Online and On-Campus Colleges in ARKANSAS

Article Sources
  • About, University of Arkansas, Accessed April 2018, https://www.uark.edu/about/index.php
  • Quick Facts, Harding University, Accessed April 2018, https://www.harding.edu/about/quickfacts
  • JBU Facts 2018-2018, John Brown University, Accessed April 2018, https://www.jbu.edu/about/facts/
  • Quad Goals, Arkansas Tech University, Accessed April 2018, https://explore.atu.edu/
  • About Arkansas State, Arkansas State University, Accessed April 2018, http://www.astate.edu/info/academics/degrees/index.dot?s=online-only
  • Quick Facts, University of Central Arkansas, Accessed April 2018, http://uca.edu/president/quick-facts/
  • About Ouachita, Ouachita Baptist University, Accessed April 2018, https://obu.edu/about/
  • Quick Facts, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Accessed April 2018, http://ualr.edu/administration/fast-facts/
  • About UAFS, University of Arkansas - Fort Smith, Accessed April 2018, https://uafs.edu/about/about-uafs
  • Overview, Southern Arkansas University, Accessed April 2018, https://web.saumag.edu/about/
  • 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/
  • 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.
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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

To find the top colleges in Arkansas, we considered 12 metrics, including the availability of career and academic services, the number of on-campus and online degree programs offered and the percentage of students who graduate. Based on our analysis, these are the best Arkansas universities and colleges.

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Methodology
1University of Arkansas+
ADMISSION RATE
63%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
$40
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
26

The flagship campus of the University of Arkansas System was founded as a land-grant institution in 1871. In the nearly 150 years since it first opened its doors, it has grown into a nationally renowned research university and one of the best Arkansas schools.

The 27,000 students enrolled in the University of Arkansas represent all 50 states and more than 120 countries. It has ten colleges and schools which offer degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. U of A is also one of the best online colleges in the state and offers numerous online courses and fully online degree programs.

Solid graduation and retention rates are part of what make U of A one of the best schools in Arkansas. Its campus is in Fayetteville.

Additional Info
2Harding University+
ADMISSION RATE
70%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
$50
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
18

Located in Searcy, about an hour northeast of Little Rock, Harding University is a private, Christian institution. It was founded with the merger of two other schools in 1924. Today, it is affiliated with the churches of Christ, and a Christian worldview helps guide its academic programs.

Harding University includes nine colleges and schools. These are devoted to more than 100 areas of study including a variety of undergraduate majors, pre-professional degrees and graduate programs. Liberal arts, pharmacy and Bible and ministry are a few of the education options available.

To make the list of best universities in Arkansas, Harding posted strong graduation and retention rates. Approximately 95 percent of its nearly 6,000 students receive financial aid to make their education more affordable.

Additional Info
3John Brown University+
ADMISSION RATE
77%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
$25
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
4

John Brown University is another Christian university to make the list of best Arkansas schools. Founded in 1919, the school embraces Christ-centered education but is not affiliated with a specific denomination. Its campus is in Siloam Springs.

At JBU, students can select from undergraduate, graduate and online programs. Overall, more than 100 majors, minors and graduate degrees are available. Of these, popular options include nursing, engineering and graphic design.

More than 2,500 students are enrolled at John Brown University. While the largest percentage hail from Arkansas, students from more than 40 states and 50 countries get their education at the school. Small class sizes and a low student-faculty ratio are also notable reasons for JBU to fall among the top Arkansas colleges.

Additional Info
4Arkansas Tech University+
ADMISSION RATE
64%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Recommended
APPLICATION FEE
N/A
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
21

Arkansas Tech University ranks strongly across many of the metrics that determine the top schools in Arkansas. It has affordable tuition, an expansive degree catalog and a variety of student support services.

At Tech, as the school is often called, students are encouraged to explore and innovate. With more than 130 student clubs and about 1,500 student events each year, the university hopes those enrolled will think outside their major to find a balance of academic, social and service experiences. There are seven colleges within Arkansas Tech University, including a College of eTech for online degrees.

