Best Colleges & Universities Arkansas

best_colleges_universities_in_arkansas_arAre you looking for lots of school spirit or a spiritual school? In Arkansas, you can find both! Students of all kinds are welcome in the beautiful, laid-back state of Arkansas. Technical degrees and a plethora of various minors and majors are available in the colleges and universities of Arkansas.

Arkansas may not be where you first look for postsecondary institutions of higher learning, but Arkansas is home to multiple Bible colleges (most are Baptist), liberal arts schools and major research universities. The state bolsters its academic programs with its dollars. It is one of 15 states taking part in the Academic Common Market. This program allows residents Arkansas and 14 other states to pay in-state tuition in Arkansas institutions of higher learning. See http://home.sreb.org/acm/participating/institutionstates.aspx to learn if you qualify to take part in the benefits of this program.

Arkansas is also part of the Closing the Gap 2020 Program which endeavors to boost the post-secondary learning opportunities by creating opportunities and financial aid that will put college and university learning within reach of many potential students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to partake. According to the program’s site, the “long-term objective [is] to reach the 2025 goal of a 60% post-secondary attainment rate in Arkansas.” With this kind of fervor, Arkansas will be a great option for you as you look for a state in which to attend a college or university. No matter what your pursuit, Arkansas probably offers what you are looking for and may help you be able to reach all your academic goals.

Colleges and Universities in Arkansas Fast Facts

  • Fall enrollment (2017) = 164,082
  • Degrees awarded in Arkansas (2016) = 45,852
  • Average in-state public tuition (2016) = $6,223
  • Median out-of-state tuition (2016) = $12,120
  • Largest schools by the number of degrees awarded = 1. University of Arkansas, 2. Arkansas State University-Main Campus, 3. Arkansas Tech University

NCES and DataUSA

Rankings

EDsmart assesses colleges in Arkansas based on data that covers four main areas:

  • Cost (average net price)
  • Academic quality (graduation rate)
  • Student satisfaction (retention rate)
  • Salary After Attending (the median earnings of former students who received federal financial aid, at 10 years after entering the school)

All data was gathered from the U.S. Dept of Education websites College Scorecard and College Navigator.

This ranking aims to help students assess the affordability and value of top colleges in Arkansas so they can make informed decisions about which college to attend.

Best Colleges in Arkansas for 2019-2020

1. University of Arkansas

Score: 100

Average Net Price: $16,069
Retention Rate: 82%
Graduation Rate: 63%
Salary After Attending: $44,900

The University of Arkansas in Fayetteville was founded in 1871 and boasts an enrollment of over 27,000 students and the most extensive exchange student program in the world. Students taking courses entirely online account for over 3,000 learners. Online learners have access to 75 programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and certificate levels. Some degree options include a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, a Master of Science in Human Environmental Sciences, and a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership. Each program has the approval of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, and this university takes part in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, increasing its ability to serve the needs of online learners. One of the best colleges in Arkansas, this school enjoys a top 15 rating for the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design and a School of Law that ranks in the top 36 for US News’ top law schools and among the top 15 for National Jurist.

2. Ouachita Baptist University

Score: 98.6

Average Net Price: $18,509
Retention Rate: 80%
Graduation Rate: 67%
Salary After Attending: $41,200

Since its 1886 founding, Ouachita Baptist University has lived up to its reputation as a strong liberal arts college. There is a 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio and an average class size of 18 students. This Higher Learning Commission-accredited school features an affiliation with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and has 1,500 students, representing 30 countries. There are over 20 programs available that allow students to study abroad. US News ranks the university among the top 229 liberal arts colleges in the country and the top 200 of high school counselor rankings. The school’s academic offerings include three degrees that can be taken online, comprising an Associate of Arts in Christian Studies, Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies and Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies. The Interdisciplinary Studies degree has a focus on completion for prior credits earned in another program. Around 98 percent of students qualify for graduate programs easily.

