2021 Best Online Colleges in Texas

By OnlineU Staff | Updated 7/22/2021

There are more than 120 colleges and universities in the state of Texas, and many offer online degrees. To help students find the best online colleges in Texas that meet their needs, we've ranked schools by affordability and salary. We've also selected Texas Tech University as our staff pick based on a variety of factors important to students. TTU has a relatively low tuition rate for online students and a high graduation rate compared to other colleges. In addition, Texas Tech alumni of a given program tend to earn more than graduates of the same program at other schools.

On this page, you'll find data-driven pros and cons that will help you assess the benefits and potential drawbacks of a given school or program. We also provide an overview of online learning in Texas, along with information about the costs of an online degree and potential careers for graduates in the state. View our methodology for more details or learn more about OnlineU.

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Highest Salary
Salary Score: 76
Acceptance Rate: 89%
Annual Tuition: $10,620

Bottom Line:

The University of Texas-Permian Basin alumni earn a higher average salary and tend to owe significantly less in student loan debt than graduates of other programs. However, the university has relatively low graduation and retention rates compared to other schools. Students should research what the university offers in terms of online services and support.


Pros:

UT-Permian Basin's Salary Score is 76, meaning that alumni tend to earn more than graduates from the same major at other schools.
Students tend to graduate with less debt compared to other U.S. colleges, with a median debt of $16,149 per student.
Online students pay the same tuition as in-state students, regardless of where they live, making UT-Permian Basin more accessible for out-of-state students.

Cons:

This university has a graduation rate of 41%, which is lower than the median of 54% for all schools.
Top Employers:
  • Ector County ISD
  • Midland ISD
  • Pioneer Natural Resources
  • Midland College
  • Chevron
Most Affordable
Salary Score: 43
Acceptance Rate: 81%
Annual Tuition: $6,187
Out-of-State Tuition: $8,137

Bottom Line:

Midwestern State University, the most affordable Texas college with online programs, may be a good choice for students looking to save money on their education. The university’s high acceptance rate and low tuition make it an accessible option. Those looking to maximize their investment, however, may opt for a school with a higher Salary Score.


Pros:

Midwestern State University offers affordable tuition rates for both in-state ($6,187) and out-of-state ($8,137) students.
This school may be an accessible option for students, with an acceptance rate of 81%.
While all ranked schools perform well in terms of the percent of alumni working one year after college, Midwestern State is among the highest at 97%.

Cons:

Midwestern State's Salary Score of 43 is the lowest of ranked colleges in Texas, meaning alumni of a given program tend to earn less than graduates of the same programs at other schools.
This university has a graduation rate of 42%, which is lower than the median of all U.S. colleges (54%).
Top Employers:
  • United Regional Health Care System
  • Wichita Falls ISD
  • Baylor Scott & White Health
  • Texas Health Resources
  • United States Air Force
Staff Pick
Salary Score: 74
Acceptance Rate: 69%
Annual Tuition: $8,760
Out-of-State Tuition: $21,030

Bottom Line:

Texas Tech University alumni tend to have higher salaries than graduates of other schools. This, alongside a relatively high graduation rate, may indicate robust student resources and programs. The upfront cost may be challenging for some, however, as fewer students receive financial aid here than at other schools.


Pros:

Texas Tech University's Salary Score is 74, meaning that alumni of a given program tend to earn more than graduates of the same programs at other schools.
This university has a graduation rate of 60%, which is higher than the median of 54% for all U.S. colleges.
Texas Tech offers a relatively affordable rate to in-state online students, and has the highest Salary Score of schools with annual tuition rates below $9,000.

Cons:

78% of students receive financial aid, compared to a median of 96% across U.S. colleges.
Out-of-state online students pay more than double what in-state online students pay, so the cost may be less accessible for nonresidents.
Top Employers:
  • Fidelity Investments
  • USAA
  • AT&T
  • Amazon
  • Dell Technologies

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21 Colleges Considered


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Best Online Bachelor's Programs From Texas Colleges


Business

Highest Salary
Median Starting Salary: $56,415
Acceptance Rate: 47%
Annual Tuition: $11,820

Bottom Line:

LeTourneau University business majors tend to earn more, and nearly 100% of students receive financial aid. However, graduates here also tend to owe more in student loan debt compared to other colleges, so it may be a few years before alumni see a clear financial payoff.

