25 Top Hidden Gem Colleges in Texas


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Hidden Gems in Texas

Hidden Gems in Texas offer quality online degree programs and are some of the best small schools in the great state of Texas!

However, there are also many smaller universities throughout the state. These small colleges on our list offer quality education and also have online degree programs. These Hidden Gems of Texas are some of the best schools you’ve never heard of!

How We Ranked The Hidden Gems in Texas

The editors at Online Schools Guide found smaller schools in Texas with an excellent academic reputation that offer online degree programs. Then, we ranked the programs based on the cost of attendance and the number of online offerings.

1. Sul Ross State University

website: Sul Ross State University
Sul Ross State University is one of the Hidden Gems in Texas

Open spaces and national parks surround Sul Ross State University’s main campus. It is located in Alpine and offers the perfect environment for its world-class observatory and working ranch. Its three extension campuses in Uvalde, Del Rio, and Eagle Pass comprise Rio Grande College. Partnered with Southwest Texas Junior College, they support an easy transition to SRSU to complete a bachelor’s degree. With over 2500 students enrolled, SRSU offers undergraduate and graduate degrees from agriculture to art. All are provided within The College of Agriculture, Life and Physical Sciences, Education and Professional Studies, Literature, Arts, and Social Sciences, or College of Graduate Studies.

SRSU offers the same challenging curriculum for traditional or distance students. In addition, online programs using state-of-the-art technologies are offered for bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geology, business administration, and political science. This school is truly one of the Hidden Gems in Texas.

Location: Alpine, Texas

Online programs: 26

2. Hallmark University

website: Hallmark University
Hallmark University - Hidden Gems in Texas

Hallmark University, a faith-based non-profit school, began in 1969 as Hallmark Aero-Tech housed in San Antonio’s historic Stinson Municipal airport. Eight students enrolled in its first program of Aviation Maintenance Technology. In 2015, this technological school became Hallmark University focusing on student, business, and community needs while catering to Hispanic and Latino students. Today it offers certificates, associate bachelor’s, and master’s degrees in information technology, business, nursing, and aeronautics. Only four programs are offered to provide an affordable, faster, and more immersive education with practical outcomes.

Touted as one of the best online colleges, HU offers online BS degrees in Aviation Maintenance Management and Nursing for RNs. In addition, MBAs are offered in Leadership, Healthcare Management, Global Management, and Cyber Risk Management.

Location: San Antonio, Texas

Online programs: 6

3. Houston Baptist University

website: Houston Baptist University
Houston Baptist University is one of the Hidden Gems in Texas

Houston Baptist University is a leading Christian university in Texas. Offering over 100 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees, HBU lives up to its classification as a national comprehensive university. Over 2700 undergraduate students are taught 100% by faculty, not graduate assistants. Houston Baptist University prides itself on the highest academic and professional excellence in all its faculty and staff.

Its comprehensive offerings are also apparent with online bachelor programs, including biblical studies, interdisciplinary studies, RN to BSN, and more. Online master’s degrees range from an MA in Theological Studies, a Master in Divinity, a Master of Science in Nursing, and Human Resources Management.

Location: Houston, TX

Online programs: 29

4. University of St. Thomas

website: University of St. Thomas

Located in the heart of Houston, the University of St. Thomas is a comprehensive university grounded in the liberal arts. It is a Catholic university committed to traditional Catholic higher education and Campus Ministry with a dialogue between faith and reason. Founded by the Basilian Fathers in 1947, UST embodies the core values of goodness, discipline, and knowledge. It offers diversity in its student body of all faiths or no faith. UST also offers over 40 undergraduate majors and 30 graduate degrees.

For students juggling professional lives with continuing education, bachelor’s and master’s degrees are also offered online. These include programs in cybersecurity, technology, MA in Theology, and Master of Education, to name a few.

Location: Houston, TX

Online programs: 26

5. Abilene Christian University

website: Abilene Christian University

Located in the Texas town of Abilene, this university sits on 270 acres of green space filled with world-class facilities. Founded in 1906, Abilene Christian University is one of the largest private institutions in the Southwest, inspiring students with a holistic view of education. With a total student population of 5200, 96% of its graduates are either employed or enrolled in graduate/professional programs six months after graduation. ACU offers 79 undergraduate and 28 competitive graduate programs, including accounting, journalism, nutrition, and an MA in Communication, English, and Theology.

