As one of the geographically largest states in the nation, Texas is home to a significant number of colleges and universities. These include some of the country's most well-respected public and private institutions.
Many public schools belong to one of the state's university systems. These include The University of Texas System, Texas A&M University System and the Texas State University System, among others. While the flagship campuses for these systems are often the best known — and rank among the top universities in Texas — many of them have high-quality schools based throughout Texas.
Other institutions in the state include independent universities, online colleges, private colleges and universities and community colleges. While Rice University and Baylor University may be two of the best-known private schools in Texas, they aren't the only ones providing a high-quality education in the state. Independent Colleges & Universities of Texas is an association of nearly 40 institutions, several of which are among the best colleges in Texas.
There are also 50 community colleges that offer technical training and two-year degree programs. If you wish to start your education at one of these affordable institutions, you can often transfer your credits to a four-year school when you are ready to earn either an on-campus or online bachelor's degree at one of the top Texas schools.
You can also find opportunities to engage in online curriculum at many campus-based Texas institutions. Whether interested in earning a criminal justice degree in person or completing a business administration degree program via online classes or online programs, there are many options at traditional and online schools in the state.
Best 4-Year Colleges in Texas
In this analysis, we took vital data points on more than 70 Texas schools, weighted them according to their importance to students and calculated scores for each institution in order to find out which ones were the best colleges and universities in Texas. Our rankings take into account affordability, flexibility, student success and other factors. Once you browse these top Texas schools and online colleges and other school listings on this page, you can take a step toward enrolling in campus-based or online programs in Texas.
Founded in 1876, Texas A&M University is a school steeped in tradition. Whether it's the Midnight Yell on the nights before football games or laying exam-day pennies at the foot of the statue of former university president Sul Ross, campus culture is full of rituals that help bond students together.
Even if you can't make it to campus, however, you can be a part of the Aggie spirit. Texas A&M is one of the top colleges and universities in Texas for online courses, thanks to a large distance education catalog that includes 48 degree programs and 25 certificate programs. Two of the online plans culminate in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Science in Analytics.
Off-campus online degree programs at the College Station school cost the same amount per credit hour for resident and non-resident students. They may even be more affordable than in-state tuition for some courses.
The University of Texas at Austin is no stranger to being included in the rankings of the best schools in Texas. Almost all of its undergraduate degree programs in business and engineering have been recognized at some point among the top ten programs in the country in their subjects according to national rankings agencies.
Since first opening its doors in 1883, UT Austin has grown into the largest school by enrollment among all Texas universities. It now serves as the flagship campus for the University of Texas System, which maintains 14 institutions statewide.
The degree program catalog at UT Austin is formidable, featuring more than 170 fields of undergraduate study and a total of nearly 400 bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs. Some programs are offered online, such as a master's degree in mechanical engineering. The college campus also has four museums and over 10 million books in its many libraries.
In addition to being one of the top universities in Texas, Rice University is regularly noted as one of the best private schools in the nation. The school is known for fostering intellectual curiosity and encouraging students to challenge conventional wisdom.
Rice owes its existence to businessman William Marsh Rice who established the Rice Institute as a gift to the city of Houston. The school opened in 1912 and today offers more than 50 undergraduate majors across six areas of study that include architecture, music and natural sciences. Students get access to highly personalized instruction thanks to the school's 6:1 student-faculty ratio.
Texas Tech University has 10 colleges, a medical school and a school of law. The faculty here is highly decorated, featuring a total of 37 Fulbright Scholars over the last decade.
The Worldwide eLearning option at Texas Tech University provides students the opportunity to earn one of the more than 100 fully online degrees or certificates, earning the Lubbock institution a spot among the top online schools in Texas. Available degree programs include options in popular fields such as general studies, political science and human services.
High school students may be dually enrolled at Texas Tech University or earn AP credit to be applied toward their degree program. Once enrolled, all students have access to career counseling and, after graduation, career placement.