Most Affordable
South Texas College
McAllen (and 2 others)
Median Starting Salary: $30,520
Annual Tuition: $2,610
Out-of-State Tuition: $6,000

Bottom Line:

South Texas College offers a notably low price point for a bachelor's degree in business. However, if you're looking to maximize your investment, other colleges tend to produce business alumni who earn more in their first year out of college. The university's graduation rate of 15% is significantly lower than most other colleges.

Staff Pick
Median Starting Salary: $47,260
Acceptance Rate: 89%
Annual Tuition: $10,620

Bottom Line:

The University of Texas-Permian Basin stands out as the school with the lowest median student loan debt for business alumni. Graduates also tend to earn higher salaries compared to alumni of other business programs. These strong student outcomes have earned the UT-Permian Basin business program a spot in our rankings for the last eight years in a row.


Communications

Highest Salary
Median Starting Salary: $36,674
Acceptance Rate: 89%
Annual Tuition: $10,620

Bottom Line:

At The University of Texas-Permian Basin, alumni of communications programs tend to earn more and have lower student loan debt compared to graduates of other schools. However, the university has lower graduation and retention rates compared to other schools. Students should research what student services and support are available for online study.

Most Affordable
Median Starting Salary: $27,669
Acceptance Rate: 49%
Annual Tuition: $6,252
Out-of-State Tuition: $18,522

Bottom Line:

The University of Houston-Victoria offers a low-cost degree program for Texas residents and boasts a 100% employment rate for communications alumni one year after graduating. However, alumni salaries tend to be lower compared to communications majors across schools, and UHV's graduation rate of 19% is far below average for this field.

Staff Pick
Median Starting Salary: $33,427
Acceptance Rate: 79%
Annual Tuition: $13,500

Bottom Line:

The University of Texas at San Antonio communications degree has the second-lowest student loan debt at $21,700 per student. This school may also be a good option for out-of-state students, as it has a relatively low tuition rate for non-residents. However, the university's graduation rate of 40% is low compared to other schools.


Criminal Justice

Highest Salary
Median Starting Salary: $46,087
Acceptance Rate: 99%
Annual Tuition: $13,206

Bottom Line:

Alumni of Wayland Baptist University's criminal justice program tend to earn higher salaries and owe less in student loan debt when they graduate. The degree program has also made our rankings for eight years in a row. Only one in four students graduate on time, however, and 17% fewer students are employed one year after graduation compared to the median across schools.

Most Affordable
Median Starting Salary: $31,660
Acceptance Rate: 35%
Annual Tuition: $4,500
Out-of-State Tuition: $9,000

Bottom Line:

Texas A&M University-Commerce offers an online criminal justice major at an affordable price and has a high employment rate of 99% for alumni one year out of college. The university has slightly lower graduation and retention rates compared to similar programs, which can indicate that student satisfaction or support may need improvement.

Staff Pick
Median Starting Salary: $35,382
Acceptance Rate: 74%
Annual Tuition: $10,350
Out-of-State Tuition: $22,620

Bottom Line:

Criminal justice alumni of Sam Houston State University (SHSU) tend to owe less when they graduate than is typical in this field of study. The major's graduation rate of 52% and retention rate of 76% are also higher than average for criminal justice programs, which is often seen as a measure of student success and satisfaction. SHSU has a long history of positive student outcomes, making our criminal justice rankings for seven years in a row.


Nursing

Highest Salary
Median Starting Salary: $74,405
Annual Tuition: $12,000

Bottom Line:

Graduates of the Baptist Health System School of Health Professions have a higher average starting salary than graduates of all of the other schools on our rankings at $74,405. The university also has a very high graduation rate of 90%, which can be an indicator of strong support services and student satisfaction.

Most Affordable
Median Starting Salary: $65,622
Annual Tuition: $6,330
Out-of-State Tuition: $14,970

Bottom Line:

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center offers the most affordable online nursing degree program. The average salary for Texas Tech nursing alumni is almost 20% higher than the median for all U.S. colleges. Students here tend to graduate with significantly less student loan debt at $12,500 per student.

