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Colleges in Arkansas

Why go to College in Arkansas?

Students looking to attend college in Arkansas can choose from a number of quality institutions, including multiple online options. The cost of living in the state is lower than the national average, as is the cost of in-state tuition for a four-year college. Students who love the outdoors may be especially attracted to Arkansas’ abundant natural areas, including the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains, the Arkansas River Valley, and a number of beautiful state and national parks.


The population of Arkansas currently is around 2.9 million people. The state’s most populous region is the metropolitan area of Little Rock, located in the central part of Arkansas around the state’s capitol, and home to over 900,000 people.


The climate is Arkansas is hot and humid in the summer — with high temperatures in the 90’s — and relatively mild winters. Snow is not unusual in the northern half of the state during the winter, but the average low winter temperatures are in the low 30’s or upper 20’s. Sub-zero temperatures are rarely seen.

Number of Higher Learning Institutions

There are 108 institutions of higher learning in Arkansas, giving students a wealth options for finding a school that is right for them. The state has two major university systems: the Arkansas State University System and the University of Arkansas System, both of which include multiple campuses across Arkansas. There are additional public universities outside those systems, as well as private nonprofit universities and public community colleges. A variety of trade and technical schools and other for-profit institutions are scattered across the state, as well. Students also have many options for online higher education in Arkansas.

Sporting Events

The most popular sport in Arkansas is college football, with the University of Arkansas Razorbacks having the highest profile. The state also has two minor league baseball teams that compete in the Texas League: the Arkansas Travelers of North Little Rock, and the Northwest Arkansas Naturals of Springdale.


The larger cities in Arkansas feature a variety of restaurants, shopping destinations, and live music clubs. Blues and folk music are particularly popular, and Arkansans celebrate them at the annual King Biscuit Blues Festival and Ozark Folk Festival.

What Options are Available for Colleges in Arkansas?


Students in Arkansas traditionally live on-campus or commute to school from nearby, and attend classes at set places and times during the week. They also may take advantage of on-campus amenities such as the library, study groups with fellow students, academic and social clubs, and more. The on-campus option is usually a suitable choice for full-time students who are recent high school graduates, but the schedule does not allow for much flexibility. Working students or those with other personal obligations have to arrange those activities around a rather fixed school schedule.

Online Programs

In recent years, attending an online schools in Arkansas has become more of an acceptable option, as people realize that the quality of education is equal to that received in a traditional classroom setting. For students with full-time jobs, children, or other personal commitments, online schools in Arkansas offer opportunities to further their education with more flexible scheduling that lets them keep up with their obligations.

Online classes let students complete coursework at home and on their own schedule. Sometimes referred to as “distance learning,” attending an online school in Arkansas is ideal for students who do not live near a college, and cannot move closer or commute easily. Online coursework also makes a college education more accessible for students with mobility issues, or other health issues that make in-person attendance difficult.

Hybrid Programs

Hybrid programs combine elements of on-campus and online programs to make attendance more convenient for students with other personal obligations. They are also attractive for students in degree tracks that require some hands-on work, such as laboratory classes, residencies, or field work like student teaching or internships. In hybrids, some coursework is completed online at the student’s convenience, meaning less time must be spent away from home. Class time is arranged ahead of time, so students can plan accordingly. This can be a far more manageable schedule for full-time students, and may make certain paths of study more accessible for students with limited time and resources.

Popular Degree Programs in Arkansas

The degrees most commonly conferred by online colleges in Arkansas reflect the types of jobs that are most prevalent in the state. The world’s largest company, Walmart, is headquartered in Arkansas. Many of the jobs associated with Arkansas’ most popular industries, however, do not require a bachelor’s degree.

According to Business Insider, these are two of the most popular majors pursued by students enrolled in college on-campus or online in Arkansas.

  • General Education

    An associate degree in general education is the state’s most commonly pursued major. Those with an associate degree have an advantage over workers with no college education, and credits from most associate degrees earned from an accredited institution transfer if one decides to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

  • Agriculture Production and Management

    griculture is one of the state’s primary industries. Chicken farming and processing are a major part of this industry, including at large employers like OK Foods and Tyson Foods, Inc. Catfish farming is also a significant business; 16% of the catfish consumed in the United States originates in Arkansas.

