The Best Colleges in Texas in 2021

The Best Colleges in Texas in 2021

Trevor Wallis picture
Trevor Wallis Contributing Writer
Updated June 4, 2021

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The nation’s second-largest state, Texas, is home to many excellent postsecondary schools. Many of these colleges and universities educate students online and on campus, giving prospective students a choice when it comes to how they earn their degrees. Online bachelor’s and master’s programs in Texas appeal to nontraditional students, like learners who cannot commute to a college campus or have a schedule that requires their classes be flexible. Students who prefer in-person learning can receive that on campus with face-to-face classes. 

Many of the most affordable colleges in Texas can provide you with a best value education. On average, tuition for a four-year public university in Texas is less than $10,000 for residents, and 56% of students graduate from Texas schools without student debt. However, the best value schools also feature excellent academic programs, helpful student support services, and multiple forms of accreditation, helping you gain marketable skills for the workforce. In fact, nearly 80% of students that have graduated from Texas universities are either working or enrolled in another postsecondary program one year after graduation. 

If you’re interested in earning a top-tier higher education at an affordable cost, you may want to consider the top colleges and best universities in Texas, listed below.

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Have Questions About the Best Colleges in Texas? We Have Answers.

What is the hardest college to get into in Texas?

Rice University is the most difficult college to get into in Texas, with an acceptance rate of just 11% for the class of 2024. Located in Houston, Texas, this private research university is considered one of the top universities in the nation — which is why the acceptance rate is so low.

What cities in Texas have the best schools?

A lot of the better-ranking universities and top colleges in Texas are located in or adjacent to some of the state’s largest cities, such as Houston, Austin, and Dallas. While there are great schools located all across the state, these cities are full of wonderful institutions. You can also find top-ranking colleges, like Texas A&M, which is located in College Station, Texas, in smaller rural towns. With a state as large as Texas, you are bound to find the best colleges spread out among both large metro areas and college-centric towns. There are also plenty of online college options available in Texas.

What are the top post-graduation career opportunities in Texas?

The state of Texas is vast, and offers a wide range of career opportunities in everything from engineering to investing and journalism. The Texas Workforce Commission, which predicts job openings in fields requiring secondary education, notes that some of the biggest opportunities in this state include:
  • Registered nurses — 16,980 openings
  • Operations managers — 17,980 openings
  • Accountants — 14,437 openings
Texas also offers plenty of opportunities for more hands-on, skilled workers who have obtained post-secondary certificates or bachelor’s degrees, like electricians, carpenters, welders, farmers, and ranchers.

How long does it take to earn an online degree?

Most online bachelor's programs in Texas require four years to complete. Learners earning a master's need 2-3 years to earn a degree. The number of credits students attempt each semester also affects how long they remain in school.

What kinds of degrees can I earn online?

The best online schools in Texas feature numerous bachelor's degrees in different fields. These colleges and universities also offer a wide variety of entirely online master's degrees.

Do I need to be a resident of Texas to study at an online school in Texas?

Online colleges in Texas admit in- and out-of-state students. Some degrees, such as those that lead to licensure, may restrict admission to in-state students.

How long does it take to become an official resident of Texas for college?

Prospective degree-seekers need to live in Texas for at least one year to qualify for in-state tuition. The state extends in-state tuition to some out-of-state learners whose parents live in Texas.

Top 10 Best Value Colleges and Universities in Texas

#1 Rice University Houston, TX
#2 Southern Methodist University Dallas, TX
#3 Texas Christian University Fort Worth, TX
#4 University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX
#5 Baylor University Waco, TX
#6 LeTourneau University Longview, TX
#7 University of St. Thomas Houston, TX
#8 St. Edward's University Austin, TX
#9 Texas A&M University College Station, TX
#10 University of Dallas Irving, TX

Methodology: Here’s How We Rank Schools

At Best Value Schools, we help students of all ages get the best possible value for their education. When choosing the best schools and programs, we prioritize tuition rates, student debt, financial aid opportunities, graduation rates, and the availability of online programs. We source unbiased data from government and educational databases like the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 6,374 schools across the U.S. We organize that data into five weighted categories to compile our school rankings.
Metric Data Used Percentage
Academic Quality Full-time faculty percentage, student-to-faculty ratio, student retention and graduation rates 25%
Affordability Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid 35%
Reputation Admission and enrollment rates 15%
Program Offerings Number of program options 10%
Online Enrollment Score Portion of learners taking at least one online course 15%
You can read more about our comprehensive evaluation process on our methodology page.

