- 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 30, 2017: Degrees, Ocampus, Oklahoma State University, http://ocampus.okstate.edu/courses/; About SWOSU, Southwestern Oklahoma State University, http://www.swosu.edu/resources/about.aspx; About Northwestern, http://www.nwosu.edu/about-northwestern; About Southwestern, Southwestern Oklahoma State University, http://www.se.edu/about/; Learn About Southeastern Oklahoma State University Online Programs, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, http://online.se.edu/about.aspx; Distance Education, East Central University, https://www.ecok.edu/academic-affairs-programs/academics/distance-education; Course Catalog, East Central University, https://www.ecok.edu/sites/default/files/siteContent/administration/records/course-schedules/SU17 %26 FA17 Schedule.pdf; ITV, Northwestern Oklahoma State University, http://www.nwosu.edu/itv; Undergraduate Online Programs, Cameron University, http://www.cameron.edu/online/undergraduate-online-programs; About, University of Central Oklahoma, https://www.uco.edu/about; About OPSU, Oklahoma Panhandle State University, http://www.opsu.edu/About/;
- OKCollegeStart.org, accessed May 18, 2017: Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant, https://secure.okcollegestart.org/Financial_Aid_Planning/Oklahoma_Grants/Oklahoma_Tuition_Aid_Grant.aspx; Oklahoma Tuition Equalization Grant, https://secure.okcollegestart.org/Financial_Aid_Planning/Oklahoma_Grants/Oklahoma_Tuition_Equalization_Grant.aspx;
- Frequently Asked Questions, Oklahoma's Promise, accessed May 18, 2017, http://www.okhighered.org/okpromise/faq.shtml
Prospective college students in Oklahoma have a lot to think about when they're choosing where to go to school. We wanted to make the process a little simpler by collecting a bunch of helpful info for college-bound Oklahomans — like job market projections, state-based financial aid programs and popular undergraduate majors — and listing it all in one convenient resource.
Oklahoma has three main university systems in the state — the University of Oklahoma system, the Oklahoma State University system and the Regional University System of Oklahoma. And of those three systems, only the Regional system has multiple institutions in our top ten. If you're a community college student hoping to follow through to a four-year degree, check with your advisors to see if your program is eligible for any special admissions agreements with in-state universities.
Best 4-Year Colleges in Oklahoma
Picking the best schools in the state is a challenge when more than 70 campus locations and online schools need to be considered. To identify those at the very top of the list, we gathered piles of data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and other U.S. Department of Education sources. We then ran them through a 13-point analysis to rank these top ten schools in Oklahoma.
The flagship campus of the University of Oklahoma System and most populous institution in the state offers the largest on-campus academic catalog among all Oklahoma colleges. It also took home the No. 1 spot among schools in our top ten on the student engagement metrics. No other campus on our list had a higher graduation rate or a greater percentage of first-year students returning to continue their education as sophomores.
OU also charges students the state's second-lowest average cost of books and supplies and provides a proportion of institutional grant aid that tied for the No. 2 ranking among schools on our list. Its student loan statistics were a bright spot as well, placing at No. 1 among our top ten schools for its percentage of graduates who reported paying off their college debt within three years of leaving school.
Oklahoma State University was one of the top destinations for students seeking an online bachelor's degree in Oklahoma, according to NCES data. The Stillwater flagship of the OSU system took home the state's No. 1 ranking for the size of its catalog of distance education study plans, which includes four-year degree programs in business administration, marketing and electrical engineering technology. The campus-based degree catalog at OSU includes more than 220 different courses of study -large enough to capture the statewide No. 2 ranking in that category.
In terms of affordability, just two other schools in our top ten offered a larger proportion of financial aid through institutional grants. Student engagement was high here as well — OSU took home the No. 3 and No. 4 spots in the state for graduation rate and first-year student retention rate in 2015-16.
This Weatherford school put up strong numbers on our flexibility metrics, both for campus-based students and those looking for online courses. Southwestern Oklahoma State University was one of just three institutions on our list to feature nine of the ten on-campus flexibility measures we looked for, such as weekend and evening programs, tuition payment plans and career counseling services. SWOSU also tied for the No. 2 spot among our top ten schools for its number of programs available in the virtual classroom.
Graduates of this regional university reported a median student loan balance of less than $17,000, good for the No. 4 ranking statewide in that category. That manageable average amount of college debt likely contributed to its No. 2 ranking among schools on our list on the loan repayment metric — nearly 80 percent of alumni reported being able to eliminate their loan debt within three years of graduating.
This outpost of the Regional University System of Oklahoma earned the No. 1 spot among schools on our list for tuition and fees affordability in 2015-16 and reported the state's fifth-lowest median student debt among its graduates. Northeastern State University also ranked No. 4 on our list for average net price, which estimates a total out-of-pocket cost for tuition, fees, housing, books and more after the expected amount of institutional grant and scholarship aid is accounted for.
Distance education was another driver of NSU's No. 4 overall ranking. More than 48 percent of students enrolled at the Tahlequah campus — the third-largest percentage in the state — had at least one online course on their schedule. NSU also offers degree plans that can be completed entirely in the evenings or on weekends, for campus-based students who need some schedule flexibility. The most-popular major at the school was in elementary education, based on the number of degrees awarded in 2015.
The main Alva campus of Northwestern Oklahoma State University is one of the smaller schools on our list, but it came up big on a few important affordability metrics. It ranked No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, for the average net price it charged low- and middle-income students, and no other school in the state reported a lower median amount of student debt among its graduates than the $14,290 recorded at Northwestern.
