As the second most populous state in the country, Texas is home to 50 community college districts that collectively serve over 700,000 students every year. With an enrollment of 74,300, the Lone Star College System is the largest of these institutions. Some two-year colleges in the state also offer bachelor's degrees. Additionally, in 2019, lawmakers enacted legislation to make it easier for students to transfer community college credits into a four-year program as part of the 60X30TX initiative to increase access to higher education. Students interested in pursuing an associate degree can also take advantage of various state-sponsored programs that aim to help Texans receive a college education and gain employment after graduating.
Students interested in pursuing an associate degree can also take advantage of various state-sponsored programs that aim to help Texans receive a college education and gain employment after graduating.
Texas students can enroll in fully online programs for their associate degree and complete classes with either part- or full-time schedules. According to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts — an agency that oversees the state's financial functions — the most popular degree and certificate subjects are in the "liberal arts and sciences" alongside "general studies and humanities." A large proportion of students also pursue associate degrees in healthcare-related fields. Additionally, while enrollment in bachelor's programs has been steadily declining in recent years, Texas residents are increasingly attending community college. In 2020, enrollment in two-year colleges surpassed that of four-year institutions for the first time since 2004.
Cost of Online Community Colleges in Texas
With students paying an annual in-state tuition rate of $2,270, Texas is one of the most affordable states to attend community college in the country. Even out-of-state learners pay roughly $2,000 below the national average to attend two-year institutions in Texas.
Attending community college through distance learning is typically less expensive than the in-person route because students can avoid certain costs, such as those related to relocation, daily transport, and on-campus housing. Texas students can further reduce the cost of higher education by completing college coursework while in high school through a dual enrollment program. Other options include federal and state work-study programs, which allow individuals to offset tuition costs by working part time and simultaneously earning their degree. Lastly, individuals with certain disabilities or those who face difficult life circumstances can apply for tuition exemptions and waivers.
Financial Aid for Community College Students in Texas
Like their on-campus peers, online students can apply for need- and merit-based federal, state, and private financial aid. Distance learners should consider these options before applying for student loans, as they don't have to repay gift aid. To apply for financial assistance, students need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), an online form that gathers an individual's personal information to determine whether they qualify for grants and scholarships. Undocumented, or non-citizen, students are ineligible to submit the FAFSA but can still apply for aid through the Texas Application for State Financial Aid. Below is a brief list of state-sponsored education grants for Texas residents.
Students attending or planning to enroll in a public two-year college can apply to the TEOG. Award amounts range from $1,711-$3,238 per semester, depending on the type of institution they attend. Students must meet various academic and coursework requirements to be eligible.
The TPEG grant provides funds to Texas students based on their financial need. Students need to register for Selective Service in order to be eligible.
Those pursuing their first associate degree can receive up to $3,497 per year through the TEG. Applicants must register for Selective Service, be enrolled at least "3/4 time," and demonstrate financial need to receive funds.
Employment Outlook in Texas
With one of the fastest growing economies in the nation, Texas continues to attract businesses and skilled workers from around the world. Recent growth has been driven by gains in the oil and gas industry, which accounts for 15% of the economy, as well as an influx of tech companies making Texas their homebase. Given this, the Texas Workforce Commission projects a 12.7% increase in jobs across all industries in the state through 2028. These openings are largely expected in healthcare and biosciences, IT, and professional services.
The Texas Workforce projects a 12.7% increase in jobs across all industries in the state through 2028.
Careers for Texas Community College Graduates
An online associate degree or community college education can help someone gain an entry-level position in one of Texas' growing industries. With the state's largest employers including many well-known companies — such as American Airlines, Dell, BP, Toyota, and JP Morgan — graduates can pursue a wide range of careers depending on their education. According to BLS data, the highest paying jobs are in healthcare and IT. While some professions in these sectors require a bachelor's degree, associate degree holders may still qualify for certain entry-level positions that are expected to grow as fast, or even faster, than the U.S. average of 8%.
Below is a list of potential careers for Texas students with an associate degree, along with salary and job outlook data from the BLS.
Computer Support Specialists
Median Annual Salary: $55,510
Job Outlook: 9%
Computer support specialists carry out everyday IT tasks in a range of businesses and organizations. They test networks for connectivity, including running diagnostics, performing maintenance, and diagnosing problems. Specialists in some settings also work directly with network administrators.
Median Annual Salary: $59,050
Job Outlook: 30%
Flight attendants are crucial to air travel because they help ensure passenger safety. They provide essential information related to emergency procedures, answer questions, and assist customers with a variety of in-flight needs.
Medical Records and Health Information Specialists
Median Annual Salary: $45,240
Job Outlook: 9%
Medical records and health information specialists are primarily responsible for ensuring patient information remains updated and accurate. This role involves working with dedicated software to update databases, verifying sensitive data, and providing healthcare workers with relevant information.
Median Annual Salary: $31,930
Job Outlook: 18%
Preschool teachers educate children under the age of 5, working with them to develop basic communication, reading, and writing skills. They typically design lesson plans around student needs and watch children for signs of emotional or developmental difficulties.
Median Annual Salary: $62,810
Job Outlook: 23%
Respiratory therapists help individuals cope with and address various breathing problems by providing short-term care as well as helping patients deal with chronic issues. These professionals make house calls in addition to providing care in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare settings.