Best Colleges & Universities Arkansas 2023


We’ve compiled the best colleges and universities in Arkansas. Arkansas is a state located in the southern region of the United States. The nickname “The Natural State” is fitting due to its natural beauty and rich history and culture. Visitors to Arkansas can enjoy hiking and camping in the Ozarks, visiting historical sites such as Little Rock and Hot Springs, and exploring the state’s many museums and art galleries.

The capital and largest city in Arkansas is Little Rock, the most populous city in the state. Other major cities in Arkansas include Fayetteville, Springdale, and Rogers. Several colleges and universities in Arkansas are located in these major cities.

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Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

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 of Arkansas and 14 other states to pay in-state tuition in several Arkansas universities. See to learn if you and your chosen school qualify to participate in this program's benefits.

Arkansas is home to the Closing the Gap 2020 Program, which endeavors to boost postsecondary learning opportunities. According to the program's site, 56 schools currently participate in this scholarship program. With this kind of fervor, Arkansas will be an excellent option for you as you look for a state in which to attend a college or university.


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 Accredited Colleges & Universities in Arkansas 2023

1. University of Arkansas

Score: 100.0

Average Net Price: $16,507
Retention Rate: 84%
Graduation Rate: 63%
Salary After Attending: $51,702

A large variety of students earn their degrees entirely online at their own convenience. Online learners have access to 75 programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and certificate levels. 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.

2. Harding University

Score: 99.8 

Average Net Price: $19,456
Retention Rate: 86%
Graduation Rate: 65%
Salary After Attending: $47,520

Harding University is a private Christian liberal arts college affiliated with the Church of Christ, dating back to 1924 when two local colleges merged. Harding has almost 5,000 students, including international students representing 50 countries, who 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 well among Southern regional universities. 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 much time to community service, which has helped them earn a place on the Community Service Honor Roll.

3. Hendrix College

Score: 99.6

Average Net Price: $19,746
Retention Rate: 86%
Graduation Rate: 69%
Salary After Attending: $45,626

Hendrix College was founded in 1876 and is a private liberal arts college with a Methodist affiliation. It's located in Conway, Arkansas. A little more than 85% of students choose to live in the school's suburban campus which is a 30-minute drive from the capital of Little Rock. There are nearly 70 student groups for students to explore. According to U.S. News and World Report the college ranks #23 in Most Innovative Schools and #55 in Best Undergraduate Teaching. Hendrix creates the skills, habits of mind, and qualities required for the globally connected economy. It is even more important today to develop these qualities.

4. John Brown University

Score: 99.4

Average Net Price: $21,957
Retention Rate: 84%
Graduation Rate: 70%
Salary After Attending: $51,785

John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas is giving people from all over the world the opportunity to explore their career potential. With a student body coming from nearly 50 countries, anyone can find the perfect fit. ranked John Brown University #3 in Best Colleges in Arkansas and gave the school a grade rating of A-. JBU offers approximately 40 undergraduate majors in a variety of fields like biblical studies, business, engineering, humanities, and fine arts. JBU offers a range of different study abroad programs, from summer programs to semester options, as well as faculty-run courses.

5. Arkansas State University-Main Campus

Score: 98.0

Average Net Price: $14,189
Retention Rate: 77%
Graduation Rate: 51%
Salary After Attending: $37,755

Host to approximately 13,000 students, Arkansas State has been serving the needs of students since 1909. Average class sizes of 20 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 160 degree subjects and fields available that span business and media, health, education, and sociology. These concentrations help provide solid foundations both for younger students entering the workforce and for students who want to change careers.

6. Ouachita Baptist University

Score: 98.0

Average Net Price: $20,639
Retention Rate: 80%
Graduation Rate: 64%
Salary After Attending: $44,927

Since its 1886 founding, Ouachita Baptist University has lived up to its reputation as a strong liberal arts college. This Higher Learning Commission-accredited school features an affiliation with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and has 1,700 students, representing 30 countries. The university consistently fairs well compared with other liberal arts colleges in the country. The Interdisciplinary Studies degree focuses on the completion of prior credits earned in another program. Around 98 percent of students qualify for graduate programs.

7. University of the Ozarks

Score: 97.6

Average Net Price: $14,323
Retention Rate: 68%
Graduation Rate: 52%
Salary After Attending: $39,347

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 sixth 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. 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.

8. Arkansas Tech University

Score: 97.0

Average Net Price: $11,721
Retention Rate: 68%
Graduation Rate: 47%
Salary After Attending: $38,580

It consistently ranks among Arkansas’ best 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. University of Central Arkansas

Score: 97.0

Average Net Price: $16,554
Retention Rate: 77%
Graduation Rate: 44%
Salary After Attending: $42,472

Part of the state’s public university system, UCA has over 10,000 students studying a wide variety of 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 to choose from are Bachelor of Science in Addiction Studies, Educational Specialist degrees, School Leadership, Management and Administration, 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 students after graduation.

