- 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 May 26, 2017: About our University, Arkansas Tech University, http://www.atu.edu/about.php; About UAFS, University of Arkansas Fort Smith, http://uafs.edu/about/about-uafs; About, University of Arkansas, http://www.uark.edu/about/index.php; Online Undergraduate Programs, Arkansas State University, http://degree.astate.edu/programs/undergraduate.aspx; Bachelor's Degrees, UCA Online, University of Central Arkansas, http://uca.edu/online/bachelors-degrees/; Riding Together: Cycling Culture in Conway, UCA Magazine, University of Central Arkansas, http://uca.edu/magazine/riding-together-cycle-culture-in-conway/; University of Arkansas at Monticello, http://www.uamont.edu/; Undergraduate Programs Online, University of Arkansas Little Rock, http://ualr.edu/online/program-types/undergraduate-programs/; About, Southern Arkansas University, https://web.saumag.edu/about/; History/Mission, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, https://www.uapb.edu/administration/finance_administration/human_resources/faculty_and_staff_handbook/historymisson.aspx; Our Mission, Harding University, http://www.harding.edu/about/mission;
- Campuses and Affiliates, University of Arkansas System, accessed May 26, 2017, http://www.uasys.edu/campuses-affiliates/
- Arkansas State University System, accessed May 26, 2017, http://www.asusystem.edu/
- "SAU fastest growing, most affordable," Texarkana Gazette, May 29, 2016, accessed May 26, 2017, http://www.texarkanagazette.com/news/texarkana/story/2016/may/29/sau-fastest-growing-most-affordable/624825/
- Scholarship and Programs, Arkansas Department of Higher Education, accessed May 16, 2017, http://scholarships.adhe.edu/scholarships-and-programs/a-z/
- 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.
What are you looking for in a college in Arkansas? Affordability? A student-focused culture? The ability to take certain courses from home? Whatever attributes are most important to you, it can help to have as much information as possible about your options before making a decision for your own education.
Luckily, the state of Arkansas offers many options for students who want to earn a college degree. The two main public university systems in the state, the University of Arkansas and Arkansas State University, include two-year and four-year schools with campuses throughout the state. There are also a number of other public schools, independent universities and private faith-based colleges.
Community college students hoping to transfer to a university should be sure to check for articulation agreements between their two-year institution and various four-year schools in the state. A thorough and painless transfer can help take some of the pressure off of your first semester in a university bachelor's program.
Best 4-Year Colleges in Arkansas
We analyzed loads of data from the U.S. Department of Education - 13 separate factors - to figure out which schools were the best traditional and online colleges in Arkansas.
Finishing near the top of multiple categories of our rankings helped propel Arkansas Tech University into the No. 1 spot. The Russellville school charged students the state's second-lowest average tuition and fees amount in 2015-16, and the median amount of college debt carried by 2015 graduates was less than $17,500 — good for the No. 4 spot in that category statewide.
Only three schools offer a larger on-campus degree catalog than Arkansas Tech, and it featured eight out of the ten campus-based flexibility metrics we checked for. Students have access to career counseling as well as options for life experience credit and degree plans that can be fully completed through weekend and evening courses. Arkansas Tech also offers placement services to recent alumni.
First established as a junior college in 1928, this outpost of the University of Arkansas System expanded to become a premier regional university while retaining the mission of providing a reasonably priced education to Arkansas residents. The Fort Smith school reported the No. 1 most affordable average tuition and fees expense in the state, and its projected total cost per student also topped the charts.
Average net price, calculated by subtracting the expected amount of institutional grant and scholarship aid from the aggregate cost of tuition, fees, books, supplies, room and board and other essentials, provides an estimate of out-of-pocket college expenses. UAFS was home to the No. 1 average net price figures in the state in 2015-16, for middle-income students as well as those with significant financial need.
The flagship campus of the University of Arkansas System was founded as a land-grant institution in 1871 and has grown into a nationally renowned research university in the more than 145 years since it first opened its doors. It posted the No. 4 graduation rate statewide in 2015-16, and its percentage of first-year students returning to continue their education as sophomores was the highest among all schools in our top ten.
The U of A also presented students with more than 200 degree programs to choose from in 2016 — the largest academic catalog in Arkansas — and its selection of online degree programs ranked No. 6 in the state. More than 80 percent of graduates were able to take care of their college debt within three years after finishing their degree programs, as well, giving the Fayetteville campus the No. 3 spot statewide on that metric.
The flagship campus of the Arkansas State University System emerged as one of the top destinations for students seeking an online bachelor's degree in Arkansas. Its distance education catalog was the largest in the state and featured degrees in the social sciences, communication studies, social media management and more.
The Jonesboro school was also one of the best online colleges in Arkansas by enrollment, taking the No. 1 spot on that metric thanks to more than 50 percent of enrolled students taking at least one course in the virtual classroom in 2015-16. On-campus students also had a sizeable selection of degrees to choose from, according to A-State's No. 2 ranking for the size of its traditional catalog.
The University of Central Arkansas is another one of the top online colleges for Arkansas students. The overall selection of online degree programs ranked No. 2 in the state and includes undergraduate programs in health care and business. Tuition costs were manageable at the Conway school, placing at No. 6 statewide for affordability, and the proportion of institutional grant aid awarded to students ranked No. 5 among schools on our list.
