Colleges in Arizona

Why go to College in Arizona?


Arizona features a relatively low cost of living and a large network of higher education -- everything from four-year public schools to online programs, from vocational schools to community colleges. Given that, you’re likely to find a community of fellow students, no matter whether you’re on a traditional four-year path, taking vocational classes part-time, or enrolled in online courses.

In addition, because of the large Hispanic population in Arizona, the state’s higher education system also offers programs in Spanish and financial support for young people affected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA Act).

About 6.9 million people live in Arizona, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Three of the biggest college towns in Arizona may more appropriately be called cities rather than towns: Phoenix (which has a population of about 1.6 million); Tempe (a city just east of Phoenix with a population of about 182,000); and Tucson (about half a million people live there).
Arizona, as you may have guessed, is hot and dry. In Phoenix and Tempe, where many schools are located, the average temperature lingers above 100 degrees Fahrenheit throughout most of the summer. The state's winters are temperate, averaging about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Number of Higher Learning Institutions
155 institutions of higher education call Arizona home. Many of them are community colleges or online colleges in Arizona.
Sporting Events
Arizona has several professional sports teams: the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team, the Phoenix Suns basketball team, the Arizona Cardinals football team, and the Arizona Coyotes hockey team. Plus, if you have school spirit and you decide to attend a four-year college like Arizona State University, get ready to support the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Since Arizona's cost of living is relatively low, students can find plenty of affordable bars and clubs in cities like Phoenix and Tempe.

What Options are Available for Colleges in Arizona?


If you’re looking for the traditional college experience -- living in a dorm, taking classes full-time, enrolling in extracurriculars, cheering on the football team, and maybe even joining a Greek organization -- then an on-campus experience in Arizona is probably your best choice. But while four year schools are generally considered more prestigious, attending a college on-campus also requires a considerable cost investment. Students are wise to consider their financial assistance options, either in the form of loans or scholarships, and they should consider whether their career post-college is worth the financial investment.

Online Programs

Online programs are exactly what they sound like: students take classes on the internet, which means they can complete their courses from home, a library, or anywhere that isn’t a traditional, physical classroom.

Attending an online college in Arizona has several advantages. Students who work full-time and value flexibility, for instance, might value the self-directed nature of online programs. Online classes are generally cheaper. If the students have the discipline, they can finish their online courses much quicker than at a traditional four-year school. Plus, learning at an online school in Arizona doesn’t have to be isolating. Students can cultivate a peer group through class discussions, and they are still often able to speak to their professors for individualized help if they choose to reach out.

Hybrid Programs

Sometimes, you may want to enroll in an online program, but not an online degree program. What does this mean? Well, a degree program is when students take the entirety of their classes online. On the other hand, if you want to spend most of your semester in the classroom, but you also really want to take that two-course program on the ancient Greeks online, you can do that too. You don’t have to be strapped down to either attending school in-person or enrolling in an online college in Arizona.

Popular Degree Programs in Arizona

A college’s top programs and majors generally reflect popular industries in that college’s state. For instance, Arizona is known for industries like aerospace and defense, technology, and manufacturing -- and students can certainly find those programs at colleges and universities in Arizona.

  • Aerospace engineering

    Professionals working in aerospace engineering design build aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles, often for national defense. The U.S. military administers several bases and conducts research on aerospace products in Arizona, so it's no surprise that the industry enjoys such a major presence in the state.

  • Business management and administration

    While aerospace engineering might be unique to the state, business management and administration is a popular major across the U.S. -- including Arizona. Students who pursue this major can work in a variety of fields involving money and leadership, from financial managers to sales administrators.

Best Online Colleges in Arizona for 2019

Here you’ll find a list of the best online colleges in Arizona. Finding an online school in Arizona is not a one-size-fits-all process. Keep in mind that just because an online college in Arizona is ranked number one doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for you. You must also consider your educational needs (such as costs, time commitment, and how much time you’d like to spend connecting with your professor). In addition, programs are ranked differently from school to school. If you’d like to study engineering, for instance, enrolling in an online college in Arizona where English literature is ranked number one might not be the best idea.


Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, AZ


Since 1899, NAU has been a center of academic and research excellence. The school offers innovative degree programs through NAU Online, with most classes delivered asynchronously via the Blackboard Learn LMS. NAU offers 46 bachelor’s degrees online, including justice studies, computer information technology, social work, and nursing. Like many other online colleges in Arizona, NAU also offers graduate level coursework, including 24 master’s degrees and one doctoral degree. Some of NAU’s degree programs, such as the BBA in business administration and the BSED in career and technical education, offer several concentrations. The BS in health science program offers specializations in paramedic care, surgical technology, and medical assisting. Distance learners can access online library resources, technical support, and tutoring through the Student Learning Centers.


University of Arizona Tucson, AZ


UA says that it is “a place without limits,” a center of cutting-edge research that fosters innovation in and out of the classroom. Students can choose from more than 80 online degrees, including bachelor’s degrees in psychology, administration of justice, business administration, and communication. This online school in Arizona also offers unique baccalaureate programs such as the BS in care, health, and society, a program designed to delve into the sociological dimensions of healthcare. The bachelor of general studies in economy and industry educates students in labor relations, organizational culture, industries, and human resources. Enrollment counselors help potential students with the applications process.


Arizona State University-Tempe Tempe, AZ


Students who enroll at ASU Online receive the academic rigor that the institution is known for and the flexibility to take classes on their own time. Online degrees are offered in fields such as art history, community health, criminology and criminal justice, engineering, and nursing. The school’s BA in business has several concentrations, including corporate accounting, global leadership, and retail management. One of the top online colleges in Arizona, ASU Online provides learners with extensive support, including online tutoring. Each student has access to success coaches who serve as advisors, cheerleaders, and success coaches. Students in the military receive additional support and assistance.


Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott Prescott, AZ


Embry-Riddle was one of the first colleges to offer distance learning back in the 1970s. Since then, the school has provided students with top educational training in fields such as aeronautics and engineering. The Prescott campus in Arizona offers online certificates, associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and master’s degrees. Some of the school’s online bachelor’s degrees include aviation maintenance, emergency services, unmanned systems applications, and safety management. Courses are delivered in nine week sessions; 12 terms are offered each year for undergraduate programs. The school works with students to develop a map of study to ensure they graduate on time.

Best Online Community Colleges in Arizona for 2019


Cochise County Community College District Douglas, AZ


Cochise County Community College District offers more than a dozen associate degree and certificate programs online. This school has more than 2,500 distance learners enrolled online. Courses are taught using a synchronous format, with specified beginning and complete dates, scheduled homework, and weekly activities. Cochise is among the many online community colleges in Arizona to offer a variety of continuing education courses, adult education and GED programs, and K-12 community outreach opportunities.

Earned credits transfer seamlessly to all Arizona public, four-year universities and many out-of-state schools. Cochise prides itself on strong relationships with local and national businesses, which offer co-op and internship opportunities in various popular industries in the region. Upon completion of a degree, all learners develop the essential communication, critical thinking, and technological skills that are necessary for success in their fields.


Yavapai College Prescott, AZ


Established in 1965, Yavapai College is located in Prescott. The school offers a wide range of online options, including associate of applied science degrees in automotive technology and general education curriculum certificates. Yavapai has something for virtually any prospective distance learner.

The college offers an attractive number of benefits to their student community. Prospective students interested in fine arts and performing arts can find world-class resources online and facilities on-campus, including the performing arts center, Richard Marcusen Sculpture Garden, and an art gallery. Yavapai offers financial aid in several forms, including merit-based and need-based scholarships, as well as tribal scholarships for Native American students.


