Best Online Colleges in Arkansas

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Arkansas is a member of the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB). As a result, the state works more actively and closely with policymakers, colleges, and schools to continuously improve education in Arkansas. In 2013, the state passed the Digital Learning Act, which created standards around online courses for students K-12 participating in distance learning. The state’s rationale behind focusing on primary and secondary education is that it prepares students for greater success in a postsecondary educational environment.

The state’s investment in online education also reaches online colleges in Arkansas. The state’s 2015 Public School Fund allocated money to support distance learning programs and standards to improve course offerings available to students throughout the state. The Public School Fund’s projected budget for distance learning in the 2016-17 school year is around $4 million.

While college tuition increases have affected Arkansas, the jumps in cost have not been overwhelming in comparison to other states. In 2014, tuition and fees at public four-year colleges increased by 2% from 2013. In Arkansas, tuition and fees at public two-year colleges were 7% higher than in 2012-13. Their steady tuition rates in combination with their strong push for online education access through legislation provides viable distance learning options for college students in Arkansas.

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

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description

University of Arkansas

 2/5N/AFayetteville, AR


Founded in 1871 as the first public university in Arkansas, the University of Arkansas offers certificate courses, bachelor’s degrees, and master’s degrees through its online programs. These programs were created by faculty on the Fayetteville campus and include certificates as well as majors and minors in business, communications, mathematics, nursing, engineering, agriculture, and humanities. Famous university graduates include Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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University of Arkansas at Little Rock

 2/526.54%Little Rock, AR


The University of Arkansas at Little Rock emerged from previously founded junior colleges, and became part of the state university system in 1927. The campus welcomed 11,891 students last fall into 173 programs of study. There are 14 accredited degree and certificate programs available solely online, with 450 courses to choose from. Degree and certificate programs include business, education, nursing, and humanities.

The school uses Blackboard to host and distribute course materials, and the same faculty who teach on campus teach the online courses. Tuition rates are stated up front for every course, making financial planning easier for students.

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John Brown University

 4/560.59%Siloam Springs, AR


John Brown University, founded in 1919, is a non-denominational Christian university located in northwest Arkansas. The university’s online programs include four undergraduate degrees and five graduate degrees. Though it’s Christ-centered university, the school is open to all students regardless of religious affiliation.

Students can earn a bachelor's’ degree in business administration, accounting, liberal arts, or psychology. Master’s degrees include an MBA (with an emphasis on leadership or international business), an MFA in design, and MS in leadership and ethics in education.

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Arkansas State University

 2/539.3%Jonesboro, AR


Arkansas State University offers one of the oldest online degree programs in the state. The university features seven bachelor-level degrees, eight graduate degrees, and five doctoral degrees online, in addition to six professional certifications. ASU also specializes in preparing educators for advanced leadership positions.

Not every degree can be awarded to students residing in all 50 states, so you should check the university’s online chart to determine whether or not a program is available in your state. Online programs are available in general studies, business, criminal justice, education, communications, and sociology. All graduate and doctoral programs offered at Arkansas State University specialize in education.

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University of Arkansas – Fort Smith

 1/525.78%Fort Smith, AR


The University of Arkansas - Fort Smith boasts 100% graduate placement and a robust academic environment that features online learning. The online programs offer both asynchronous and synchronous learning through the Blackboard online learning system. Completely online degrees, hybrid online degrees, and seat-based programs are all available through the university. Financial aid may be available to students in online programs, and students can apply for aid through the university’s admissions process.

The University's 100% online degrees include an Associate of Arts, RN to BSN Nursing, and BA of science in Criminal Justice, which builds on an associate degree.

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University of Central Arkansas

 2/544.67%Conway, AR

The University of Central Arkansas offers online bachelor’s degrees in Professional Studies - Health and Safety, RN to BSN Nursing, and General Business. Four online master’s degrees are available in Geographic Information Systems, Business Administration (MBA), Community and Economic Development, and Health Sciences. The online university standards are identical to the campus-based standards, ensuring that the online degree offers the same value as one earned in-person.

All online classes are taught by the campus faculty that teach corresponding on-campus programs. Additionally, students may undertake hybrid degrees and pursue courses both online and in-person.

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Ouachita Baptist University

 4/558.17%Arkadelphia, AR

Ouachita Baptist University offers accredited online degree programs in Business Administration and Christian Studies. New courses are offered every eight weeks on a rolling, annual calendar. The program is designed for adults returning as students and includes online orientation and additional support by phone and email. Additionally the program’s flexible, rolling enrollment calendar is designed for students with families and careers. Online programs At Ouachita Baptist were fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission in 2014.

The online Business Administration program includes 21 courses in accounting, management, ethics, marketing, and finance. The online Christian studies program includes 12 courses, such as Biblical studies, philosophy, and history.

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Arkansas Tech University

 2/544.55%Russellville, AR

Arkansas Tech University’s eTech emphasizes technical degrees and career-focused learning. Students can choose from associates degrees in Early Childhood Education or General Studies; bachelor's degrees in RN to BSN (Nursing), Emergency Management and Administration, and Professional Studies; and five master's degrees in ESL, Education Leadership, Emergency Management, College Student Personnel, and Health Information.

ATU also offers one certificate and an additional specialist program in education. Courses are taught using the Blackboard system of online learning, with additional email support provided by professors.The same faculty who teach on campus also teach the eTech courses, ensuring a consistent standard of quality education.

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Central Baptist College

 3/531.73%Conway, AR

Central Baptist College works to provide students with a community feeling, even online. Their online programs include bachelor's degrees in Behavioral Sciences, Bible Studies, Business Administration, Education, Fine Arts, Kinesthesiology, Literature and Language, Professional Adult Studies, Science, and Social Science. Numerous minors are also available, with many focused on worship and religious studies to prepare students for roles in ministry.

Asynchronous courses enable learning 24/7, so that working or traveling students can always access course materials online.

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More About Online Colleges in Arkansas

While tuition increases and spending cuts on education are the norm around the country, Arkansas bucks both trends. Tuition has climbed slower in Arkansas than in most states, and state appropriations for education have risen over the last six years. With costs even lower in online education than for residential students, now is an excellent time to pursue an online degree in Arkansas.

Browse our list of the best online colleges in Arkansas for more insight into distance learning programs in this state.

NCES Report

According to an NCES report from 2012, nearly 20,000 students (9.2% of Arkansas’s postsecondary enrollees) in the state attend college exclusively online.

  • 71.8% of these students were undergraduates
  • 50% attended four-year public schools
  • 3.3% attended private, not-for-profit colleges
  • 85.2% of these students lived in Arkansas
  • 11.6% of distance learners lived elsewhere in the U.S.

As is the case throughout the country, colleges and universities in Arkansas have recently expanded their online offerings. Several schools throughout the state offer fully online degrees, and a few of the larger schools offer graduate programs online as well. In total, 45 different schools in Arkansas offer some form of online education.

Additionally, the University of Arkansas system recently approved eVersity, an entirely online program offering educational opportunities to working professionals. The state’s educational board intends for professionals with some college experience to use the program to complete their degree. eVersity will offer traditional degrees and technical certificates, and is slated to launch in the fall of 2015.