3. Harding University

Score: 98.2 

Average Net Price: $18,959
Retention Rate: 82%
Graduation Rate: 65%
Salary After Attending: $40,900

Harding University is a private Christian liberal arts college affiliated with the Church of Christ, dating back to 1924 when two local colleges merged. Over 5,000 students, including international students representing 50 countries, have access to a range of campus-based and online programs, with opportunities to study abroad available. Online programs include a dual credit option with Bible courses for high school students, Certificates in Biblical Studies and Christian Ministry, a Bachelor of Arts in Bible & Ministry, and a Master of Ministry. This university ranks 20th in Southern regional universities and 14th in best colleges for the needs of veterans, according to US News. Other accolades this school has received include honors from the National Merit Scholars, the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll and the Princeton Review. The students and faculty are known to contribute a lot of time to community service, which has helped them earn a place on the Community Service Honor Roll.

4. University of Central Arkansas

Score: 97.4

Average Net Price: $14,375
Retention Rate: 72%
Graduation Rate: 41%
Salary After Attending: $38,300

The University of Central Arkansas is a vibrant school in the heart of the state with a wide range of activities. Part of the state’s public university system, UCA has over 11,000 students studying 159 academic programs, including fully online and hybrid courses. This university has been ranked as a top military-friendly school because of the services it provides for veterans and has a broad range of online programs to suit learners in all career stages, especially if changing careers. All are offered with a flat-rate tuition price affordable for all students. A few of the options that you can choose from among are Bachelor of Science in Addiction Studies, Educational Specialist degrees, School Leadership, Management & Admin. Curriculum Administration Certificate, Master of Science in Nursing, and Doctor of Nursing Practice. Both health and education positions are in high demand in the job market, and the university offers career services to help you post-graduation.

5. Arkansas State University-Main Campus

Score: 96.8

Average Net Price: $13,828
Retention Rate: 74%
Graduation Rate: 46%
Salary After Attending: $32,200

Host to over 14,000 students, Arkansas State has been serving the needs of students since 1909. Average class sizes of 29 allow instructors to attend to student needs more efficiently. This campus ranks second among the best schools in Arkansas, according to Niche. The ranking includes public colleges and universities in the state, of which there are many. This university is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, with individual programs featuring specialized accreditation, as appropriate for professional licensure or certification. There are 35 degrees and certificates available that span business and media, health, education, and sociology. Some awards available include Bachelor of Science in Creative Media Production, Certificate in Healthcare Emergency Management, Master of Science in Education in Educational Theory and Practice, and Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. These concentrations help provide solid foundations both for younger students entering the workforce and for students who want to change careers.

6. Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas

Score: 96.2

Average Net Price: $4,593
Retention Rate: 70%
Graduation Rate: 42%
Salary After Attending: $23,100

Cossatot Community College was initially founded as a technical college in 1975 and established as a community college in 1991. Over 1,500 students take classes both on-campus and online, with the online programs offering the same high quality as campus-based programs while allowing for flexibility. This campus has been ranked as one of the best online colleges in Arkansas by Affordable Colleges Online and Best Colleges and enjoys a high Niche rating for student life. The school offers four technical certificates and eight two-year degrees that are available entirely online and suitable for the needs of those with a job and other responsibilities. Specialized certificate options include Administrative Assistant and Medical Assisting. Degree options include Associate of General Studies, Associate of Applied Science in Business Management, Associate of Science in Criminal Justice, and Associate of Science in Psychology. These programs have full accreditation. These programs meet the criteria for transfer into bachelor’s degree programs.

7. Southern Arkansas University Tech

Score: 96.2

Average Net Price: $10,472
Retention Rate: 70%
Graduation Rate: 51%
Salary After Attending: $26,700

Part of the Southern Arkansas University System, SAU Tech has been serving as one of the best colleges in Arkansas since 1968. This college currently serves the needs of over 3,000 students, whose numbers include students enrolled in online programs. Niche gives the school an A grade for student life, US News ranks this college with the top 150 regional Southern colleges, and WalletHub ranked SAU Tech as the second top community college in Arkansas. As one of the best colleges in AR, the school offers seven online degrees that are in high demand. All of the degrees are at the Associate’s level, with certificates provided at the undergraduate level. Some degrees you can consider include concentrations in Computer Information Technology, Fire Science Management and Emergency Response, and Teacher Education. Certificates available include Office Software Specialist and Entrepreneurship. The coursework associated with the degrees transfers into programs at four-year schools in Arkansas easily.