ACU Dallas, a branch campus in Addison, Texas, is home to the university’s 39 online graduate and undergraduate programs. Students can manage personal obligations while pursuing higher degrees in communication, management, and Masters of Arts, Science, Education, and Divinity.

Location: Abilene, Texas

Online programs: 39

6. Amberton University

website: Amberton University

In Garland, Amberton University began as an extension campus of Abilene Christian University in 1971, focusing on adult education. It later became Amberton University, adding ‘ton,’ meaning town, to its name to better describe the community it served. AU’s student population consists entirely of mature students with an average age of 30-45 years who have not attended college for ten years. Students can pay as they go to stay within their budgets and set their own pace while maintaining busy lifestyles.

Both in-person and online courses are identical in content and expectations taught by faculty who are professionals in the subjects they teach. Online programs include a Bachelor of Business Administration, a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Development, a Master of Science in Family Studies, and a Master of Arts in School Counseling.

Location: Garland, Texas

Online programs: 27

7. Dallas Baptist University

website: Dallas Baptist University

Dallas Baptist University sits on a 368-acre campus within a large metropolitan area providing many cultural and diverse opportunities. It is a Christ-centered University affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Founded in 1898 as Decatur Baptist College, DBU has more than 100 years of academic excellence with a transformative curriculum integrating faith and learning. DBU offers its 4487 students the opportunity to work towards various certifications, bachelor’s, master’s, post-baccalaureate, and doctoral degrees.

Students can still experience a Christ-centered community with online undergraduate and graduate programs. These include studies in criminal justice, psychology, and master’s degrees in Ministry, liberal arts, and education. DSU also offers a variety of online certificate programs.

Location: Dallas, Texas

Online programs: 39

8. Our Lady of the Lake University

website: Our Lady of the Lake University

Our Lady of the Lake University is a private Catholic university that serves the Hispanic community and working adults. The main campus in San Antonio offers a comprehensive education while inspiring new leaders with the core values of community, integrity, trust, and service. The Sisters of Divine Providence started this school in 1895 as an all-girl high school. Later, it expanded to offer 4-year programs.

Today over 2770 coed students benefit from the university’s hallmark hands-on approach in more than 75 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. In addition, students can earn a double major or minor in less time than a single one from other universities. Students who must balance family and school can choose several online programs to advance their careers. These include a Bachelor in Social Work, Master of Arts in Counseling, and Master of Science in Cybersecurity.

Location: San Antonio, Texas

Online programs: 14

9. LeTourneau University

website: LeTourneau University

LeTourneau University is a non-denominational Christian university with a Christ-centered approach to teaching and learning. Located in Longview, it began in 1946 when RG and Evelyn LeTourneau used a vacated Army hospital to educate returning WWII veterans. It later became a four-year coeducational college and LeTourneau University in 1989. Today, it hosts schools in arts and sciences, aviation and aeronautical science, business, education, engineering, nursing, psychology and counseling, and theology and vocation. All programs are taught by faculty with years of specific industry experience.

One-third of Letourneau students participate in online programs exclusively. In addition, students can opt for online undergraduate degrees, including aviation management, business, and theology, and masters in both business and education.

Location: Longview, Texas

Online programs: 37

10. St. Mary’s University (Texas)

website: St. Mary’s University

Founded by the Marianist Brothers in 1852, St. Mary’s University is the oldest Catholic University in the Southwest. Its pristine 135-acre campus lies near San Antonio’s Banks of the River Walk. For over 150 years, St. Mary’s University has guided students to develop critical thinking and problem-solving with a curriculum of academic excellence. It offers over 50 undergraduate and15 graduate degrees through its four schools of Business, Arts, Sciences, and Law.

Students can earn a degree around their work schedule with exclusive or hybrid online programs, including an MS in Software Engineering and an MA in International Relations. Students may also Certificates may also be earned online for programs including Digital Communication and English Literature.

Location: San Antonio, Texas

Online programs: 4

11. Midwestern State University

website: Midwestern State University

Home of the Mustangs, Midwestern State University is a public liberal arts university in Wichita Falls. Started in 1922 as a municipal junior college, it now has over 5700 students representing 44 states and 54 foreign countries. Over 80% of these students receive financial aid due to a special tuition rate offered to US non-Texas residents. Undergraduates have a comprehensive arts and sciences core curriculum and are encouraged to explore collaborative and innovative opportunities within and beyond the campus.