Accreditation for Online Schools in Texas

Accreditation is a process in which institutions are evaluated to determine whether or not they meet a certain level of educational standards. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) grants regional accreditation to postsecondary institutions in Texas that satisfy the U.S. Department of Education’s guidelines. You’ll want to disregard any Texas colleges and universities without SACS accreditation.

If you’re more interested in quality online colleges and universities in Texas, these institutions need national accreditation to show prospective students that they offer the same educational experience to on-campus and online learners. The Distance Education Accrediting Commission bestows national accreditation to schools that meet this criterion.

Out-of-State Tuition Cost in Texas

If you’re not a resident of the Lone Star state, you’ll likely pay more in tuition to attend a Texas university. While the average cost for a Texas resident to attend college is about $11,860 for the 2021-2022 school year, the total costs jump to about $24,100 on average for non-residents attending college in this state.

If you’re enrolling in on-campus learning, tuition won’t be your only expense, either. You’ll also have to pay for room and board, which averages about $10,930 per year.

The average cost of transportation sets students back about $2.227 per year, and other miscellaneous costs can add up over $2,460. With all of these factors totaled together, an out-of-state student can expect to pay about $40,440 overall for a year of higher education in Texas. 

Average Cost of Room and Board in Texas

Unlike tuition, room and board costs are similar for both in-state and out-of-state residents. The average cost for two semesters of on campus room and board at a four-year Texas school is about $10,930 per year. That’s slightly lower than the national average for room and board, which ranges from about $10,654 to $12,682 on average. 

That may seem pricey, but many schools also offer off-campus housing options that may allow you to save more money — especially if you split the rent with a few roommates. For example, the University of Texas at Austin offers one, two, and three-bedroom apartments with rent prices that range from $970 to $1,484 per month. Or, you can search for an apartment that’s not associated with your university. Just keep in mind that your costs will vary based on the city and neighborhood that you decide to live in.

Professional Organizations for Students in Texas

Professional organizations help undergraduate and graduate students network with potential employers, find a mentor, and stay up to date with industry trends. The four organizations below charge degree-seekers an affordable membership fee. Explore these and other organizations to learn how they assist learners in launching their careers.

The AHA dates back to 1884. Its members include students and professionals from all history-related disciplines. Members receive lower prices on professional publications, teaching tools, and accommodations at historic hotels throughout the United States. Undergraduate and graduate degree-seekers pay the lowest per-year membership rate. The AHA offers a further discount to learners who sign up for a three-year membership package.

The International Honor Society in Education, KDP encourages the next generation of K-12 educators. The organization provides members with a career center, teaching guides and resources, and exclusive scholarships. Prospective members must submit a faculty recommendation and maintain a minimum 3.0 undergraduate or graduate GPA.

An honor society associated with the Future Business Leaders of America, PBL helps undergraduates build a professional portfolio, explore careers, and gain in-demand skills. PBL also allows student members to run for a state or national leadership office. The organization appeals to online learners by offering all benefits entirely online.

SWE's undergraduate and graduate student members enjoy numerous resources, such as a mentoring program, networking events, and invitations to national and local conferences. SWE also awards annual scholarships and provides degree-seekers with job-hunting tips and a list of open positions throughout the United States. The organization also accepts women majoring in any STEM-related field.

Even the most affordable online colleges in Texas charge tuition that many students can't pay out of pocket. You can avoid debt by pursuing private scholarships. College financial aid advisors help degree-seekers explore scholarships and apply to financial aid opportunities like the options below. Use the embedded links to learn more about each award's latest application requirements and deadlines.

The Community Foundation of West Texas Scholarships

Who Can Apply: The CFWT awards more than 100 scholarships each year. Prospective applicants must live in a west Texas county. Deadlines and other application requirements vary by scholarship but can include financial need, majoring in a specific subject, or studying full time.

Deadline: Varies

Amount: Varies

George and Mary Josephine Hamman Foundation Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This scholarship opportunity awards funding to Houston-area high school seniors planning to attend college in the fall. The scholarship committee considers academic merit and financial need. Finalists interview with the scholarship committee.

Deadline: February 16

Amount: $20,000 over four years

Hispanic Scholarship Consortium Scholars Program

Who Can Apply: Latino college students enrolled in a Texas two- or four-year college or university apply to the HSC Scholars Program. Other application requirements include a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA.

Deadline: April 30

Amount: Varies

The Mary E. Bivins Religious Scholarship Program

Who Can Apply: The Mary E. Bivins Foundation considers undergraduate and graduate applicants preparing for a career as pulpit preacher, pastor, or minister. Applicants must also be a permanent resident of the Texas panhandle, and possess a minimum 3.0 undergraduate or 2.75 graduate GPA.

