This is the second in a series of articles dealing with the development of the Texas Higher Education System. For those having a particular interest in the subject, invaluable information may be obtained in a Texas State Historical Association publication known as the “The Handbook of Texas.” A section of the handbook is simply entitled “Higher Education.” A great deal of the information from that section is used in this article.
This article concerns itself with three periods: the period from independence to statehood; the period from statehood to the Civil War; and the period immediately following the Civil War. During the existence of the Republic of Texas, colleges and universities were founded by religious institutions. The Republic of Texas authorized the creation of eight universities and seven colleges. After statehood, but prior to the Civil War, the State of Texas authorized the creation of 117 institutions of higher learning. Although many charters were issued, many institutions never became a reality.
The Civil War wreaked havoc with the Texas institutions of higher learning. Prior to the Civil War, there were 25 colleges and 2,416 students. By 1870, the year when Texas reentered the Union, there were 13 colleges and 800 students.
This next part is particularly interesting. When Texas returned to the Union, it became eligible for the benefits of a law passed by the United States government prior to the Civil War, known as the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862.
This law gave Texas an ownership right in federal land owned by the federal government but located in a state other than Texas. This amounted to 130,000 acres. Texas sold its acreage for 87 cents an acre, and used the funds to endow the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University) which opened in 1876. Alta Vista Agricultural College opened the same year. It is now Prairie View A&M University. The University of Texas opened in 1883.
Banker Phares is a John and Karen Mast Professor at SFA. He teaches personal financial planning in the Department of Economics and Finance at SFA and is board certified in estate planning and probate law.