Best Community Colleges in Arkansas
The history of community college education in Arkansas goes back more than 50 years, and in that time the state's public system has grown to include 22 institutions where students can find career training, associate degree programs and lower-cost, lower-stress ways to get started on the road to a bachelor's degree.
We wanted to find out which could be called the best community colleges in Arkansas, so we gathered a ton of data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE) and other sources, ran it through our model and ranked each school on a ten-point scale. This page lists the top 10 community colleges in Arkansas by those measures, along with a brief explanation of the qualities that helped each school rank as highly as it did.
For students considering bachelor's degrees and beyond, check out our page on online schools in Arkansas. If you're curious about the 10 best community colleges in Arkansas according to the data, however, you'll find them ranked 1-10 below.
Arkansas State University - Mountain Home (Mountain Home)
The ability to fit your coursework into your existing schedule is often a vital part of a community college education, and the numbers show that Arkansas State University - Mountain Home could be a good option for students who need a flexible study plan. The Mountain Home school ranked No. 1 among the best online community colleges in Arkansas, with more than 63 percent of students taking at least some of their courses in the virtual classroom in 2014. Their commitment to online education seems to be paying off, too - ASUMH also placed at No. 5 in fall-to-fall retention rate and No. 3 in both graduation rate and overall student success rate.
- Ozarks recreation: Not only is ASUMH a great place to study, it's located just minutes from a few of the rivers and freshwater lakes of the Ozark Mountains. If you enjoy hiking, boating, fishing, trail riding, hunting and other outdoor activities, the area around Mountain Home should give you plenty of places to play.
Arkansas State University - Newport (Newport)
Arkansas State University - Newport was also one of the best community colleges in Arkansas in terms of number of distance learners, coming in at No. 5 statewide for its more than 42 percent of students enrolled in at least some digital distance education, but other measures stood out as well for the Newport institution. Its student-faculty ratio of 16:1 tied for second-best among the 10 best schools in the state, for one, and it was one of the five most affordable institutions on our list in terms of raw cost as well as average net price. As if that weren't enough, ASUN also had the No. 1 graduation rate and the No. 2 overall student success rate statewide.
- Just the FACTS: Students at ASUN have access to an alternative tuition payment plan called FACTS, which permits them to make monthly payments via automatic bank draft and aims to prevent excessive student loan debt after graduation. FACTS also accepts credit card payments, which may be risky but can work to consolidate your debt into a single monthly bill.
University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville (Batesville)
When it comes to an affordable education, the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville runs away with the top prize. Average net price is a measure of the overall cost of college, including external necessities such as room and board, after the average amount of financial aid assistance is taken into account. The $1,778 annual average net price calculated for UACCB took the No. 1 spot in this category by a long margin, coming in at nearly $2,000 less than the next-most affordable school among the top community colleges in Arkansas. Raw tuition and fees costs were about average, too.
- Scholarships for all seasons: UACCB students have access to numerous scholarship opportunities, both performance-based institutional awards and those endowed by the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville Fund, which have specific qualifying conditions and fewer academic requirements.
Ozarka College (Melbourne)
Ozarka College is the first institution on our list to offer a full range of campus-based flexibility measures. Students at Ozarka have access to on-campus day care services, alternative tuition plans, class credit for life experience and entire degree programs that can be completed in the evenings or on weekends. On top of that, the Melbourne school placed No. 2 for distance learners at community colleges in Arkansas, with the NCES reporting that more than 60 percent of the student body took at least some of their coursework online in 2014.
- Take to the skies: Ozarka students interested in aviation can get started down the road to certification as commercial airline pilots in the school's professional pilot degree program, which includes the ability to test for private pilot credentials after completion and a transfer agreement with Henderson State University in Arkadelphia to complete their full four-year degree in professional aviation.
Arkansas Northeastern College (Blytheville)
Fewer students per faculty member typically means more time for professors and advisors to work with individual students on their academic plans and coursework, and Arkansas Northeastern College offered the lowest student-faculty ratio of all the top community colleges in Arkansas. In fact, the Blytheville institution's 14:1 ratio even put it ahead of the average for four-year national universities, which U.S. News and World Report calculated at 16:1 in 2016. The full complement of on-campus flexibility measures was also in force at ANC, and its average cost of tuition, fees, books and supplies was affordable enough to place at No. 4 statewide in that category.
- Building the future: The ANC campus will soon be home to a technical skills facility where students and members of the workforce alike can learn the knowledge and techniques of important trades, new technologies and regional powerhouse industries. ANC admins expect the new facility to be completed in Fall 2018.
North Arkansas College (Harrison)
North Arkansas College has the second most affordable net price (flip back to our No. 3 overall school for the first), with the U.S. Department of Education reporting a yearly out-of-pocket total of just $3,785 per aid-eligible student in 2014-15. Tuition, fees, books and supplies expenses at NAC were fairly affordable without financial assistance, as well -- the Harrison school charged students less for those necessities than all but one of the other top community colleges in Arkansas in 2016.
- Serious school spirit: NAC does quite a bit to make the community college experience enjoyable for its students, scheduling numerous extra-curricular events and providing faculty mentors for a diverse set of campus clubs and organizations. Students can even stack up NAC swag by banking "Pioneer Points" for participation in select events to earn prizes.
Black River Technical College (Pocahontas)
Students at Black River Technical College have access to a considerable portion of their coursework in the virtual classroom, by the school's own claims as well as by the data. Distance education admins claim that many of the degree programs available at the school in Pocahontas contain approximately 50 percent online or hybrid content, and the NCES reports a distance education enrollment figure of more than 46 percent -- good for the No. 4 spot statewide among online community colleges in Arkansas. The overall graduate and transfer student success rate was also a bright spot for BRTC, placing it at No. 4 among schools that made our list.
