Best Colleges in Arkansas

March 5, 2020

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in August 2019 Arkansas had an unemployment rate of 3.9%, a record low for the year. Of the state's top eight career fields, three -- office and administrative support, education, and management -- boast average salaries that exceed the statewide average for all occupations. Earning a bachelor's degree can be instrumental in working toward a high-paying position, though some career paths require a master's.

Finding the right school for you can be challenging. To aid in your decision-making process, we've compiled a ranking that highlights Arkansas's top 20 colleges and universities. The following institutions offer excellent programs, valuable student support services, and affordable tuition rates. This article also highlights schools' online learning options, admission requirements, and scholarship opportunities. Use the embedded links to visit each school's website to learn more. There, you can find contact information for counselors who can answer any questions you may have.

Best Colleges in Arkansas

  1. University of Arkansas - Fayetteville, AR
  2. Harding University - Searcy, AR
  3. Arkansas State University - Jonesboro, AR
  4. Williams Baptist University - Walnut Ridge, AR
  5. John Brown University - Siloam Springs, AR
  6. Ouachita Baptist University - Arkadelphia, AR
  7. University of Central Arkansas - Conway, AR
  8. University of Arkansas at Little Rock - Little Rock, AR
  9. Hendrix College - Conway, AR
  10. Arkansas Tech University - Russellville, AR
  11. Lyon College - Batesville, AR
  12. Southern Arkansas University - Magnolia, AR
  13. University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff - Pine Bluff, AR
  14. University of Arkansas-Fort Smith - Fort Smith, AR
  15. Henderson State University - Arkadelphia, AR
  16. Central Baptist College - Conway, AR
  17. Ecclesia College - Springdale, AR
  18. University of the Ozarks - Clarksville, AR
  19. Crowley's Ridge College - Paragould, AR
  20. University of Arkansas at Monticello - Monticello, AR

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Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Ranking Accredited Colleges in Arkansas

University of Arkansas View School Profile Fayetteville, AR

The top public college in the state, the University of Arkansas offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees, as well as certificate programs. U of A offers a wide variety of career-oriented programs, including bachelor's programs in agricultural business, architecture, and brewing science. Learners can also earn a certificate in one of 36 areas, such as criminal law or project management.

U of A's online degrees appeal to all learners, charging all online students the same in-state tuition rate. Online programs use asynchronous formats, benefiting students with full-time jobs or other responsibilities. Online programs feature options not available to on-campus students, including licensure and endorsement programs for Arkansas teachers.

Prospective undergraduates can submit the U of A application or the Common Application. The university offers scholarship opportunities for freshmen, transfer students, and out-of-state learners. Active-duty military personnel and veterans qualify for an additional $4,000 in financial aid in addition to federally funded tuition benefits.

Harding University View School Profile Searcy, AR

A private institution, Harding University affiliates with the Churches of Christ and offers undergraduate and graduate programs in dozens of fields, including broadcast journalism, graphic design, and international studies. In addition to the main Searcy campus, the university operates a school of theology in Memphis, Tennessee.

Distance education at Harding offers certificates and degrees in the Bible and ministry. Outside of class, learners can participate in student life by joining one of the university's many clubs and organizations. Religious organizations include the Association of Christians in Architecture and the J.E.S.U.S. Project. Students can also participate in one of six semester-long study-abroad opportunities.

Harding does not accept GED certificates. Undergraduate applicants must submit high school transcripts and ACT or SAT scores, while application requirements for graduate programs vary. Harding awards up to $11,000 per year in scholarships to incoming learners who possess excellent grades and standardized test scores.

Arkansas State University-Main Campus View School Profile Jonesboro, AR

Situated in Jonesboro, Arkansas State University educates over 14,000 students each year. Bachelor's degrees at this Arkansas university include agricultural studies, electrical engineering, and interdisciplinary - family studies. Online learners can choose from 30 degree and certificate options, and the fully online master's program in teaching qualifies graduates for initial Arkansas teaching licensure.

A-State students can visit the Career Management Center to attend job fairs, receive resume critiques, or practice interviewing skills. Other student services include personal and academic counselors who work with learners in one-on-one and small-group settings.

A-State requires a minimum 2.75 high school GPA or 600 GED score. Applicants who do not meet this requirement may still gain conditional admission. Incoming degree-seekers without a minimum 21 ACT score must take the COMPASS exam to determine initial English and math course placements. Financial aid opportunities include four institutional scholarships.

