There are those that would argue — with some combination of pride, zealotry, and humble edification — that there is no state in the union quite like Texas. They may have a point. Can any other state claim such topographical diversity? From the hill country, to the coastal plains, to the basin, prairie, and desert in the west: its vastness looms, tallying ten climatic regions, fourteen soil regions, and eleven ecological regions. The state’s cultural significance speaks for itself; the cowboy is the American icon par excellence, and the eponymous NFL team has remained the country’s most popular (and valuable) team for a quarter-century. This is the birthplace of Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Blind Willie Johnson, T-Bone Walker, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Lyle Lovett. It’s one of the country’s top exporters, posts a top-five GDP, and hosts 54 Fortune 500 companies. Texas is also home to perhaps the most in-state online learning opportunities in the country. And while the great benefit of online education is its elimination of location limiters, there’s something to be said for staying in-state when earning your online degree.
In-state tuition is often applied to public schools offering online programs Many online programs require some face-to-face time, or more numerous support services at their brick and mortar locations. Intensive study experiences–often on the weekends or in several week long bouts–enable many online students to accelerate their time until graduation. And students looking at online education can drastically expand their educational options if they also look to hybrid degrees (degrees where degrees can be taken partially, or mostly online). Finally, one of the most common stipulations in scholarships is that students be from a certain state or region, often more funds are available to students seeking degrees in-state.
Featured Online Schools
Several of Texas’s top public schools offer a wide range of degrees, from the associate to doctoral level. Sam Houston State offers 35 total programs, including 25 master’s degrees, and the Texas A&M and Texas Tech systems each offer over 50 programs in total, most of which are graduate degrees. Meanwhile, professional schools like Angelina College, Laredo Community College, and Midland College have nearly 50 associate degrees to choose from.The University of Texas has the largest total offerings, with over 70 programs available across the Tyler, Dallas, Arlington, Pan American, and Permian Basin campuses. UT Arlington and Lamar University tie for the most bachelors at 10.
Twenty-five private schools offer in-state online opportunities, as well. The best of these include some of the state’s top schools, according to US News and World Report: Trinity University, Howard Payne University, Schreiner University, Abilene Christian University, and Baylor University. The largest private provider of online programs, University of the Incarnate Word, offers 15 bachelors and and 10 masters, in areas like Business, Health Sciences, Criminal Justice, Healthcare Administration, and Organizational Development. Dallas Baptist University offers 16 bachelors and 3 associate degrees.
Compared to the rest of the country, Texas’s higher education costs are just below the national average; from 2015-2016, about $9,117 per year for four-year schools, according to the College Board. More important, the state’s five-year percent change is just 8%, while the national percent-change average stands at 13%. (Beware: some state tuitions have risen as much as 30% in the last half-decade.) Taking into account that Texas has one of the best state systems in the country — UT Austin is consistently ranked a top “Public Ivy” program — and a wealth of highly regarded private schools — Rice University being the standout — Texas’s in-state education costs should be considered a great value.
Dallas is home to at least seven accredited distance education schools, including Dallas Baptist, University of Dallas, UT at Dallas, and Criswell College, among others; the majority are private and affiliated with a Christian denomination, with the exception of Mountain View, a public professional school that offers associate-level degrees. The University of Dallas and Dallas Baptist offer the largest selection of tracks, including associate, bachelor, and master programs in a wide variety of areas, including Business, Nursing, Communications, Psychology, Education, Biblical Studies / Ministry, and more. (UD’s online offerings are all church-related, from management and administration, to theology and family ministry.) Many of these schools also offer concentration, specialization, and/or certification options in order to allow students to customize their course work according to areas of interest.
Houston has seven schools in which online degrees are offered, including The University of Houston, three Remington College campuses (Houston, North Houston, and Houston Southeast), Sam Houston, and The University of St. Thomas. There are several private schools on this list, but the best online programs in Houston are public. Texas Southern, an historically black college, is featured in rankings by Washington Monthly and Forbes; an Executive MBA, Executive Master of Administration of Justice, MEd, and Executive Masters of Public Administration are all offered online. U of H offers four bachelors and several masters, including an MEd (with 3 concentrations), MS in Construction Management, and a unique MS in Subsea Engineering. (It’s worth noting that Houston is one of the most affordable universities in the state.) Finally, Sam Houston offers bachelor, master, and doctoral tracks, which include a top-rated program in criminal justice.
