- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2015-16, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed March 2, 2016, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2014-15, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, accessed March 2, 2016, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- School pages, accessed April 25, 2017: Pathways to the UA, University of Arizona, http://admissions.arizona.edu/how-to-apply/transfer/pathways-to-ua; Transfer to ASU, Arizona State University, https://transfer.asu.edu/; About, Northern Arizona University, http://nau.edu/about/; Camps Search, Northern Arizona University, http://ec.nau.edu/campussearch.aspx;ASU West Campus, Arizona State University, https://campus.asu.edu/west/; ASU Downtown Phoenix Campus, Arizona State University, https://campus.asu.edu/downtown-phoenix; ASU Polytechnic Campus, Arizona State University, https://campus.asu.edu/polytechnic; Online Degree Programs, Grand Canyon University, https://www.gcu.edu/future-students/online-degree-programs.php;
- 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
- Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.
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
We gathered a mountain of data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and ran it through our exacting 13-point methodology to help sort out how the institutions in the Grand Canyon State measure up against each other by the numbers. Check our methodology at the bottom of the page to see just how we calculated the rankings. Without further ado, here are the ten best traditional and online colleges in Arizona.
The University of Arizona, in the southern city of Tucson, ranked above the midline on 11 of our 13 metrics and placed at No. 1 or No. 2 four separate times. No other school in the state offers a wider variety of academic programs, and no other school on our list had a higher rate of students returning to continue their degrees after completing their first program year.
UA graduates carried the second-lowest median college debt burden in the state, and nearly 80 percent of recent alumni were able to repay their student loan balance within three years of finishing their degrees. Only three other Arizona schools had more online degree options. Community college students have access to numerous transfer agreements when applying to the UA — check the school's website for details.
The largest campus-based school in the state comes in at No. 2, thanks in part to rates of retention and graduation that ranked No. 3 and No. 2 respectively among the schools in our top ten. It also ranked No. 2 in the state for average net price, a measure of college affordability that totals up the expected costs of tuition, fees, books, supplies, housing, meals and other expenses and subtracts the average amount of grant and scholarship aid awarded per student.
ASU took the No. 1 spot among Arizona schools and ranked No. 43 nationwide for its proportion of institutional grant aid awarded per dollar of average tuition and fees. The selection of degree programs available here was also a bright spot — its catalog of 328 courses of study ranked No. 2 in the state. AZTransfer agreements at ASU include Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) program and the Maricopa to ASU Pathways Program (MAPP).
Founded in 1899, when Arizona was still a U.S. territory, this institution in the mountain town of Flagstaff ranked No. 1 in Arizona for the affordability of its raw cost of tuition and fees and placed fifth in the state for average net price. Northern Arizona University also offers the state's No. 3 array of academic degrees, both on campus and in the virtual classroom.
NAU also maintains numerous satellite campuses around the state, including several in rural areas that otherwise lack direct access to traditional higher education. The list of 25 NAU campuses features locations in the Phoenix metro area, as well as the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona and small towns such as Thatcher and Show Low. Each of these campuses, as well as the main location in Flagstaff, maintain community college transfer agreements through the Connect2NAU initiative.
This Northwest Phoenix campus of Arizona State University ranked among the most affordable schools in the state, tying for No. 2 in the tuition and fees category and posting the state's lowest average net price for both low- and middle-income students. It also shared the No. 3 rank in the state for the manageable amount of debt incurred on average by its graduates.
ASU West posted the highest graduation rate of any school in our top 10 during the 2015-16 academic year, according to NCES numbers, and its first-year student retention rate ranked in the top 5 among schools on our list. The TAG and MAPP transfer programs for community college students available on the main Tempe campus also exist for ASU satellite locations.
The Downtown Phoenix campus of Arizona State University posted the No. 3 graduation rate among our top 10 schools. The school also offered the state's second-highest proportion of institutional grant aid per student and ranked No. 4 statewide in average net price and affordability of tuition and fees.
One of the most prestigious departments at ASU is located at the Downtown campus — the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication — and it recently became the home site of the university's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. The Downtown campus also offered a large enough number of degree programs to rank No. 6 in the state in that category.
This ASU campus at the southeastern edge of Arizona's capital city got high marks for affordability. It shared the No. 2 spot for affordability of its tuition and fees and placed at No. 3 statewide in both average net price and proportion of grant aid awarded. Its first-year student retention rate ranked No. 5 in the state.
