Best Colleges in Arkansas

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Arkansas is home to more than 40 four-year universities and community colleges. These schools offer a sprawling list of majors, minors and technical degrees, and the state’s colleges boast programs that will interest every kind of student. To find the right school for your academic interests, you’ll need to consider the education costs, academic programs, financial aid and a number of other factors in all of the schools you’re considering. To help, we have ranked the best colleges and universities in Arkansas.

To provide a robust list, we’ve examined all of the factors students value when looking at schools. Key measures include acceptance, retention, graduation and enrollment rates. We’ve also included the student loan default percentage at each school, as we know it’s important for students to repay their debts after graduating. We have applied our rigorous methodology to the latest education data to rank the best colleges in Arkansas, including the top four-year and two-year schools.

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

There are 24 four-year institutions of higher education in the state of Arkansas, from major research universities to liberal arts schools to bible colleges. With a range of private and public options and an array of degree programs throughout the state, Arkansas’s schools offer something for everyone and provide an opportunity for students with a range of academic interests to pursue their academic and professional calling.

Below, we’ve ranked the best colleges in Arkansas. Using our proprietary algorithm, we’ve determined the best schools in the state, and if you’re interested in attending college in Arkansas, our list is an excellent place to begin your research. You’ll find a brief overview of academic strengths, as well as a rundown of life on campus and a few interesting facts about each school in its profile.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description    
1

University of Arkansas

 2/5N/AFayetteville, AR

campus-university-of-arkansas

Located in Fayetteville and founded in 1871, U of A is one of the largest colleges in Arkansas. The university has an enrollment of 26,000 and a student/faculty ratio of 19:1. More than 210 academic programs are offered and many courses are available online.

The university has an acceptance rate of 62%, and 43% of students receive financial aid. Scholarships and grants average $6700. The Carnegie Foundation ranked U of A among the top 2% of universities in the U.S. for research. President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton taught law classes here.

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2

John Brown University

 4/560.59%Siloam Springs, AR

campus-john-brown-university

Founded in 1919 as Southwestern Collegiate Institute, this 200-acre university in Siloam Springs is a non-denominational Christian institution. With an enrollment of 2700 and a student/faculty ratio of 14:1, JBU offers 40 undergraduate majors and 10 graduate degree programs. Along with general studies found at most Arkansas colleges, JBU offers courses in digital cinema, biblical and theological studies, and intercultural studies.

JBU has an acceptance rate of 69.7%. Its top undergraduate programs are engineering, graphic and web design, nursing, business administration, and family and human services.

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3

Lyon College

 4/549.02%Batesville, AR

campus-lyon-college

Nestled in scenic Batesville and founded in 1872, Lyon is one of the oldest colleges in Arkansas. Fifteen major fields of study earn Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. The college also offers pre-professional programs in health care, education, law, and engineering. Individualized majors are another option. Lyon has an acceptance rate of 61.4% and 99% of students qualify for scholarships or financial aid.

A large number of graduates enter medical, dental and law school. The Nichols International Studies program covers students’ transportation expenses abroad.

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4

Ouachita Baptist University

 4/558.17%Arkadelphia, AR

campus-ouachita-baptist-university

Ouachita Baptist University is located in Arkadelphia and has an enrollment of 1500. Students enroll from more than 30 states and 30 nations. Founded in 1886 and affiliated with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, the university has seven academic schools including Christian studies, business, education, fine arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.

Ouachita boasts a student/faculty ratio of 13:1, and 61.9% of students receive financial aid. The university offers several study abroad options with international partners. Notable alumni include Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas Governor and Fox-News host, and Cliff Harris, retired NFL player for the Dallas Cowboys.

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5

Harding University

 3/562.55%Searcy, AR

campus-harding-university

This private liberal arts university is located in Searcy, northeast of Little Rock, and consistently earns high rankings among Arkansas colleges. Founded in 1924, it is affiliated with the Church of Christ and has an enrollment of 6075. Harding offers more than 100 majors, 10 undergraduate degrees, 14 pre-professional programs, and 15 graduate and professional degrees. Popular majors include business, health professions, education, and liberal arts.

The university boasts a student/faculty ratio of 16:1 and financial aid is awarded to 61.6% of students. Nearly 50% of students participate in study abroad programs. Famous alumni include Stephen Mark Brown, opera singer, and Preacher Roe, major league baseball pitcher.

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6

Hendrix College

 5/572.56%Conway, AR

Located in Conway, Hendrix College was founded in 1976 and affiliated with the United Methodist Church, Hendrix has an enrollment of 1338 and a student/faculty ratio of 11:1. The academic program offers 34 majors, 39 minors and an option for interdisciplinary studies.

Nearly 100% of students receive financial aid. The Odyssey Program features study abroad, community service, and leadership development. Notable alumni include Pulitzer Prize-winning author Douglas Blackmon, actress Mary Steenburgen, and Metropolitan Opera conductor Sarah Caldwell.

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7

Central Baptist College

 3/531.73%Conway, AR

Founded in 1952, CBC is located in Conway and has an enrollment of 858. One of several Christian liberal arts colleges in Arkansas, it is affiliated with the Baptist Missionary Association of America. Academic divisions include Humanities and Arts, Professional Studies, Natural and Social Sciences, and Nontraditional Programs. The college has an acceptance rate of 57.5% and 79% of students receive financial aid.