8. Arkansas Tech University

Score: 96.2

Average Net Price: $11,985
Retention Rate: 70%
Graduation Rate: 37%
Salary After Attending: $34,100

Arkansas Tech University is the top college in Arkansas for students taking STEM courses, the third-largest university in the state, and offers an 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio. US News has ranked the college 102 out of the regional schools in the South. Niche has ranked the college third-best among Arkansas’ public universities. The school’s history dates back to its days as an agricultural school in 1909, and its growth over the years has helped it adapt to changing academic needs. Over 9,000 students attend the school, and the student body includes enrollees from 42 countries. Online degree offerings include Associate degrees in Early Childhood Education and Logistics Management, Bachelor’s degrees in RN to BSN and History, Master’s degrees in Health Informatics and Library Media Specialist K-12, and endorsements for teaching Special Education classes. All the degrees available are easy to complete in two years or less.

9. Southern Arkansas University Main Campus

Score: 95.4

Average Net Price: $12,778
Retention Rate: 66%
Graduation Rate: 36%
Salary After Attending: $35,700

Southern Arkansas University’s main campus is host to around 4,700 students taking advantage of over 80 degrees and programs. A 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio helps staff better manage their students’ needs more effectively. Niche’s grade for diversity at this school is an A-. One poll found that 86 percent of students felt that their professors put a lot of effort into their teaching. Undergraduate degree programs available online include management and RN to BSN, two choices that lead to a lot of job prospects after graduation. Students pursuing a degree in management can select a 2+2 program that helps them finish their four-year degree regardless of their location. Graduate degrees include Master of Arts in Teaching, Master of Business Administration with Supply Chain Management Emphasis, and Master of Science in Computer and Information Science – Cyber Security and Privacy Option. There are also graduate certificates that lead to further options in teaching and other professions.

10. University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville

Score: 94.2

Average Net Price: $5,875
Retention Rate: 61%
Graduation Rate: 47%
Salary After Attending: $25,500

The University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville has over 3,000 enrollees in online programs that include 58 courses. Formerly a technical college, the school merged with the University of Arkansas in 1997 after a significant statewide reorganization of its two-year technical schools. Both transfer and Applied Science two-year degrees are available to students and professional certificates and proficiency certificates that require under 18 credit hours. Many of the two-year degree concentrations allow for more effortless transfer into four-year programs at other University of Arkansas campuses and other public and private schools in the state. Certificates of Proficiency can transfer into some Applied Science programs, making it easier to pursue further training beyond the certification if desired. Some examples of degrees that you could earn include Applied Science in Criminology and Associate of Arts in General Education. Niche has graded the school B- for its overall value to students.

11. University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Score: 94.2

Average Net Price: $13,729
Retention Rate: 69%
Graduation Rate: 31%
Salary After Attending: $34,900

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock hosts 11,000 students, with 203 study programs. This campus has enjoyed military-friendly designation since 2012, showing its ability to provide for one of the most prominent groups of degree-seekers in the state. The school is the only university in the state with the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, and one of only 361 colleges in the United States to receive this designation. US News and World Report has ranked the campus as one of 133 best universities nationwide, and SR Education Group has classified them as the 11th top online college. Online programs feature an accelerated schedule that makes them easier to complete in less time. Some of the available degree choices include Bachelor of Arts in Applied Communication, Master of Education in Rural and Urban School Leadership, and Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Minors for the online programs include options as diverse as Health and Exercise Science, Philosophy and Religious Studies, and Writing.