Phoenix College Phoenix, AZ


Established in 1920, Phoenix College is the flagship school of the Maricopa Community Colleges, one of the largest community college systems in the nation. Phoenix College offers three online associate degrees and eight certificates. Hybrid courses are also available for some majors. Class content is delivered through Canvas. Prospective students should take the online readiness test, offered on the Phoenix College website, to determine their level of preparedness for these online programs.

Through a career services department, as part of Maricopa Community Colleges network, Phoenix College offers supportive resources for students preparing to enter the workforce or alumni searching for positions. This school is among many online community colleges in Arizona to provide financial aid in the form of grants, loans, scholarships, and federal work study programs.


Pima Community College Tucson, AZ


With online degree and certificate offerings in health information technology, business, human resources, and education, Pima provides distance learners with a supportive online learning environment that prides itself on preparing students for a successful career. Located in Tucson and founded in 1969, Pima boasts a flexible scheduling system that gives students the option to take self-paced courses and synchronous, participatory courses that rely on group learning. Students may also choose five-, eight-, 10-, or 14-week class schedules, as well as weekend-only schedules. This online community college in Arizona is committed to making a difference in its local community and offers traditional and distance learners opportunities to get involved in extracurricular activities and student organizations.


Mesa Community College Mesa, AZ


Mesa Community College is nationally recognized for service-learning, career and technical programs, civic engagement and innovative approaches to higher education. The college serves as a resource for career readiness, transfer education, workforce development and lifelong learning. Host to more than 30,000 students annually, MCC offers more than 150 degree and certificate programs at its two campuses and additional locations. Online degree and certificate programs offered at MCC center around business management, computer science, and communications concentrations, with specialized degrees offered in each category.

MCC is an emerging Hispanic Serving Institution with a diverse student body that enriches the learning experience. Renowned faculty are dedicated to student success, providing the education and training that empowers MCC students to compete locally and nationally. MCC, located in the East Valley of Phoenix, Arizona, is one of 10 colleges comprising the Maricopa County Community College District.


Mohave Community College Kingman, AZ


Mohave Community College offers an expansive online program. Located in the northwest corner of the state in Colorado City, and founded in 1970, MCC's online degrees are delivered in asynchronous and synchronous formats. Online offerings include several liberal arts degrees and paralegal and counseling certificates. Applicants must submit their high school transcripts or GED to complete the online application.

Learners may participate in student activities and special interest groups remotely and on campus. Several Greek life chapters and science and computer programming clubs bring extracurricular opportunities for community outreach, leisure, career networking, and general academic enrichment for MCC students.

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 Arizona

In many ways, higher education trends in Arizona are on par with the rest of the U.S. Consider the percentage of adults with associate degrees (8.5% in Arizona, 8.1% in the U.S.) and the percentage of adults with graduate degrees (10.2% in Arizona, 11.2% in the U.S.). Take a look at the table below to see how Arizona stacks up with the rest of the U.S.

  Arizona United States
Source: SHEEO and U.S. Census
Postsecondary Education Spending per Full-Time Student $5,350 $$6,954
Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education 7.0% 5.8%
Percentage of adults over 25 with associate degree 8.5% 8.1%
Percentage of adults over 25 with bachelor's degree 17.3% 18.5%
Percentage of adults over 25 with graduate degree or higher 10.2% 11.2%

Paying for College in Arizona

Say you find the perfect college. Great! But now you have to figure out how to pay for it. College costs are an important factor as anything else, if not moreso. Ultimately, college is an investment -- a large investment, and one that costs significant money. So, while you’re on the hunt for that perfect college program, consider tuition prices as well as the general cost of living in Arizona. More details about both can be found below.

Tuition Prices

Tuition prices in Arizona vary greatly. The average price of tuition for a public two-year college in Arizona is less than the U.S. average, while the average price for a four-year college is actually greater than the U.S. average. Remember, those pesky "extra" costs -- like books, transportation, and lodging -- are not included in these fees.

