Best Colleges in Arizona

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As home to over 130 institutions of higher education, finding the school best suited to you in Arizona may seem like a strenuous task. There are a multitude of important factors for prospective students to consider including program length, residency requirements, tuition cost and scholarship availability. Fortunately, we have applied our rigorous methodology to the latest education data to rank the best colleges in Arizona, including the top four-year and two-year schools.

We started by pulling essential information from federal education databases. Our preferred metrics consist of quality indicators like program acceptance, enrollment, retention and graduation rates. Make your search for a college education easier by using our list of the best colleges in Arizona.

2016 Online Education Trends Report: Learn how online programs are changing the face of higher education.

Home to 50 accredited four-year schools, Arizona offers a wide array of conventional college choices. With 22 of the top 25 of Arizona’s most in-demand jobs requiring a Bachelor’s degree, there are clear economic incentives for pursuing an education. Employees with a four-year degree earn an average salary of $46,485, 86% more than workers with only a high school diploma.

The Arizona Board of Regents hopes to substantially increase enrollment and graduation rates through measures aimed at obtaining additional state and federal funding. Their 2010 Strategic Realignment plan will ideally increase the numbers of educated citizens to fill skilled positions by 2020. Rising demand for highly educated workers combined with the irrefutable advantages of a college degree means now is an excellent time to attend a four-year college in Arizona. We have ranked Arizona’s best colleges in the following list to guide your education decisions. Take a look and see which four-year schools made the list.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description

Arizona State University-Downtown Phoenix

 2/558.33%Phoenix, AZ


Students at ASU Downtown can pursue graduate and undergraduate degrees in healthcare, media, arts and sciences, public services, education, and more. The downtown location makes commuting highly convenient, and offers an ideal setting for students to engage in public service and network with the surrounding professional community. Students at the downtown campus will also have quick access to the soon-to-be-completed Arizona Center for Law and Society, which will house ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication runs Arizona PBS—the world’s largest media outlet operated by a journalism school—giving students the opportunity to receive real-world training. The Cronkite School offers degrees in Journalism and Sports Journalism, as well as Latino and Business Journalism specializations, making ASU Downtown one of the best Arizona colleges for students in this career path.

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Arizona State University

 2/563.43%Tempe, AZ


ASU’s Tempe campus is home to state-of-the art laboratories, impressive athletic venues, and some of the most beautiful and historic architecture among Arizona colleges. The school’s oldest building, Old Main, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the ASU Gammage auditorium is known as the final work by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Students can choose from hundreds of majors at ASU Tempe. The School of Arts, Media and Engineering—a collaboration between the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering—provides students with unique, transdisciplinary studies of digital media. The Tempe campus prides itself on being the most solar-powered of any in the US, and is home to research facilities including the Biodesign Institute, the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, and the Institute for the Science of Teaching and Learning.

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Arizona State University-West

 2/559.18%Glendale, AZ


ASU’s West campus offers more than 50 undergrad and grad programs. The school is one of the most diverse colleges in Arizona, and its community is celebrated through campus cultural programs including Hispanic Heritage Month, Black History Month events, and Traditional Pow Wow events.

The New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences offers a wide range of majors from Latin American Studies to Forensics, and enables students to work closely with faculty on innovative research. Consistently ranked among the top business schools internationally, the Thunderbird School of Global Management focuses on global business and prepares students for careers in multinational corporations.

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The University of Arizona

 3/560.26%Tucson, AZ


The University of Arizona stands out among Arizona colleges for its leadership in research. It is home to the state’s only nationally accredited public health college, Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, and the world renowned College of Optic Sciences. Students can also get involved in innovative astronomy research through the premier Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory.

UA’s esteemed alumni include 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics winner Brian Schmidt, U.S. Representative Raúl Grijalva and several NASA astronauts. In addition, UA fosters international educational exchange as one of the country’s top producers of Fulbright Scholars.