Popular majors are biblical studies, organizational behavior, psychology, business management, and general studies. The PACE program offers multiple classroom locations and online courses for working adults to earn degrees on their own timetable.

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8

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

 2/526.54%Little Rock, AR

UALR became a four-year university in 1957 and merged with the University of Arkansas in 1969. It is notable among Arkansas colleges as a metropolitan research university. Enrollment tops 12,000 and the university has an acceptance rate of 62%. More than 140 undergraduate degrees are offered, with 450 courses available online.

The William H. Bowen School of Law was designated #6 Law School for Public Service Careers by National Jurist. The Donaghey Scholars honors program includes interdisciplinary studies, financial assistance, and study abroad.

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9

University of Central Arkansas

 2/544.67%Conway, AR

UCA is located in Conway with a scenic campus spanning 350 acres. Established in 1907, it boasts an enrollment of 11,698, the fourth largest among colleges in Arkansas. Over 149 academic degrees are offered, including bachelor’s, associate’s, doctoral, technical, and graduate certificates. Popular majors include nursing and health professions, education, environmental science, and business.

The acceptance rate is 94.3% with a student/faculty ratio of 17:1. Schedler Honors College offers an innovative curriculum for high achieving students. Famous alumni include NBA champion Scottie Pippin and Kris Allen, American Idol winner.

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10

Arkansas State University

 2/539.3%Jonesboro, AR

Founded in 1909, A-State is located in Jonesboro, 70 miles from Memphis. With enrollment of 13,000 it is one of the largest colleges in Arkansas. It has an acceptance rate of 72.4% and a student/faculty ratio of 17:1. More than 160 programs are offered including bachelor’s, master’s, and post-graduate courses online.

Nearly 90% of students receive financial aid. Scholarships and grants average $10,000. The Red Wolves football team won the Sunbelt Conference four times in the last five years. Notable alumni include Al Joyner, Olympic gold medalist (1984); Mike Beebe, Governor of Arkansas (2006-2014); and Debbye Turner, Miss America 1990.

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11

University of the Ozarks

 4/547.69%Clarksville, AR

With a history as a trendsetter among Arkansas colleges, Ozarks is the oldest university in the state (1834) and it was the first in the state to admit women (1871). Affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, the university boasts a scenic 30-acre campus in Clarksville. An undergraduate enrollment of 587 allows for small class sizes. The student/faculty ratio is 12:1 and the university has an acceptance rate of 88.9%.

Students may choose from more than 60 liberal arts and pre-professional programs. The Jones Learning Center is notable as the first college program in the U.S. created for students with learning disabilities. Approximately 73% of students receive financial aid.

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12

Southern Arkansas University

 2/530.61%Magnolia, AR

Located in Magnolia and founded in 1909 as an agricultural school, SAU has grown to an enrollment of 3000 on a campus that spans over 1400 acres. It is known among colleges in Arkansas for affordable tuition fees and an acceptance rate of 71.4%. Degrees may be earned from five college divisions.

Top majors include business and management, health professions, law enforcement and home security, education, and firefighting. The university also offers a popular game and animation design program. Famous alumni include country singer Tracy Lawrence, TV producer/director Harry Thomason (Designing Women), and Jordan Babineaux, NFL football player, Tennessee Titans.

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13

University of Arkansas – Fort Smith

 1/525.78%Fort Smith, AR

Located in Fort Smith and founded in 1928 as a junior college, UAFS is one of 13 colleges in Arkansas comprising the University of Arkansas System. As the fifth largest university in the state, it has an enrollment of 7100 with a campus that covers 170 acres, including an award-winning arboretum.

The university offers over 75 academic programs including bachelor’s and associate’s degrees, plus certificates. UAFS has an acceptance rate of 56.3% and a student/faculty ratio of 18:1. Ninety-six percent of students qualify for financial aid and scholarships. Popular majors include applied science and technology, education, criminal justice, and health sciences.

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14

University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

 2/527.21%Pine Bluff, AR

Founded in 1873 as Branch Normal College, a historically black college, UAPB is the second oldest public university in Arkansas. It became part of the University of Arkansas System in 1972. Enrollment is 2400 with a student/faculty ratio of 18:1. Programs of study include agriculture, arts and sciences, education, general studies, business, and management.

The university has the most comprehensive training for aquaculture and regulatory science offered by colleges in Arkansas. UAPB also invests in programs encouraging more women and minorities to pursue STEM careers. Ninety-seven percent of students receive financial aid. Famous alumni include L.C. Greenwood, NFL player, Pittsburgh Steelers; and Smokie Norful, gospel singer.

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15

Arkansas Tech University

 2/544.55%Russellville, AR

TECH is one of the fastest growing colleges in Arkansas with campuses in Russellville and Ozark. Reporting an enrollment of 12,000, it is the third largest university in the state, ranks in the top two for graduation rates, and is one of the most affordable in the region. Popular fields of study include the TECH geology program, crisis/emergency management, and nursing.

The Fisheries and Wildlife Science program was the first in the state and offers students a chance to work in the field with wildlife and forest service professionals. TECH offers accelerated 18-month online degrees and students enjoy over 120 organizations on campus.