12. Arkansas State University-Mountain Home

Score: 94

Average Net Price: $11,369
Retention Rate: 59%
Graduation Rate: 47%
Salary After Attending: $32,200

Arkansas State University at Mountain Home features Higher Learning Commission accreditation and affiliations with the American Association of Community Colleges, the Arkansas Academic Advising Network, Community College Humanities Association, and the North Arkansas Two-Year College Consortium. Students can take an Associate of Arts degree that helps them prepare for a broad range of career opportunities, ranging from veterinary jobs to journalism. Besides a robust learning experience that translates to a foundation for better jobs, the courses that are part of this degree easily transfer to other degree programs taught at public colleges elsewhere in the state. Stackable credits are also possible for certificate recipients who want to transfer their credits into a degree at a later time. The college ranks 51 out of 868 of the best community colleges in the United States, according to Niche. Niche also lists the school as first out of 22 best community colleges.

13. University of the Ozarks

Score: 94

Average Net Price: $17,349
Retention Rate: 67%
Graduation Rate: 46%
Salary After Attending: $33,900

The University of the Ozarks has been providing students with quality education since 1834. The private school is owned by the Presbyterian Church (USA) and hosts several student organizations representing a diversity of faiths. This university has ranked third among colleges in the South according to US News and World Reports. Niche gives the university an A grade for diversity. The school features Higher Learning Commission Accreditation and accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Class sizes average about 19 students, ensuring that students get the individualized attention they require. Each student receives an iPad where they can access their textbooks and programs essential for completing their courses. Some majors available for degrees include History, English, Philosophy, Religion, and Spanish. Minors include American Studies, Creative Writing/Thought, and Interfaith Studies. The academic experience is one that is easy to tailor to individual student needs. Students can select the major and two minors that they want most.

14. Lyon College

Score: 93.6

Average Net Price: $18,605
Retention Rate: 64%
Graduation Rate: 45%
Salary After Attending: $38,600

One of the best schools in Arkansas, Lyon College has an excellent success rate, with 98 percent of their graduates either employed or accepted into a graduate program within six months. The private college has its origins in local mission efforts by Presbyterians. Washington Monthly has ranked this school both as the most socially beneficial college in the state and the one that offers the “most bang for the buck.” Princeton Review ranked the college as one of the Best Southeastern Colleges, and Forbes rated the school as one of the top nationwide options. Some programs available to students are Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Bachelor of Arts in History, and Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Pre-Law and Pre-Ministry concentrations are also available for those who need foundational courses at the undergraduate level. Minors students can choose from including Anthropology, Celtic Studies, International Studies, and Religion and Philosophy.

15. University of Arkansas-Fort Smith

Score: 92.8

Average Net Price: $10,417
Retention Rate: 66%
Graduation Rate: 28%
Salary After Attending: $31,000

The University of Arkansas campus in Fort Smith dates back to 1928 as Fort Smith Junior College, eventually becoming part of the University of Arkansas System in 2002 under a restructuring of the local college system under state oversight. An average student enrollment of over 6,000 combined with an 18:1 ratio makes this campus just the right size for almost any student needs. There is enough of student life to satisfy everyone, without a feeling of being in a school big enough to be overwhelming. Examples of degrees available include Associate of Applied Science in Workforce Leadership, Associate of General Studies, Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric and Writing, and Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership. The campus is the second-best in the state, according to Niche, and the third-best location. This campus also has a 350 nationwide ranking for business programs. Niche gives the school a B- grade, with academics and diversity accounting for much of the satisfaction level.

16. Henderson State University

Score: 92.8

Average Net Price: $15,357
Retention Rate: 62%
Graduation Rate: 33%
Salary After Attending: $35,700

Henderson State University is a liberal arts school with origins going back to 1890. Today, they enjoy a reputation for offering students over 65 programs to choose from among, including undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as certificates. Besides enjoying Higher Learning Commission accreditation, the school also has membership in The Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges and the College Placement Council, among many other professional organizations. Some degrees available include a Bachelor of Arts in Innovative Media, Bachelor of Integrated Studies, Bachelor of Science in Human Services, and graduate studies in liberal arts and science concentrations. US News and World Report, the college has a ranking of 91 among universities in the South, also ranking 36 among all top public schools and in the #458-#503 range for business programs. This university enjoys an overall B- grade, with high satisfaction for diversity, academics, and value.