- An eye on history: Thanks to its proximity to the Rice-Upshaw house and the William Looney Tavern, two of the oldest structures in the state, BRTC has started an initiative called Project REACH (Researching Early Arkansas Cultural Heritage) with the goal of preserving the stories of some of the first families to begin to tame the wilderness that would eventually be called Arkansas.
Arkansas State University - Beebe (Beebe)
Arkansas State University - Beebe ranked No. 1 in the state for its proportion of students who had either graduated or transferred to a four-year institution within three years of enrolling in their first community college class, and its graduation rate alone was also good for the No. 5 spot in the state. A healthy student-faculty ratio of 17:1, tied for third-best among schools on our list, was also a high point in the data for the Beebe campus.
- Online on the rise: ASU-Beebe may be poised to take its place among the echelons of digital distance education. Not only does it offer 10 study plans that can be completed fully online, but it gives prospective online students a dedicated virtual classroom orientation and provides a survey that can help you decide whether or not online learning is right for you.
University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton (Morrilton)
Traditional approaches to educational flexibility abound at University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton, with weekend and evening degree plans, on-campus day care, alternative tuition payment programs and life experience credit all available to students at the Conway County school. The numbers show that UACCM also offered programs at a reasonable cost -- its average net price of $5,566 annually was low enough to place it at No. 5 in affordability among the top community colleges in Arkansas.
- Serving civil servants: UACCM provides pathways for working Arkansas law enforcement officers to enroll in programs offered jointly with the University of Arkansas Criminal Justice Institute, allowing them to earn certificates and Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degrees in crime scene investigation and law enforcement administration.
Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas (De Queen)
Last on our list but certainly not least is Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas, which can claim the distinction of having the most affordable tuition, fees, books and supplies expenses in the whole state. In fact, the estimated cost of books and supplies for the 2015-16 academic year was reported as just $300 by the U.S. Department of Education -- less than 25 percent of the average books and supplies cost calculated for the other 9 best community colleges in Arkansas. A student-faculty ratio of 16:1 tied it for No. 2 on our list for that category and was another upside for the the De Queen institution.
- Pathways to success: The Career Pathways initiative is a series of measures by which students in need can receive extra help earning the degrees they need to contribute to the regional economy in substantial and effective ways. Qualifying conditions do apply, so be sure to check with a financial aid representative at CCCUA if you're hoping to take advantage of this program.
A final note on the best community colleges in Arkansas
You may not live near one of our top 10 community colleges in Arkansas, but it's important to note that the best schools by the numbers aren't necessarily the best schools for your individual needs. Visit your local campus and check out what they have to offer -- you might just find exactly the options you need for your own education.
We ranked the 22 members of the Arkansas Community Colleges association. Each school was scored on a 10-point scale, using the following six data points.
- The percentage of students enrolled in distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
- Cost of attendance, based on the total cost of tuition, fees, books and supplies, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015, and the average net price for students receiving scholarship and grant aid, College Scorecard, 2014-15
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
- Fall-to-fall retention rate, Arkansas Department of Higher Education, 2013-14
- Success rate in 150% time, defined as either graduating or being enrolled at any Arkansas institution within 3 years of enrolling, Arkansas Department of Higher Education, 2015
- Flexibility, based on the following data points from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Whether the school offers credit for life experiences
- Whether the school offers programs of study that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers on-campus day care for students' children
- Whether the school offers any kind of alternative tuition plan. These may include, but aren't limited to, payment plans or guaranteed rates.
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2014-15 and 2015-16, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed December 7, 2016, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2014-15, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, accessed December 7, 2016, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- Annual Report on Student Retention and Graduation, Arkansas Department of Higher Education, April 30, 2015, accessed December 7, 2015, https://static.ark.org/eeuploads/adhe/publications/Retention_Graduation_Rate_2015.pdf
- School pages, accessed November 28-29, 2016: Net Price Calculator, Bergen Community College, http://bergen.edu/Portals/0/calculator/npcalc.htm; About ASUMH, Arkansas State University - Mountain Home, https://www.asumh.edu/about-asumh/about.html; FACTS Monthly Payment Plan, Arkansas State University - Newport, http://www.asun.edu/facts; Scholarships, University of Arkansas Community College Batesville, http://www.uaccb.edu/foundation/scholarships; Institutional Scholarships, University of Arkansas Community College Batesville, http://www.uaccb.edu/sites/default/files/content/u49/institutional.scholarships.pdf; Ozarka College Aviation, Ozarka College, https://otc.ozarka.edu/fly/; Division of Allied Technologies, Arkansas Northeastern College, http://www.anc.edu/allied-technologies/index.htm; Campus Life, North Arkansas College, http://www.northark.edu/campus-life/index; Distance Education & Industrial Technology, Black River Technical College, http://blackrivertech.edu/distance-education; Project REACH, Black River Technical College, http://reach.blackrivertech.org/; Online College, Arkansas State University - Beebe, http://www.asub.edu/online-college/; Career Pathways, Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas, http://www.cccua.edu/pay-for-college/career-pathways;
- Ozark Mountains Recreation, Theodosia Chamber of Commerce, accessed December 20, 2016, http://theodosiachamberbullshoalslake.com/Ozark_Mountains_Recreation.html
- About Us, Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative, accessed December 20, 2016, http://www.arpathways.com/about_us_history.html
- 21 Liberal Arts Colleges with the Lowest Student-Faculty Ratios, Jordan Friedman, U.S. News and World Report, April 19, 2016, accessed December 20, 2016, http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/the-short-list-college/articles/2016-04-19/21-liberal-arts-colleges-with-the-lowest-student-faculty-ratios