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16

Henderson State University

 2/536.19%Arkadelphia, AR

Located in Arkadelphia and founded in 1890, Henderson is the second oldest of public four-year colleges in Arkansas. It has an enrollment of 3200 and offers over 75 bachelor’s and graduate degrees. Departments include the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Business, Teachers College, and an Honors College for high-achieving students.

Henderson offers the state’s only bachelor’s degree in aviation, and Simonson Biological Field Station is noteworthy for its scientific education and research labs. The university’s Showband of Arkansas has earned accolades as one of the top marching bands in the country. Famous alumni include actor Billy Bob Thornton, Arkansas governor Sid McMath, and pro-golfer Ken Duke.

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17

University of Arkansas at Monticello

 2/528.44%Monticello, AR

With three campuses at Monticello, McGehee and Crossett, UAM’s sprawling campus encompasses over 1600 acres. The university has earned Tree Campus USA status annually for the last seven years. Students also enjoy the Turner Neal Museum of Natural History and Pomeroy Planetarium on the Monticello campus.

Boasting an enrollment of over 3600, the university is one of the fastest growing four-year colleges in Arkansas. More than 31 bachelor’s degree programs are offered along with 7 associate’s degrees, 17 technical certificates, and 6 graduate degrees. Popular majors include natural resources management, pre-veterinary medicine, agriculture, and computer information systems.

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Students at community colleges come from all backgrounds and have very different academic goals. Many students are preparing for a four-year program, while others want to complete an associate degree or obtain a technical certificate. Tuition and fees tend to be lower in community colleges and students can save plenty of money taking prerequisites at a two-year school. Arkansas’s two-year schools educate thousands of students across more than 20 campuses. Below, we’ve ranked the top two-year programs in the state.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description    
1

University of Arkansas

 2/5N/AFayetteville, AR

campus-university-of-arkansas

Located in Fayetteville and founded in 1871, U of A is one of the largest colleges in Arkansas. The university has an enrollment of 26,000 and a student/faculty ratio of 19:1. More than 210 academic programs are offered and many courses are available online.

The university has an acceptance rate of 62%, and 43% of students receive financial aid. Scholarships and grants average $6700. The Carnegie Foundation ranked U of A among the top 2% of universities in the U.S. for research. President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton taught law classes here.

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1

Arkansas State University – Newport

 1/531.68%Newport, AR

campus-arkansas-state-university-newport

Founded as White River Vocational School in 1976, ASUN has expanded to three campuses with an enrollment of over 2400. Compared to other Arkansas colleges, ASUN It is the fifth largest community college in the state, and offers Associate of Arts degrees transferable to four-year institutions, plus 24 vocational training courses. Other programs include nursing, allied health care professions, business and education.

ASUN has a student/faculty ratio of 14:1 and offers many online courses. The college works closely with regional economic and workforce development to provide in-demand training.

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2

John Brown University

 4/560.59%Siloam Springs, AR

campus-john-brown-university

Founded in 1919 as Southwestern Collegiate Institute, this 200-acre university in Siloam Springs is a non-denominational Christian institution. With an enrollment of 2700 and a student/faculty ratio of 14:1, JBU offers 40 undergraduate majors and 10 graduate degree programs. Along with general studies found at most Arkansas colleges, JBU offers courses in digital cinema, biblical and theological studies, and intercultural studies.

JBU has an acceptance rate of 69.7%. Its top undergraduate programs are engineering, graphic and web design, nursing, business administration, and family and human services.

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2

Crowley’s Ridge College

 3/519.35%Paragould, AR

campus-crowleys-ridge-college

Celebrating 52 years of service to students, Crowley Ridge College’s mission combines academic scholarship with spirituality and service. The Christian college offers Associate of Arts degrees in biblical studies, general studies and ministry, with small classes in comparison to most Arkansas colleges. BA and BS degrees in biblical studies, accounting, business administration, management, and marketing are offered along with BSE programs in elementary education and physical education.

Enrollment has increased 23% in the past five years. The campus ministry features bible studies, mission trips and community outreach activities. Intercollegiate (NCCAA) sports options are men’s basketball, baseball and golf and women’s basketball, volleyball and softball.

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3

Lyon College

 4/549.02%Batesville, AR

campus-lyon-college

Nestled in scenic Batesville and founded in 1872, Lyon is one of the oldest colleges in Arkansas. Fifteen major fields of study earn Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. The college also offers pre-professional programs in health care, education, law, and engineering. Individualized majors are another option. Lyon has an acceptance rate of 61.4% and 99% of students qualify for scholarships or financial aid.

A large number of graduates enter medical, dental and law school. The Nichols International Studies program covers students’ transportation expenses abroad.

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3

University of Arkansas Community College – Batesville

 1/524.15%Batesville, AR

campus-university-of-arkansas-community-college-batesville

Spread over 58 acres, UACCB has a reputation as one of the best two-year colleges in Arkansas. In addition to offering an Associate of Arts in Business degree, the college offers Associate of Applied Science degrees in Business Services, Computer Information Systems, Crime Scene Investigation, Law Enforcement Administration, Early Childhood Education, and Industrial Technology. Health care degree options include RN and practical nursing, nursing assistant, EMT technician and paramedic training.