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Arizona State University-Polytechnic

 2/559.48%Mesa, AZ


Through project-based learning and industry partnerships, ASU’s Polytechnic campus in Mesa focuses on high-quality professional and technical programs in interdisciplinary sciences, engineering, management, technology, and education. The creative workspace and prototyping equipment in the Startup Labs encourage students to collaborate and create innovative products.

ASU Polytechnic’s Aeronautical Management Technology program is one of the best offered by Arizona colleges and educates students through both academic and professional aviation training. Flight students have the opportunity to experience the effects of oxygen deprivation at the Del E. Webb Altitude Chamber Lab, which simulates altitudes over 75,000 feet.

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Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Prescott

 5/558.41%Prescott, AZ

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott campus boasts collegiate flight training’s most technologically advanced fleet. A standout choice among Arizona colleges for students pursuing aviation, Embry-Riddle offers 24 bachelor’s degrees, two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in Aviation. The Air Traffic Management degree is one of the country’s few FAA-approved Air Traffic Control programs, while the Wildlife Science program is the continent’s only degree of its kind to focus on aviation and aerospace.

Embry-Riddle’s premier Golden Eagles Flight Team has a history of success with 29 consecutive regional championships and nine national championships. The team’s strengths include precision landings and navigation, aircraft identification, and flight planning and computer calculations.

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Arizona State University – Skysong

 2/5N/AScottsdale, AZ

SkySong, also known as the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center, is a global business community that attracts startups and Fortune 500 companies alike. The 42-acre mixed-use development includes an entrepreneurship incubator, commercial office space, apartments, and a central plaza covered by an iconic shade structure.

The Office of Entrepreneurship + Innovation is a unique feature among colleges in Arizona as it provides opportunities for entrepreneurs and innovators through startup programs, funding, and education offered by ASU Skysong. The Startup School offers a workshop series to help students develop ventures and the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative gives accepted teams an opportunity to receive office space, mentoring, seed funding, and entrepreneurship education.

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Arizona Christian University

 4/561.19%Phoenix, AZ

As the only accredited evangelical college in Arizona, ACU strives to provide biblically integrated education. All students therefore graduate with a minor in Biblical Studies but can choose from a variety of majors, including Christian Ministries, Business Administration, and Music Education.

Students at ACU are encouraged to serve through the student-led ministry Project 032 and the Urban Outreach program, which connects them to other local ministries. To interact with a new community, students often participate in study abroad programs and take mission trips during school breaks.

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Prescott College

 4/534.83%Prescott, AZ

Prescott College educates a diverse student body through unique experiential learning programs, focusing on environmental awareness and sustainability, social justice and peace studies, and outdoor leadership. Notable alumni include former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Kathleen Stephens and Tom Udall, the U.S. Senator from New Mexico.

Prescott students can choose from programs such as Ecopsychology , which integrates ecological and psychological studies, and Adventure-Based Psychotherapy , which trains students for careers in adventure-based intervention. Students at the Arizona college can also design their own program spanning multiple departments through the Student-Directed Competence . Prescott differs from other Arizona colleges in that evaluations are narrative and grading is optional.

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Northern Arizona University

 2/551.57%Flagstaff, AZ

Students attending Northern Arizona University can earn their degree at more than 30 satellite locations throughout the state. NAU ranks as one of the top colleges in Arizona for military veterans and offers one of the country’s top-ranked business schools for veterans. NAU’s alumni include U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Robin Braun, author Diana Gabaldon, and Native American artist R.C. Gorman.

NAU offers many international opportunities and multicultural events as well as Applied Indigenous Studies , Comparative Cultural Studies , and International Hospitality Management programs. The Miss Indian NAU Scholarship Pageant represents Native American students while promoting cultural understanding of indigenous culture.

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Two-year colleges play an important role in educational development, either by providing a student with knowledge and credits to eventually obtain a 4-year degree, or by preparing students with immediately applicable vocational trade skills. With over 50 two-year institutions, there are ample opportunities in Arizona to learn a skill or to facilitate an eventual transfer to a four-year school.