Financial Aid

Getting to know your financial aid options is one way to lessen the financial burden that comes along with attending college in Arizona. Luckily, there are several types of financial aid available for students who are willing to do the research. Everyone should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. As the name suggests, it’s free, so it will cost you nothing to see if you qualify for federal loans. You can also apply for loans, scholarships, and grants. Unlike loans, students do not have to repay scholarships and grants after college. Plus, scholarships and grants come from several different sources -- private funds, states, and the colleges themselves.

Cost for Online Programs in Arizona

The sticker prices for online programs tend to be similar to prices of on-campus programs. But online programs are still generally more affordable because they are not burdened with extra costs. Students can save on those pesky supplementary fees, such as transportation costs, technology fees, gym fees, the shockingly steep cost of textbooks, and childcare.

Here’s some more good news: Financial aid applies to online schools in Arizona too. Students can apply whatever money they earn from FAFSA, loans, scholarships, and grants to their online programs.

Cost of Living by Region

Your cost of living will depend on where exactly you live (a shocking revelation, right?). But where you live while you study in college will also affect how much money you pay in tuition and how much money you’re able to save up during college -- which will be an enormous factor once you start your career after graduating college. Below is a table comparing cost of living in Tempe, Tucson, and Phoenix, three large college towns in Arizona. The table also includes two cities nearby, should you choose to to earn your degree online. Notice the difference in rent costs between L.A. and Phoenix. It may be worth moving to a city in Arizona, even if your degree program is with an online school in Arizona.

Scholarships for Arizona College Students

Dorrance Scholarship Program
Up to $12,000 annually, renewable for eight semesters; must be a first-generation college student and demonstrate financial need, and must have attended an Arizona high school with at least a 3.0 GPA to apply.

View Scholarship

Community Foundation for Southern Arizona scholarships
$3,000 for study at a four-year school and $1,000 for study at a two years school; must have graduated from a high school in southern Arizona, must be studying full-time, and must have a minimum 2.5 GPA.

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Horatio Alger Association Scholarship for Arizona
$10,000; The Horatio Alger Association is offering scholarships for graduates of Arizona high schools who "display integrity and perseverance in overcoming adversity."

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The Rotary Vocational Fund of Arizona
Up to $3,000; must be an Arizona resident working toward a vocational degree, and must demonstrate financial need.

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Isac Amaya University Scholarship
Up to $5,000, must be a graduate of an Arizona high school and planning to attend an Arizona college; must be Mexican or of Mexican descent; available to those affected by the DACA Act.

View Scholarship

College Success Arizona Scholarships
Up to $6,000 per year and mentoring; must be a member of an Arizona College Access Partner (including the Boys and Girls Club, College Bound Arizona, or one of several other partners), and must be a graduate of an Arizona high school.

View Scholarship

Northern Arizona Native American Foundation Scholarship
Up to $2,000; Must be a Native American and fill out an extensive online application with questions including, “What does being a Native American mean to you?”

View Scholarship

Arizona College Access Aid Program
Up to $2,000; the student must be a sophomore, junior, or senior at their institution and must demonstrate need for financial aid.

View Scholarship

Can All Scholarships Be Used for Online Programs?

Students can use most scholarships with any type of program, including online schools in Arizona. There are some exceptions, such as the Rotary Fund scholarship above, which is solely for vocational programs. You should check with the scholarship provide to verify whether scholarship funds can be used for both in-person and online schools in Arizona.

Employment Outlook in Arizona

Although the unemployment rate in Arizona is slightly higher than in the rest of the U.S., economists and social scientists are convinced that things are looking up. From 2014 to 2024, jobs are expected to grow from 2,728,012 to 3,305,324 -- that’s an increase of over half a million jobs in 10 years, or a growth rate of 21.2%. To put that in perspective, the employment rate in the rest of the U.S. is projected to grow at 6.5%, a fraction of Arizona’s rapid growth.