More than 59 courses are offered online and approximately 23% of students receive scholarships. The college works closely with regional industries to provide specialized training for in-demand skills.

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4

Ouachita Baptist University

 4/558.17%Arkadelphia, AR

campus-ouachita-baptist-university

Ouachita Baptist University is located in Arkadelphia and has an enrollment of 1500. Students enroll from more than 30 states and 30 nations. Founded in 1886 and affiliated with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, the university has seven academic schools including Christian studies, business, education, fine arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.

Ouachita boasts a student/faculty ratio of 13:1, and 61.9% of students receive financial aid. The university offers several study abroad options with international partners. Notable alumni include Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas Governor and Fox-News host, and Cliff Harris, retired NFL player for the Dallas Cowboys.

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4

Arkansas State University – Beebe

 1/539.24%Beebe, AR

campus-arkansas-state-university-beebe

Founded in 1927 as an agricultural school, ASU-Beebe is the oldest two-year institution in Arkansas. Programs range from liberal arts studies to business entrepreneurship and occupational technology. Associate degree programs include veterinary technology, pharmacy technician, EMT/paramedic, computer aided drafting and design, and medical laboratory technology, among others.

The agriculture technology program is one of 21 partnerships by John Deere in North America. ASU-Beebe has offered classes at Little Rock Air Force Base since 1965, and concurrent classes at eight regional high schools allow students to earn college credits.

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5

Harding University

 3/562.55%Searcy, AR

campus-harding-university

This private liberal arts university is located in Searcy, northeast of Little Rock, and consistently earns high rankings among Arkansas colleges. Founded in 1924, it is affiliated with the Church of Christ and has an enrollment of 6075. Harding offers more than 100 majors, 10 undergraduate degrees, 14 pre-professional programs, and 15 graduate and professional degrees. Popular majors include business, health professions, education, and liberal arts.

The university boasts a student/faculty ratio of 16:1 and financial aid is awarded to 61.6% of students. Nearly 50% of students participate in study abroad programs. Famous alumni include Stephen Mark Brown, opera singer, and Preacher Roe, major league baseball pitcher.

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5

East Arkansas Community College

 1/512.55%Forrest City, AR

campus-east-arkansas-community-college

Established in 1974 and rated in the top five of best two-year colleges in Arkansas, EACC offers Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees with academic studies in humanities, allied health science, business/technology, mathematics/science, and social science. Approximately 62% of students receive grants or scholarships, and small class sizes facilitate a student/faculty ratio of 17:1.

Associate of Applied Science degrees are awarded to students who train for specific technical occupations. Certificate proficiency programs include computer repair, engineering design technology, criminal justice, and renewable energy technology among 20 other areas of study. EACC offers traditional and accelerated nursing programs, plus occupational therapy and paramedic training.

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6

Southern Arkansas University Tech

 1/5N/AAR

Founded in 1968, AU Tech is rated highly among colleges in Arkansas. Part of the Southern Arkansas University system, the college has average enrollment of 2000. In addition to Associate of Arts degrees in business administration, education, and office management, courses of study include environmental science and fire science management. Complete online degree programs are offered as well as blended programs.

Technical programs range from automated and robotic engineering to aviation maintenance and simulation and game design. Law enforcement and wildlife/fisheries management are other popular areas of study. The 11-month nursing program combines classroom instruction with lab and clinical experiences.

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6

Hendrix College

 5/572.56%Conway, AR

Located in Conway, Hendrix College was founded in 1976 and affiliated with the United Methodist Church, Hendrix has an enrollment of 1338 and a student/faculty ratio of 11:1. The academic program offers 34 majors, 39 minors and an option for interdisciplinary studies.

Nearly 100% of students receive financial aid. The Odyssey Program features study abroad, community service, and leadership development. Notable alumni include Pulitzer Prize-winning author Douglas Blackmon, actress Mary Steenburgen, and Metropolitan Opera conductor Sarah Caldwell.

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7

Central Baptist College

 3/531.73%Conway, AR

Founded in 1952, CBC is located in Conway and has an enrollment of 858. One of several Christian liberal arts colleges in Arkansas, it is affiliated with the Baptist Missionary Association of America. Academic divisions include Humanities and Arts, Professional Studies, Natural and Social Sciences, and Nontraditional Programs. The college has an acceptance rate of 57.5% and 79% of students receive financial aid.

Popular majors are biblical studies, organizational behavior, psychology, business management, and general studies. The PACE program offers multiple classroom locations and online courses for working adults to earn degrees on their own timetable.

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7

University of Arkansas at Monticello

 2/528.44%Monticello, AR

Spread over 1600 acres with three campuses in Monticello, McGehee and Crossett, UAM offers 6 graduate degree programs, 31 bachelor’s degree programs, 7 associate degrees, and 17 technical certificates. Established as Fourth District Agricultural School in 1910, the institution merged with the University of Arkansas in 1971 and become one of the fastest growing colleges in Arkansas with a student/faculty ratio of 17:1. Known for its scenic surroundings, UAM has earned Tree Campus USA status annually since 2010.

UAM provides pre-professional programs for pre-law, pre-veterinary, pre-engineering, and health care fields including medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy. Fast-track technical certifications are also available in practical nursing, emergency medical technology, and computer maintenance/networking.

