Texas – High School to College & Careers


College and Career Readiness

The Texas College and Career Readiness Standards define what students should know and accomplish in order to succeed in entry-level college courses or skilled workforce opportunities. Students entering 9th grade in 2014-2015 or later have the option of graduating under the 22 credit Foundation High School Program with at least one 4-credit endorsement. The Foundation High School program with endorsement is the default graduation requirement. A student, with written approval of parent/guardian and a high school official, may be permitted to graduate without an endorsement. High school students are required to pass five State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) end-of-course exams, counting 15 percent toward the final grade in each course, to meet graduation requirements. Students who have failed no more than two of the required end-of-course exams are eligible for Individual Graduation Committee (IGC) review and may be given permission to use scores on the Texas Success Initiative (TSI) assessment in lieu of scores on the required STAAR assessments. Districts are required to provide remediation to a student at any grade level who fails a STARR assessment.

College and Career Planning

High School Graduation Requirements

Course and Diploma Requirements

House Bill 5 (2013) authorizes the Texas State Board of Education to adopt rules for the new Foundation High School Program. The Texas commissioner of education has developed a transition plan to replace the Recommended, Distinguished, and Minimum Diplomas with the Foundation Program. Students who enter ninth-grade in the 2014-2015 school year will be the first group required to graduate under the Foundation High School Program.

Subject Foundation* Minimum Recommended Distinguished
English Language 4 4 4 4
Mathematics 3 3 4 4
Science 3 2 4 4
Social Studies 3 3 4 4
Physical Education 1 1 1 1
Languages other than English 2 None 2 2
Fine Arts 1 1 1 1
Speech Demonstrated proficiency 0.5 0.5 0.5
Electives 5 7.5 5.5 4.5
TOTAL 22 26 26 22

*Required for all freshman entering high school after August 2014. Rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors may graduate under any of the four diploma programs.

Subjects Common Requirements Foundation Minimum Distinguished and Recommended
English Language

English I

English II

English III

Advanced English course English IV or approved alternative course English IV

Algebra I


Advanced math course State Board of Education approved math course

Algebra II

An additional math credit

Science Biology

IPC* or advanced course

Second advanced course



An additional science credit



An additional science credit

Social Studies

U.S. History

Government (one-half credit)

Economics (one-half credit)

World History or World Geography

  World History and World Geography  

*IPC is “Integrated Physics and Chemistry,” a one-credit course.

Under House Bill 5, students entering ninth-grade after fall 2014 are required to choose an endorsement and complete an additional four credits in one of five areas: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), business & industry, public services, arts & humanities, or multidisciplinary studies. Like current diploma options, students and families may opt out of additional requirements after completion of the sophomore year and after consultation with high school counselors. Students who complete the Foundation Program, with or without an endorsement, are eligible for general admission to a Texas public 4-year institution. However, students who graduate without completing an endorsement and specific coursework may not meet admissions requirements at certain state colleges and universities.

Distinguished Level of Achievement

Graduates can earn the distinguished level of achievement designation by completing 26 credits including four credits in math (including credit in Algebra II), four credits in science, and completion of curriculum requirements for at least one endorsement. Receiving this designation gives students Top 10% automatic admissions eligibility and priority for the need-based TEXAS grant, if financially qualified. 

Performance Acknowledgments

House Bill 5 requires the development of performance acknowledgments — awards that students may earn by completing certain programs of study or for receiving credit toward future college and career opportunities. Specific acknowledgments include, but are not limited to:

Degrees and Certificates

  • An earned associate degree
  • Business and industry recognized certification or license

Accelerated Learning Options

  • Dual credit (12 hours of credit with a GPA of 3.0 or higher)
  • Passing score on at least one AP or IB exam
  • Bilingualism (minimum GPA of the equivalent of 80 on a scale of a 100 in English language arts and minimum proficiency on Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, AP, or IB exams)

Performance on Standardized Tests

  • SAT scores of at least 410 on the reading section and 520 on the math section
  • ACT composite score of 28 or higher
  • Recognition as a commended scholar or higher by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation

Assessment Requirements

The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) program requires passing scores on five end-of-course (EOC) exams to graduate: English I, English II, Algebra I, biology, and U.S. history. STAAR English III and Algebra II are now available for districts to administer as optional assessments. House Bill 3 requires scores on the EOCs to count as 15 percent of a student’s final course grade. A student who has failed the EOC assessment graduation requirements for no more than two courses may receive a Texas high school diploma if the student has qualified to graduate by means of an individual graduation committee (IGC) determination.

