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Texas has 254 institutions of higher education, including 37 universities and one of the largest community college networks in the United States. The state also has one of the most populous and diverse college student bodies in the nation, with more than 1.5 million students enrolled in a post-secondary program in fall of 2017. This volume and variation has made online learning increasingly important for both students and colleges. Since 2008, participation in online and blending courses has grown 11.5 percent at public universities in Texas, allowing more and more students to work toward their degree. But how do students narrow down and select the best Texas online college for them? Learn how to identify top schools, how residency works for online students and why accreditation means everything when earning a degree.
For this year’s college rankings, our analysts carefully reviewed statistical data from multiple sources for more than 7,500 postsecondary institutions so that you could easily evaluate schools based on what matters most to you. For each school, we applied the eligibility criteria outlined below, then ranked schools and programs based on four ranking factors.
Eligibility Criteria for All Postsecondary Institutions:
Must be a not-for-profit institution
Must be regionally or nationally accredited
Must offer at least one online program1
Must be located in a state (schools in US territories and Washington DC were not considered)
Dozens of data points were used to calculate a weighted score for four ranking factors: quality, affordability, flexibility and program (in order of significance). To determine quality, which was the most important consideration for all AS Online rankings, the most impactful data points were acceptance and graduation rates; for affordability, tuition2 and grants; for flexibility, part-time enrollment offerings; and for program, degrees conferred in that program area.
Some of our nursing program rankings used exam pass rates from NCLEX
How to Read Our Rankings Tool:
A dash indicates IPEDS data was not available
Annual in-state tuition is displayed unless stated otherwise
1 Our Best Vocational Programs rankings included data for both online and campus programs.
2 Both annual in-state and out-of-state tuition rates were used in our methodology; however, our Rankings Tool currently only displays annual in-state rates.
Finding the best of anything is always subjective. The best online college for a freshman in Austin is likely a much different choice for a working mom in El Paso. The good news is, many online colleges and universities in Texas have stepped up their blended and online programs to meet the needs of their students. This includes more affordable tuition for online programs, faculty trained in online delivery, state-of-the-art tech platforms and more. But which online colleges in Texas stand out above their institutions peers? Find out below.
From there, research by either checking out the program listings on the college website or contacting the college directly. Most colleges and universities have user-friendly websites that enable prospective students to sort their searches by degree type and specialization. The Texas Tech University System has a great page for its online programs that makes searching their catalogue easy. If you can’t find what you need online, reach out to colleges directly and let them know exactly what you are looking for. Someone in the registration department or a student adviser can assist you.
Which online schools in Texas will accept my transfer credits or work/life experience?
Online college degrees continue to grow in popularity with students worldwide as the unique advantages and benefits they offer are increasingly recognized and more fully developed. Online options also continue to gain credibility and legitimacy among institutions of higher education, government educational agencies and employers. This makes earning a bachelor’s degree from a reputable, accredited online college particularly attractive for working adults looking to enhance their job prospects and ensure their knowledge and skill sets remain up-to-date.
Online colleges in Texas and across the U.S. have been increasingly able and willing to assess and accept transfer credits for coursework completed at other institutions—whether earned online or on-campus. This extends to awarding credits for relevant knowledge and experience gained on-the-job, all of which makes it easier for greater numbers of aspiring students to enroll in an online college undergraduate program. All that being said, it is always best to check with your prospective school directly and let them know you have potential transfer credits. Usually, a registrar or student counselor can assist with making sure your credits are properly transferred.
Earning a college degree can mean faster job growth and higher salaries. This holds true in Texas, where jobs that require a college degree pay far more than those that require only a high school diploma. Let’s dig into the numbers specifically, and see how occupations in Texas pay according to the minimum degree level required.
Mean Annual Salary for All Occupations in Texas, by Degree Level:
The Impact of Accreditation for Online Colleges and Universities in Texas
When looking for an online college in Texas, always start with accreditation. That said, numerous types of accreditation exist, which can make the college search and vetting process confusing. Here’s a look at the two most important accreditation types for online colleges and universities in Texas, and what they mean for aspiring graduates.
Regional accreditation is the most critical stamp of approval for colleges in Texas, and across the U.S. The U.S. Department of Education recognizes six regional accrediting bodies, each with its own set of states under its purview. Texas colleges and universities fall under the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), and accreditation includes campus, blended and online programs.