Although it was founded by the group that's now known as The United Methodist Church, Southern Methodist University maintains a primarily secular approach to education and dedicates itself to open academic inquiry. Its flagship campus, located five miles north of downtown Dallas, sits on more than 230 acres.
Academic diversity is significant at SMU. Undergraduates can choose from over 100 bachelor's degree programs in more than 90 different fields of study, and graduates can choose from around 115 master's degree plans. Online master's degrees can be earned in cybersecurity, data science and business administration.
If you're a big fan of Spanish art, you're in for a treat on the SMU campus. The Meadows Museum holds a collection of works by Goya, Picasso, Miró, El Greco and other Spanish masters that stands as one of the largest Spanish art collections in the world outside of Spain.
As the flagship campus in the system bearing the same name, the University of Houston calls itself the "Powerhouse." It was founded in 1927 and has grown from one campus into a system with four locations.
Distance education students at UH can take advantage of four bachelor's degree completion plans in popular fields such as psychology and nursing. There are more than 20 online master's degree programs available. The university also features an online catalog of more than 950 courses, making it possible for most students to craft a convenient class schedule.
The commitment to student success at UH can be exemplified by its UHin4 program — a graduation plan partnership designed to simplify the college process and help students earn their degrees in four years. Elements of the plan are available to both first-year students and transfers.
The Horned Frog might not sound like a fearsome beast, but the Texas Christian University athletes that compete under its name have been performing fiercely on the field. In 2018, for example, 11 of the school's 21 sports were ranked in the top 25 nationwide.
It's not just athletes from TCU who get to travel the country in hopes of winning big. Every spring, graduating seniors in the acting and musical theater programs present an annual showcase for agents and casting directors in New York, should students be interested in a theater degree program.
TCU declares itself a predominately protestant Christian school, but the administration emphasizes that the institution in no way excludes students of other faiths. More than 20 religious organizations exist on campus.
Founded in 1879 and named for the famous Texan who helped the state gain independence from Mexico, Sam Houston State University is located about an hour north of Houston. The Huntsville school offers more than 80 undergraduate degree programs and over 50 master's plans as well as doctoral programs in psychology, education, criminal justice and more.
SHSU has eight colleges, including an online learning department that offers financial aid incentives to incoming online graduate students. Bachelor's in psychology, sociology, history and business administration can all be earned through fully online degree programs.
Students on the path to the upper echelons of the education profession can earn several advanced professional certifications at SHSU. The list of credentials, each of which requires a master's degree, includes certifications for principals, superintendents, school librarians and behavior analysts.
The city of Denton, where the University of North Texas is located, has a population of around 130,000 — just about perfect for a college town. It's large enough that you can expect a solid portfolio of conventional metropolitan services, but not so large that the needs of its educational institutions get lost in the hustle and bustle.
This Denton university features some schools and colleges that cover specific subjects in a finer-grained way than they may be treated at other schools. The College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism, for example, is one of the largest of its kind both among Texas colleges and nationwide.
Chartered in 1845, Baylor University is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. It was founded by Baptist pioneers and operates today as a private Christian institution.
More than 16,000 students take classes at Baylor, and they hail from all 50 states and nearly 90 countries. The school attracts top-tier academic performers with 44 percent of incoming freshmen in 2019 graduating in the top 10 percent of their high school class. Once on campus, these students benefit from an environment in which the average undergraduate class has only 26 participants.
There are more than 250 degree options at Baylor. The university was the first in the state to establish a law school, and Baylor Law graduates have some of the highest bar pass rates in the state.
Dallas Baptist University offers diverse education opportunities to its more than 4,750 students. The school has everything from associate degree plans to those that result in doctoral degrees. Many programs are offered online as well as on-campus.
Among the more than 250 education options offered at DBU are nearly 70 accelerated degree programs. These allow students to earn both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in five years, and some of these programs are available online. Other options for distance learners include the ability to earn online degrees in Christian studies, business administration and psychology.