17. University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

Score: 92.6

Average Net Price: $8,692
Retention Rate: 71%
Graduation Rate: 26%
Salary After Attending: $27,200

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff dates back to 1890 and has a reputation for its use of innovation to suit student needs, including a broad selection of courses to take online. One of the university’s most significant advantages is its 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio, one of the lower ratios in Arkansas colleges. This low ratio has helped the school secure its place at #45 in US News and World Report’s ranking of regional colleges in the South. The school also enjoys a spot at #7 among top public schools and #34 among historically black colleges and universities. According to Niche, this college ranks high both in academics and in diversity. Some undergraduate majors available include Human Sciences, Social Work, and Accounting. Examples of graduate programs include Addiction Studies and Computer Science & Technology. Each program uses the expertise of professors with substantial experience in their respective fields for a better learning experience.

18. Arkansas Northeastern College

Score: 92.4

Average Net Price: $5,348
Retention Rate: 64%
Graduation Rate: 28%
Salary After Attending: $25,700

Arkansas Northeastern College’s student body includes 30 percent of learners taking classes off-site. This school dates back to 1974 when Mississippi County voters approved the construction of a new community college. The focus of coursework revolves around healthcare, technology, and arts and sciences, giving students a competitive advantage as they enter the workforce or seek a new career. Some examples of degrees that are available include Associate of Applied Science in Aviation Maintenance, Associate of Applied Science in Office Management, Associate of Arts in Social Sciences, and Associate of Science in Childhood Education. Some technical certificates available include Administrative Support, Dental Assisting, and Paramedic. This college has a B- overall grade on Niche, making it a school that most students would recommend. Some things that students were most pleased with were the quality of their professors, the school’s diversity, and the value of the education received.

19. Bryan University

Score: 91.8

Average Net Price: $19,864
Retention Rate: 72%
Graduation Rate: 71%
Salary After Attending: $24,400

Bryant University has a reputation for providing some of the best career services for students looking for jobs locally after graduation, as well as in other locations where health and technology jobs are in high demand. The school has been dedicated to providing students with everything they need to succeed since 1982 and keeps on top of the market for training in industries that have attracted attention. Some programs available include solar and sustainable energy-related certification, Associated of Applied Science in Healthcare Administration, Associated of Applied Science in Solar-Sustainable Energy, Diploma in Security and Investigation, and Associate of Applied Science in Computer Information Systems. There is a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio that allows for more involvement on the part of the professors. Full-time enrollment, according to Niche, averages just over 50 students. This college has an open-admissions policy, making it a popular choice for students who never took the SATs or ACT.

20. Arkansas State University-Beebe

Score: 91.6

Average Net Price: $7,633
Retention Rate: 57%
Graduation Rate: 34%
Salary After Attending: $29,400

Arkansas State University-Beebe has been offering students classes since 1932. Although it originally started as an agricultural school, it has expanded over the years to provide technical and other programs in high demand as the workforce evolves. This college is dedicated to the needs of online learners who often have busy schedules when seeking a degree. Some more flexible degree options include Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts and Associate of Science in Liberal Arts and Sciences, along with an Associate of General Studies option. Other two-year degree or certificate options that prospective students might consider include Early Childhood Education, Criminal Justice, and Business. Credit for life experiences can help students save money by reducing the number of classes required. The college is accredited, with accreditation from the relevant industry organizations. Two areas where the school enjoys a higher Niche grade are in diversity and student life.