San Antonio’s six online-degree granting schools are San Antonio College, Northwest Vista College, St. Philip’s College, University of the Incarnate Word, Our Lady of the Lake, and Trinity University — the latter three of which are private. The largest selection comes from UIW, which offers 15 bachelors and 10 masters in a wide range of subjects; highlights are in business (numerous concentration options and an MBA), administration, organizational development, and psychology. San Antonio College, Northwest Vista, and St. Phillips also exclusively offer associate-level professional tracks, from law enforcement and criminal justice, to business, to a range of tech/IT-related programs. Of these schools, Trinity is rated the highest; US News has ranked it #1 in the West for 25 consecutive years, and it has also received recognition from Washington Monthly, Forbes, and the Princeton Review
Cost of Living: 77.12%
Top Industries: Business Mangement, IT, Defense
Local Online Degrees: 7
Cost of Living: 75.04%
Top Industries: Agriculture, Transportation, Business
Local Online Degrees: 0
Cost of Living: 89.86%
Top Industries: Energy
Local Online Degrees: 7
Cost of Living: 73.73%
Top Industries: Services, Manufacturing
Local Online Degrees: 6
Cost of Living: 78.26%
Top Industries: Tech, Biotech, Pharmaceuticals
Local Online Degrees: 0
Cost of Living: 88%
Top Industries: Manufacturing, Defense
Local Online Degrees: 0
Mcallen – Edinburg – Mission
Cost of Living: 82.9%
Top Industries: Management, Business
Local Online Degrees: 0
Cost of Living: 84.4%
Top Industries: Petrochemical, Military, Tourism
Local Online Degrees: 0
Brownsville – Harlingen
Cost of Living: 87%
Top Industries: Transportation, Healthcare
Local Online Degrees: 0
Killeen – Temple – Fort Hood
Cost of Living: 83.5%
Top Industries: Healthcare
Local Online Degrees: 0
Beaumont – Fort Arthur
Cost of Living: 79.6%
Top Industries: Energy, Healthcare
Local Online Degrees: 0
The Best Online Colleges in Texas
1. Texas A & M University-College Station
Online Programs: 25
Texas A&M’s flagship campus at College Station offers 25 total online programs, all of which are at the graduate level and include studies in Agricultural Systems Management, Education, Engineering, Industrial Distribution, and Human Resource Development, among others. As the fourth-largest university in the country and largest in the state, students benefit from an alumni network of nearly 300,000, which is largely considered one of the most active in the United States. In addition to numerous distinguished graduates in the arts, politics, professional sports, and the military (including numerous Medal of Honor winners), A&M alumni in business include Lowry Mays, chairman and CEO of Clear Channel Communications; Khalid A. Al-Falih, President and CEO of Saudi Aramco; Eduardo Castro-Wright, CEO of Wal-Mart Stores USA; Jeffrey DeBruin, principal, Trammell Crow Company; and George P. Mitchell, chairman and CEO, Mitchell Energy and Development Corp.
2. Texas Tech University
Online Programs: 32
Texas Tech University, in Lubbock, was established in 1923 as Texas Technological College. Though the school has a total enrollment of 35,000 class sizes are kept relatively small and the student-to-faculty ratio is a respectable 20:1. The school’s online division offers 32 degrees, including 5 bachelors, 16 masters, and 7 doctorates; areas of study include Finance, Architecture, Education, Engineering, Plant and Soil Science, and Human Development and Family Studies, among others. Its graduate programs are particularly well-regarded, and the Wall Street Journal has ranked TTU 18th in the country for graduate desirability for job recruiters. Alumni are active across 120 chapters, and notable graduates include Stephen Graham Jones, Jim Marrs, John Denver, Scott Pelley, and numerous politicians, professional athletes, and business executives.
