Texas Readiness Policies


High School and Postsecondary Alignment

SREB’s Challenge to Lead 2020 goals call for states to align middle grades and high school policies with college-readiness standards, to recognize multiple paths to graduation and to provide students with diverse postsecondary options and resources. The following tabs summarize how Texas aligns its policies to promote smooth transitions for students through high school and beyond.  


College and Career Readiness Definitions

College readiness is the level of preparation a student must attain in English language arts and mathematics courses to enroll and succeed, without remediation, in an entry-level general education course for credit in that same content area for a baccalaureate degree or associate degree program. It should be noted, however, that the measurement of college readiness through the Algebra II and English III assessments will be only one piece of information that students, parents, and schools will have in making readiness determinations. Algebra II and English III are courses students typically take in grade 11; after students have taken these assessments and potentially met the college-readiness performance standards, they will continue to take higher-level courses (i.e., calculus and English IV) in grade 12. Students will need to continue to acquire content knowledge and perform at a high level in these courses to fully prepare for postsecondary activities.


College and Career Planning in K-12

State law requires middle grades students who have failed a state test or are not likely to graduate high school on time to complete personal graduation plans. All other students complete such plans by the ninth grade. Districts must inform students entering ninth grade about the endorsement requirement for the Foundation high school diploma and about the distinguished level of achievement.

The College for All Texans campaign is a project of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The goal of the campaign is to increase college-going rates of Texas high school graduates. The campaign provides information for parents and for middle grades and high school students about preparing, applying and paying for college. The project also provides materials to schools and other organizations to help them promote college readiness, financial aid options and postsecondary education to Texas students.

The state also funds Texas On Course, a one-stop college and career planning resource for educators, students and their families. Students can explore career interests and job opportunities, assess their skills, and select high school coursework and endorsements that align with their postsecondary goals.

Texas Career Check, provided by the Texas Workforce Commission, provides an online high school graduation plan and career and education exploration tools to help students prepare for postsecondary work.


High School Graduation Requirements

Course and Diploma Requirements for Students Entering the Ninth Grade in 2014 and Beyond

Students must complete 22 credit hours to earn a Foundation High School Diploma. Under House Bill 5, students are required to choose an endorsement upon entering ninth grade and must complete four credits in one of five areas: STEM, business and industry, public services, arts and humanities, and multidisciplinary studies. 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.




Notes and Substitutions



English I

English II

English III

An advanced English course

AP, IB, or dual enrollment English courses or Advanced Composition 



Algebra I


An advanced math course

AP, IB or dual enrollment math courses




An approved lab-based science course

One credit or a combined two half-units of advanced science lab-based course(s)

AP, IB or dual enrollment math courses

Social Studies


U.S. History

1/2 credit U.S. Government

1/2 credit Economics

World History or World Geography

IB or dual enrollment social studies courses

Foreign Language


2 credits in the same language

Computer science and other courses

Physical Education



Fine Arts





Demonstrated proficiency in speech skills




Total Credits 22  

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 in the top 10% of their graduating class 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:

  • An earned associate degree
  • Business and industry-recognized certification or license
  • Dual credit (12 hours of credit with a GPA of 3.0 or higher)
  • Passing score on at least one AP or IB exam
  • Biliteracy (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)
  • SAT composite score of at least 1310
  • ACT composite score of 28 or higher (excluding the writing subscore)
  • Recognition as a commended scholar or higher on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test

Assessment Requirements

The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness program requires passing scores on five end-of-course exams to graduate: English I, English II, Algebra I, Biology I and U.S. History. STAAR English III and Algebra II are available for districts to administer as optional assessments. 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 determination.

Beginning with the 2020-21 academic year, all graduating high school students will be required to complete the FAFSA.

House Bill 5 requires districts to partner with at least one postsecondary institution to develop and provide college preparatory courses designed for high school seniors whose performance on an EOC assessment, college admissions or placement exam (e.g., ACT/SAT or Texas Success Initiative Assessment), or on coursework, does not meet college readiness standards. Students who successfully complete a college preparatory course are eligible to enroll directly, without remediation or further assessment, in college-level coursework in the associated content area at the partnering postsecondary institution.


Accelerated Learning Options in High School

Competency-Based Credit

The Texas Education Code § 28.023 allows high school students to receive course credit through the successful completion of Credit-by-Examination assessments which are approved by each local board of trustees. Each local board is required to approve at least four CBEs to include Advanced Placement and College Level Exam Program exams which may be locally developed or purchased.