Committed to providing all the tools distance students need, MSU offers a variety of online programs from within the walls of its four colleges. These include a BS in Radiologic Science, MS in Nursing, Master of Education in Special Education, and many more.

Location: Wichita Falls, Texas

Online programs: 26

12. University of Dallas

website: University of Dallas

Called ‘The Catholic University for Independent Thinkers,’ the University of Dallas is a private liberal arts university in Irving. UD welcomes students of all faiths to study a comprehensive and academically rigorous curriculum on a campus surrounded by the large metropolitan area of Dallas/Fort Worth. Its goal is to develop responsible leaders prioritizing ethics over technical and people over things.

UD offers online programs with the same comprehensive and rigorous curriculum as on-campus classes. In addition, the school provides easy access to all textbooks and assignments required in courses taught by the same distinguished on-campus professors. Available master programs include cybersecurity, cyber intelligence, and Catholic school leadership, with the Master of Ministry and Master of Business Administration offered 100% online.

Location: Irving, Texas

Online programs: 12

13. Wayland Baptist University

website: Wayland Baptist University

The city of Plainview in the Highlands of West Texas is the home of Wayland Baptist University’s main campus. With eight academic schools and extension campuses in 6 states, WBU offers 65 programs of study. This liberal arts university provides a stable Christian environment with academic excellence and personalized attention. Whether you are a veteran seeking a reintegration program, a working adult looking for a flexible schedule, or a traditional student, you can become one of the 4000 students served by WBU.

WBU has been offering online courses since 2001 for independent and involved learners requiring flexible schedules. Certificates, master’s, bachelor’s, and associate degrees are available in courses that include applied science, business administration, nursing (MSN), and criminal justice.

Location: Plainview, Texas

Online programs: 30

14. Hardin-Simmons University

website: Hardin-Simmons University

Hardin-Simmons University opened its doors in 1891 as Abilene Baptist College to 60 students. Since then, HSU has grown into a quality Christian university with five schools and colleges offering academic excellence, affordability, and faith-inspired learning. The Home of the Cowboys offers 50 undergraduate and 13 graduate degrees and a Fast-Track Program for entering undergraduates.

Online students can enroll in fall, spring, or summer classes and opt for an accelerated track for learning. Both bachelor’s and master’s degrees are available in nursing, criminal justice, and kinesiology, to name a few.

Location: Abilene, Texas

Online programs: 11

15. Southwestern Adventist University

website: Southwestern Adventist University

Situated in Keene, south of Fort Worth, Southwestern Adventist University is a small comprehensive university operated by the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Founded in 1894 as a school for all grades, it now offers nine programs ranging from business to nursing and a one-year Student Missionary Program. One of the most diverse colleges in Texas, SWAU has a 47.2% Hispanic and 80% minority population. It is designated a Hispanic Serving Institution and part of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.

Fully online students can earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees at their own pace in general studies, criminal justice, and education, among others. Students also qualify for 50% lower tuition than on-campus students to help ease the challenges of seeking higher education.

Location: Keene, Texas

Online programs: 9

16. University of Mary Hardin-Baylor

website: University of Mary Hardin-Baylor

Named after a benefactor, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor is a liberal arts university dedicated to Baptist Christian principles. It is the oldest college for women west of the Mississippi that became coeducational in 1971. Located in Belton, just 60 miles south of Austin, UMHB prioritizes student achievement. It offers 61 undergraduate degrees from music to journalism to graphic design. In addition, over 3800 students learn leadership and faith-inspired discernment in a global society.

UMHB offers fully online, hybrid, and standalone courses. Distance students can learn at their own pace with the personal support system of career coaches and faculty. Areas of study include undergraduate degrees in organizational leadership and an RN to BSN program. Online graduate programs include an MBA and MS degrees in Management, Informational Systems, and Sports Administration.

Location: Belton, Texas

Online programs: 8

17. Schreiner University

website: Schreiner University

Affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, Schreiner University had its beginnings as a military institute. It was named after the Texas ranger who provided the land and endowment for its inception in 1923. Located in Kerrville, Schreiner University is a small university of about 2000 students that proudly values and honors the Texan spirit and fortitude with its Texas Center and Songkeepers Program. Today, it boasts six Business, Education, Nursing, Career Development, Equity and Inclusion, and Military Support colleges. 