According to the Arizona Board of Regents , in 2010 there were 21,000 Bachelor’s Degrees awarded, 6,000 of which belonged to transfer students from two-year schools. With only 25% of adults in Arizona possessing college degrees, a two-year degree is an excellent method of setting yourself up to get ahead of the pack. We’ve compiled the best institutions in the following ranked list to help you find the best program for your needs.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description

GateWay Community College

 1/517.48%Phoenix, AZ


GateWay Community College offers more than 125 degrees and certificates across a variety of disciplines. Business, healthcare and nursing are among the most popular programs. The college also arranges apprenticeships for students interested in trades such as carpentry, painting, construction management and plumbing.

As the first technical college in Arizona, GateWay has a long history of preparing students to transfer to four-year colleges or enter the workforce immediately after graduation. GateWay has men’s and women’s soccer teams, a men’s baseball team and a women’s softball team.

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Paradise Valley Community College

 1/517.81%Phoenix, AZ


Paradise Valley Community College is part of the Maricopa County Community College District, an organization that works to promote educational excellence among the Arizona colleges in Maricopa County. In addition to academic certificates and degrees, the college offers occupational certificates to help students obtain employment as soon as they graduate.

Students at Paradise Valley Community College enjoy small class sizes, affordable tuition rates and access to state-of-the-art technology. Musicians and theater groups regularly perform at the on-campus performing arts center, giving students plenty to do when they are not studying. Distinguished faculty members have even appeared on the History Channel.

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Cochise College

 1/523.04%Douglas, AZ


Cochise College offers more than 20 AAS degrees designed to prepare students for full-time employment within two years. Business management, cybersecurity, fire science technology, and equine science and management are just a few of the AAS degrees available. Like other top colleges in Arizona, the school also offers AA degrees for students interested in transferring to four-year colleges.

Both campuses have a wide range of activities for students of all ages. Battle of the Bands, festivals and run/walk events give students a chance to relax between classes. Cochise College also has a student government association, athletic teams and student clubs.

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South Mountain Community College

 1/516.52%Phoenix, AZ


South Mountain Community College has 70 degree and certificate programs in disciplines ranging from accounting to graphic design. Students participate in organizations such as the Bilingual Student Nursing Association, International Friends Club and Medical Scrub Club. South Mountain also has baseball, softball, soccer, basketball and golf.

SMCC has several notable alumni. Chris Duffy played baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Randy Henry worked as a Minor League Baseball pitcher. Like other schools in the Maricopa County Community College District, South Mountain has a tobacco-free campus.

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Estrella Mountain Community College

 1/512.51%Avondale, AZ


Estrella Mountain Community College is one of several Arizona colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District. Along with courses in business, journalism, programming and culinary arts, the college has programs in retail management, banking and finance, and medical interpreting. Students who are unable to commute due to family and professional commitments have the option of taking online classes, and the school has several hybrid courses that blend traditional classroom learning with online lessons. The on-site career center offers career assessments, mock interview sessions and assistance with preparing resumes and cover letters.

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Diné College


Diné College is dedicated to the advancement of Diné People. Admission is limited to residents of the Navajo Nation, which stretches across 26,000 square miles in the states of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. All of the programs available at Diné College are designed to help advance the social and economic development of the Navajo Nation.

Like many other colleges in Arizona, Diné College offers degrees in business administration, computer information systems, education and liberal arts. Students also have the opportunity to complete degrees in Diné studies, tribal management and economic development, and Navajo language.

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Scottsdale Community College

 1/516.45%Scottsdale, AZ

Scottsdale Community College attracts students of all ages and backgrounds. The average student is 26 years old, but the school offers programs for everyone from older learners to high school students wishing to earn college credits.

Scottsdale Community College offers an AGEC program that meets all of the general education requirements necessary to transfer to a four-year school in Arizona. Tribal development, disc jockey techniques, equine science and dance technology are some of the school’s most interesting programs. Notable alumni include David Spade, Bill Hader, professional golfer Robert Garrigus, and NFL player Josh Miller.