Students must be awarded course credit if they score in the 80th percentile on a board of trustees approved course or if they earn a scaled score of 50 or higher on a CLEP exam. Districts may set required scores higher than the minimum (50) set by the Texas Education Code, but that score may be no higher than the 90th percentile and it must be established at the beginning of the year and last for at least the entire school year. Students may take an exam only once during each testing window and may not be charged a fee for doing so.

Career and Technical Education

Texas’ new career and technical education standards have been adapted from the National Career Clusters to a new Energy career cluster framework. The Division of College, Career and Military Preparation, through partnerships with members of the workforce, secondary education, and higher education, offers CTE programs of study – sequences of courses that can help prepare students for their chosen careers. Beginning in the 2020-21 school year, students participating in programs of study will be identified as either a concentrator — completing two or more courses for at least two credits in a single program of study — or as a completer – completing three or more courses for four or more credits.

Students may take CTE courses as dual credit courses and earn both secondary and postsecondary credit. Students who do not meet college-ready eligibility requirements can work toward Level 1 certificates, whereas students who can demonstrate college-readiness may pursue Level 2 certificates.

Beginning in 2017, Educate Texas partnered with the Texas Education Agency to offer Industry Cluster Innovative Academies and Pathways in Technology Early College High School grant monies to designated learning institutions throughout the state. The recipients of these grant funds design high school curricula focused on specific workforce needs in high-demand areas and create the opportunity for students to earn postsecondary degrees and certificates in these areas.

Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate

Students may receive college level credit for successful completion of an AP or International Baccalaureate exam. Districts should give a student high school course credit for a subject in which the student scores a 3 or higher on an AP exam. Individual postsecondary institutions determine the minimum scores for awarding college credit to students based on AP and IB exam scores.

The Texas Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate Incentive Program provides testing fee subsidies to students with demonstrated financial need. The Texas Education Agency provides $28 for each AP and IB exam taken. Districts may choose to further subsidize testing fees for students. College Board AP/IB courses may be substituted for required courses or qualify as electives.

Dual Enrollment and Dual Credit

Texas Education Code § 28.009 requires school districts to implement dual credit programs that allow students to earn both high school and postsecondary credit simultaneously. Students can earn up to the equivalent of 12 semester credit hours of college credit through enrollment in college-level courses such as AP, IB, advanced technical credit courses and articulated credit. High schools and postsecondary institutions enter into articulation agreements which govern, among other things, credit transfer agreements and college placement test requirements.

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. Any student enrolling in a dual credit course must meet a minimum score on one of various standardized tests, including the ACT and SAT. Other requirements vary depending on whether the student is enrolling in academic or workforce education courses, and on the postsecondary institution in which the student is enrolling.

Students may also participate in Texas’ dual enrollment program — On Ramps — and enroll both in high school and at a postsecondary institution. Students take separate high school and college courses and earn credit accordingly.

Concurrent enrollment allows students to enroll in a postsecondary institution while completing high school. Students do not receive high school credit for college courses taken in this instance. 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 enrollment courses, unless the college waives or reduces tuition, or the high school pays all or part of the cost.

Senate Bill 1276 (2019) requires dual credit agreements between postsecondary institutions and school districts to establish common advising strategies and terminology related to dual credit and college readiness, align certain endorsements with course offerings, and identify tools to assist school counselors, students, and families in selecting endorsements.

Early College High Schools

Students attending early college high schools may complete their high school diploma through the Recommended High School Program or the Distinguished Achievement Program and earn an associate degree or up to 60 college credits. School districts are required to pay any related tuition, fees and textbook costs beyond those waived by the institution of higher education. By November 2020, Texas had 182 designated Early College High Schools with 12 additional college campuses in the planning stages.

Early High School Graduation

House Bill 3 (81st Legislature) created the Early Readiness High School Graduation Option program which officially began in 2012. Students who demonstrate early readiness for college level work may graduate up to one year early and earn a distinguished level of achievement on their high school diploma. 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, SAT and ACT tests. After the 2022-23 school year, the school must provide students and parents with notification of the eligibility requirements when students initially enroll in high school.


Postsecondary Admission Requirements

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 480 on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and 530 on the Math SAT sub-tests (no combined scoring allowed).