Staff Pick
Median Starting Salary: $72,369
Annual Tuition: $8,497
Out-of-State Tuition: $18,313

Bottom Line:

Texas A&M University-Central Texas is one of the most affordable schools on our list for nursing programs and boasts strong student outcomes, including a 100% employment rate for graduates one year out of college. Alumni also tend to owe significantly less in student loan debt at $12,500 per student, and earn nearly $10,000 more on average than the median starting salary for nursing majors.


Psychology

Highest Salary
Median Starting Salary: $37,424
Acceptance Rate: 89%
Annual Tuition: $10,620

Bottom Line:

Psychology program graduates at the University of Texas-Permian Basin earn the highest average salary on our Texas rankings and also tend to owe less in student loan debt when they graduate. However, students should note that the graduation and employment rates for psychology alumni at this university are lower compared to other schools.

Most Affordable
Median Starting Salary: $30,988
Acceptance Rate: 49%
Annual Tuition: $6,252
Out-of-State Tuition: $18,522

Bottom Line:

The University of Houston-Victoria offers the most affordable psychology degree out of the schools on our list for Texas students, and alumni tend to owe less in student loan debt. However, UHV has a significantly low graduation rate of 19%, which can indicate that students need more support from their school to finish their degrees on time.

Staff Pick
Median Starting Salary: $32,524
Acceptance Rate: 61%
Annual Tuition: $11,254
Out-of-State Tuition: $26,524

Bottom Line:

University of Houston psychology majors earn a higher average salary compared to graduates of other psychology programs, and the liberal arts degree comes at a fairly affordable price point for Texas residents. However, 89% of UH alumni are employed one year out of college, compared to the median of 95% for psychology alumni overall.


Overview of Higher Education and Online Learning in Texas

Texas is the second-largest U.S. state by both population and landmass, so it's no surprise that it contains a large number of colleges. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Texas is home to more than 120 institutions offering bachelor's degrees. Of these:

  • 50 are public colleges and universities (including six university systems)
  • 55 are private non-profit colleges
  • 23 are private for-profit schools (including one fully online school)
Graph of Texas Colleges by Type
Source: NCES

College enrollment has been climbing in Texas for years. Total enrollment in the state was 255,000 for the 2018-2019 year at Title IV schools (which are eligible to offer federal financial aid to students). About 93% of students were Texas residents and about 17,000 were from out of state. Additionally, the largest share of transfer students to Texas public universities came from associate degree holders who had taken general studies through the state's community college system.

Online Education

Given the variety of college choices in the state, students may want to explore the increasingly popular choice of online learning as it compares to the traditional experience. Dozens of Texas schools offer fully online bachelor's degrees, including the 34 public institutions comprising the state's six university systems. Many schools also offer online degree options for master's programs, doctoral degrees, and certificate programs. Across levels, students can find offerings in subjects like business administration, social work, and healthcare.

Dozens of Texas schools offer fully online bachelor's degrees, including the 34 public institutions comprising the state's six university systems.

Online bachelor's programs provide education through internet-based learning platforms where professors post recorded lectures, assignments, and discussion questions. Most programs have asynchronous e-learning options, meaning that students can log in at their convenience to complete coursework. Some online degree programs feature synchronous elements, such as live lectures or class discussions over video. Others offer hybrid delivery, in which students are required to attend regular class sessions but complete most course elements online.

Earning an undergraduate degree through an online program may be a more accessible option for students and can confer many of the same benefits as a traditional degree. However, students should note that online degrees hold some lingering stigma associated with low-quality programs in the for-profit sector. Still, the number and quality of online degrees has proliferated in recent years, and human resources (HR) and business leaders have indicated that they don't discount the value of distance education when hiring. Students should be sure to look for schools with accreditation, as this increases the likelihood a degree will be recognized and that students wil be eligible for financial aid.

College Costs and Financial Aid

A college degree is a weighty investment for most students, and it's important to understand the costs and how to possibly mitigate them. For Texas residents attending public colleges, the median cost was $4,943 per semester in 2020, or $9,886 annually. This includes tuition and mandatory fees but doesn't include room and board or supplies. Nonresidents who study on campus pay a higher tuition rate. By contrast, Texas private schools charged an average of $32,482 for tuition and fees in 2017. These tuition numbers are a helpful starting point in understanding how much a degree will cost, but they aren't specific to online students.