3. Sam Houston State University
Online Programs: 35
Sam Houston State University, founded in 1879, is the third oldest public university in Texas. Located in Hunstville, about an hour north of Houston, SHU has a total enrollment of 20,000 and offers 35 online degrees, including 8 bachelors, 25 masters, and 2 doctoral programs. Some popular areas of study are available in Business, Nursing, Psychology, Homeland Security, Digital Forensics, Communications, and Criminal Justice, which is the largest in the country and ranked fifth by the Journal of Criminal Justice. Numerous certificate tracks are offered, as well. Distinguished alumni include Richard Linklater, Dan Rather, Mary DeChambres, Marilyn McAdams Sibley, and numerous business professionals, politicians, and professional athletes.
4. The University of Texas at Arlington
Online Programs: 30
The University of Texas at Arlington is a public research university, established in 1895 as part of the Texas A&M system until joining The University of Texas System in 1965. The Carnegie Foundation categorizes the school as an R1 Doctoral University, and the Chronicle of Higher Education ranks it among the fastest growing public research universities in the country. It’s also been named among the New America Foundation’s “Next Generation University” class, and recognized by Forbes, Washington Monthly, and the Princeton Review, which ranks Arlington as a “Best of the West.” UT Arlington’s online offerings are equally impressive, including 30 degrees (10 bachelors and 20 masters) in such diverse areas as Criminology, Computer IT, Nursing, Education, Business, and Creative Writing. Many online courses deliver in accelerated 8-week blocks, and programs are designed for maximum flexibility to accommodate schedules.
5. Lamar University
Online Programs: 21
Founded in 1923, Lamar University has a student enrollment of approximately 15,000. Of 715 assessed schools, Lamar was one of only 16 higher learning institutions to receive an “A” rating from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni for core curriculum standards. Its 21 total online degrees have received special attention for affordability and academic rigor, many of which are nationally ranked, including Nursing, Education, and Criminal Justice. Additional areas of study are available in Management, Business, Communications, Health Promotion, and Computer Science, among others. In 2009, the school began partnering with UT Arlington to offer an online dual credit program for in-state high school students, with funding from the state. Lamar’s alumni is over 75,000, and graduates have the highest average starting salary in Texas. Distinguished alumni include artist Kelly Asbury; Steve Moore, former CEO of the Country Music Association; Claude H. Nash, CEO of Bloodstone Ventures; and numerous business leaders, politicians, and professional athletes.
6. University of North Texas
Online Programs: 19
Originally a teaching college, the University of North Texas was founded in 1890 — alternatively called North Texas State Teachers College, North Texas State College, and North Texas State University until its current incarnation in 1989. With 19 total online degrees available, including bachelors, masters, and doctoral tracks, UNT’s program offers studies in Business, Education, Learning Technologies, Instructional Design and Systems Technology, Applied Anthropology, Rehabilitation Counseling, Information Science, and more; US News ranks its MBA and MEd programs highly, and each allows students to customize curricula through concentration and specialization opportunities. Student enrollment stands at 38,000, and of UNT’s 326,000 alumni, 200,000 live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Some notable graduates include the musicians Roy Orbison, Don Henley, Norah Jones, Pat Boone, and Michael Lee Aday (aka”Meat Loaf”); Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi ambassador to the United States and former adviser to the Royal Court of Saudi Arabia; NASA professional James Pawelczyk; architect O’Neil Ford; and Bishop Leontine T. Kelly, among others.
7. Midland College
Online Programs: 49
Founded in 1972, Midland has an enrollment just over 7,400. The school’s online program offers 49 degrees, most of which are at the associate level and focus on practical, professional skill-building. Areas of study include Web/Multimedia Design, Accounting, Management, Criminal Justice, Business, Computer Information Systems, Health Sciences, Government, Sociology, and more; the sole bachelor’s degree offered is in Applied Technology. Through the Canvas learning platform, Midland’s course work is engaging, innovative, and student-focused, with video-conferencing, discussion boards, and other collaborative tools. All Midland programs follow the school’s core values of quality, diversity, continuous enrichment, effective learning, academic freedom, stewardship, collaboration, and accountability. Distinguished alumni have gone to careers in business, politics, and professional sports, including Spud Webb, Mookie Blaylock, and others.
