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 

Eligibility Requirements

The student is:

  • a Texas resident, nonresident, or foreign student;
  • a graduate from an accredited high school in the State of Texas* and
  • the highest ranking graduate in their high school based on school policy.

* Public and charter high schools accredited by TEA and private schools accredited by the Texas Private School Accreditation Commission (TEPSAC) or International Association for Learner Driven Schools (IALDS).

Award Amount

The award is free tuition during both semesters of the first regular school year 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.

Continued Receipt of the Tuition Waiver

  • The student may need to maintain a certain GPA (grade point average) in order receive the tuition waiver.
  • There may be a limit on the total number of hours a student may take each semester. 
  • Verify requirements with the chosen Texas college or university. 

Eligible Institutions of Higher Education 

The tuition waiver is honored only at Texas public colleges or universities.

To access listings of Texas public colleges and universities, please visit Texas Public Institutions.

Tuition Waiver Process

  1. The high school determines the Highest Ranking Graduate recipient based on the school or district's written policy.
  2. The high school downloads and completes the HRG tuition waiver document and the HRG certificate.
    • These forms are sent to each high school principal at the end of April.
    • If not received by the end of April, high school administration should submit a Help Desk ticket.
  3. The high school presents both the HRG tuition waiver and HRG certificate to the Highest Ranking Graduate.
    • The HRG tuition waiver will be submitted to the Texas college or university.
    • The HRG certificate is considered ceremonial and will be retained by the student.
  4. The student presents the hard copy of the tuition waiver to the Texas college or university they have chosen to attend.
  5. The college or university verifies the high school's eligibility.  Please visit HRG Information for Colleges for additional information.

Program Authorization

Texas Education Code

  • Highest Ranking High School Graduates Chapter §54.301
  • Continued Receipt of Exemptions or Waivers Conditional §54.2001  

Additional Information

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.

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Frequently Asked Questions

This section answers questions regarding the Highest Ranking Graduate (Honor Graduate Certificate) award.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 does not determine class rankings or the Highest Ranking Graduate.

  5. How do I find a list of schools eligible to issue the highest ranking graduate award?
    All public schools accredited by TEA, and private schools accredited by either the Texas Private School Accreditation Commission or the International Association for Learner Driven Schools may provide one highest ranking graduate per graduating class.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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 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


Content updated 3/21/2024

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