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% of enrollment capacity.

Texas Foundation Diploma Requirements



Course Requirements



English I, II, III and advanced English course



Algebra I, geometry and advanced math course




Integrated Physics and Chemistry or advanced science course

Second advanced science course

Social Studies


American history

World history or geography

Half units of economics and government

Foreign Language


Districts may waive this requirement to expand number of courses in elective focus

Fine Arts



Physical Education





Demonstrated proficiency







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

  • four units each in English, math, science and social studies
  • Algebra II
  • a four-unit endorsement in one of five areas — STEM, business and industry, public services, arts and humanities or multi-disciplinary studies

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.


Postsecondary Placement Policies


Students who present minimum qualifying scores on one of six college-readiness assessments may enroll in any entry-level college courses without placement testing through the Texas Success Initiative Assessment. 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 New SAT* TAKS
Composite 23 1070
English 19 2200
Reading 500 480
Math 19 500 530 2200
*New SAT first administered after March 5, 2016
**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.

Before taking the TSIA, students participate in a Pre-Assessment Activity, which varies by institution but must include test preparation and academic counseling. Students who do not meet or exceed TSIA cut scores (Math, 350; Reading, 351; Writing, 340 with an essay score of at least 4) must work with a counselor to determine whether they may need to enroll in developmental education or may be able to enroll in a developmental intervention and college-credit course at the same time.  


State Financial Aid for Undergraduates

Merit-Based Aid

The Texas Tuition Equalization Grant provides financial aid to students attending nonpublic institutions. Eligible students may receive an annual award of up to $3,497 if they earn 24 credits per year and maintain a cumulative grade-point average of 2.5. The state authorizes institutions to award additional funds to students with exceptional financial need, defined as an Expected Family Contribution less than $1,000.

Need-Based Aid

The state funds three need-based grant programs. Applicants must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to determine financial need. To retain their award, recipients must complete 75% of credits hours attempted and maintain minimum grade-point averages. 

The Toward EXcellence, Access, and Success or TEXAS Grant provides need-based aid to eligible students who enroll at Texas public universities within sixteen months of high school graduation and have a qualifying Expected Family Contribution.

Students also may qualify for the TEXAS Grant through one of three alternative routes:

  • Earn an associate degree from an in-state college and enroll in an eligible institution within 12 months.
  • Enlist in the military within 12 months of high school graduation and enroll in an eligible institution within 12 months of honorable discharge.
  • Transfer to a public university after earning at least 24 semester credits with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Eligible students must hold the initial Texas Education Opportunity Grant.

Students receive priority consideration for TEXAS Grant awards if they meet the basic requirements, apply before the state priority deadline, and satisfy at least two of the following requirements:

  • Advanced Math: Earn course credit in a math course beyond Algebra II or at least one advanced career and technical course.
  • Advanced Programs: Complete 12 hours of college credit, the Recommended or Advanced High School Program, or the International Baccalaureate Program.
  • Class Standing: Graduate in top third of high school class or graduate with a 3.0 GPA or higher.
  • Readiness Benchmarks: Demonstrate readiness by meeting the Texas Success Initiative assessment thresholds or qualify for TSI exemption through another qualifying test (ACT, SAT, Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills).

To receive the first renewal TEXAS award, students must meet the institution’s satisfactory academic progress requirements. Subsequent awards require students to maintain a cumulative 2.5 GPA and complete at least 24 credit hours per year.

The maximum annual TEXAS award is $10,078.

The Texas Educational Opportunity Grant provides need-based aid to students enrolled in associate degree or certificate programs at public two-year institutions who have earned less than 30 college credits and have a qualifying Expected Family Contribution.

Recipients of the Texas Educational Opportunity Grant remain eligible for aid for four years, until they complete 75 semester credits or earn an associate degree, whichever comes first. Award amounts vary by institutional category and credit-hour enrollment. The maximum annual award for full-time enrollment is $1,707 per semester at public community colleges, $1,533 per semester at public state colleges and $3,979 per semester at technical institutions.

The award amounts for the TEXAS and Education Opportunity Grants vary by institution type.




Postsecondary Feedback to High Schools

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board provides reports on High School Graduates Enrolled in Higher Education the Following Fall. The board’s data dashboard includes data on postsecondary enrollment and first-year student success indicators.