8. University of Houston
Online Programs: 11
Founded in 1927, The University of Houston is the third-largest university in Texas with 43,000 students enrolled. Houston’s online school offers 11 degrees — 4 bachelors, 7 masters — in Organizational Leadership, Psychology, Retail and Consumer Science, Construction Management, Education, Subsea Engineering, and more. Forbes, Washington Monthly, and US News, rank Houston among the best public schools in the country, and Payscale and CollegeNet’s Social Mobility Index ranks it the 31st. Its undergraduate entrepreneurship program has been ranked #1 by the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine. Of the school’s alumni base of 260,000, notable graduates include Dennis Quaid, Kenny Rogers, Jim Parsons, Christine Ha, Jim Nantz, Bill Hicks, Robert Flores, and numerous professional athletes, politicians, and business leaders.
9. Our Lady of the Lake University-San Antonio
Online Programs: 11
Our Lady of the Lake University is a Catholic school in San Antonio, founded in 1895 by the Sisters of Divine Providence. Taking its religious foundation into account, the university’s mission statement consists of ensuring a quality education to undergraduate and graduate students; fostering spiritual, personal, and professional growth; and preparing students for success and a life of service. Its online program offers 11 degrees — 2 bachelors and 9 masters — in such diverse studies as Criminal Justice, Nursing, Business, Education, Nonprofit Management, Information Systems and Security, and Social Work. (Its school of social work is the oldest in the state.) OLLU was the first school in San Antonio to receive regional accreditation and became the third school in Texas to be approved by the American Association of Universities in 1927.
10. University of the Incarnate Word
Online Programs: 25
Founded in 1881 by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, The University of the Incarnate Word is located in San Antonio, the largest Catholic school in the state and fourth-largest private school. UIW places a special emphasis on diversity: 60% of the student population come from ethnic minorities, and more than 70 countries are represented; the Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine ranks UIW #1 in the country for conferring of bachelor’s degrees to Hispanics. The university’s online school offers 25 online programs, including 15 bachelors and 10 masters, in areas like Human Resources, Business, Organizational Development, Criminal Justice, Administration, Communications, Teacher Leadership, and more. Many degrees include concentration course work to customize the curriculum, and, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1, classes are kept small to support an intimate, collaborative learning environment.
11. Texas A & M University-Corpus Christi
Online Programs: 10
Established in 1947, Corpus Christi officially joined the Texas A & M system in 1989 and became public in 1973. The school’s enrollment stands at 11,700, most of which study through Corpus Christi’s online distance program, offering 2 bachelors and 8 masters; areas of study include Nursing (top ranked by US News), Geographic Information Systems, Business, Education, Instructional Design and Education Technology, Geospatial Surveying Engineering, and more. Many degrees also offer specialization opportunities for students to customize course work. Notable alumni have gone on to careers in politics, entertainment, the arts, military service, and professional sports. Corpus Christi is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and holds special accreditations from 9 other bodies.
12. Dallas Baptist University
Online Programs: 19
Dallas Baptist University, twelve miles south of downtown, has an enrollment of 5,500. (Additional campuses are in Plano and Hurst.) The average class size is just 13 students to maintain an intimate, collaborative learning environment, and nearly all faculty hold terminal degrees in their field. DBU’s online division offers 19 programs, including 3 associates and 16 bachelors in areas like Business, Healthcare Management, Finance, Information Systems, Marketing, Psychology, and Sociology. As a Christian school, all programs integrate religious values and concepts into the curriculum and prepare students of faith and service. In addition to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Dallas Baptist holds accreditation from the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), and the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM).
13. University of Dallas
Online Programs: 12
The University of Dallas is a private Catholic school with an enrollment of approximately 2,500 undergraduate and graduates students. For academic quality, it has been recognized Forbes, Washington Monthly, US News, Political Science & Politics, Princeton Review, and the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities. The online division offers 12 masters in a range of ministry programs, including Theological Studies, Church Management, Family Ministry, Pastoral Ministry, Hispanic Ministry, and more. With a student-to-faculty ratio of only 11:1, Dallas encourages an intimate, collaborative educational setting and individualized instruction. Notable graduates political theorist Larry Arnhart, philosopher Jeffrey Bishop, business executive Suren Dutia, constitutional law scholar John C. Eastman, and numerous activists, bishops, writers, diplomats, and academics.