Deadline: Second Friday in February

Amount: $3,500-$7,000

Stars Scholarship Fund

Who Can Apply: The Star Scholarship Fund provides financial assistance to students living in 30 Texas counties. Eligibility criteria include a minimum 2.7 undergraduate or graduate GPA and full-time enrollment.

Deadline: March 31

Amount: Varies

The 25 Best Colleges and Universities in Texas for 2021

The following 25 best schools in Texas feature undergraduate and graduate programs that prepare students for in-demand careers. Each description includes information regarding degrees, career resources, admission requirements, and financial aid opportunities. Please use the embedded links to learn more about what these schools offer.

  1. Rice University

    Houston, TX



    Many prospective graduate students researching online colleges in Texas consider Rice's two entirely online master's degrees. Master's in computer science students take courses in databases, machine learning, and big data. Full-time degree-seekers pursuing a master of business administration (MBA) learn in a synchronous format and graduate in two years.

    Rice helps online learners succeed by providing them with informational videos and answers to typical questions. Career resources for students and alumni include employer events, a job board, and internship opportunities throughout the United States. Degree-seekers access these and other services by creating a Handshake account.

    Application requirements for the computer science program include three recommendation letters, and Rice recommends that applicants submit GRE scores. Prospective MBA degree-seekers submit standardized test scores and perform an interview with an admissions counselor. Financial aid advisors assist new graduate students with researching and applying for federal grants and loans.

  2. Southern Methodist University

    Dallas, TX



    SMU's online master's programs in Texas train the next generation of business and computer science professionals. The master of business administration (MBA) emphasizes leadership, analytics, and experiential learning. Cybersecurity degree-seekers analyze network and software security, and full-time students graduate in just two years.

    Job-hunting resources for online learners include career development organizations, a job and internship board, and career events. Workshops train learners on how to network with employers and select professional development resources. Students log on to the career resources box to research salary negotiation advice and download cover letter templates.

    SMU offers prospective students a weekly webinar covering admission requirements and deadlines. Computer science applicants with at least two years of professional experience need not submit GRE scores. SMU does not charge out-of-state tuition, and learners who need help paying tuition speak with a financial aid advisor to set up a monthly payment plan.

  3. Texas Christian University

    Fort Worth, TX



    TCU stands apart from other online colleges in Texas by offering over 10 online master's and doctoral degrees in nursing. Practicing nurses select among concentrations that include clinical nurse specialist, family nurse practitioner, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. TCU also features two online liberal arts degrees, one of which confers a master's in criminal justice and criminology.

    Nurses learn how to turn their advanced degree into a successful career by consulting the TCU career center's guides covering resume writing, networking, and portfolio development. University career consultants offer one-on-one appointments and review students' resume, cover letter, and portfolio.

    BSN-to-DNP applicants need a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and at least two years of relevant work experience. They must also submit three professional references. Modified admission requirements apply for prospective students who already earned a master of science in nursing. Some nursing degree-seekers qualify for the Nurse Faculty Loan Program, a federal program that forgives debt as long as recipients meet specific requirements.

  4. University of Texas at Austin

    Austin, TX



    UT Austin created 10 online master's programs in Texas for working students. Degrees that lead to an in-demand career include engineering management, software engineering, and identity management and security. Degrees require 1-2 years to complete, depending on how many credits students complete each semester.

    Learners nearing graduation consult HireUTexas to explore open positions throughout the state. UT Austin career events cover qualitative research, how to reduce stress, and job-hunting tips. Online learners also consult self-guided resources, such as career exploration and preparation tools.

    All applicants create an ApplyTexas account before reviewing their prospective program's admission requirements. Tuition varies by degree, and Texas residents save approximately 50% on tuition compared to their out-of-state peers. The university provides students with a scholarship database, and some graduate degree-seekers qualify for the Sharon H. Justice Leadership Scholarship.

  5. Baylor University

    Waco, TX



    One of the best online schools in Texas for graduate degrees, Baylor offers master's programs in journalism, school leadership, and business administration. The university's online doctoral degrees train future nurse practitioners in the midwifery and pediatric fields. Nursing students benefit from clinical placements at local healthcare facilities.

    Baylor's career advisors specialize in only 1-2 academic areas, meaning they offer expert advice to learners who sign up for a one-on-one appointment. Online students turn to career center resources such as workshops, resume guides, and mock interviews to prepare for success after graduation. These and other services help nearly 80% of graduate alumni achieve a positive career outcome soon after earning a degree.