Founded in 1898 as Decatur Baptist College, DBU was the first two-year school of higher education in Texas. It maintains a deep commitment to its Baptist heritage and incorporates a Christian worldview in its degree programs.
Originally chartered by the co-founders of Texas Instruments as the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest, this Dallas institution joined the University of Texas system in 1969. Students here have more than 140 degree programs to choose from, including several Ph.D.s and other terminal degrees.
The Naveen Jindal School of Management at UT Dallas has been recognized by Financial Times as one of the top online business colleges in Texas, particularly for its global MBA programs. Other business programs available via distance education include master's in marketing, accounting and information technology management.
Aspiring top-level public servants have an additional incentive here, as well. UT Dallas is one of the few Texas colleges to maintain an entire school of economic, political and policy sciences.
At Texas State University, students are taught to make a positive difference in the world. Each year, the school focuses on a particular intellectual theme, such as truth, and plans programming around it. Texas State encourages hands-on learning and research, and total research and development spending topped $64 million in 2019.
There are more than 38,000 students and 200 degree programs at TXST. Education options span eight areas of study, including agriculture and food science, visual and performing arts and health professions and human services. For distance learners, Texas State has a highly ranked online Master of Social Work.
Founded in 1899, TXST is the only college in Texas to graduate a U.S. President: Lyndon B. Johnson is among its alumni.
The University of Texas at Arlington regularly makes appearances on lists of the top Texas schools. The institution is known for being military-friendly and is among the best in the nation when it comes to awarding bachelor's and master's degrees to African American students. This is a Hispanic-Serving Institution that is also noted for being a good value.
With more than 180 degree programs, UTA is designated as a doctoral university with a very high level of research activity. It is also a good choice for adult learners and those who need a non-traditional academic track. The school has more than 700 online courses and offers a number of accelerated online degrees.
UTA is the largest university in North Texas and serves more than 60,000 students each year. It was founded in 1899.
As one of the newest public universities in the state, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley was established in 2013 and welcomed its first class in 2015. It's School of Medicine opened in 2016. Despite its youth, UTRGV has quickly made a name for itself as one of the best universities in Texas. Located in the southernmost part of the state, it's designated as an official Hispanic-Serving Institution.
It offers classes on nine campus locations as well as online. UTRGV has ten colleges and schools that cover fields such as business, education, medicine and nursing. Its online degrees can be earned on a traditional or accelerated schedule. These include an online RN to BSN program and a Master of Business Administration that can be earned in 12 months.
UTRGV encourages hands-on learning through internships, service learning, research and more.
Dubbed the Christian Polytechnic University, LeTourneau offers a faith-based education in fields such as engineering, aeronautical science and nursing. Students can also study theology, education, the arts and a host of other subjects.
LeTourneau University was founded by 1946 by inventor R.G. LeTourneau. The private school has grown from humble roots to become a top destination for students from across the globe. It enrolls more than 3,000 students annually from 44 states and 54 countries.
There are more than 140 undergraduate and graduate programs offered at LETU. A number of these are available online, including a bachelor's degree in computer information systems and a master's degree in healthcare administration. According to the school, some programs, such as nursing and theology, have a 100 percent graduate placement rate.
Student success is central to the mission of Abilene Christian University. The school looks for ways to encourage intellectual and spiritual growth and has been recognized for its commitment to service learning, undergraduate research and study abroad opportunities. It is also known for providing an excellent first-year experience.
ACU offers 135 areas of study at the undergraduate level plus dozens of graduate degree programs. The university has a robust online education program that includes those that result in a bachelor's degree in psychology and a Master of Divinity. According to ACU, approximately 95 percent of graduates are employed or enrolled in further education within six months of finishing their program.
With a history that dates to 1906, ACU is a Christ-centered institution that embraces the Stone-Campbell faith tradition. Other rich traditions include daily chapel, and the Candlelight Devotional experience that welcomes new students and honors graduating seniors.
Texas Woman's University is another of the best traditional and online colleges in Texas. Its array of fully online and hybrid undergraduate degree completion programs includes at least a dozen options, from business and accounting to dental hygiene and health studies.