Online-specific costs aren't as widely reported, but according to our manual research of 21 Texas colleges offering undergraduate programs online, the median annual tuition is $10,350, and tuition rates range from $6,187 to $30,690 a year.

Notably, most public Texas universities charge the in-state tuition rate to full-time online students regardless of residency. These lower tuition rates favor out-of-state students who would otherwise pay a higher amount per credit to study on campus. Many private colleges in Texas also charge less tuition to online students because the school doesn't need to spend as much in overhead costs for these students.

Students should keep in mind extra fees they'll need to pay on top of tuition, which vary by school and program. Online students usually have to pay a technology fee to cover the costs associated with data storage and learning management platforms for online courses. However, there are some costs online students can avoid, such as room and board or campus recreation fees.

To help reduce upfront costs, students can apply for financial aid. The best options are gift aid funds that don't need to be repaid, such as grants and scholarships. Texas provides several aid opportunities, including grants for public-school students who demonstrate financial need. In general, state programs are only available to state residents and can be renewed if the students maintain a certain GPA. Online students may be eligible for the following Texas financial aid programs:

Texas Armed Services Scholarship Program (TASSP)

Students in a Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program can earn $10,000 off tuition and fees annually if they sign a four-year commitment to the U.S. military or branch of the Texas Guard and meet high school eligibility requirements.

Texas College Work-Study Program

Students demonstrating financial need can qualify for partial funding if they maintain a part-time job while attending a Texas college at least half-time.

Texas Public Educational Grant Program (TPEG)

This is another need-based grant for students at public Texas schools. The award amount is at the discretion of the institution that the student attends.

Toward EXcellence, Access, and Success Grant Program (TEXAS Grant)

Texas public college students may be eligible if they demonstrate financial need. Recipients can receive up to $5,195 off tuition and fees per semester.

Tuition Equalization Grant Program (TEG)

Students pursuing undergraduate or graduate degrees with financial need can apply to receive up to $3,497 a year to attend a non-profit private college in Texas. Those with exceptional financial need may receive up to $5,246.

I'm an Out-of-State Online Student - What Will I Pay for College?

Out-of-state students may be able to lower their costs at a Texas college by choosing a distance education program. Nonresidents who enroll in a campus program at a public school pay a higher tuition rate than residents, but most public colleges in Texas charge the in-state rate to all online students. For example:

  • At Lamar University, in-state and out-of-state online students pay an annual tuition of $8,190. If an out-of-state student attended that university in-person, they might pay upwards of $22,000 a year.
  • At Tarleton State University, out-of-state students pay the in-state online rate of $9,551.

There are schools, however, that charge a higher rate for online students who are out-of-state. Of 21 eligible colleges we analyzed (including public and private institutions), half charged a higher rate for out-of-state students. For example, at West Texas A&M University, online students who are in-state pay $8,179 a year while online students who are out-of-state pay $21,257 annually.

Prospective students should keep two more considerations in mind:

  1. Attending a school out of state limits your financial aid options, because you won't be able to apply for state aid programs intended for residents of the state where the school is situated.
  2. Some online programs have in-person requirements, such as a three-day orientation or intensive session. These can add cost and logistical hassles for students needing to travel from out of state.

Careers in Texas for College Graduates

College graduates nationwide earn higher salaries and face lower chances of unemployment than job seekers without bachelor's degrees. In Texas, about 30% of residents over 25 hold a bachelor's degree. This percentage is slightly lower than the nationwide amount of 32.1%, and the gap has been widening between Texas and other high-population states. This indicates that there may be less job competition for college graduates in Texas than in states with more degree holders.

Texas residents with a bachelor's degree vs those without
Source: Census Bureau

What's more, many jobs in the state's boom industries require a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts degree for entry, which include technology and manufacturing, aerospace and defense, information technology, petroleum refining, and energy. Fast-growing jobs within these industries include statistician, information security analyst, and operational research analyst, most of which start at the bachelor's degree level (though some do require a master's degree). The median salaries for these jobs start at $86,200, which is higher than the $61,900 median household income for all of Texas. These salaries have great potential buying power in Texas, a state with the 14th-lowest cost of living in the nation.

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