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8

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

 2/526.54%Little Rock, AR

UALR became a four-year university in 1957 and merged with the University of Arkansas in 1969. It is notable among Arkansas colleges as a metropolitan research university. Enrollment tops 12,000 and the university has an acceptance rate of 62%. More than 140 undergraduate degrees are offered, with 450 courses available online.

The William H. Bowen School of Law was designated #6 Law School for Public Service Careers by National Jurist. The Donaghey Scholars honors program includes interdisciplinary studies, financial assistance, and study abroad.

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8

Arkansas Northeastern College

 1/522.9%Blytheville, AR

With five campuses located in Blytheville, Burdette, Osceola, Leachville, and Paragould, ANC has extended its reach as one of the most affordable colleges in Arkansas. Tuition and fees are one-third the cost of Arkansas public four-year universities, and small classes ensure a student/faculty ratio of 13:1. Two-year Associate in Arts degrees are offered in business, education, and agriculture.

Students may also choose from over 25 technical certificates and job training programs. One-year certificates are available in practical nursing and allied health care occupations, aviation maintenance, dental assisting, and air-conditioning and refrigeration. ANC partners with regional business and industry through the Solutions Group.

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9

Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas

 1/523.67%De Queen, AR

Founded in 1975 as Cossatot Vocational-Technical School, CCCUA became a part of the University of Arkansas system of community colleges in Arkansas in 2001. Situated in the picturesque Ouachita Mountains foothills, the college has campuses at De Queen, Nashville, Ashdown, Dierks, and Murfreesboro. Two-year degrees are offered in more than 20 fields and four associate’s degrees may be completed online.

Popular programs include associate of science degrees in agriculture with specializations in business, education, and science. The student/faculty ratio is 18:1, and more than 60 courses are offered online. Students seeking faster entry into the work world can complete technical certificates for several occupations in less than two years.

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9

University of Central Arkansas

 2/544.67%Conway, AR

UCA is located in Conway with a scenic campus spanning 350 acres. Established in 1907, it boasts an enrollment of 11,698, the fourth largest among colleges in Arkansas. Over 149 academic degrees are offered, including bachelor’s, associate’s, doctoral, technical, and graduate certificates. Popular majors include nursing and health professions, education, environmental science, and business.

The acceptance rate is 94.3% with a student/faculty ratio of 17:1. Schedler Honors College offers an innovative curriculum for high achieving students. Famous alumni include NBA champion Scottie Pippin and Kris Allen, American Idol winner.

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10

Arkansas State University

 2/539.3%Jonesboro, AR

Founded in 1909, A-State is located in Jonesboro, 70 miles from Memphis. With enrollment of 13,000 it is one of the largest colleges in Arkansas. It has an acceptance rate of 72.4% and a student/faculty ratio of 17:1. More than 160 programs are offered including bachelor’s, master’s, and post-graduate courses online.

Nearly 90% of students receive financial aid. Scholarships and grants average $10,000. The Red Wolves football team won the Sunbelt Conference four times in the last five years. Notable alumni include Al Joyner, Olympic gold medalist (1984); Mike Beebe, Governor of Arkansas (2006-2014); and Debbye Turner, Miss America 1990.

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10

Arkansas State University – Mountain Home

 1/524%Mountain Home, AR

ASUMH has gained a reputation as one of the best two-year colleges in Arkansas. Founded in 1995 and situated in the scenic Ozarks, it offers convenient access to nearby lakes and outdoor recreation. Offering more than 50 degrees and majors, the college has an average enrollment of 1500 and a student/faculty ratio of 20:1. The Fran Coulter Honors Program provides challenging courses and activities for academically advanced students.

Students may study health and allied professions, liberal arts, general studies, business, management, and a variety of technical training programs that serve local industry including mechatronics, automotive service, HVAC, and welding.

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11

University of the Ozarks

 4/547.69%Clarksville, AR

With a history as a trendsetter among Arkansas colleges, Ozarks is the oldest university in the state (1834) and it was the first in the state to admit women (1871). Affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, the university boasts a scenic 30-acre campus in Clarksville. An undergraduate enrollment of 587 allows for small class sizes. The student/faculty ratio is 12:1 and the university has an acceptance rate of 88.9%.

Students may choose from more than 60 liberal arts and pre-professional programs. The Jones Learning Center is notable as the first college program in the U.S. created for students with learning disabilities. Approximately 73% of students receive financial aid.

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11

Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas

 1/526.94%Helena, AR

With campuses at DeWitt, Helena-West Helena, and Stuggart, PCCUA is ranked among the top two-year colleges in Arkansas. The college offers more than 26 programs of study with transferable credits, plus technical certificates that require one year or less to complete. Starting with a class of just 250 students in 1968, the college has increased enrollment to almost 2000.

Certificate programs include renewable energy technology, behavioral health technology, and advanced manufacturing. The Criminal Justice Institute offers law enforcement, and crime scene investigation degrees. PCCUA participates in the Federal Work-Study program to help students with financial needs pay expenses.