10. University of Arkansas-Fort Smith

Score: 96.6

Average Net Price: $9,062
Retention Rate: 70%
Graduation Rate: 36%
Salary After Attending: $37,613

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 approximately 5,500 combined with an 18:1 ratio makes this campus just the right size for almost any student’s needs. 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. UA Fort Smith’s business programs are well regarded. In addition to excellent academics, the campus and its location are beautiful and well-planned, contributing to a student’s more satisfying experience overall.

11. the University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Score: 96.0

Average Net Price: $16,065
Retention Rate: 70%
Graduation Rate: 39%
Salary After Attending: $40,077

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock hosts 8,000 students, with 155 study programs. This campus has enjoyed a 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. UA Little Rock consistently ranks among the best universities nationwide. Online programs from UA Little Rock feature an accelerated schedule that makes the degrees easier to complete in less time. Some of the available degree choices include a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Communication, a Master of Education in Rural and Urban School Leadership, and a 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. Southern Arkansas University Main Campus

Score: 95.6

Average Net Price: $15,321
Retention Rate: 69%
Graduation Rate: 40%
Salary After Attending: $39,191

Southern Arkansas University’s main campus is host to around 4,400 students taking advantage of over 80 degrees and programs. A 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio helps staff manage their students’ needs more effectively. Undergraduate degree programs available online include management and RN to BSN, two choices that lead to many 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 a Master of Arts in Teaching, a Master of Business Administration with Supply Chain Management Emphasis, and a 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.

13. Lyon College

Score: 95.6

Average Net Price: $20,706
Retention Rate: 68%
Graduation Rate: 52%
Salary After Attending: $43,343

One of the best schools in Arkansas, Lyon College, has an excellent success rate, with 99 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. 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 include Anthropology, Celtic Studies, International Studies, and Religion and Philosophy.

14. The University of Arkansas at Monticello

Score: 95.2

Average Net Price: $10,451
Retention Rate: 70%
Graduation Rate: 31%
Salary After Attending: $33,821

U.S. News and World Report ranked the University of Arkansas-Monticello among the top 150 schools in Regional Universities South and the top 150 schools in Top Performers on Social Mobility. They offer an inclusive environment that fosters success and encourages personal growth. Students at UAM benefit from teachers who are experts in the field, combined with the opportunity to study their chosen field of interest in-depth, it's no wonder that an increasing percentage of graduates are accepted into graduate programs and become successful professionals.

15. the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

Score: 95.2

Average Net Price: $11,631
Retention Rate: 73%
Graduation Rate: 33%
Salary After Attending: $31,984

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff dates back to 1890. It 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 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio, one of the lower ratios in Arkansas colleges. This low ratio has helped the school secure its higher rankings. 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.

16. Henderson State University

Score: 94.0

Average Net Price: $14,902
Retention Rate: 61%
Graduation Rate: 37%
Salary After Attending: $39,020

Henderson State University is a liberal arts school with origins going back to 1890. Today, they offer students over 65 programs to choose from, including undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as certificates. Besides enjoying Higher Learning Commission accreditation, the school has membership in The Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges and the College Placement Council, among other professional organizations. Some degrees available include a Bachelor of Arts in Innovative Media, a Bachelor of Integrated Studies, a Bachelor of Science in Human Services, and graduate studies in liberal arts and science concentrations. HSU consistently ranks high in satisfaction for its diversity, academics, and value.

17. Central Baptist College

Score: 93.4

Average Net Price: $15,482
Retention Rate: 59%
Graduation Rate: 27%
Salary After Attending: $40,099

The Baptist Missionary Association of Arkansas owns and operates Central Baptist College. This school has been in operation since 1952, with over 500 enrolled students and over 50 faculty members. It earns high ranks for its value. This school offers hybrid and online courses through its PACE program, which is geared toward working adults and others who need flexibility in their schedules. This university offers a Prior Learning Assessment option, allowing students to earn credit for work and other non-academic experiences, potentially reducing the amount of credit needed to get a degree.

18. Philander Smith College

Score: 93.2

Average Net Price: $14,046
Retention Rate: 63%
Graduation Rate: 27%
Salary After Attending: $35,583

Philander Smith College was established in 1877 and is a small, private, historically Black college that grants four-year liberal arts degrees. It is related to the Board of Higher Education and the Ministry of the United Methodist Church. U.S. News and World Report ranked Philander Smith College #41 in Regional Colleges South and #56 in Top Performers on Social Mobility. They also offer certificates and dual credits in various career-related areas. PSC ensures its students a rigorous curriculum that focuses not only on academics but also on co-curricular activities, undergraduate research, and internships. As well as providing diversity initiatives to make PSC a more inclusive space for the diverse population it accepts.