UCA students also have a tendency to see their educations through to the end. Only two other schools on our top ten posted higher rates of graduation and first-year student retention. If you're a cyclist, also, you may have an extra reason to consider UCA. Its home city of Conway works to encourage bicycle transportation and was designated an official Bicycle Friendly Community in 2011.
This small University of Arkansas System school located about 40 miles west of the Mississippi River is one of the few remaining open-enrollment universities in Arkansas, which means that no student is turned away in the admissions process regardless of standardized test scores or past academic performance. Tuition and fees were attractive as well, coming in at No. 4 statewide for their affordability.
The average net price figures for middle- and low-income students at UAM ranked No. 4 and No. 6, respectively, and that comparatively low out-of-pocket cost tended to lead to a manageable student debt burden for graduates. The median amount of debt carried by UAM alumni was just $15,000 in 2015, good for the No. 1 ranking in the state on that metric.
The University of Arkansas System campus in the state's capital city stood out most significantly in terms of the amount of institutional grant aid it provided its students. Only one other school statewide helped offset the cost of tuition to a greater degree than UA Little Rock. Students also had access to the state's third-largest catalog of on-campus degree programs and a formidable selection of online undergraduate degrees.
Nearly 44 percent of students at UA Little Rock took at least some courses via distance education in 2015, placing it at No. 3 statewide in that category. The online catalog here includes bachelor's degrees in management, health education, business information systems, professional writing and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) for registered nurses who have already completed a clinical training program.
Southern Arkansas University is relatively small, with around 4,000 students on its rolls, but administrators don't expect it to be that way for long. The Magnolia school was named the fastest-growing university in Arkansas in 2015, and its array of online programs seems to be ready to handle the increased demand. Just three other schools in the state offered a wider selection of degrees that can be earned entirely in virtual classroom, and just one other institution topped its nearly 50 percent online enrollment in 2015.
The average net price of an SAU education ranked No. 5 in the state for low-income students and No. 7 for those with family incomes closer to the midline. SAU also retains its first-year students at the fourth-highest rate among schools that made our top ten.
The Pine Bluff campus of the University of Arkansas System is the only public Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) institution in Arkansas, and its commitment to providing access to higher education is made clear in the data. It ranked No. 3 in the state for the affordability of both its tuition and fees average and its estimated cost of books and supplies, and it provided students the largest portion of institutional grant aid in the state.
Both low- and middle-income students at UAPB paid an average net price that ranked No. 2 for affordability in their respective categories, and nearly 50 percent of graduates were able to pay off the balance of their student loans within three years of finishing their degrees. The school also offers career counseling for students and placement services for graduates.
Our No. 10 school is a private Christian faith-based institution located in Searcy, about an hour northeast of Little Rock. Harding University reported the highest graduation rate of any school on our list in 2016, and just one other institution posted a higher rate of first-year student retention. Harding students also paid the lowest cost of any school on our list for books and supplies in 2015-16.
The campus-based degree catalog at Harding was substantial, featuring over 100 programs and taking the No. 6 rank statewide for its variety. It also offers a range of courses and degrees in the virtual classroom, ranking No. 3 in the state for the number of programs available to distance education students.
Most Popular Degree Programs in Arkansas
Some students want to be part of a large major subject group and some would rather pursue a less common study plan. Whichever situation applies to you, knowing which degree programs are most popular among Arkansas students can help.
In-Demand Careers in Arkansas
If you're interested in designing your academic approach to best suit a high-demand occupation once you've finished your degree, it can help to keep an eye on the job market. Here's a list of Arkansas careers that are expected to grow over the next several years.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||53.5%||270||$67,290|
|Physical Therapist Aides||44.5%||280||$25,870|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||41.8%||1,030||$57,410|
|Operations Research Analysts||33.8%||550||$61,360|
|Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors||33%||670||$36,430|
|Forensic Science Technicians||32.7%||140||$40,330|
|Social Sciences Teachers, Postsecondary, All Other||31.9%||190||$51,640|
|Cartographers and Photogrammetrists||31%||60||$56,890|
|Rail Car Repairers||30.4%||390||$54,700|
|Insulation Workers, Mechanical||29.5%||160||$36,990|
|Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary||29.4%||80||-|
|Computer Numerically Controlled Machine Tool Programmers, Metal and Plastic||28.8%||100||$43,820|
|Law Teachers, Postsecondary||28.4%||80||$108,380|
|Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary||28.2%||530||$56,290|
|Information Security Analysts||27.9%||-||$80,500|
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographers||27.4%||490||$61,090|
|Occupational Therapy Aides||27.3%||40||$27,690|
|Film and Video Editors||27.2%||100||$41,260|
|Mathematical Science Teachers, Postsecondary||26.6%||400||$56,310|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Arkansas
Arkansas students who need some additional help paying for college can look into these and other state programs. The Academic Challenge Scholarship provides gradually increased award amounts to qualifying traditional and non-traditional students, and the Governor's Distinguished Scholarship is a program for high academic achievers that pays tuition, fees and room and board up to $10,000 per year.
November 15 (Early Action admissions deadline)
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.25 GPA and full-time status.
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.6 GPA.
February 1 (fall); October 1 (spring)
Renewable for four years.
Renewable if recipient maintains 15 hours each semester and a minimum 3.5 GPA.
- University of Arkansas System
- Arkansas State University System
- Arkansas Department of Higher Education
- Arkansas Course Transfer System (ACTS)
- Arkansas Community Colleges