2021 Best Online Colleges in Texas Methodology

Our rankings allow prospective students to compare real world outcomes for online degrees at colleges that have primary locations in Texas. We evaluated schools based on salary outcomes and tuition rates in order to provide an initial gauge for which accredited online colleges may be the best financial options. In addition, we provide a staff pick that features promising data across different criteria. Read more about how we selected eligible colleges, how we ranked them, and our data sources.

Eligibility

Colleges eligible for rankings:

  • 21 for the overall rankings
  • 16 for top psychology programs
  • 29 for top nursing programs
  • 12 for top criminal justice programs
  • 14 for top communications programs
  • 33 for top business programs

To be considered for the overall rankings, colleges needed to have:

  • Regional or national accreditation
  • A primary location in Texas
  • College Scorecard data for median earnings one year after graduation

For our overall lists, colleges needed to offer at least 10 fully online bachelor's degrees across three subject areas. For our highlighted top programs, colleges needed to have at least one fully online bachelor's degree in the subject we looked at.

Fully online status: Schools with programs that require some on-campus coursework were still considered for our rankings if the amount of in-person work required was limited to two weeks or less per year, allowing students to work around job or other responsibilities.

Ranking Categories

Highest Salary: For the overall list, colleges were ranked by Salary Score. For the top colleges by program, schools were ranked by average alumni salary one year after graduating.

Most Affordable: Colleges were ranked by our manually collected online tuitions. If in-state tuition differed from out-of-state tuition for online students, in-state tuition was used. For top programs, program-specific tuition was utilized.

Staff Pick: We chose one overall staff pick school as well as a staff pick for five specific programs. These schools were chosen primarily because of the high salary outcomes for graduates as well as the low tuition rate offered to online students. Some additional factors that were considered include median debt, average graduation rate, percentage of students offered financial aid, retention rate of students, percentage of graduates working after one year, and student reviews of the online programs.

About the Data

Median Earnings and Median Debt

Median earnings and median debt for each program are sourced from the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard Field of Study data released in December 2020. Data is for students who graduated in 2016 and 2017, with earnings measured in 2017 and 2018, respectively, and inflation-adjusted to 2019 dollars.

Salary Score

To calculate a school’s overall Salary Score by level, we first calculated z-scores for the median earnings one year after completion for each individual program with the same CIP code and level in the College Scorecard data set. In this way, a degree program at one school was evaluated against the same degree program across all schools. Next, we calculated an average of the z-scores of all the programs at a school for a given level, weighted by the number of students in each program. This average z-score was then converted to a percentile, represented by the Salary Score.

Manually Collected Tuitions

Our college tuitions were manually collected from official school websites, reflecting data for the 2020-2021 academic year.

For overall lists, in cases where schools offer a standard tuition rate across most programs at the bachelor’s degree level, the standard tuition rate was used. Otherwise, the tuition reflects the lowest tuition rate available at the bachelor’s degree level. For top programs, if a degree-specific tuition differed from the standard annual tuition for the bachelor’s degree level, the lowest tuition rate available for that program was used.

As the rankings are location-based, our rankings use in-state tuition. When available, we provided both the in-state and out-of-state tuition rates. The single "annual tuition" data point represents cases where there are no in-state tuition rates, as well as cases where in-state tuition is offered to all online students regardless of residency

Tuition was calculated assuming full-time status. Unless otherwise indicated, bachelor’s programs were assumed to require four years to complete.

Figures are accurate at the time of publication; please check with the institution for current tuition rates.

IPEDs

Data points sourced from IPEDS include:

  • Average graduation rate
  • Percentage of students offered financial aid
  • Retention
  • Percentage of graduates working after one year
  • Acceptance rate

IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) data comes from a system of surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Surveys are filled out by all schools that participate in federal financial aid programs, and the data is made publicly available through College Navigator. NCES data is updated annually, but the NCES does not release data into downloadable formats until it has been approved. We used data from 2018-2019, which is the most current available when the rankings were created.

Top Employers

Top employer data was collected from LinkedIn in June 2021 and filtered by bachelor's degrees to align with our rankings. We omitted the universities themselves from our results to give students a more comprehensive look at what job prospects might look like outside the university.

Limitations of the Data

Like any data set, the data used for our rankings has limitations and shortcomings.

College Scorecard and IPEDS data is not separated by online versus on-campus students, so schools with records that contain both online and on-campus data may not have data specific to online graduates.

The earnings data used in our Salary Score is for alumni in the first year after completing a degree. This does not take into account the levels of growth income alumni can experience in the years after graduation and does not make predictions about future income. The data is based on the earnings of students who received federal financial aid because that is the sample for which the Department of Education has data. This excludes students who did not receive federal financial aid.

To protect student privacy, College Scorecard suppresses student count and earnings data that could be personally identifiable. This decreases the data coverage for some programs. In addition, College Scorecard adds noise to earnings data to further protect student privacy, so the data is less precise than it would be without privacy protection methods. More information can be found in College Scorecard’s data documentation.

Tuitions are manually collected and undergo quality assurance checks, but there may still be errors due to the complexity of tuition details and differences in processes for calculating rates. If you are a school representative and have questions or resources for how your school's tuition is calculated, please contact us.