21. Williams Baptist University

Score: 91.4

Average Net Price: $15,645
Retention Rate: 59%
Graduation Rate: 38%
Salary After Attending: $33,100

Williams Baptist University is an accredited university run by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. Over 25 majors are available, preparing students for a broad array of career choices. The school has a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and has a small enrollment of around 600 full-time students, ensuring that each student has the right amount of attention given to their studies. Several liberal arts concentrations are available, ranging from Christian Ministry training to Communications, Natural Science, and Psychology. The program that the school offers online is a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, a degree in high demand among job-seekers. This school enjoys a ranking of 27 among Southern regional colleges, according to US News and World Report. The Niche grade for this school overall is a B-, with high rankings for diversity, academics, and value. Graduates have reported a high satisfaction rate with the options available to them.

22. Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas

Score: 91

Average Net Price: $4,894
Retention Rate: 62%
Graduation Rate: 31%
Salary After Attending: $22,400

This college has the distinction of being one of the state’s first community colleges, dating back to 1964 when the state saw an increased demand for technical and agricultural training. Over 2,300 students attend this college, with many pursuing their degrees online for their greater overall convenience. The college’s efforts to increase graduation rates and course success have resulted in recognition from the Leah Meyer Austin Leadership Award. The National Endowment for the Humanities has given the school status as a Bridging Cultures Community College, an important distinction for a community college. According to Niche, the college enjoys good ratings for professors, diversity, and student life. Some degree programs available to students include Business Administration, Management Information Services, Graphic Communications, and Teacher Education. There are also agricultural and technical certificates available to serve the needs of students who prefer these options.

23. University of Arkansas Community College-Hope

Score: 91

Average Net Price: $6,070
Retention Rate: 65%
Graduation Rate: 28%
Salary After Attending: $24,400

The University of Arkansas Community College-Hope, initially founded in 1965, originated as a vocational-technical school, becoming part of the University of Arkansas System in 1996. This school’s addition to the University of Arkansas System opened up a range of new possibilities for degree-seekers. There are around 1,500 students seeking degrees or certificates on-campus or online. Niche has given the school high grades for diversity and student life, and the local Phi Theta Kappa chapter has also earned top rankings for its members’ achievements. Students have a choice of over 15 degrees to select from among, including Associate of Arts in General Education, Associate of Science in Business, Associate of Arts in Human Services, and Associate of Applied Science in Nursing. Besides the degrees available, the college offers a wealth of technical and proficiency certificates that include training for jobs in high demand in the area.

24. North Arkansas College

Score: 90.8

Average Net Price: $4,602
Retention Rate: 56%
Graduation Rate: 31%
Salary After Attending: $25,600

North Arkansas College opened in 1974 and is a proud part of the state’s community college system, serving the needs of around 1800 students. Two of the school’s Associate degrees, Accounting and Business Administration Management, are available entirely online, and many of the courses for other concentrations have online formats. Regardless of your plans, getting your degree will be convenient for these options and their overall flexibility. Life experience credit is also available that allows you to make use of non-academic experience. Credits earned here easily transfer to other community colleges and degree programs at four-year universities in the state. WalletHub ranked this school as the 17th Best Community College in the United States. Besides this critical ranking, 95 percent of students indicated their willingness to recommend the college to friends and family members. The college’s overall Niche grade is B-, with the quality of the professors, student life, and diversity ranking high in student satisfaction.

25. Central Baptist College

Score: 90.6

Average Net Price: $17,035
Retention Rate: 69%
Graduation Rate: 25%
Salary After Attending: $35,300

The Baptist Missionary Association of Arkansas owns and operates Central Baptist College. This school has been in operation since 1952, with over 700 enrolled students and over 50 faculty members. US News has ranked the college 55 out of the best regional colleges in the South. Niche gives the school a ranking of #9 for best value colleges in the state, with a B- grade for academics. This school offers hybrid and online courses through their PACE program, which is primarily geared toward working adults and others who need flexibility in their schedules. A few of the options that students might consider include an Associate of Science in Military Technologies, Bachelor of Science in Church Administration, Bachelor of Science in Leadership, and Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership. This university offers a Prior Learning Assessment option, allowing students to earn credit for work and other non-academic experience, potentially reducing the amount of credit needed to get your degree.

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