Multiple institutes and advancement centers can be found on the Denton campus. TWU is home to the Center for Global Nursing, the Center for Women in Business and the Woodcock Institute for the Advancement of Neurocognitive Research and Applied Practice, among others.
Men have been admitted to all undergraduate degree programs at Texas Woman's University since 1994, even though the school remains a member of the Women's College Coalition. With a student body of approximately 15,000, TWU is one of the nation's largest institutions of higher education that primarily serves women.
Approximately 25,000 students choose The University of Texas at El Paso for their higher education. The doctoral university is one of the top colleges in Texas for social mobility as it gives its students the tools needed to succeed in life. Approximately half the learners at UTEP are the first in their family to attend college.
UTEP is the second-oldest institution within The University of Texas System and was founded in 1914. It has more than 160 bachelor, master's and doctoral degree programs available. Among U.S. research institutions, the school has some of the lowest out-of-pocket costs.
Distance learners can choose from a number of online undergraduate and graduate programs. These include an online bachelor's degree in criminal justice and an online master's degree in construction management.
Located midway between San Antonio and Monterrey, Mexico, Texas A&M International University is home to a multicultural and multilingual community. It serves nearly 8,500 students each year.
The academic options at TAMIU are primarily bachelor and master's degree programs. However, the university does offer the opportunity for students to earn a Ph.D. in international business administration. Its online options include a handful of master's degrees as well as an online RN to BSN program.
TAMIU earns a spot among the best universities in Texas thanks to its quality academics, affordable tuition and strong employment and retention rates. With a student to professor ratio of 22:1, the class environment is one in which learners are encouraged to challenge themselves and engage with the surrounding community.
Most Popular Degree Programs in Texas
There are many on-campus and online degree programs available at top Texas schools, at online colleges or traditional campuses. However, the following degree programs, some offered as online programs, are the ones that have proven most popular with students in recent years.
Costs, Financial Aid and Scholarships in Texas
Before you enroll in any school, including the best schools in Texas, you'll want to check the cost of tuition and fees. State residents who choose public schools may pay significantly less than those who are non-residents or attend a private institution. Here's a look at the average cost of tuition and fees in Texas in 2017-18, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
- Public 2-Year Schools (in-state): $2,209
- Public 2-Year Schools (out-of-state): $6,418
- Public 4-Year Schools (in-state): $8,645
- Public 4-Year Schools (out-of-state): $24,937
- Private 4-Year Schools (in-state): $32,482
Fortunately, financial aid is available to many students attending traditional and online schools in Texas. Students can apply for federal assistance, but the state also offers grants and scholarships specifically to its residents. These include the Texas Public Educational Grant Program, the Top 10 Percent Scholarship Program and the TEXAS Grant Program among others. To apply for these and other financial aid programs, start by filling out the FAFSA.
The scholarships and grant programs below can all help offset the cost of attending the top universities in Texas. However, don't forget to also read our guide on How to Pay for College for more money-saving strategies.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Recipient must reapply for renewal.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Satisfactory academic progress is required to retain scholarship; minimum 2.5 GPA required.
Careers in Texas
There are a number of career quizzes and other tools to help you explore various occupations. However, before deciding on a degree program at one of the top colleges in Texas, you might find it beneficial to review which jobs are expected to grow most in the coming years and shape your agenda for online programs around that. For instance, in Texas, job growth is being spurred by the following factors:
- Wind power now produces more energy in Texas than coal, meaning more job opportunities in the renewable energy sector.
- As home to major medical systems like Tenet Healthcare and staffing agencies such as AMN Healthcare Services, Texas is expected to continue to see strong demand for healthcare professionals.
- Natural resources management and emergency response are likely to continue to be priorities in a state which is susceptible to hurricanes, wildfires and similar events.