14. The University of Texas at Tyler
Online Programs: 20
Founded in 1971, The University of Texas at Tyler has a student enrollment of about 8,800 undergraduate and graduate students. The school’s student-to-faculty ratio stands at 20:1, which allows for peer-to-peer learning and individualized instruction. UT Tyler’s online division offers a bachelor’s degree in Nursing and masters in Business, Human Resources, Education, Civil Engineering, English, Nursing, Industrial Management, and School Counseling, among others. (There are 19 online total degrees available, with certificate and concentration opportunities.) Through the Blackboard learning platform, students have access to group discussion threads, live chat rooms, video conferencing, and other tools. Potential students should also note that Tyler offers hybrid degrees as well, combining the convenience of online delivery with the advantages of face-to-face education.
15. Laredo Community College
Online Programs: 50
Founded in 1947, Laredo Community College emphasizes practical, professional skill-building through a wide variety of programs and three central goals: promotion of student retention and success with support from student services; wellness, intellectual growth, and graduation of all students; and active learning through interdisciplinary collaboration and experiential learning opportunities. LCC’s online school offers 49 associate level degrees and one bachelor’s in Applied Technology; associate degrees are available in Web/Multimedia Design, Accounting, Business, Management, Real Estate, Economics, International Business, Education, and Health Sciences, among others. Notable graduates have gone on to careers in politics, professional sports, law, criminal justice, and business.
Monitoring the accreditation of a university you are interested in attending is incredibly important. Accreditation ensures your credits can transfer that you can receive Federal financial aid, and most importantly that certain standards of educational quality are during your schooling. The highest accreditation standard for most programs in the United States is provided by regional accreditation agencies. The regional accrediting agency for Texas is Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), one of six regional accrediting agencies responsible for accrediting schools in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Latin America, and other Commission approved international sites.
Making sure that a University you’re hoping to attend is regionally accredited — or accredited by a real and respected accrediting agency — is one of the most important choices you can make in ensuring the quality of your education.
Three Steps for Securing Financial Aid
- Submit your FAFSA.
- Check to see if additional forms are needed at your university of choice.
- Search and apply for private scholarships.
Through the previous three steps most students find themselves offered some sort of federal grant, work study, private grant, scholarship, or stipend.
Great Texas Higher Education Resources
- The Academic Common Market is a tuition-savings program for college students in 15 Southern Regional Education Board states. Learn more.
- The State of Texas Financial Aid offers information on scholarships, savings plans, aid, and more.
- College For All Texans is an invaluable resource information for current and prospective students, from General FAQs, to transferring tips, to strategic planning. Make sure to check out the Tuition Equalization Grant Program.
- The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board includes finance and resource planning, student loan info, relevant data tables, a list of grants, and more. Also highlighted is the state’s “Closing the Gaps” plan.
- The Texas Higher Education Data site is a comprehensive, primary source for statistics on higher education in the state. It also includes reports linking K-12 and workforce data with higher ed students.
- The Texas Public Education Information Resource (TPEIR) website provides reports and data on Texas educational topics and trends. More information here.
- Texas is home to numerous affordable community colleges. Learn about enrollment, funding, and keys to success at the Texas Association of Community Colleges.
- For residents of North Texas, check out theNorth Texas Higher Education Authority.
- Generation TX offers students, parents, educators, businesses, and community leaders the chance to inspire and inform one another about in-state opportunities in higher education, through videos, testimonials, and event notifications.
- Compare College TX is an excellent tool to compare in-state colleges side-by-side on factors like tuition & fees, completion rates, and average salaries after college.
- Apply Texas was created through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and Texas colleges and universities to streamline the admissions process via a one-stop shop.
- Region 13 serves as a liaison between the Texas Education Agency and the local school districts and local schools — private, charter, public, and higher ed — by disseminating information, conducting training, and consultation for both federal and state programs.
- Students with disabilities should consult the TCDD for a comprehensive guide.
- The Texas Veterans Portal offers resources and benefits for military vets in higher education.