Best Online Colleges in Arkansas for 2017

If you are considering an online college in Arkansas, you have some excellent options. Depending on your chosen field of study, you may be able to complete most or all of the required classes for your degree online. This can make it easier and more affordable to achieve your career goals without sacrificing the quality of your education. To assist you in your search, we have outlined the best online colleges in Arkansas here. You can use this as a resource to decide which online program is the best fit for your educational needs and priorities.


John Brown UniversitySiloam Springs, AR

Admissions Rate 74%
Default Rate 4%
Retention Rate 81%
Graduation Rate 62%
Online Enrollment 11%

Located in the northwestern corner of Arkansas in the burgeoning arts community of Siloam Springs, John Brown University is a private Christian college established in 1919. The university offers five online undergraduate degrees built upon the foundation of liberal arts and Christ-centered values. JBU is one of the leading online colleges in Arkansas and emphasizes a holistic approach to online learning, while also promoting professional skills and spiritual growth.

Students have the opportunity to pursue degrees in areas such as business administration, management accounting, and psychology. The university's liberal arts degree allows students to apply prior credit toward their online degree and graduate in less than two years. This generalist degree synthesizes a student's prior learning experiences with skills such as communication and problem solving.


University of ArkansasFayetteville, AR

Admissions Rate 60%
Default Rate 7%
Retention Rate 82%
Graduation Rate 62%
Online Enrollment 8%

Nestled along the edge of the Ozark Mountains, the University of Arkansas provides more than breaktaking views. It also enrolls more than 25,000 students and offers accessible and convenient distance education programs. This premier research institution features five fully online undergraduate degrees in areas such as communication, interdisciplinary studies, business, and nursing.

The school's degree in human resource and workforce development education is unique among online schools in Arkansas. The program features coursework in workplace diversity, professional and leadership development, and a capstone course. In addition to its standard online offerings, U of A offers several online courses that are self-paced, which allows students to work independently and submit assignments at their own convenience.


Arkansas State UniversityJonesboro, AR

Admissions Rate 70%
Default Rate 17%
Retention Rate 76%
Graduation Rate 40%
Online Enrollment 24%

With more than 70,000 alumni across the globe, ASU's innovative academic programs have been enriching lives since the university was established in 1909. Located in Jonesboro, ASU offers local residents and distance learners the opportunity to pursue several online undergraduate degrees in areas such as business administration and strategic communication. ASU's online bachelor of applied science prepares students for leadership roles and offers concentrations in technology or renewable energy technology.

ASU is among the few online colleges in Arkansas that allows students to double major in select online degrees. The following degrees can be paired: communication studies, criminology, political science, and sociology. By double majoring, students receive an enriching education while also increasing their marketability in fields that require a broad-based knowledge of the social sciences.


University of Central ArkansasConway, AR

Admissions Rate 92%
Default Rate 12%
Retention Rate 72%
Graduation Rate 45%
Online Enrollment 9%

UCA's academic programs emphasize lifelong learning, cultural competence, and the pursuit of knowledge. Students enrolled in one of UCA's online undergraduate degrees receive the same quality instruction as on-campus students. They can also set their own pace through an asynchronous learning format. Courses are 8-16 weeks in length, and students access and submit assignments through Blackboard. UCA offers a flat-rate tuition to students enrolled in one of its online degrees regardless of residency status.

UCA is one of the only online schools in Arkansas to offer an online bachelor of business administration in insurance and risk management. Students in the program acquire an integrated knowledge of liberal arts and business principles while also gaining specialized training in risk management and personal financial planning. Other online programs offered through UCA's distance learning platform include addiction studies, general business, and professional studies.


Arkansas Tech UniversityRussellville, AR

Admissions Rate 89%
Default Rate 18%
Retention Rate 71%
Graduation Rate 44%
Online Enrollment 15%

With an emphasis on community empowerment and personal enrichment, Arkansas Tech is one of the fastest growing online colleges in Arkansas and continues to reach new enrollment records each semester. Its technological roots and pragmatic approach to education attract students from all life stages, and the university's eTech online learning platform offers online undergraduate degrees in subjects such as applied science, emergency management and administration, and history.

Arkansas Tech's accelerated degree in professional studies features eight concentrations in areas such as public relations, workforce technology, and agricultural business. This degree option allows students to quickly launch their careers while gaining leadership and communication skills. Students enrolled in the program have the opportunity to earn 12 credits toward their degree through documentation of prior learning and work experience.


