Highest Ranking Graduate
The Highest Ranking Graduate program provides a tuition waiver for the student graduating at the top of their high school class for their freshman year of college. The program is described in Texas Education Code §54.301
The student is:
- a Texas resident, nonresident, or foreign student;
- graduate from an accredited high school in the State of Texas* and
- the highest ranking graduate in their high school, and is eligible for the award based on school policy.
* Public and charter high schools accredited by TEA and private schools accredited by the Texas Private School Accreditation Commission (TEPSAC) and International Association for Learner Driven Schools (IALDS).
Institutions of Higher Education Availability
The tuition waiver is available only at a Texas public college or university.
To access listings of Texas public colleges and universities, follow the links to Texas Public Institutions.
The award is free tuition during both semesters of the first regular session immediately following the student's high school graduation. Fees are not covered. No funds may be used to pay tuition for continuing education classes for which the college receives no state tax support. An exemption may be granted by petitioning the institution's president due to special circumstances.
Tuition Waiver Process
- The Highest Ranking Graduate receives a hard copy of a document titled "Tuition Waiver to Public Colleges and Universities" from their high school**;
- The Highest Ranking Graduate presents the hard copy of the Tuition Waiver document to the Texas college or university;
- The college or university verifies the high school’s eligibility for the award:
- The college or university verifies the student’s eligibility. If the student’s class rank is not #1 on their transcript, contact the high school directly. For example the #1 ranked student may be ineligible due to transferring in from another school
**High School administration should email the Texas Education Agency at HRG@tea.texas.gov to obtain the highest ranking graduate forms. Forms are made available at the end of April.
Continued Receipt of the Tuition Waiver
The student may need to maintain a certain GPA (grade point average) in order receive the tuition waiver; check with the particular college for their requirements. Also, there may be a limit on the total number of hours a student may take each semester. Texas Education Code §54.2001
Visit the Frequently Asked Questions for additional information.
Contact your high school to acquire a copy of the certificate or contact the college you will attend for additional information regarding requirements for obtaining and maintaining the tuition waiver.
Visit the College for All Texans website to get the facts about going to college including financial aid and costs.
This section answers questions regarding the Highest Ranking Graduate (Honor Graduate Certificate) award.
- Our valedictorian is not the highest ranking graduate of their senior class because a student transferred in and has a higher GPA. Can we give the certificate to the valedictorian instead since that student has been at our high school all four years?
You must follow your district's policy for determining the highest ranking graduate. The law clearly states that the award should be given to the highest ranking graduate based on policy.
- Our highest ranking graduate is going to college out of state, and therefore won't be able to benefit from this certificate. Can we instead give it to the next student in line who will be going to a Texas public institution of higher education
No, the certificate should be awarded only to the highest ranking graduate. The highest ranking graduate, who initially chooses to go out of state or a private school, may choose to attend a Texas public college or university after their first semester.
- We have an exact tie for the highest ranking graduate. Can we issue more than one certificate?
You can allow for a tie between two students; however, in no circumstances should more than two awards be issued.
- My son/daughter is the valedictorian, but not the highest ranking graduate. How do the schools determine who is the highest ranking graduate?
School districts set their own policy to determine class rank. It is a local decision and each school district will not have the same policy for determining class rank. If parents are concerned or want to know more about how their child is ranked, they need to contact the local school district and ask about their policy. The Texas Education Agency has absolutely no say in determining class rankings.
- How do I find a list of schools eligible for the highest ranking graduate award?
All public schools, charter schools accredited by TEA, and private schools accredited by the Texas Private School Accreditation Commission may provide one highest ranking graduate per graduating class.
- How do I obtain the funds for tuition? Who provides the funds for the tuition?
The institution of higher education you attend waives the tuition fee; therefore, no direct funds are provided.
- Does the award cover books, supplies, room and board, meal plans, etc.?
The award only covers the cost of tuition. Tuition does not cover fees, books, supplies, room and board, meal plans or personal expenses.
- Is the college or university required to honor the tuition waiver for the 2nd semester regardless of the student's situation?
No, the institution of higher education may have requirements such as a minimum grade point average in order to continue receiving the tuition waiver. You should verify with the college or university if they have any such requirements. Texas Education Code §54.2001