Accelerated Learning Options

Dual and Concurrent Enrollment

Texas requires districts to implement programs that allow students to earn the equivalent of 12 semester credit hours of college credit through concurrent enrollment (college credit only) and/or dual enrollment (credit in both high school and college) or other mechanisms (AP, IB, articulated credit, etc.). To be eligible, high school students must meet certain minimum requirements. Typically, students may enroll in college courses after the sophomore year of high school.

Students who have scored high enough on certain standardized tests, including the ACT and SAT, are not required to take the state-mandated assessment to qualify for concurrent or dual enrollment. Students may take college-level courses related to the parts of the qualifying assessment(s) that they have passed.

The state requires students and their families to pay for dual credit courses, unless the college waives or reduces tuition or the high school pays all or part of the cost.

Early College High Schools

Students attending early college high schools (ECHS) may earn a high school diploma and up to 60 college credits.  In some cases, high school graduates receive a diploma and an associate degree.  These programs provide traditionally underserved students with college credit at no cost to the student.

Advanced Placement

The Texas Education Agency provides an Advanced Placement (AP) test fee subsidy for students with demonstrated financial need. The incentive program also rewards schools that increase access to AP courses and exams by giving a one-time award of $100 for each student who passes an AP test.

Early High School Graduation

House Bill 3 (2009) created the Early Readiness High School Graduation Option pilot program. Districts partner with research universities to create an alternative route to a high school diploma. Eligible students attend a high school in a district with a partnership agreement and meet proficiency requirements on AP, IB, College Level Examination Program (CLEP), SAT, and ACT tests. 

The state once awarded Early High School Graduation scholarships. Budget cuts led to the discontinuation of the funding; the enabling legislation, however, is still in force if legislators choose to re-fund the program in the future. 

Career and Technical Education

The state has adopted the National Career Clusters Framework through its AchieveTexas College and Career Initiative. The Texas Education Agency authorizes districts to deliver career preparation and practicum courses in which students receive a combination of classroom instruction and business and industry experience.

Postsecondary Admissions

Four-Year Institutions

Students who graduated high school in the last two years receive automatic admission to four-year institutions, except for the University of Texas at Austin, if they meet the following criteria:

  • Place in the Top 10% of their graduating class
  • Complete the Foundation Diploma requirements at the Distinguished Level
  • Meet the ACT Benchmarks (i.e., 18 English, 22 Reading, 22 Math, and 23 Science) or score 1500 (out of 2400) on SAT.

Students who do not qualify for automatic admission may apply to four-year institutions if they earn the Foundation Diploma or meet the ACT Benchmarks. The University of Texas at Austin admits students through the Top 10% Plan up to 75 percent of enrollment capacity.

Texas Foundation Diploma Requirements

Subject Credits Course Requirements
English 4 English I, II, III and an advanced English course
Math 3 AlgebraI, Geometry, and an advanced math course
Science 3 Biology, Integrated Physics and Chemistry or advanced science, and a second advanced science course
Foreign Language 2 District may waive this requirement to expand number of courses in elective focus
Fine Arts 1  
Phys. Ed 1  
Speech N/A Demonstrated proficiency
Electives 5  
Total 22  

To attain the Distinguished level, students must complete 26 units including:

  • four units each in English, math, science, and social studies;
  •  Algebra II;
  • four-unit endorsement in one of five areas: STEM, business and industry, public services, arts & humanities, or multi-disciplinary studies;
  • three levels of the same foreign language; and
  • one half unit in Speech

Two-Year and/or Technical Colleges

Applicants are eligible to apply to two-year institutions if they are 17 years of age or older and possess a high school diploma or equivalency credential. Those without diplomas or the equivalent must demonstrate that they can benefit from instruction. Texas public community and technical colleges primarily serve their local taxing districts and service areas offering vocational, technical, and academic courses for certification or associate degrees. Continuing education, remedial and compensatory education consistent with open-admission policies, and programs of counseling and guidance are also provided. 

Postsecondary Placement

Students who present minimum qualifying scores on one of six college-readiness assessments may enroll in any entry-level college courses without placement testing. Veterans and active-duty military, transfer students who have satisfied readiness requirements at other institutions, and students enrolled in a short-term certificate program at a public two-year campus also are exempt from placement testing.