University of Arkansas at Little RockLittle Rock, AR

Admissions Rate 90%
Default Rate 14%
Retention Rate 72%
Graduation Rate 30%
Online Enrollment 17%

Established in 1927 as a junior college with 100 students, UA Little Rock has undergone numerous expansions over recent decades to serve the evolving needs of its growing student body. Today the university enrolls more than 12,000 students and offers a variety of fully online undergraduate degrees in areas such as accounting, business information systems, applied communication, criminal justice, and education.

UA Little Rock is also one of the few online schools in Arkansas to offer an online degree in professional and technical writing. The 120-credit degree features coursework in theories of rhetoric and writing, document design, and persuasive writing. To be admitted, applicants must submit an online application, official high school transcripts, and ACT or SAT scores. Transfer students must submit college transcripts and have a minimum GPA of 2.0.


Central Baptist CollegeConway, AR

Admissions Rate 47%
Default Rate 14%
Retention Rate 65%
Graduation Rate 28%
Online Enrollment 5%

Located just 30 miles from the state's capital in the college city of Conway, Central Baptist College was founded in 1892 by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention as a school for women. The school was later purchased by its current operator, the Arkansas Missionary Baptist Association. Today the college is a coeducational facility that offers Christ-centered academic programs to on-campus students and distance learners.

The college's unique distance education program PACE secures CBC's place as one of the top online schools in Arkansas for working professionals. PACE uses CBC's WebStudy learning management system to deliver online undergraduate degrees remotely. Students choose from bachelor's degrees in areas such as business administration, leadership, and organizational management. The college's new degree in church administration equips students with skills in human resource management and church leadership.


Ecclesia CollegeSpringdale, AR

Admissions Rate 60%
Default Rate 21%
Retention Rate 57%
Graduation Rate 10%
Online Enrollment 31%

Ecclesia College offers a Bible-based curriculum that prepares students for contemporary Christian leadership. With online undergraduate degrees in areas such as business administration, psychology and counseling, and biblical studies, Ecclesia College serves local Springdale residents and the greater community through its accessible and convenient online programs. Online courses are taught asynchronously and are available in two sessions each 16-week quarter. All courses take eight weeks to complete, and students enroll in a maximum of two courses per session.

Ecclesia is one of top online colleges in Arkansas for students who desire to learn more about scripture. The school's unique political science degree explores the intersection of public policy and Christianity, and students gain practical experience through the completion of an internship. The college's bachelor of biblical studies also provides students with an in-depth examination of the Old and New Testaments, the life of Christ, and theology.

How We Ranked the Schools

To determine the best programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school’s commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the best online master’s in management information systems programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school’s ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category’s ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.

Education Trends in Arkansas

Recent data shows that Arkansas spends more money per full-time student on postsecondary education than the national average, although the state allocates a smaller proportion of its overall tax revenue to higher education. The percentage of adults age 25 and older who have some type of college degree also is below the national average, which may be attributed to the significant proportion of jobs in Arkansas which do not require a college degree.

  STATE United States
Source: SHEEO and U.S. Census
Postsecondary Education Spending per Full-Time Student $7,626 $6,954
Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education 5.5% 5.8%
Percentage of adults over 25 with associate degree 6.3% 8.1%
Percentage of adults over 25 with bachelor’s degree 13.6% 18.5%
Percentage of adults over 25 with graduate degree or higher 7.5% 11.2%

Paying for College in Arkansas

Cost is one of the most important factors to consider as you research online colleges in Arkansas. Fortunately, in-state tuition and fees at four-year public universities in Arkansas cost less than the national average, and prices at two-year institutions are very close to the national average. It’s important to note that education costs can be reduced by obtaining financial aid such as scholarships, grants, and loans. Even a college which appears rather expensive may be affordable if you thoroughly research your options and devise a workable plan.

Tuition Prices

In the table below, you can see how the average prices of Arkansas colleges compare to the national average. The cost of a two-year college in Arkansas is similar to the national average, and significantly lower for a four-year college. The prices shown here are only for in-state tuition and fees, and do not include other costs such as transportation, room and board, books, and other necessary items. It is important to consider these factors to judge the true affordability of a given institution.

Financial Aid

Every student should fully explore their financial aid options considering higher education, and the first step toward is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA determines one’s eligibility for federal aid including grants, loans, and work-study programs. Many private providers of grants and scholarships also require the FAFSA to determine what portion of a student’s education costs may be covered before awarding any additional monies to a student.