Students here also actively participate in online education, enrolling in distance learning courses at the second-highest percentage among schools that made our top ten. If you're planning to continue your education after a few or several years off, Northwestern provides remedial services and opportunities to earn course credit for relevant knowledge gained during your life away from school.
Affordability was a top category for Southeastern Oklahoma State University, where students paid the state's No. 5 most affordable amount of tuition and fees. The average net price for low- and middle-income students ranked No. 3 and No. 4 in the state, respectively, and no other school in Oklahoma provided institutional grant aid that covered a larger percentage of tuition and fees than SOSU.
This Durant institution was also one of the top online colleges for Oklahoma students, reporting the state's No. 2 percentage of distance education enrollment in 2015. SOSU also placed at No. 5 among schools on our list for its graduation rate and saw its graduates leave school with the second-most manageable median student debt burden in the state. In 2015, more bachelor's degrees were awarded in occupational safety and health than in any of the school's other 57 majors.
This public university, established in 1909, performed well on multiple metrics that impact the wallet. The raw cost of tuition and fees at East Central University ranked No. 4 in Oklahoma, and the average amount of institutional grant aid provided to students took the No. 3 spot in the state. Thanks at least in part to those two factors the Ada institution also took the No. 1 spot statewide for the average net price it charged both middle-income and low-income students.
Distance education at ECU takes multiple forms. The school administrates a portfolio of online courses that featured more than 120 individual options in fall 2016, and students who live nearby one of the school's satellite learning centers in Ardmore, McAlester and other cities around the state can take distance learning courses in person via interactive television (ITV).
Students at Cameron University paid the third-lowest raw cost of tuition and fees in Oklahoma in 2015-16, as well as the No. 6 average net price for both low- and middle-income students. Online enrollment was robust here as well, with more than 46 percent of the student body enrolled in at least some distance education coursework.
Students looking for an online bachelor's degree in Oklahoma that also contains some traditional, in-person courses can find a wide array of hybrid programs at Cameron. The catalog of undergraduate degree plans that offer a majority of their required courses in the virtual classroom includes mathematics, English, journalism and media production, business administration, psychology, communications and more.
The University of Central Oklahoma is the largest institution by enrollment in the Regional University System of Oklahoma and has the third-largest student body in our top ten, so it's fitting that it also offers students a degree catalog that ranked No. 3 in the state for the number and variety of its programs. Students who need on-campus flexibility can earn certain degrees entirely through weekend and evening classes, and career counseling for students and job placement services for graduates are both available.
UCO also charged its students the No. 8 most affordable raw cost of tuition and fees in 2015-16. Nearly 75 percent of recent alumni were able to pay off their student loan balances within three years of graduating, according to the U.S. Department of Education's College Scorecard.
Rounding out the list is the smallest school in our top ten, where students paid the state's lowest estimated cost of books and supplies in 2015-16. In fact, Oklahoma Panhandle State University typically charged so little for textbooks and other essentials that it landed in the 99th percentile of all 1,649 schools we analyzed on that metric. Students at OPSU also tended to take advantage of distance education courses — more than 41 percent of the student body took at least one class online in 2015.
The average net price rankings for middle- and low-income students at this Goodwell school came in at No. 7 and No. 9, respectively, among the schools that made our top ten. The median student debt of OPSU graduates was just over $18,000 in 2015, good for the No. 7 spot statewide.
Most Popular Degree Programs in Oklahoma
It can help to be aware of the most popular majors in Oklahoma, whether you've already chosen your field of study or you're still looking for one that inspires you. Here's a list of Oklahoma's top degrees by enrollment, according to NCES numbers.
In-Demand Careers in Oklahoma
There may be no degree that can guarantee you a job after graduation, but knowing which career fields are expected to have high demand for qualified applicants can help you point your education in a favorable direction for post-college employment. Check out this list of Oklahoma's hottest careers.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Computer Numerically Controlled Machine Tool Programmers, Metal and Plastic||38%||230||$53,970|
|Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators, Metal and Plastic||37.3%||2,820||$37,730|
|Operations Research Analysts||36.6%||620||$63,800|
|Cartographers and Photogrammetrists||35.7%||110||$57,530|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||33.3%||490||$59,080|
|Physical Therapist Aides||32.8%||500||$22,830|
|Hearing Aid Specialists||31.4%||-||$40,860|
|Personal Care Aides||30.8%||12,100||$19,630|
|Industrial Machinery Mechanics||30.5%||4,210||$50,400|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||30.4%||1,090||$57,000|
|Home Health Aides||30.1%||7,840||$24,770|
|Forensic Science Technicians||26.8%||-||$58,300|
|Personal Financial Advisors||22.7%||1,170||$83,360|
|Reinforcing Iron and Rebar Workers||22.4%||160||$35,110|
|Helpers--Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble Setters||22.2%||240||$27,370|
|Interpreters and Translators||22%||320||$36,660|
|Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians||21.8%||580||$41,640|
|Septic Tank Servicers and Sewer Pipe Cleaners||21.5%||510||$32,790|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Oklahoma
Oklahoma offers some state-based grant and scholarship programs to help residents pay for college. Included is the Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grant (OTAG) is a need-based award of up to $1,000 for students at public universities and up to $1,300 for private college students. In addition, The Oklahoma Tuition Equalization Grant (OTEG) provides qualifying students with $2,000 per year to help balance the additional costs of attending a private institution.
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.
- Regional University System of Oklahoma
- Oklahoma State University System
- Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education
- Oklahoma's Promise
- Oklahoma College Assistance Program
- Oklahoma Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (Oklahoma GEAR UP)
- Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan