If you're an Arizona student looking for the right place to earn your degree, it can be difficult to know which of the state's colleges and universities might be best suited to help you reach your academic goals. The Arizona Board of Regents administers the state's public university system, which consists of Arizona's three largest campus-based universities and their satellite campuses. Outside of the state system, Arizona is home to one of the largest universities by enrollment in the world — the University of Phoenix, a far-reaching online institution — and a few very small, specialized colleges.
You'll also need to know that some schools participate in AZTransfer agreements, which allow students of Arizona community colleges to make a low-stress shift from their two-year programs into university institutions. So where should you start your search for a four-year school? Check out our research-based list.
Best 4-Year Colleges in Arizona
Sorting out the best colleges and universities in Arizona requires a hard look at statistics on affordability, academic success, student support services, financial aid availability and more. Click the methodology button for more info on how we analyzed these Arizona schools, and read on to find out who made the cut. When you're done here, you can check out our rankings for the best community colleges in Arizona.
This Tucson school is home to some of the highest-rated degree programs among Arizona colleges. The University of Arizona's graduate degrees in Earth sciences, photography, atomic physics, rehabilitation counseling and information systems all rank among the ten best programs nationwide in their subjects, with online courses available in many.
It's earned accolades on the global scale, as well -- the Center for World University rankings placed UA among the top 75 universities in the world on its 2017 report. UA is also a member of the Association of American Universities, a prestigious group of around 60 research institutions that includes Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Duke and other top-tier schools.
UA also makes it easy for community college students to transfer into one of their more than 240 bachelor's programs. The UA Bridge program provides an admissions guarantee, pre-transfer admissions counseling, scholarships for eligible students and more.
The flagship location of Arizona State University is the largest campus by enrollment among the top schools in Arizona. More than 51,000 students attend classes on the Tempe campus, making it not only the most populous university in the state but earning it a spot among the top ten largest in the country.
The selection of degree programs available here is about as robust and diverse as you'd expect from a school of its size -- more than 430 undergraduate programs are available on campus and as online courses, and graduate students have more than 500 options at the master's and doctoral levels.
ASU makes a case for itself as one of the top colleges and universities in Arizona for online students, as well, thanks to its total of more than 180 undergraduate and graduate online programs.
Northern Arizona University was founded in 1899, when Arizona was still a U.S. territory. This accredited institution in the mountain town of Flagstaff offers approximately 200 degree programs in total, including study plans in valuable but traditionally uncommon subjects like forestry, civic engagement and applied indigenous studies.
A vast variety of online degrees awaits NAU students who want to use the virtual classroom for online courses. A few of the nearly 90 bachelor's, master's and certificate programs have special admissions criteria, so be sure to meet with an advisor before jumping in.
NAU also maintains numerous satellite campuses around the state. The list of 25 campus locations features outposts in the Phoenix metro area, the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona and small towns such as Thatcher and Show Low.
The Downtown campus of Arizona State University has only been in business for a little over ten years, but it's made great strides since opening its doors. Enrollment went from zero to nearly 12,000 between 2006 and 2016, and close to 170 degrees and certificates can be earned through its seven colleges and schools.
One of the most prestigious departments at ASU -- the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication -- was the first new building built at the Downtown site. It also recently became the home base for the university's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.
What's more, students at ASU Downtown are less than two miles away from major cultural centers. Take in classic and contemporary art at the Phoenix Art Museum, Native American and Hispanic art and culture at the Heard Museum and interactive fun at the Arizona Science Center.
This Northwest Phoenix campus of Arizona State University is one of the smaller public accredited Arizona universities, reporting enrollment of less than 3,700 students. Having a smaller student body isn't necessarily a bad thing, though -- the student-faculty ratio at ASU West is 12:1, better by 25 percent than the national average of 16:1.
Transfer students are important to the mission at ASU West. Students may take their first two years of courses at a community college and switch to this or another ASU campus to complete their degree.
The West Campus Transfer Center exists to help provide support for community college students looking to transfer in. What's more, students in the Maricopa County Community College District can make use of the Maricopa to ASU Pathways Program (MAPP) to start their transfer journey on the right track.