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Chandler-Gilbert Community College

 1/520.13%Chandler, AZ

Chandler-Gilbert Community College is one of the Arizona colleges offering student activities and athletic programs in addition to degrees and certificates. Along with traditional programs in business and science, students have the opportunity to study fire science, personal training, airframe maintenance and flight technology. There is even a program available for students interested in American Sign Language.

Students at Chandler-Gilbert Community college participate in competitive athletics and performing arts. Available sports teams include baseball, softball, volleyball, basketball and golf. The on-site performing arts center is home to recitals, band and orchestra concerts, and theatrical performances.

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Yavapai College

 1/518.95%Prescott, AZ

Yavapai College offers a variety of for-credit and community education courses to students in Prescott and surrounding areas. In addition to for-credit degree and certificate programs, the college offers non-credit courses to help people learn new skills and advance their careers. Yavapai College also offers programs that are completely online, giving students the flexibility needed to balance learning with other commitments. Ken Bennett, Arizona’s former secretary of state, attended the school, as did pro baseball player Curt Schilling.

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Tohono O’Odham Community College

 1/531.03%Sells, AZ

Tohono O’Odham Community College is one of several tribal colleges in Arizona. Nearly 90% of students are of American Indian or Alaskan Native heritage, but admission is open to everyone. The college has programs for students interested in Tohono O’Odham agriculture, social services and Tohono O’Odham studies. There are also direct-employment programs in carpentry, construction painting, electrical and plumbing.

Students who live on campus are housed in residential suites made up of four bedrooms, a bathroom, a sitting area and a kitchen. There is no cafeteria on campus, but residential students use their kitchens to prepare meals and try new cooking techniques.

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Phoenix College

 1/512.29%Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix College is one of the Arizona colleges focused on student-centered learning and positive outcomes. The campus has several historical buildings mixed with state-of-the-art classrooms, giving students a beautiful environment in which to use high-tech equipment. Certificates are available in topics such as pastry techniques, deaf studies, digital photography and crime-scene investigation.

As one of the oldest community colleges in the state, Phoenix College has a long history of preparing students to succeed. Nick Nolte, Peter Billingsley, NBA player Dennis Layton and NFL player Bob Wallace all attended the school at some point in their lives.

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Glendale Community College

 1/514.93%Glendale, AZ

Glendale Community College has served nearly 500,000 students since its establishment in 1965. The school has two campuses, one located in Glendale and one located in Phoenix, making it convenient for students all over Maricopa County to attend classes. Audio production technology, CAD technology, information security and emergency response and operations are among the most popular programs.

Student athletes participate in baseball, cross country, football, softball, tennis, golf, basketball and volleyball. Glendale is one of the community colleges in Arizona that have more than 50 clubs and organizations, including the student government, Psi Beta, Phi Theta Kappa and biotechnology club.

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Eastern Arizona College

 1/535.82%Thatcher, AZ

Eastern Arizona College is one of the oldest community colleges in Arizona. Notable programs include advanced manufacturing technology, administrative information services, CADD/drafting, and electrical and instrumentation technology. The college also offers online programs for students who are unable to commute to on-campus classes.

Students have the option of living off-campus or staying in residential housing. In the traditional residence halls, each room accommodates two students. Residents share a community bathroom, lounge areas, and communal microwaves. Eastern Arizona College also has residence towers where students form their own communities and develop their own rules within the framework set by the college.

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College America-Flagstaff

 3/546.41%Flagstaff, AZ

College America has accredited colleges in Arizona, Wyoming and Colorado. The college offers associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees to students interested in business, healthcare, graphic arts and technology. There are also programs in place to help members of the military complete their degrees without interrupting their service obligations.

Faculty members have extensive experience in their respective fields, giving students the opportunity to learn from experienced professionals. For example, Dale Bingham is a certified physician assistant who serves as an instructor of health sciences and medical specialties. Students also benefit from having a Career Services department dedicated to helping graduates find employment.

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Central Arizona College

 1/517.74%Coolidge, AZ

Central Arizona College has nine campuses and several off-campus centers located throughout Pinal County, Arizona. As one of the best Arizona colleges, the school attracts students from diverse backgrounds. The average Central Arizona student is in their mid-thirties, making the college an ideal environment for adult learners.

Students who wish to transfer to four-year colleges may complete AA or AS degrees in several disciplines. Central Arizona College also has AAS degrees available for students who want to enter the workforce right away. On-campus housing, food services and a variety of organizations are available to students who want to get involved with the community.

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Mesa Community College

 1/514.33%Mesa, AZ

Mesa Community College has state-of-the-art facilities across two campuses and several off-campus centers. Like many colleges in Arizona, Mesa has a performing arts center for dance, theater and music performances. Students at the Red Mountain campus participate in multicultural club, Phi Theta Kappa and the zombie response club, while students at the Southern/Dobson club participate in battle games, engineering club and geology club.

Competitive athletes come to Mesa Community College to participate in baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, cross country and other sports. Mike Brown, an NBA coach, and Kyle Kingsbury, a UFC mixed martial artist, both attended Mesa Community College.

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Pima Community College

 1/511.1%Tucson, AZ

Pima Community College is one of the Arizona colleges serving students in the greater Tucson area. In addition to associate’s degrees and certificates, Pima Community College offers career-training programs, adult education, and workforce-development programs. To further the goal of educating as many students as possible, Pima Community College is an open-admissions institution.

For-credit programs are available in business, education, arts and humanities, computer information technology, social sciences and other disciplines. Students interested in automotive technology, machine tool technology and other trade professions attend Pima to get hands-on training in their desired fields. The Pima Aztecs compete in a variety of on-campus and off-campus athletic events.

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Mohave Community College

 1/511.54%Kingman, AZ

Mohave Community College has more than 60 programs for students of all ages. Students enroll in one of two tracks: the transfer track or the career and technical education track. The transfer track prepares students to enter baccalaureate degree programs, while the career track is designed to help students develop the skills they need to enter the workforce.

Students enjoy a variety of activities between classes and on weekends. Science club, art club, computer club and Phi Theta Kappa are just a few of the offerings available. There are also many resources to help students balance their studies with other responsibilities.

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Arizona Western College

 1/516.48%Yuma, AZ

Arizona Western College has more than 30 on-campus organizations to help students learn new skills and make valuable connections. The school also offers dozens of transfer degrees, occupational degrees and certificates. Dietetics, computed tomography, logistics and masonry are among the most interesting programs available to Arizona Western students.

For students who prefer to live on-campus, there are three residence halls. All resident students have access to a swimming pool and fitness center, making it easier to balance academics with health and wellness. Like many Arizona colleges, the school has several athletic teams and a variety of services to help students acclimate to college life.

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Northland Pioneer College

 1/55.08%Holbrook, AZ

Northland Pioneer College has five campuses across Apache and Navajo counties. The college grants associate’s degrees in seven disciplines: arts, applied science, arts in early childhood, business, arts in elementary education, science and general studies. Certificates of proficiency are also available in emergency medical technology, cosmetology, construction technology and automotive technology, among other programs.

Staff members are committed to helping veterans and active members of the military use their educational benefits, so there are a variety of services available to help veterans register for classes and arrange for financial aid. Northland Pioneer College has an open admissions policy.

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College America – Phoenix

 3/537.42%Phoenix, AZ

The Phoenix campus of College America is relatively new, giving students access to state-of-the-art computers, libraries and classrooms. Educational programs are designed to prepare students for professional work in their chosen fields, so all faculty members have some practical experience in addition to their teaching credentials.

Like other colleges in Arizona, College America has a variety of services available to help students make the most out of their college experience. Small class sizes and free tutoring are available to help students master the material and prepare for entry into the workforce.

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Rio Salado College

 1/54.42%Tempe, AZ

Rio Salado College offers more than 600 online classes and 50 degree programs, giving students plenty of opportunities for enhancing their knowledge. Some of the most popular programs are addictions and substance abuse disorders, community dental health coordination, public administration and digital design. The college has programs for honors students, adult learners and students who want to receive credit for prior learning.

Although Rio Salado College started out in Phoenix, the main campus is now located in Tempe, Arizona. The school also has 15 satellite locations throughout Maricopa County, reducing commute times and making it easier for students to fit college courses into their busy schedules.

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Coconino Community College

 1/55.99%Flagstaff, AZ

At Coconino Community College, faculty and staff members are committed to helping students succeed. The school is one of the best community colleges in Arizona because of the support services available to all students. Coconino Community College has more than two dozen degree programs in subjects such as environmental studies, anthropology and vocational technology education. Students interested in career participation complete certificates in fire science, American Sign Language interpreting and phlebotomy.

Coconino Community College has several clubs for students who want to get involved with the campus community. Clay club, volunteer club, science club and the Native American Student Association are just a few of the organizations open to students.

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If you’re thinking about applying to one of the best colleges in Arizona, continuing reading to learn more about living in the the Grand Canyon State.

As the 6th largest state, Arizona encompasses a 113,990 square mile swath of cactus-covered land in the southwestern corner of the country. Although commonly known for its hot and arid climate, Arizona is home to a variety of ecosystems from deserts and canyons to forests and snow-capped mountains. Equally diverse is Arizona’s populace, as a shared border with Mexico and large Indian reservations have led to a myriad of cultures and communities. The Grand Canyon National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the seven natural wonders of the world, is Arizona’s most iconic landmark.

With a median household income of $49,774 , Arizona is slightly below the national average of $53,046 and their 17.9% poverty rate is 2.9% worse than the rest of the country. Their economy is based heavily on manufacturing and health-care, while the large rural population focuses primarily on farming and ranching. The sheer size of the state combined with stark variety in urban and rural lifestyles means there are attractive options for multiple demographics.

Regional Spotlight: Northern Arizona

  • Major Cities: Flagstaff, Kingman
  • Attractions: Grand Canyon National Park, Red Rock, Monument Valley
  • Cost of Living: Flagstaff’s Numbeo Cost of Living
  • Popular Schools: Northern Arizona University, Coconino Community College

Regional Spotlight: Central Arizona

  • Major Cities: Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale
  • Attractions: Desert Botanical Garden, Scottsdale Arts Festival, Tonto National Forest
  • Cost of Living: Phoenix’s Numbeo Cost of Living
  • Popular Schools: Arizona State University, Maricopa County Community College District, Scottsdale Community College, University of Phoenix

Regional Spotlight: Southern Arizona

  • Major Cities: Tucson, Yuma, Casa Grande, Sierra Vista
  • Attractions: Kitt Peak National Observatory, Saguaro National Park, Tucson Botanical Gardens
  • Cost of Living: Tucson’s Numbeo Cost of Living
  • Popular Schools: University of Arizona, Pima Community College, Brown Mackie College


A vital step to making the most of your postsecondary education is establishing residency in the state of your chosen school, as resident students receive substantially lower tuition rates than their out of state counterparts. Additionally, residency is an important aspect of creating a beneficial network of connections to ensure success in your post graduation job hunt.

For Minors:

Residency for minors in Arizona is established by the following prerequisites;

  • The individual is domiciled in Arizona
  • The domicile of one or both of the individual’s parents is based in Arizona
  • One or both of the individual’s parents are entitled to claim the individual as a dependent child for tax purposes. The parent is not required to claim the individual as dependent, but must be eligible to do so.

For Adults:

Residency is determined by proving continuous presence in Arizona for at least 12 months. Evidence of continued presence can come in the form of vehicle registration, home ownership, employment history or banking records, all of which must have been established 12 months prior to residency application.

Additional Resources for Arizona Students

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Official State Links