoo-in, but if for some unknown reason that is rejected, the Longhorns also like to brag that they have students from167 of Texas’s 254 counties. Write that you are from Loving County. It has 67 people, including one aged between 18 and 24. Chances are that one does not go to UT. You get my drift. It also helps if you weigh 300 pounds and are 6-foot-10, can block, tackle and run like an antelope, or maybe you are 7-foot-1 and can dribble. Recently we have discovered that, at many schools, including UT, money talks. Speak loudly that your parents are prepared to donate a new lab, dorm or Bevo XVI. (Bevo XV isn’t looking too good.) Over at College Station, seven former members of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets have received the Medal of Honor. So join the military. The Aggies would love to make that eight. In any event, parents, don’t worry about where Junior BJ or BettySueEllen goes to college. In four or maybe six years, they’ll be back home, hanging out.
Sven Kakaboto Ashby is at firstname.lastname@example.org