This ASU campus near the southeastern edge of the Phoenix metro area is another close-knit school. The student body at Arizona State University Polytechnic tops out at around 4,400, although it's grown by more than 15 percent since 2012.
Degree programs at the Polytechnic campus focus on interdisciplinary sciences, technology, engineering, management and education. Industry partnerships make it possible for ASU Polytechnic to offer degrees in uncommon subjects such as aeronautical management, history of science, human systems engineering and graphic information technology for game design.
Advanced technology and project-based approaches to learning combine to produce a unique educational experience at this Mesa school. Campus facilities include a flight simulator, semiconductor fabrication equipment, on-demand digital manufacturing machinery and a major regional airport, all within a few dozen miles of breathtaking mountainscapes and majestic desert lakes.
Grand Canyon University is a faith-based college located in Phoenix. Founded in 1949 by the Southern Baptist Church, GCU transitioned out of non-profit status in 2004 and began operating as one of the few accredited for-profit colleges to arise out of a religious tradition.
GCU was one of the best schools in Arizona for distance education, offering more than 80 specific online courses at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. Busy students can also attend evening courses on campus and mix course types to create hybrid degree plans.
As a private Christian university, GCU does offer ecclesiastical degrees both on campus and online, but conventional, secular subjects are also widely available. Degrees in business, education, health care, information technology and the arts and humanities can all be earned in the traditional classroom or as entirely online degrees.
The flagship campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is located in Daytona Beach, Florida, but this small satellite campus has been educating students in the central Arizona city of Prescott for over 40 years. A total of close to 30 degree programs are offered at the Prescott location, including some in subjects that may be hard to find at other Arizona schools.
As an outpost of the largest aviation-oriented institution in the world, Embry-Riddle's Prescott campus is uniquely suited to a few specialized and highly technical fields. Degrees in aeronautical science, air traffic management and applied meteorology are just a few of the high-flying study plans available here.
Security-minded students have an exciting option at Embry-Riddle, as well. Spy Camp is an immersive summer program that provides hands-on experience with investigation and surveillance techniques, counterintelligence practices and espionage.
If you're looking for a tiny, private liberal arts institution in Arizona, look no further than Prescott College. Total enrollment here tops out at fewer than 400 students, and the college has yet to reach 10,000 total graduates in its more than 50 years of awarding degrees.
Prescott College is located in a wildly diverse natural area featuring six different biomes within ten miles of the center of the city. As such, sustainability is a significant part of the mission here -- more than 100 percent of the campus's electricity needs are sourced from solar and other renewable energy sources.
Also exemplifying that commitment to sustainability is a newly built student residence hall called the Village. Its rainwater catchment system, high-efficiency design and other features earned it a Platinum-level certification by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
The Phoenix campus of this nationally distributed for-profit school offers just one campus-based degree program: a three-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) plan that consists of 122 credit hours of coursework. A liberal arts core encompasses 56 of the required credits, with dedicated nursing courses making up the balance.
Some of the latest pieces of nurse training technology are available at Chamberlain, including a patient simulator that produces realistic vital signs and somatic reactions. Lifelike simulated patients are controlled by instructors and can voice their discomfort, blink, sweat, bleed and more.
Multiple degree plans are available online through the Chamberlain system as well. Working registered nurses (RNs) comfortable with virtual instruction can enroll in an online RN-to-BSN program, while bachelor's degree holders can pursue master's degrees in nursing and public health.
Most Popular Degree Programs in Arizona
Students hoping to have a large peer group in their chosen major can achieve that goal more easily if they know which ones are the most common degree programs in the state. Check out this list of degrees that were most popular in Arizona schools during the past statistical year.