A degree is an investment, and Arkansas Tech University wants to help keep its programs affordable. To do that, the university awards more than $47 million in financial aid annually.

Additional Info
5Arkansas State University-Main Campus+
ADMISSION RATE
70%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
$15
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
36

The flagship campus of the Arkansas State University System emerged as another of the best Arkansas colleges. It is not only a destination for on-campus programs but online degrees as well. Its online services division offers more than two dozen options for distance learners.

At the main campus of Arkansas State University -- known as A-State -- students will find more than 140 fields of study offered through six academic colleges. These include education, business, nursing and agriculture. More than 14,000 people are enrolled in the university's programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

A-State was founded in 1909 by the Arkansas General Assembly. Although originally established to teach agriculture, horticulture and textile manufacturing, it has since expanded into a comprehensive, doctoral-level school. Its campus is in Jonesboro.

Additional Info
6University of Central Arkansas+
ADMISSION RATE
90%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
$25
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
15

The University of Central Arkansas is another one of the top colleges in Arkansas. The school is committed to intellectual excellence as well as promoting the values of community, service and integrity.

With eight colleges and schools, UCA offers more than 150 academic options. Many of these are offered as online degrees, which adhere to the same academic standards as programs provided on-campus. Beyond its strong academic selections, the University of Central Arkansas features small class sizes and affordable tuition.

Like other top colleges in Arkansas, UCA has a rich history. It was founded in 1907 as The Arkansas State Normal School and initially offered only teacher preparation programs. From those humble roots, it has grown to enroll more than 11,000 students online and on its Conway campus.

Additional Info
7Ouachita Baptist University+
ADMISSION RATE
67%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
N/A
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
2

With dozens of educational programs in seven academic schools, Ouachita Baptist University takes another spot among the top Arkansas schools. The liberal arts university values personal connections between students and instructors, and a low student-faculty ratio makes those possible.

Ouachita Baptist University can trace its roots back to 1885 when it was first authorized. It opened its doors the following year to 235 students and saw its first three graduates in 1888. The university looks much different now, with approximately 1,500 students, but it continues to embrace the Christian values upon which it was founded.

Affiliated with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, Ouachita has solid retention and graduation rates. It provides numerous study abroad opportunities and encourages community service. Its campus is in Arkadelphia.

Additional Info
8University of Arkansas at Little Rock+
ADMISSION RATE
90%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
$40
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
11

The University of Arkansas campus in the state's capital city is known for providing generous financial aid, diverse degree programs and a number of online courses. All those factors help make it one of the best universities in Arkansas.

As a metropolitan research university, UA Little Rock works to graduate students who will be leaders and innovators in their chose field. There are more than 200 fields of study within the university's seven colleges and schools. The University of Arkansas at Little Rock maintains online and honors programs as well.

However, UA Little Rock didn't have all that at its start in 1927. At that time, the school was the Little Rock Junior College. Since then, it has grown into a nationally recognized institution that is also one of the top Arkansas colleges.

Additional Info
9University of Arkansas-Fort Smith+
ADMISSION RATE
Open
TEST REQUIREMENTS
N/A
APPLICATION FEE
$25
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
6

First established as a junior college in 1928, this outpost of the University of Arkansas System has expanded to become a premier regional university. Despite increasing its prominence, it has retained its mission of providing a reasonably priced education to Arkansas residents.

The University of Arkansas-Fort Smith is one of the best Arkansas schools for good reason. It offers dozens of academic programs, more than 100 student organizations and NCAA Division II athletic teams. There are undergraduate and graduate programs available through the seven colleges and schools within UAFS. Or for those who can't make it to campus, a wide selection of online courses is available.

UAFS enrolls more than 7,000 students each semester. As its name suggests, it has its campus in Fort Smith.