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12

Southern Arkansas University

 2/530.61%Magnolia, AR

Located in Magnolia and founded in 1909 as an agricultural school, SAU has grown to an enrollment of 3000 on a campus that spans over 1400 acres. It is known among colleges in Arkansas for affordable tuition fees and an acceptance rate of 71.4%. Degrees may be earned from five college divisions.

Top majors include business and management, health professions, law enforcement and home security, education, and firefighting. The university also offers a popular game and animation design program. Famous alumni include country singer Tracy Lawrence, TV producer/director Harry Thomason (Designing Women), and Jordan Babineaux, NFL football player, Tennessee Titans.

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12

North Arkansas College

 1/522.61%Harrison, AR

With three campuses in Harrison and one in Berryville, Northark offers a choice of associate degrees, transfer, and technical programs, and partners with area universities for bachelor’s degree programs. Online programs are another convenient option.

Thirteen different medical degrees are available. A new Health Education Simulation Center provides nursing students with state-of-the-art training, while agriculture majors have access to a 40-acre Learning Lab. Technical certificates and certificates of proficiency are attainable in programs requiring one year of coursework or less.

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13

University of Arkansas – Fort Smith

 1/525.78%Fort Smith, AR

Located in Fort Smith and founded in 1928 as a junior college, UAFS is one of 13 colleges in Arkansas comprising the University of Arkansas System. As the fifth largest university in the state, it has an enrollment of 7100 with a campus that covers 170 acres, including an award-winning arboretum.

The university offers over 75 academic programs including bachelor’s and associate’s degrees, plus certificates. UAFS has an acceptance rate of 56.3% and a student/faculty ratio of 18:1. Ninety-six percent of students qualify for financial aid and scholarships. Popular majors include applied science and technology, education, criminal justice, and health sciences.

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13

Black River Technical College

 1/517.97%Pocahontas, AR

Founded as Black River Vocational Technical School in 1972, the college has campuses in Pocahontas and Paragould with a student/faculty ratio of 17:1. Now one of the state’s public two-year Arkansas colleges, BRTC offers 16 associate degree programs and 27 certificate programs. Enrollment averages more than 3000 with most students qualifying for scholarships, grants, or financial aid. BRTC collaborates with regional employers to provide training for in-demand jobs.

Popular business programs include computer information technology, entrepreneurship, and microcomputer business applications. Black River is also home to a Law Enforcement Training Academy and Fire Training Center. Students interested in health care occupations may choose nursing, EMT/paramedic, respiratory care or nutrition.

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14

University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

 2/527.21%Pine Bluff, AR

Founded in 1873 as Branch Normal College, a historically black college, UAPB is the second oldest public university in Arkansas. It became part of the University of Arkansas System in 1972. Enrollment is 2400 with a student/faculty ratio of 18:1. Programs of study include agriculture, arts and sciences, education, general studies, business, and management.

The university has the most comprehensive training for aquaculture and regulatory science offered by colleges in Arkansas. UAPB also invests in programs encouraging more women and minorities to pursue STEM careers. Ninety-seven percent of students receive financial aid. Famous alumni include L.C. Greenwood, NFL player, Pittsburgh Steelers; and Smokie Norful, gospel singer.

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14

Rich Mountain Community College

 1/523.74%Mena, AR

Situated in the scenic Ouachita Mountain Range, RMCC’s main campus is in Mena with another off campus location in Waldron. Founded in 1973 as Rich Mountain Vocational School, it merged with Henderson State University’s off-campus program in 1983. With an average enrollment of 1000, RMCC is known among Arkansas colleges for its small class sizes. It also offers some of the lowest tuition and fees in the state.

Eleven major degree and certificate programs are offered and most classes have a student/faculty ratio of 15:1. Comprehensive health care training includes registered, vocational and clinical nursing and nursing administration. Other popular programs are culinary arts, avionics and vehicle maintenance technologies.

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15

Arkansas Tech University

 2/544.55%Russellville, AR

TECH is one of the fastest growing colleges in Arkansas with campuses in Russellville and Ozark. Reporting an enrollment of 12,000, it is the third largest university in the state, ranks in the top two for graduation rates, and is one of the most affordable in the region. Popular fields of study include the TECH geology program, crisis/emergency management, and nursing.

The Fisheries and Wildlife Science program was the first in the state and offers students a chance to work in the field with wildlife and forest service professionals. TECH offers accelerated 18-month online degrees and students enjoy over 120 organizations on campus.

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15

Northwest Arkansas Community College

 1/515.93%Bentonville, AR

Serving 7700 students, NWACC is one of the fastest growing colleges in Arkansas. With its main campus in Bentonville, the two-year college also has classrooms in Rogers, Farmington and Springdale with a student/faculty ratio of 19:1. A Regional Technology Center is in Fayetteville. Nineteen two-year degree programs are designed for students who want to begin work immediately upon graduation.

Transfer AA and AS degrees are a part of the curriculum along with technical certificate and certificate of proficiency programs. In 2015, EMT, fire science, and physical therapy assistant programs reported pass rates of 100%. Popular applied science degrees include environmental and regulatory science.

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16

Henderson State University

 2/536.19%Arkadelphia, AR

Located in Arkadelphia and founded in 1890, Henderson is the second oldest of public four-year colleges in Arkansas. It has an enrollment of 3200 and offers over 75 bachelor’s and graduate degrees. Departments include the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Business, Teachers College, and an Honors College for high-achieving students.