In-demand Careers in Arizona
If you're looking to turn your degree into a stable career track, educating yourself in a way that may potentially fill a gap in the labor market can go a long way toward helping you succeed. Here's a rundown of some in-demand careers in Arizona where a bachelor's degree can help you get started.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Home Health and Personal Care Aides||72.3%||66,890||$26,050|
|Physical Therapist Aides||51%||850||$30,050|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||50.8%||2,900||$43,500|
|Ambulance Drivers and Attendants, Except Emergency Medical Technicians||48.5%||150||$32,500|
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographers||47.5%||1,640||$86,710|
|Operations Research Analysts||46.9%||2,220||$87,610|
|Occupational Therapy Aides||45.2%||60||$43,070|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||43.8%||940||$63,150|
|Healthcare Social Workers||43.3%||2,970||$59,600|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||42.7%||1,000||$49,100|
|Helpers--Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||41.7%||730||$33,760|
|Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers||41.6%||9,600||$47,580|
|Elevator and Escalator Installers and Repairers||41.5%||350||$80,430|
|Medical Secretaries and Administrative Assistants||40.9%||14,720||$37,050|
|Mechanical Door Repairers||40.7%||460||$45,300|
|Helpers--Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble Setters||40.5%||460||$34,480|
|Medical and Health Services Managers||40.4%||8,050||$120,280|
|Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers||40.3%||29,660||$100,730|
|Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers||39.7%||2,890||$40,450|
|Structural Iron and Steel Workers||38.5%||1,810||$48,390|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Arizona
Arizona students have access to a few financial aid programs specific to residents of the state:
- The Arizona Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (AzLEAP) provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduates.
- The Math, Science and Special Education Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program may relieve students of up to $7,000 per year in college debt if they pledge to teach in Arizona public schools for a length of time after graduation.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Recipient must maintain a minimum 3.5 cumulative GPA and full-time enrollment are required to retain scholarship.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA (and semester 2.5 GPA) and continues to attend their school as a full time student for both fall and spring semesters. Renewable for a maximum term of four consecutive years.
- Arizona Board of Regents
- Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education
- Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education
- Arizona Student Financial Aid Programs
- College Goal Arizona
To get our list of the best colleges, we ranked 1,383 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S. Each school was scored on a 100-point scale, using the following data points and the weights specified. In order to be included in the ranking, schools had to report data for each of the following data points:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- The average amount of institutional grant aid awarded to full-time, first-time undergraduate students as a percentage of in-state tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of full-time first-time undergraduates awarded any financial aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Median debt of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- 3-year student loan repayment rate of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered on campus, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students enrolled in any distance education classes, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Full-time student retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2013-14
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Dual credit
- Credit for life experience
- Advanced Placement credit
- Programs of study that can be completed entirely on weekends or in the evening
- Remedial services
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Guaranteed tuition plan
- Tuition payment plan
- Any other alternative tuition plan
Note:Tuition prices are based on data for the 2016-17 academic year reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.
All of the National Center for Education Statistics data came from IPEDS:
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2015-16, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
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- 2017 World University Rankings, Center for World University Rankings, accessed March 28, 2018, http://cwur.org/2017.php
- Higher Education, U.S. News and World Report, accessed March 28, 2018: Overall Rankings, University of Arizona, https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/university-of-arizona-104179/overall-rankings; Arizona State University -- West, https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/asu-west-666935; Prescott College, https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/prescott-college-29022;
- Largest Universities in the United States by Enrollment, WorldAtlas, accessed March 28, 2018, https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/largest-universities-in-the-united-states.html
- Our Members, Association of American Universities, accessed March 28, 2018, https://www.aau.edu/who-we-are/our-members
- 21 Liberal Arts Colleges With the Lowest Student-Faculty Ratios, U.S. News and World Report, Jordan Friedman, April 19, 2016, accessed March 28, 2018, https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/the-short-list-college/articles/2016-04-19/21-liberal-arts-colleges-with-the-lowest-student-faculty-ratios
- Phoenix Museums, Visit Phoenix, accessed March 28, 2018, https://www.visitphoenix.com/things-to-do/arts-culture/museums/
- AZTransfer, accessed April 25, 2017: About, http://www.aztransfer.com/about/; University of Arizona, http://www.aztransfer.com/ua/; Arizona State University, http://www.aztransfer.com/asu/; Northern Arizona University, http://www.aztransfer.com/nau/;
- Highest Enrollment, Fast Facts, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed April 25, 2017, https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=74
- Available Grants, Arizona Student Financial Aid Programs, accessed April 25, 2017, https://azgrants.az.gov/available-grants
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/