    Doctoral nursing programs require a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, a valid nursing license, and at least one year of professional experience. Other degrees require recommendation letters and a personal statement. All graduate courses charge the same per-credit tuition rate, regardless of degree.

  6. LeTourneau University

    Longview, TX



    LETU's online bachelor's programs in Texas help recent high school graduates and nontraditional learners earn a degree in cybersecurity, criminal justice, or business administration. The latter offers five concentrations, such as finance and nonprofit management. The university's 12 online master's degrees allow licensed educators to advance their career while still teaching full time.

    Online students create a Handshake account to explore LETU's career resources, including workshops, career counseling appointments, and resume guides. Learners use Focus 2 Career to take a personality assessment and explore relevant jobs. More than 90% of degree-seekers who use these services find a job before or shortly after graduation.

    LETU uses a single application for online undergraduate and graduate degrees. The university also gives prospective students detailed guides covering typical admissions documents and deadlines. Tuition varies by program, and LETU's financial aid advisors help over 90% of degree-seekers attain institutional, private, or federal financial aid.

  7. University of St. Thomas

    Houston, TX



    Unlike other top online colleges in Texas, UST features 100% online associate degrees in cybersecurity, electronic technology, and network technology. Bachelor's degree-seekers complete a curriculum that balances general education courses, major requirements, and Christian teachings. UST also offers online master's degrees in John Paul II studies and faith and culture.

    UST's virtual career preparation workshops cover interviewing, resume writing, and professional dress tips. The undergraduate career checklist includes information on what goals for each year in school, such as completing an internship and signing up for Handshake. Other resources include job-hunting videos hosted by experts, as well as job databases.

    Prospective students interested in an associate degree submit either high school transcripts or GED scores. Bachelor's programs require a minimum 2.8 high school GPA and satisfactory performance on the ACT or SAT. Over 85% of UST students receive financial aid, and the average award exceeds $20,000 per year.

  8. St. Edward's University

    Austin, TX



    St. Edward's designs online graduate programs with working students in mind. The university's three master's degrees include digital marketing, applied behavior analysis, and educational innovations. The online doctor of education in higher education leadership prepares students for a career as a college dean or similar profession.

    St. Edward's career and professional development advisors connect students and alumni with resume reviews, personality assessments, and top job boards. Free online job-hunting software includes O*NET Online and Big Interview. The latter features tutorials where users hone their interviewing skills.

    Application materials for master's programs include a personal statement and official college transcripts. Doctoral applicants submit a writing sample, a personal statement, and two recommendation letters. St. Edward's does not charge out-of-state tuition, and financial aid advisors curate a list of outside scholarships applicable to online graduate degree-seekers.

  9. Texas A&M University

    College Station, TX



    Texas A&M's online bachelor's programs in Texas include a bachelor of science in nursing that allows students to graduate in 3-5 semesters. Each pacing option includes coursework in the care of the older adult, health promotion across the lifespan, and professional practice issues for registered nurses. The university's engineering, business, and geosciences colleges also offer online degrees that lead to a master's or doctorate.

    Texas A&M hosts in-person and virtual career fairs focusing on different industries. Other events cover interviewing and resume-writing skills. Resources available to students at any time include the university mentor program, informational videos, and resume and cover letter templates.

    Admission requirements include official transcripts and GRE or GMAT scores. Out-of-state students pay more than double the in-state tuition rate, and additional fees apply to all learners. Texas A&M considers all incoming undergraduates for merit-based scholarships and need-based grants.

  10. University of Dallas

    Irving, TX



    Many aspiring ministers and pastors enroll in UD's online master's programs in Texas. Two-year degree options include theological studies, pastoral ministry, and catechetical ministry. Programs use a mix of synchronous and asynchronous instruction, and graduates receive the same degree as their on-campus peers.

    UD graduate students use Handshake to explore virtual workshops covering networking skills, career exploration, and volunteering opportunities. The university also posts specialized resources for learners planning to work abroad. The average UD alumnus earns more than $75,000 per year, and over 95% of graduates accept a job offer within six months of earning a degree.

    Eligible applicants possess two years of teaching experience and submit a recommendation letter from a work supervisor. Other admission requirements include a minimum 2.75 undergraduate GPA. All graduate degree-seekers pay the same per-credit tuition rate. UD encourages incoming learners to submit FAFSA results.

Trevor Wallis picture

Trevor Wallis


Trevor Wallis is a freelance journalist who covers higher education for Best Value Schools, Grad School Hub, and Criminal Justice Degree Schools, and elsewhere.

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