Additional Info
10Southern Arkansas University - Main Campus+
ADMISSION RATE
69%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
N/A
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
13

Southern Arkansas University is a mid-sized institution among the top schools in Arkansas. With more than 4,000 students, it is large enough to provide amble educational and social opportunities but not so large that you get lost in the crowd.

Founded in 1909, the public university seeks to provide a modern and affordable education to those enrolled. To that end, SAU offers more than 80 degree programs across four academic colleges and a graduate school. There are also hundreds of online courses as well as several fully online graduate degrees.

SAU made the list of best universities in Arkansas thanks to its strong retention rate and low student-faculty ratio. Its campus is in Magnolia, placing it within driving distance of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Additional Info

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 TitleProjected Job GrowthTotal EmploymentAnnual Salary
Occupational Therapy Assistants53.5%260$56,020
Physical Therapist Aides44.5%240$25,330
Physical Therapist Assistants41.8%1,010$56,510
Physician Assistants38.3%500$82,050
Radiation Therapists38.2%290$70,610
Nurse Practitioners36.3%1,830$95,230
Physical Therapists35.6%1,910$80,690
Statisticians34.4%370$76,050
Operations Research Analysts33.8%600$60,900
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors33%--
Forensic Science Technicians32.7%150$39,830
Social Sciences Teachers, Postsecondary, All Other31.9%200$48,040
Cooks, Restaurant31.5%10,260$23,120
Occupational Therapists31.2%1,090$79,220
Cartographers and Photogrammetrists31%70$52,720
Rail Car Repairers30.4%300$54,880
Psychiatrists29.5%240$161,620
Insulation Workers, Mechanical29.5%190$40,680
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary29.4%70-
Computer Numerically Controlled Machine Tool Programmers, Metal and Plastic28.8%70$49,300
Biomedical Engineers28.6%60$64,930
Phlebotomists28.5%1,080$28,750
Law Teachers, Postsecondary28.4%70$114,820
Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary28.2%670$53,640
Information Security Analysts27.9%1,750$83,070
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers27.4%550$62,840
Occupational Therapy Aides27.3%--
Film and Video Editors27.2%-$45,680
Mathematical Science Teachers, Postsecondary26.6%420$55,920
Medical Assistants26.6%3,290$30,010
Source: 2017 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

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.

 
Arkansas Higher Education Opportunity Grant
Applicant must be a United States citizen or permanent resident who is an Arkansas resident for at least 12 months prior to application for the grant. Applicant must be enrolled in an approved institution of higher education and enrolled in a program of study that leads towards a bachelor's degree. FAFSA and certification that applicant is drug-free are required.
More

MAX. AWARD AMOUNT

$1,000

APPLICATION DEADLINE

June 1

RENEWAL CRITERIA

Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 2.0 GPA and income guidelines.

 
American Legion Department of Arkansas High School Oratorical Scholarship Program
Applicants must be high school students under the age of 20 who are U.S. citizens or legal residents and residents of the state. Students first give an oration within their state and winners compete at the national level. The oration must be related to the Constitution of the United States focusing on the duties and obligations citizens have to the government. It must be in English and be between eight and ten minutes. There is also an assigned topic which is posted on the website, and it should be between three and five minutes.
More

MAX. AWARD AMOUNT

$2,000

APPLICATION DEADLINE

December 31

 

 

 
Arkansas Cheer Coaches Association Cheer Classics Team of Excellence
Applicants must be senior cheerleaders who will be competing in the Cheer Classics put on by the Arkansas Cheer Coaches Association. Selection is based on the two-page essay, community service and three letters of recommendation.
More

MAX. AWARD AMOUNT

N/A

APPLICATION DEADLINE

March 17

 

 

 
E.M. Arnold Scholarship
Applicant must have participated in either livestock or art exhibits at the Arkansas State Fair and be planning to attend an accredited college, university or vocational school.
More

MAX. AWARD AMOUNT

$3,000

APPLICATION DEADLINE

May 1

 

 

Additional Resources

Article Sources
Methodology

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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