Henderson offers the state’s only bachelor’s degree in aviation, and Simonson Biological Field Station is noteworthy for its scientific education and research labs. The university’s Showband of Arkansas has earned accolades as one of the top marching bands in the country. Famous alumni include actor Billy Bob Thornton, Arkansas governor Sid McMath, and pro-golfer Ken Duke.

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16

Southeast Arkansas College

 1/518.82%Pine Bluff, AR

Located in Pine Bluff, SEARK has an average enrollment of 1800. Formerly a technical school, it joined several other Arkansas colleges that transitioned to two-year public colleges in 1991. Specializing in academic transfer programs including general studies, business, and pre-professional courses, SEARK also offers programs for law enforcement and 20 technical career programs.

Popular majors include computer network technology, emergency medical sciences, nursing and allied health sciences, and paralegal technology. The student/faculty ratio is 17:1, ensuring individualized attention, and many courses may be completed entirely online. Concurrent enrollment for college credit is available to Arkansas high school students.

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17

University of Arkansas at Monticello

 2/528.44%Monticello, AR

With three campuses at Monticello, McGehee and Crossett, UAM’s sprawling campus encompasses over 1600 acres. The university has earned Tree Campus USA status annually for the last seven years. Students also enjoy the Turner Neal Museum of Natural History and Pomeroy Planetarium on the Monticello campus.

Boasting an enrollment of over 3600, the university is one of the fastest growing four-year colleges in Arkansas. More than 31 bachelor’s degree programs are offered along with 7 associate’s degrees, 17 technical certificates, and 6 graduate degrees. Popular majors include natural resources management, pre-veterinary medicine, agriculture, and computer information systems.

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17

Mid-South Community College

 1/511.07%West Memphis, AR

ASU Mid-South began as a small vocational school in West Memphis. Quickly becoming an innovator among colleges in Arkansas, it has grown to an average enrollment of 2000 with a student/faculty ratio of 14:1. Striving to provide affordable education for students in the region, the college offers associate degrees and certificates in 12 fields.

ASU Mid-South collaborates with Arkansas Delta Training and the Education Consortium to provide highly skilled graduates for regional employers. The Manufacturing Institute’s M-List recognized the college for specialized training in welding, and the $ 9-million Marion Berry Renewable Energy Center features a biofuel engine testing facility and fuel and oil analysis labs.

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18

Remington College – Little Rock Campus

 3/565.69%Little Rock, AR

Founded in 1998 as a nonprofit college offering specialized career training, Remington offers associate degree programs in criminal justice and business administration plus technical training programs designed to meet the needs of regional businesses and industry. It is one of several Arkansas colleges offering online associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees in health information technology, paralegal, occupational therapy, and business related fields. Other associate degrees include marketing and sales, executive assistant, and bookkeeping.

Students enjoy small class sizes and personalized instruction with financial aid available through grants, scholarships, loans, and veteran’s benefits. The Career Services Center assists with job placement upon graduation.

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19

College of the Ouachitas

 1/522.79%Malvern, AZ

COTO is a two-year public college in Malvern with an enrollment of 1500 and a student/faculty ratio of 19:1. As with most Arkansas colleges, online courses are available with some on-campus and lab work required for certain subjects. Degrees and certificates are offered in more than 50 academic, career, and technical fields including liberal arts and sciences, general studies, health and allied health services, and mechanic and repair technologies.

The Applied Science Technology department prepares students for a variety of careers including early childhood education, mechatronics, criminal justice, cosmetology, computer information systems, and more. Approximately 85% of students receive grants or scholarship aid averaging $3500.

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20

University of Arkansas Community College – Morrilton

 1/527.07%Morrilton, AR

UACCM began as a vocational school in 1963 and became a community college before joining the University of Arkansas System 15 years ago. It is the sixth largest two-year college among Arkansas colleges and the largest two-year college in the UA system. Average enrollment is 2042 with a student/faculty ratio of 19:1.

Students may earn degrees and certificates in 16 different fields including general studies, liberal arts, health professions, and engineering technology. A new Workforce Training Center will expand the range of technical courses. Over 78% of undergraduates receive grant or scholarship assistance averaging $3400. The college offers more than 30 student organizations, plus intramural sports.

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21

Ozarka College

 1/523.6%Melbourne, AR

Ozarka is a rural college located in Melbourne. With an average enrollment of 1400, it offers small class sizes and affordable tuition. In addition to Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees transferable to other Arkansas colleges, the school features technical certificate programs and certificate of proficiency courses. Ninety-four percent of students qualify for scholarships, grants, or loans averaging $6700.

Popular AS degrees include business, criminal justice, human services, education, and aviation. AAS degrees are offered in automotive technology, business, culinary arts, registered nursing, and health information. Technical certificates in early childhood education, licensed practical nursing, allied health, and automotive service technology require fewer hours.

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22

Shorter College

 1/5N/AN Little Rock, AR

Situated in the heart of North Little Rock, this two-year private college was established in 1886 by the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Today the faith-based college has an average enrollment of 400 and is one of the smaller private colleges in Arkansas. Students enjoy personalized instruction along with affordable tuition.