Ranked as one of the best online schools in Texas, Schreiner University encourages students to achieve more through its enhanced learning opportunities. SU offers an RN to BSN program and master’s degrees in Business Administration and Education and other Certificate Training Courses.

Location: Kerrville, Texas

Online Programs: 5

18. Texas Lutheran University

website: Texas Lutheran University

The home of the Bulldogs is a small private college in Seguin that offers challenging academic programs in liberal arts and science to 1400 students. It has been providing a faith-based community of Lutheran traditions for 130 years. Committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, TLU is a Hispanic Serving Institute that encourages open dialogue and the exchange of diverse ideas. Over 95% of students receive financial aid or scholarships. Texas Lutheran University offers 27 majors, 37 minors, four graduate degrees, and 12 pre-professional programs. It also builds networks with local businesses to aid in student experiences and development.

For those with professional or family responsibilities, TLU proudly offers online programs of academic excellence in Master of Business Administration and a Master of Arts in Education.

Location: Seguin, Texas

Online programs: 2

19. McMurry University

website: McMurry University

In 2023, McMurry University will celebrate its Centennial year as a Liberal Arts and Sciences institution following the United Methodist tradition. Located in Abilene, MCM focuses on providing a personalized and comprehensive learning environment for its 1100 students. Faculty with the highest degree in their fields teach all classes. They give one-on-one attention as they challenge students with innovative ideas and teaching. Undergraduate programs at MCM include science, religion, visual and performing arts, and an Interdisciplinary Degree.

McMurry University proudly offers more affordable online programs than most 4-year private colleges. In addition, the same faculty teach on-campus and seven-week-long online courses. Programs offered are bachelor in business, criminal justice, cyber security, and nursing.

Location: Abilene, Texas

Online Programs: 4

20. Jarvis Christian University

website: Jarvis Christian University
Jarvis Christian University

A private, accredited Liberal Arts institution affiliated with the Disciples of Christ Church, Jarvis Christian University is located in Hawkins, just 100 miles from Dallas. It sits on 1000 acres of a beautiful wooded area that provides room for expansion. Founded in 1913 as an elementary institute, JCU now offers AA, BA, BS, BSW, and BBA degrees in various areas. It provides students with an optimal and supportive educational experience by encouraging scholarship, life-long learning, and community involvement. 

JCU also supports online students through financial assistance and opportunities to shorten the time needed for degree completion. Degrees offered online include bachelor’s and master’s programs in criminal justice and business administration, with more programs planned for the future.

Location: Hawkins, Texas

Online Programs: 3

21. Texas Wesleyan University

website: Texas Wesleyan University

Texas Wesleyan University takes the ‘Smaller. Smarter.’ approach to higher learning by intentionally staying small. Located in Fort Worth, the school of the blue and gold is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Originally designated as a Woman’s College, it reemerged in 1935 as a coeducational liberal arts institution. Today it offers seven undergraduate and 11 graduate degrees, including one in Nurse Anesthesia, the largest in the nation. In addition, TWU’s Dual Degree program combines bachelor’s and master’s degrees, while the Dual Enrollment Program lets high school seniors enroll in university classes to jumpstart their collegiate education. 

For those who want convenience and speed with all the tools they need to learn, TWU also provides programs that are 100% online. Students can earn a Bachelor of Business Administration, Family Nurse Practitioner Degree, MBA, or Master of Education.

Location: Fort Worth, Texas

Online Programs: 4

22. East Texas Baptist University

website: East Texas Baptist University

East Texas Baptist University, located in Marshall, has provided a Christ-centered environment for over 100 years. Committed to academic integrity, ETBU also believes in developing the whole student through an education integrating biblical faith and learning. ETBU is small enough to provide one-on-one mentoring and financial aid to over 99% of its 1700 students. Its eight schools offer 43 undergraduate and 11 graduate programs in business, communication, performing arts, humanities, professional studies, and many more.

The home of the Tiger also offers online programs for busy professionals seeking courses at a Christ-centered University with more flexibility. Bachelor’s degrees in business, clinical lab science, leadership, and master’s degrees in business, education, Ministry, and nursing are available.