Texas College Readiness Benchmarks

Sub-test ACT SAT (prior to 3/1/16) New SAT TAAS TAKS STAAR
Composite 23 1070 - - - -
English 19 - - 1770 2200 Level 2 score on English III
Reading - 500 480 89 - 85
Math 19 500 530 86 2200 Level 2 score on Algebra II

TAAS is the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills. TAKS is the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. STAAR is the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness.

Institutions administer the Texas Success Initiative Assessment (TSIA) for students who do not meet the exemption criteria. Students participate in a Pre-Assessment Activity, which includes test preparation and academic counseling. Students who do not meet or exceed TSIA cut scores (Math, 350; Reading, 351; Writing, 350/5 363/4) must work with a counselor to develop an academic success plan for exiting developmental education status. Institutions may offer one or more of the following:

  • Stand-alone, developmental education
  • Co-requisite/mainstreaming models
  • Non-course competency-based options
  • Modular/technology-based options

Postsecondary to High School Feedback Reports

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board provides high schools with a number of feedback reports. The report High School Graduates Enrolled in Higher Education the Following Fall by High School County, School District, High School provides high schools with information on the numbers of their graduates who enrolled in college the following fall and which institutions they attended. Other reports provide high schools with information on graduates’ college readiness, freshman-year performance (college GPA), and degree completion rates.

State Financial Aid

Texas does not sponsor a statewide, merit-based scholarship program.

The Towards Excellence, Access and Success (TEXAS) Grant provides up to $8,000 annually to eligible students who enroll at Texas public universities within 16 months of high school graduation, whose expected family contribution is less than $4,800, and who successfully complete the Foundation, Recommended, or Distinguished Achievement high school diploma. Students who earn an associate degree, transferred to a four-year institution with at least 24 credit hours and a GPA of 2.5 or higher may also be eligible. Effective fall 2014, new community and technical college students are no longer eligible to receive TEXAS Grants. Continuing community and technical college students may continue to receive renewal awards if eligible.   

Students receive priority consideration for TEXAS Grant awards if they satisfy requirements in at least two of the following four areas: (1) advanced academic programs; (2) Texas Success Initiative (TSI) college readiness; (3) class standing; or, (4) advanced math.

To receive a TEXAS Renewal Grant, eligible students must maintain an overall GPA of 2.5 and complete at least 24 credit hours per year. Students may renew TEXAS Grants for up to five years.

Students with demonstrated financial need who rank in the top 10 percent of their high school class, complete the Recommended or Distinguished achievement program , and enroll full time in Texas public colleges or universities  may be eligible to participate in the Top 10% Scholarship Program. This program awards eligible students up to $2,000 per year. While the Top 10% Program has a Workforce Bonus Award, the Legislature did not provide sufficient funding for this supplement for the fall 2013 and 2014 semesters.

In order to renew the Top 10% Award, eligible students must complete at least 75 percent of credit-hours attempted, maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.25, and complete at least 30 credit hours per year.

The Texas Educational Opportunity Grant (TEOG) was created in 2001 (Texas Education Code Section 56.402) to provide grant aid for tuition and required fees to financially needy students who enroll in Texas public two-year colleges. Public two-year colleges have experienced a substantial growth in enrollment over the last two years, accounting for an estimated 56 percent of public higher education enrollment in fall 2011. To be eligible for a TEOG, a student must be enrolled at a public community college, technical college, or state college, have an Estimated Family Contribution of no more than $2,000, and enroll in at least six semester credit hours per term.

Students who continue in college and who meet continuing eligibility requirements may receive awards for up to 75 semester credit hours, for four years, or until they receive an associate degree, whichever comes first. The continuing eligibility requirements are: (1) Meet the school’s Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements at the end of first year; and (2) by the end of second year – complete at least 75 percent of the hours attempted in the prior academic year with an overall college GPA of at least 2.5 on a 4.0 scale.

The award amount is equal to the statewide average of a student’s tuition and required fees. The financial aid office at the college the student is attending will notify the student if he/she is eligible for a TEOG.

Special Thanks

We would like to thank the staff at the following agencies for their assistance in carefully reviewing and confirming the accuracy of the policies and programs described in this document:

Texas Education Agency

Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board


College for All Texans
Generation TX
Texas Constitution and Statutes
Texas Education Agency
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
Texas Higher Education Data
Texas Legislature