  Arizona United States
Source: BLS and BLS
Unemployment Rate, May 2017 5% 4.3%
Annual Mean Wage, May 2016 $44,030 $49,630

Top Employers and Industries in Arizona

Top Industries in Arizona

  • Healthcare and social assistance: This industry is all about providing services to care for other people. Jobs can include doctors, nurses, home health aids, and even ambulance drivers. The healthcare and social assistance sector is a very hands-on industry and particularly excellent for those who enjoy caring for others.
  • Retail trade: Retail trade generally covers sales and merchandising, selling goods for public, personal and home consumption. If you want to see retail trade in action, just head to your local mall.
  • Accommodation and food services: This industry consists of providing services to people, and those services have to do with providing meals and/or lodging for customers in need.

Top Employers in Arizona

  • Banner Health: 43,128 employees
  • Walmart Stores Inc.: 33,910 employees
  • Kroger Co.: 21,248 employees

Accreditation for Colleges in Arizona

Students are wise to seek out accredited schools. Outside agencies review colleges to ensure that students receive a legitimate education, one that follows accepted standards. In short, accreditation ensures that college students aren’t being scammed. The most well-respected accrediting agencies in the U.S. are regional accreditors. The U.S. is divided into six regions, and each agency covers one of those six regions.

National accreditation agencies, on the other hand, focuses on a specific type of institution. For instance, one national accrediting agency might only review therapy schools, while another national accrediting agency might only review religious schools.

Online programs are accredited by the same organizations that accredit traditional four-year schools. Don’t be fooled when you find an online college in Arizona that is not accredited. Online programs are held to the very same standards as their offline counterparts.

If you want to be sure that an online school in Arizona is accredited, make sure that the accreditation organization has been approved by a government higher education agency like the Arizona State Board for Postsecondary Education. Arizona is also under the regional jurisdiction of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools -- check to see if your online college in Arizona is accredited by this agency.

Resources for Students in Arizona

  • The Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education (ACPE): The ACPE is Arizona’s state government that aims to expand access to higher education in Arizona. The commission not only provides grants for Arizona students (most of them low-income), but also offers several resources for the college-bound in Arizona (a college and career guide, and a college savings planner, for instance).
  • Arizona Student Financial Aid Programs: Another state-run agency, this organization administers a wealth of resources about scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial assistance for students in Arizona. Its website also has easy-to-read explainers about the FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and applying for financial aid in general.
  • Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education: The board regulates institutions of higher education in Arizona. It has the power to approve new programs and shut down schools. But the board also helps students. For example, it responds to student inquiries and runs the Student Tuition Recovery Fund, which compensates students if their school is shut down before their degrees are earned.
  • Arizona Board of Regents: The Arizona Board of Regents oversees the state's public institutions. On the board's website, you can find the "Impact Arizona" strategic plan, which details what the state prioritizes in higher education. Be sure to also check out reports about academics, student affairs, tuition and fees, and graduate wages.
  • Arizona Community Foundation: This organization administers a tool that allows students in Arizona to apply for more than 90 scholarship awards with a single online application.
  • Arizona College Access Network: This organization works to provide all Arizonans -- and especially first-generation, low-income Arizonans -- access to higher education. The network offers scholarships, connects students to advisors, and designs fact sheets for colleges and university applicants.
  • Northern Arizona College Resource Center (NACRC): Although the name of the organization implies otherwise, NACRC provides resources for the entire state. The center aims to increase the number of students attending colleges and universities by providing them with resources and technical assistance, especially when it comes to college and financial aid applications.
  • Northern Arizona College Resource Center (NACRC): Although the name of the organization implies otherwise, NACRC provides resources for the entire state. The center aims to increase the number of students attending colleges and universities by providing them with resources and technical assistance, especially when it comes to college and financial aid applications.
  • Arizona State Department of Education: The Arizona State Department of Education sets and administers education policy for the state government. You can find information about state policy on the its site, but the department is mostly concerned with K-12 education. Most of your questions will best be answered by other resources listed above.