Location: Marshall, Texas

Online Programs: 8

23. Texas A & M University-Texarkana

website: Texas A & M University-Texarkana

Texas A&M University-Texarkana has been a member of the Texas A&M University System since 1996. A NE Texas location positions it to equally serve the states of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas as a comprehensive regional university. The home of the Eagles welcomes individuality in a small college environment with extensive university resources. It houses two colleges that provide academic excellence and experiential learning through hands-on opportunities. 

Mass communication, political science, and electrical engineering are just a few programs offered by this Hidden Gem in Texas. Texas A&M University Texarkana has four programs for those seeking completely online degrees. These include an MBA, RN to BSN, Master of Science in Nursing, and Instructional Technology. 

Location: Texarkana, Texas

Online Programs: 4

24. Arlington Baptist University

website: Arlington Baptist University

Originating as a Bible Institute in 1925, Arlington Baptist College continues to provide an informed biblical worldview through 21 bachelor’s and master’s degrees. It transforms students into ‘Worldchangers’ with character enhancement, cultural excellence, and community engagement. Its four undergraduate schools offer programs ranging from biblical counseling to education and intercultural studies. The Graduate School of Theology provides an extension of teachings offered with a Bachelor of Theology. The Graduate School of Education also allows students to become classroom educators with the highest qualifications.

Distance learning at ABC is not tied to a semester schedule and can be initiated at any time. Online programs include biblical counseling, education, interdisciplinary studies, and pastoral Ministry.

Location: Arlington, Texas

Online Programs: 4

25. Dallas Christian College

website: Dallas Christian College

Proud of its affordability, Dallas Christian College welcomes a diverse student body by offering accelerated degree tracks to minimize tuition costs. Its mission is to educate and mentor students to engage in their calling toward Christ. Accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education, Dallas Christian College strongly connects with the Restoration Movement Churches in the Southwest. Located in Dallas, the college offers students the opportunity to enjoy various cultural and dining venues off-campus.

Dallas Christian College led the way for online learning twenty years ago when it designed these affordable distance learning programs for students. The online curriculum includes business, humanities, biblical and practical Ministry, interdisciplinary studies, and psychology.

Location: Dallas, Texas

Online Programs: 5

What are Hidden Gems in Texas?

A Hidden Gem in Texas is a college or university with a small student body. Many of these private schools have religious affiliations. However, there are state-supported public schools that also fit this category.

What are the Benefits of Attending a Small College or University in Texas?

Small colleges can be very different from prominent universities. And this experience students in smaller schools have can make a big difference in their overall college experience. Of course, most students who attend an established institution get an excellent education. However, other factors can make your college experience the best years of your life!

Hidden Gems in Texas are small colleges and universities where students thrive. These schools have a low student-to-faculty ratio, so students get more direct attention from the professors who teach the courses. And overall, students get a more personal education and feel like a part of a community.

Why Do Students Attend Small Colleges or Hidden Gems in Texas?

Students who attend small colleges go there for many different reasons. Some like the idea of a smaller campus and a close community. After high school, attending a university the size of a small town is overwhelming to some students.

Additionally, many students want to school with other students with similar values. This is especially true for students who attend religious institutions.

Are Small Colleges that are Hidden Gems in Texas More Expensive?

Public institutions receive funding from the state and federal governments. Private universities don’t have access to the same budget. So, for many private colleges, the tuition is more expensive than for state-supported schools.

Many students don’t know most private schools have additional funding for their students. This money comes from gifts to the school and its endowment. This school-based aid considerably reduces what a student pays when calculated as part of the total cost. Therefore, the final cost of private school tuition can be much less than what you read on their website.

Furthermore, each student’s total cost is different since financial need is part of the equation. Many students are surprised that private tuition can be less than at a public university. But you must go through the steps and determine your financial aid package before comparing. So, it’s best to narrow your list to a few schools you want to attend and then compare the cost.

Are the Smaller Hidden Gems in Texas Better Colleges?

The best school for you is the college or university that meets your specific needs. Everyone’s different, and only you know what is the best fit for your educational goals and needs. So, it is essential to understand where you will thrive.

Independent learners do well at large universities. However, some students need more interaction with professors and individualized attention. These students may find the small classes at a small college are a better fit. And one of our Hidden Gems in Texas may be the place for you!


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