Many students combine multiple sources of financial aid to pay for college expenses. Grants and scholarships are the most desirable types of financial aid, as they do not need to be paid back. Scholarships may be awarded based on academic performance, financial need, or other factors, while grants usually are given to students who demonstrate financial need. Work-study programs allow students to earn money for their education by working part-time in a community service position — or a job related to their chosen field — while still attending school. Loans also are helpful, but they create post-graduation debt, so they should be taken only after other grants and scholarships have been applied. Federal loans have much lower interest rates than those offered on private bank loans, and will likely be best option for minimizing the amount of student debt students may incur.

Cost for Online Programs in Arkansas

Most online colleges in Arkansas allow financial aid to be applied just as it would be for an on-campus program, and the tuition prices tend to be about the same. However, an online program may prove to be less expensive than an on-campus option when the overall cost is tallied. Online students may pay fewer fees than on-campus students, and other associated costs are mitigated, such as transportation and child care. Digital textbooks often can be rented instead of purchased, and tend to cost less than physical books. Online programs also allow students to maintain a full-time job, or to live at home instead of going away to a school where they must pay for room and board. All of these factors add up to make an online college education more affordable.

Cost of Living by Region

When determining your education costs, tuition is only one part of the equation. You also need to know what you may need to spend on room and board, transportation, and other needs, and these prices can change dramatically from city to city. It is important to research the cost of living in any town where you consider going to college so you understand the impact on the price of your education, as well as any effect it may have on your career and earning potential after graduation.

Scholarships for Arkansas College Students

Academic Challenge Scholarship

Amounts vary by type of school and year; available to Arkansas residents who have been accepted for admission to an approved institution of higher education in a program that leads to a baccalaureate degree, associate degree, qualified certificate or a nursing school diploma.

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Arkansas Future Grant (ArFuture)

Amount varies; covers tuition, fees, and other charges not covered by other financial aid; available to Arkansas residents who have graduated high school or earned a GED, who are enrolled in a program that leads to an associate degree or a certification in a STEM or regional high-demand field.

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Arkansas High-Tech Scholarship Program

$250 per semester/$500 per academic year; applicants must be Arkansas residents who are United States citizens, graduated (or will graduate) from an Arkansas high school, and will be enrolled full-time in an approved highly technical program at an Arkansas public post-secondary school; applicants must also demonstrate leadership capabilities and meet certain academic criteria.

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ASTATE Scholar Scholarship

$15,000 annually; applicant must be a high school senior who has been admitted to Arkansas State University for the following academic year with a minimum ACT composite score of 32 and a high school minimum GPA of 3.5 on a six-semester transcript.

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AT&T War Memorial Scholarship Fund

$2,500; the applicant must be a veteran of the U.S. Armed Services and current Arkansas resident who plans to attend an accredited two- or four-year college or university in Arkansas and demonstrates financial need; applicants must also demonstrate community leadership and the potential to succeed in college.

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Ellen Carpenter HBCU Scholarship

$1,000-$5,000; applicants must be minority students who have been accepted to these approved, participating historically black colleges and universities in Arkansas: Arkansas Baptist, Philander Smith College, and University of Arkansas- Pine Bluff.

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Governor's Distinguished Scholarship

Up to $10,000 per year; offered to graduating seniors in Arkansas who scored either 32 on the ACT or 1410 on the SAT, and have either a 3.50 GPA or were named National Merit Finalists or National Achievement Scholars.

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Military Dependents Scholarship (MDS)

Covers any portion of tuition, mandatory fees, room, and meal plan unpaid after other financial aid is applied; must be an Arkansas resident and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien who is the biological, legally adopted child OR spouse of an eligible Arkansas veteran and has been accepted to an approved Arkansas public institution.

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Washington Center Scholarship

$4,000-$7,000; available to Arkansas students who attend private or public four-year institutions in Arkansas and are accepted to The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars in Washington, D.C.

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Woodruff Scholarship

$1,000; available to Arkansas residents who will be attending a postsecondary education institution in Arkansas; applicants must complete a quiz online and submit an essay.

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Can all Scholarships be Used for Online Programs?

It is always a good idea to find out exactly what — if any — restrictions exist on any scholarship you receive. Many scholarships are designed to help cover the various educational expenses you may have, from tuition and fees, to books or room and board. Most cover online programs just the same as on-campus study, but a particular scholarship may have certain requirements attached. You are encouraged to check with the administrators of the scholarship first if you are unsure whether online classes are eligible.