Increasing interest in online education paired with accreditation means an expanding presence for online colleges and universities. One example is the University of Texas at Austin, which runs an online consortium that offers students the chance to take courses and earn degrees offered at its flagship campus or from other sites statewide. Rice University in Houston is one of the nation’s leading private universities and partners with Coursera to offer free online courses any student can enroll in.
The academic stamp of approval can also occur at the program level. Many business schools in Texas, for example, seek accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). In addition, psychology programs may earn accreditation from the American Psychological Association (APA). Such accreditations can show employers that graduates have the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in the industry.
Paying for Online College in Texas: Tuition & Financial Aid
The in-state tuition in Texas was $8,091 at public four-year colleges in 2015, and has increased an estimated $1,000 per year since. However, with a college degree often leading to a more lucrative occupation in Texas, the higher education route can be hard to pass up. Here’s a closer look at in-state tuition in the state of Texas:
In-State Tuition, Public Colleges & Universities:$8,091
What are Texas’s requirements to qualify for in-state university tuition?
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board determines whether students attending on-campus or online colleges in Texas qualify for in-state tuition. In general, residents are independent adults aged 18 or older who have lived in Texas for 12 consecutive months prior to the start of the school year. Residents must have been employed during that time before applying to a higher education institution. International students may qualify under current legislation for a waiver to pay the resident tuition rates but only if their visas specify that they are eligible to establish domicile in the U.S.
Are online credits more affordable in Texas than other places?
Generally speaking, tuition costs are the same for online and on-campus students at Texas universities. That said, online students are typically exempt from supplementary fees that on-campus students are likely to pay. However, keep in mind that online students often have additional technology fees. For more information a school’s fees by program type (campus vs online), check out their tuition and fees section. Most colleges have cost detail readily available online. Here’s a look at a few public university undergraduate online tuition costs for the 2018-2019 school year:
How can I get help paying for online college in Texas?
Online college students in Texas should explore a variety of financial aid sources in order to cover the costs of their education. The best place to start is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). FAFSA opens the door to federally guaranteed student loans, grants, scholarships and work-study programs based on eligibility. Forms can be filled out online or printed and mailed. A host of scholarship programs are available for undergraduate students attending Texas colleges and universities, as well. Here are just a few that Texas students should look into.
IMPACT Presidential Transfer Scholarship: This $9,000 scholarship is offered by Texas Tech University and awarded to incoming transfer students. Applicants must be Texas residents with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and have earned at least 30 hours of transferable credit from a community college.
Larry Temple Scholarship: Offered by the University of Texas at Austin, this scholarship is available to College of Liberal Arts students who finished their freshman year studies with outstanding grades. Extracurricular activities, evidence of leadership and financial need are also considered. The scholarship amount is $11,000 and is renewable for two years.
Lechner and McFadden Scholarships: Open to incoming freshmen at Texas A&M University, these scholarships are $2,500 per year for four years. Recipients must maintain a GPA of 3.5 or higher.
National Scholars Scholarships and Awards: Texas A&M also offers scholarships and awards to nationally ranked students. National Merit semifinalists and finalists are awarded amounts ranging from $1,000 – $28,000. More information can be found on their website about National Merit scholar competitions and opportunities.
Paulus Schroeter Scholarship: Offered by the Amarillo Area Foundation, this scholarship is available to graduating high school seniors who reside in any of the 26 northernmost counties of the Texas panhandle. The amount is $2,500 for up to eight semesters and is awarded based on evidence of outstanding leadership, community service and financial need.
Online education plays a key role in socio-economic development efforts in Texas. Adult education courses are often used as a gateway to prepare students for online college courses and programs, both technically and academically.
Adult education courses are more focused on practical, vocational and life skills and knowledge compared to traditional college or university coursework. This could include courses centered on achieving literacy, numeracy or English language courses for non-native speakers. Here are some examples of how adult education can bridge the gap for aspiring college students in Texas:
Adult Education programs can be useful for:
High school equivalency: There are three programs available to those whose first step towards college is to earn their high school diploma: the GED, HiSET and TASC tests.
English language training/ESL: From basic level English literacy to more advanced classes for college degree holders from countries, language training in Texas comes in many levels.