The degree programs available at ASU Polytechnic focus on science, tech, engineering, management and education, using advanced technology and project-based approaches to learning. 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 desert mountainscapes and lakes both small and large.
The lowest cost of books and supplies of any school on our list can be found at Grand Canyon University, a faith-based college located in Phoenix. GCU was one of the best online colleges in Arizona, offering more than 80 programs in the virtual classroom — the second most of all schools in the state — and it also took the No. 2 spot for distance education enrollment percentage.
Students seeking an online bachelor's degree in Arizona have a vast range of options to choose from at Grand Canyon University. Degrees in business, education, health care, information technology, Christian studies and the arts and humanities can all be earned entirely online at GCU. The school's No. 1 ranking for its graduates' median student debt also suggests that students don't have to go terribly deep into debt to pay for their education at this school.
The Arizona campus of the University of Phoenix isn't just the largest university by enrollment in the state. Its total on-campus and online student body size of more than 165,000 makes it the largest postsecondary institution overall in the U.S., according to the NCES. It also ranked No. 1 in Arizona and the U.S. for its array of distance education programs, offering a whopping 115 degree plans to prospective online students.
As a primarily online university, it should come as no surprise that the University of Phoenix took the No. 1 spot in the state for its nearly 98 percent of students enrolled in distance education courses. Even though it focuses on online coursework, students in Arizona can choose to take some of their classes at the brick-and-mortar location in Phoenix.
This small, private, faith-based liberal arts academy in Phoenix demonstrates its commitment to its students in part by offering eight out of the ten campus-based flexibility measures we looked for, tying for No. 1 in the state in that category. Remedial services, exams to gain credit for applicable life experience and degree programs that take place entirely in the evenings or on weekends are just a few of the ways in which ACU accommodates non-traditional students.
ACU alumni also posted impressive numbers in terms of paying off their college debt after graduation. More than 75 percent of graduates were reportedly able to clear their student loan balance within three years of leaving school, giving it the state's No. 3 ranking in that category.
The Art Institute of Phoenix had fewer than 1,000 students on its rolls in 2015, which might bode well for students hoping to receive a more individualized style of instruction. The average net price for low- and middle-income students ranked No. 8 and No. 9 in the state, respectively, and the median amount of college debt carried by its recent alumni took the No. 8 spot in that category as well.
Academic programs available at the Art Institute of Phoenix focus on the visual and culinary arts. Available degree programs include interior design, film and production, gaming and technology, fashion, marketing and interior design. Despite the Phoenix campus not offering any fully online degree paths, more than 40 percent of students took some form of distance education courses in fall 2015.
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|
|Brickmasons and Blockmasons||68.1%||770||$41,380|
|Reinforcing Iron and Rebar Workers||68.1%||480||$53,590|
|Helpers--Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble Setters||64.4%||580||$30,100|
|Solar Photovoltaic Installers||58.3%||90||$43,440|
|Operations Research Analysts||55.4%||4,370||$67,480|
|Elevator Installers and Repairers||52.7%||240||$67,710|
|Cement Masons and Concrete Finishers||51.4%||5,860||$38,760|
|Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers||51.4%||6,590||$45,920|
|Helpers--Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||49.9%||510||$28,600|
|Interpreters and Translators||49.5%||2,300||$48,730|
|Helpers--Painters, Paperhangers, Plasterers, and Stucco Masons||47.6%||300||$28,320|
|Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||47.4%||7,060||$48,490|
|Tile and Marble Setters||45.3%||690||$42,990|
|First-Line Supervisors of Construction Trades and Extraction Workers||45.2%||13,120||$61,940|
|Plasterers and Stucco Masons||44.2%||1,680||$39,520|
|Painters, Construction and Maintenance||44.1%||4,730||$36,440|
|Construction and Related Workers, All Other||44%||340||$32,820|
|Security and Fire Alarm Systems Installers||42.9%||1,740||$52,810|
|Insulation Workers, Floor, Ceiling, and Wall||42.2%||520||$31,010|
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.
November 15 (Early Action admissions deadline)
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.25 GPA and full-time status.
Renewable for three additional years provided recipient maintains a 3.0 GPA.
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.6 GPA.
February 1 (fall); October 1 (spring)
Renewable for four 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