Employment Outlook in Arkansas

The employment outlook in Arkansas is stable. Arkansas is home to six Fortune 500 companies: Dillard’s, J.B. Hunt, Murphy USA, Tyson Foods, Walmart, and Windstream. As you can see from the tables below, the state’s unemployment rate is lower than the national average. The annual mean wage is also lower, but this is offset by the fact that the cost of living in Arkansas is also lower than the national average.

  Arkansas United States
Source: BLS and BLS
Unemployment Rate, May 2017 3.5% 4.3%
Annual Mean Wage, May 2016 $39,590 $49,630

Top Employers and Industries in Arkansas

Top Industries in Arkansas

  • Manufacturing: The principal goods manufactured in and exported from Arkansas include food and kindred products, lumber and wood products, paper and pulp, machinery, furniture, chemicals, electronic equipment, rubber and plastic products, steel, and transportation equipment.
  • Transportation Logistics: Transportation logistics includes shipping, trucking, air travel, and supply chain management. These areas support national and global trade, making it possible to export, import, and distribute products wherever they are needed.
  • Agriculture: Arkansas has many major agricultural products. The state is the top producer of rice in the United States, is second in poultry production, and third in catfish production. Other major crops include grain sorghum, cotton, cottonseed, sweet potatoes, and soybeans..

Top Employers in Arkansas

  • State of Arkansas: The state government is one of the largest employers in Arkansas. This includes various state offices as well as major employers such as University of Arkansas for Medical Science (UAMS), which would be in the top five employers if considered alone.
  • Walmart Stores, Inc.: This multinational retailer is the largest business in the world by both revenue and number of employees. The company is headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, and has been owned by Arkansas’ Walton family since its founding in the 1960s.
  • Tyson Foods, Inc.: Based in Springdale, AK, this multinational corporation is the world’s second largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork. Its subsidiaries include major food brands such as including Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm, Sara Lee, and Ball Park.

Accreditation for Colleges in Arkansas

While looking into online schools in Arkansas, it is crucial that you ensure any school you consider is accredited. Unaccredited schools often try to appeal to potential students with cheaper tuition prices, but their true cost to you is hidden. A degree from an unaccredited college does not have the same value to potential employers as one from an accredited institution. Accreditation by a recognized agency indicates that the school’s curriculum and admission practices have been reviewed and deemed acceptable based on an established standard. The accreditation agency itself must be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, which confirms that the agency’s standards are valid. When a potential employer sees you have a degree from an accredited institution, they know that you took care to choose a school that offers a quality education. The accrediting agency which oversees colleges in Arkansas is the Higher Learning Commission.

An institution may be either regionally or nationally accredited. Major universities usually receive regional accreditation from an agency which oversees schools located in a certain geographic area. Regional accreditation offers more prestige and higher perceived value for potential employers. National accreditation is mostly held by for-profit institutions such as technical or trade schools, or those who focus primarily on distance learning. Accreditation may be applied to an entire institution, or to a particular program offered by a school. This works the same for online programs as it does for traditional ones, so be sure to choose an accredited online program. Because different accredited schools meet similar standards, credits tend to transfer easily from one school to another. However, credits from an unaccredited school rarely transfer to an accredited one, which means that the time and money you spent on those credits may be wasted.

Resources for Students in Arkansas

  • Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE): The ADHE is a resource for a broad spectrum of information about college and university education in the state. This includes resources for students and parents, information about the department’s purview and activities, updates on relevant legislation, reports, and more.
  • Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE) College and University Listing: This resource is developed for students and their parents. It provides a list of the state’s colleges and universities, more details about each institution, links to information about the degrees and programs offered, information about transfers, and more.
  • Arkansas Financial Aid System YOUniversal Application: This tool is the state’s official scholarship management system. It is a universal scholarship search, so completing one application can determine a student’s eligibility for all of the state’s scholarship programs. The application is separate from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which also may be required to verify eligibility for some scholarships.
  • Fund My Future: This statewide college planning service provided by the Arkansas Student Loan Authority offers information for students and their parents about saving for college in the years prior to high school graduation, applying for college admission and financial aid, and more. It includes a scholarship search tool and more.
  • State of Arkansas Bureau of Legislative Research – Arkansas Higher Education: An official resource for Arkansas state legislature topics related to higher education in the state, including research, information about institutions and scholarships, reports and interim study proposals, budget and funding, and state initiatives and national research.
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