Shorter is one of 110 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and the only private two-year HBCU in the United States. The college offers Associate of Arts degrees with emphasis on general studies, leadership and ministry, and childhood development. Other popular majors include criminal justice and entrepreneurial studies.

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23

National Park College

 1/517.73%Hot Springs, AR

This public two-year college in the resort community of Hot Springs has an enrollment of 4000 and a student/faculty ratio of 21:1. National Park Community College is the fourth largest among community colleges in Arkansas. Associate degrees and technical certificates are awarded for 26 different programs including liberal arts and sciences, business, health and allied health professions, general studies, engineering, and industrial technology. Both on-campus and online programs are available.

Approximately 66% of students receive grants or scholarships averaging $3900. Workforce training partnerships with business and industry help prepare students for employment on graduation. The aerospace fabrication and repair program was specially designed to meet the demands of regional aerospace companies.

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24

University of Arkansas Community College – Hope

 1/530.52%Hope, AR

Founded in 1965, UACCH joined the University of Arkansas System in 1996. Located in Hope with an additional campus in Texarkana, UACCH has an enrollment of 1400 with a student/faculty ratio of 18:1. The college offers over 46 degrees and certificates. Academic divisions include arts and humanities, business, technology and education, science and health professions, math and social science, and technical/industrial.

Financial aid is available to 86% of students with grants and scholarships averaging $4100. UACCH also participates in Career Pathways, a program at several colleges in Arkansas that helps students with children complete their education. TRiO student support services has increased retention and graduation rates.

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25

South Arkansas Community College

 1/513.16%El Dorado, AR

Located in downtown El Dorado, SouthArk was established in 1992, when Oil Belt Technical College and Southern Arkansas University – El Dorado merged. It is one of the fastest growing colleges in Arkansas with an enrollment of over 1600. Nineteen associate degrees are offered in liberal arts, health sciences, and business. Graduates of the SouthArk Honors Program are assured acceptance into the Honors Program at Southern Arkansas University.

Students may also choose from more than 40 technical and certificate programs. The Associate of Arts program can be completed entirely online, and a variety of other online courses are offered. Financial aid is available to 82% of students.

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

Arkansas is known for its agriculture, paper and wood products, along with its aluminum and diamonds. The state covers 53,182 square miles and has a population of just under 3 million people. With low tuition rates and prestigious universities, prospective students are attracted to Arkansas’s postsecondary schools.

The job climate in Arkansas is improving. The unemployment rate throughout Arkansas is down to just over 5%, and it’s also one of the most affordable states in the country. With plenty of natural beauty and a few thriving cities, Arkansas offers residents a variety of settings to live in.

Below, we’ve highlighted a few of the major regions in Arkansas:

REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT: CENTRAL ARKANSAS

  • Major Cities: Little Rock, North Little Rock, Sherwood, Jacksonville, Benton, Bryant, Conway, Cabot and Searcy
  • Attractions: William J. Clinton Presidential Center, Verizon Arena and the Dickey-Stephens Park.
  • Cost of Living: Little Rock’s Numbeo Cost of Living
  • Popular Schools: University of Central Arkansas, University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
  • Population: 600,000
  • Unemployment: 4.8%

REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT: DELTA

  • Major Cities: Jonesboro, West Memphis, Newport and Helena-West Helena.
  • Attractions: Crowley’s Ridge Parkway, Arkansas Blues & Heritage Festival and the World Championship Duck Calling Contest.
  • Cost of Living: Jonesboro’s Numbeo Cost of Living
  • Popular Schools: Arkansas State University, Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas.
  • Population: 126,800
  • Unemployment: 5%

REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT: THE OZARKS

  • Major Cities: Fayetteville, Rogers, Springdale and Bentonville.
  • Attractions: National Register of Historic Places, Reynolds Razorback Stadium and the Scenic Byway 7.
  • Cost of Living: Fayetteville’s Numbeo Cost of Living
  • Popular Schools: University of Arkansas and University of the Ozarks.
  • Population: 502,900
  • Unemployment: 4%

REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT: THE TIMBERLANDS

  • Major Cities: Pine Bluff and Hope
  • Attractions: Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame, The Band Museum, Arkansas Railroad Museum and the Delta Rivers Nature Center
  • Cost of Living: Pine Bluff’s Numbeo Cost of Living
  • Popular Schools: Southeast Arkansas College and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
  • Population: 94,600
  • Unemployment: 7.6%

Additional Resources

OFFICIAL STATE LINKS

Residency

Establishing residency allows students to access in-state tuition in Arkansas’s public colleges. Students over 18 must provide proof of state residency; minors must reside with either a parent or guardian to qualify for the reduced tuition.

For Minors:

Minors must live with a parent or guardian in Arkansas to establish state residency. If the student’s parents are divorced or separated, the minor must live with a parent in Arkansas. Minors must provide evidence that they lived with their parent in Arkansas prior to their 18th birthday and prove their intention to continue living with that parent until starting school.

For Adults:

Students over 18 must meet specific criteria to claim residency:

  • You must live in Arkansas for at least one year prior to declaring residence.
  • You must prove intent to make Arkansas your permanent home.
  • You must prove your financial independence. Adults under age 23 may need to formally declare emancipation from their guardians.