19. Crowley's Ridge College

Score: 93.2

Average Net Price: $14,395
Retention Rate: 62%
Graduation Rate: 41%
Salary After Attending: $27,898

Crowley's Ridge College is a private, church-affiliated four-year college that provides a variety of degrees. Crowley’s Ridge College is religiously affiliated with the churches of Christ but welcomes all religious backgrounds. The student population includes both non-traditional and traditional students. Crowley's Ridge College has various degree programs across four different fields—Arts and Sciences, Biblical Studies, Business, and Teacher Education. They aim to cater to high schoolers, college transfer students, and new college students, as well as lifelong learners. Their commitment to offering a well-rounded education means they emphasize scholarship, critical thinking, service, and spiritual life.

20. Williams Baptist University

Score: 92.2

Average Net Price: $16,548
Retention Rate: 51%
Graduation Rate: 43%
Salary After Attending: $36,232

Williams Baptist University is an accredited university run by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. Over 30 majors are available, preparing students for a broad array of career choices. 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.

21. Ecclesia College

Score: 90.4

Average Net Price: $16,129
Retention Rate: 49%
Graduation Rate: 18%
Salary After Attending: $36,421

Ecclesia College is a Christian higher-ed institution that prepares students to be leaders in Christ's Kingdom. They focus on character, competencies, and work skills so you can serve Christ and your community more effectively within the world. Ecclesia College has nine undergraduate subjects to study including psychology, leadership, sports management, arts, and general studies. The college also provides one graduate-level degree in Christian leadership. Ecclesia College offers a variety of hands-on learning opportunities for students to explore their passions and interests. As well as plenty of hands-on learning, EC has courses offered completely online for students who need more flexibility.

22. Arkansas Baptist College

Score: 88.4

Average Net Price: $16,961
Retention Rate: 40%
Graduation Rate: 26%
Salary After Attending: $26,710

Arkansas Baptist College gives its students a chance to live life with purpose. They do this by tailoring their courses around the liberal arts tradition, social responsibility, and Christian Development, and preparing students for employment in today's global society - all based on an academic scholarship. U.S. News and World Report ranked Arkansas Baptist College #81 in Top Performers on Social Mobility. Arkansas Baptist College's focus on real-world learning with individualized instruction, small class sizes, and impressive academic support services make it the perfect college for any student. ABC has 16 undergraduate programs available including Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration, Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies, and much more.

Honorable Mention

Southern Arkansas University Tech

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 1,000 students, whose numbers include students enrolled in online programs. 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 students 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.

Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas

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. 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. These programs have full accreditation. These programs meet the criteria for transfer into bachelor’s degree programs.

University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville

The University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville has over 1,300 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 as 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 available include Applied Science in Criminology and Associate of Arts in General Education.

Arkansas State University-Mountain Home

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, the Community College Humanities Association, and the North Arkansas Two-Year College Consortium. Besides a robust learning experience that translates to a foundation for better jobs, the courses that are part of this degree readily 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 to a degree at a later time.

Arkansas Northeastern College

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. Students at ANC will enjoy quality professors, the school’s diversity, and the value of the education received.

Bryan University

Bryan 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. BU is dedicated to providing students with everything they need to succeed. They do this by keeping on top of the market for training in industries that have growing job markets. Some programs available online and in their two locations 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. It is a small school that allows for more involvement on the part of the professors.

Arkansas State University-Beebe

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. Other two-year degrees or certificate options that prospective students might consider are Early Childhood Education, Criminal Justice, and Business. Credit for life experiences can help students save money by reducing the number of classes required.

Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas

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 1,500 students attend this college, with many pursuing their degrees online for convenience. The college’s efforts to increase graduation rates and course success have resulted in a 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. 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.

University of Arkansas Community College-Hope

The University of Arkansas Community College-Hope was initially founded in 1965. It began 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. The local Phi Theta Kappa chapter has earned top rankings for its members’ achievements. Students have a choice of over 15 degrees to select from, 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.

North Arkansas College

North Arkansas College opened in 1974 and is a proud part of the state’s community college system, serving the needs of around 1,800 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 plans, getting one’s degree will be convenient with these options and their overall flexibility. Life experience credit is also available which allows students to use the non-academic experience to earn credits. Credits earned here easily transfer to other community colleges and degree programs at four-year universities in the state.

Related Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

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