Take a look at these in-demand careers for Texas before looking at campus-based or online colleges in the state.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Wind Turbine Service Technicians||108.7%||1,730||$55,340|
|Forest Fire Inspectors and Prevention Specialists||43.4%||100||$63,470|
|Home Health Aides||42.7%||69,600||$21,910|
|Personal Care Aides||37.8%||206,240||$19,960|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||37.3%||7,550||$69,890|
|Operations Research Analysts||36.2%||11,190||$82,660|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||36.1%||3,650||$74,650|
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographers||34.6%||4,870||$71,580|
|Computer Numerically Controlled Machine Tool Programmers, Metal and Plastic||33.8%||1,590||$58,660|
|Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers, Including Fast Food||33.7%||389,740||$20,880|
|Information Security Analysts||33.5%||8,520||$104,170|
|Software Developers, Applications||33.3%||71,260||$108,760|
|Rail-Track Laying and Maintenance Equipment Operators||31.4%||1,290||$48,590|
|Occupational Therapy Aides||30.8%||220||$31,390|
|Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists||30.8%||29,560||$78,200|
|Terrazzo Workers and Finishers||30.3%||350||$36,380|
|Nonfarm Animal Caretakers||30.2%||15,660||$23,420|
- The University of Texas System
- The University of Texas System Online Consortium
- The Texas A&M University System
- The Texas State University System
- Texas Association of Community Colleges
- University of Houston System
- College for All Texans
- Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
To get our list of the best colleges, we ranked four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. In order to be included in the ranking, schools had to report data for each of the following data points, and each school was then scored on a 100-point scale:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018-19
- The average amount of aid awarded to full-time, first-time undergraduate students, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017-18
- Percent of full-time first-time undergraduates awarded any financial aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017-18
- Median debt of graduates, College Scorecard, 2017-18
- 3-year student loan repayment rate of graduates, College Scorecard, 2016-17
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered on campus, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017-18
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017-18
- Percent of students enrolled in any distance education classes, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2018
- Full-time student retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2018
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2014-15
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018-19
- Dual credit
- Credit for life experience
- Advanced Placement credit
- Programs of study that can be completed entirely on weekends or in the evening
- Remedial services
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Guaranteed tuition plan
- Tuition payment plan
- Any other alternative tuition plan
Note: Tuition prices are based on data for the 2018-19 academic year reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.
- Abilene Christian University, Accessed January 2020, https://www.acu.edu/
- About, Texas State University, Accessed January 2020, https://www.txstate.edu/about.html
- About Us, The University of Texas at Arlington, Accessed January 2020, https://www.uta.edu/about
- Another growth market? Dallas emerges as a hub for health care staffing and services, Mitchell Schnurman, November 4, 2018, The Dallas Morning News, Accessed January 2020, Another growth market? Dallas emerges as a hub for health care staffing and services
- At a Glance, The University of Texas at El Paso, Accessed January 2020, https://www.utep.edu/initiatives/at-a-glance/
- Average Undergraduate Tuition and Fees, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed January 2020, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d18/tables/dt18_330.20.asp?current=yes:
- DBU Quick Facts, Dallas Baptist University, Accessed January 2020, https://www.dbu.edu/about/quick-facts
- General, Texas A&M International University, Accessed January 2020, https://www.tamiu.edu/general.shtml#abouttamiu
- History of The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Accessed January 2020, https://www.utrgv.edu/en-us/about-utrgv/history/index.htm
- LeTourneau University, Accessed January 2020, https://www.letu.edu/index.html
- List of Institutions, Independent Colleges & Universities of Texas, Accessed January 2020, https://www.icut.org/our-schools/list-of-institutions/
- Overview, Baylor University, Accessed January 2020, https://www.baylor.edu/about/index.php?id=88791
- Set in the Heart of Houston, Texas, Rice University, Accessed January 2020, https://www.rice.edu/about
- Wind is outpacing coal as a power source in Texas for the first time, Ryan Prior, July 25, 2019, CNN, Accessed January 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/25/us/texas-wind-energy-trnd/index.html