Williams Baptist University View School Profile Walnut Ridge, AR

Williams Baptist University awards undergraduate and graduate degrees in Christian ministries, business, and education through 14 academic departments. The university features one entirely online program -- a bachelor's in criminal justice -- which requires that applicants possess an associate degree. Professors at WBU instruct all courses from a Christian perspective.

On-campus students attend religious services each week. WBU also boasts 18 varsity sports and intramural teams, and campus traditions include volunteering, on-campus job fairs, and homecoming in the fall.

WBU prefers applicants with at least a 2.6 high school GPA and a minimum score of 20 on the ACT or 1030 on the SAT. The university does not accept GED certificates. Incoming degree-seekers can receive up to $12,000 per year in financial aid if they have excellent ACT or SAT scores.

John Brown University View School Profile Siloam Springs, AR

An interdenominational Christian university in Siloam Springs, John Brown University educates over 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students. Popular undergraduate majors include accounting, chemistry, and computer science. The school offers 18 graduate programs in fields like cybersecurity, healthcare administration, and international business. Additionally, JBU features five bachelor's degrees that learners can complete entirely online.

Faith plays a significant role in student life at JBU, with the university hosting optional religious services multiple times each week and frequently inviting guest speakers. Student ministries at JBU feature small-group meetings, retreats, and mission trips. Mission trips take place during academic vacations, often taking degree-seekers to cities across the United States.

JBU requires applicants to submit evidence of a high school diploma and SAT or ACT scores. Transfer credits must reflect a minimum 2.5 GPA. A private institution, this Arkansas university charges the same tuition rate to all learners regardless of residency. Incoming degree-seekers with excellent grades and test scores automatically receive the Trustee's Award, earning $12,000 per year if they stay in good academic standing.

Ouachita Baptist University View School Profile Arkadelphia, AR

A member of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, Ouachita Baptist University delivers degrees and pre-professional programs in dozens of areas. The university features degrees in biblical languages, Christian media, and worship ministry, among other programs that train the next generation of lay and ordained ministers. Online degrees include associate and bachelor's programs in Christian studies as well as a bachelor's in interdisciplinary studies.

Academically gifted students at OBU can apply to the Carl Goodson Honors Program, which requires an additional 13 credits of honors courses. Learners in the program benefit from priority course and housing registration, travel grants, and networking events. All honors program participants also complete service-learning projects.

Admission requirements for this Arkansas university include a minimum 2.5 high school GPA and a 20 ACT or 1020 SAT score. There is no additional application to qualify for a merit scholarship, which awards recipients up to $18,500 per year.

University of Central Arkansas View School Profile Conway, AR

A public university located in Conway, the University of Central Arkansas features undergraduate degrees in six fields, including business, fine arts and communication, and health and behavioral sciences. The graduate school features master's and doctoral degrees in areas like communication sciences, history, and mental health counseling. The Schedler Honors College admits incoming undergraduates who possess a minimum 3.5 high school GPA. Honors students automatically receive a $5,000 scholarship and a private dorm room.

Student life at UCA provides undergraduate and graduate degree-seekers with multiple opportunities to network, collaborate, and socialize outside of class. Learners can choose from more than 200 recognized student organizations.

Undergraduate applicants submit high school transcripts and ACT or SAT scores. Some applicants to this Arkansas university who do not meet the GPA cutoff may still receive conditional admission. UCA boasts dozens of institutional scholarships. Degree-seekers need only submit one form to apply for all university-funded scholarship opportunities.

University of Arkansas at Little Rock View School Profile Little Rock, AR

At the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, students can earn an undergraduate or graduate degree through one of six schools in areas like business, law, and communication. Undergraduates can choose from more than 60 majors as well as dozens of online degree options. Graduate programs train the next generation of business, communication, and education leaders.

Outside of class, degree-seekers can join one of 73 registered student organizations such as the Aikido Club, the Writers Network, or the Graduate Student Association. Counseling resources at this Arkansas university include small-group and one-on-one sessions. Learners can also submit anonymous tips if a peer needs help.

Applicants with GED certificates receive unconditional admission if they also score at least a 19 on the ACT. To apply for financial aid, incoming undergraduates must submit FAFSA results and the Trojan SMART Application by the December 1 priority deadline.

Hendrix College View School Profile Conway, AR

A private college affiliated with the United Methodist Church, Hendrix College educates over 1,300 learners on its Conway campus annually. All students gain a liberal arts education and take interdisciplinary courses that blend liberal arts topics during their freshman year. As learners progress through the four-year program, they select an academic focus, similar to the way students at other colleges select a major. With its unconventional undergraduate curriculum, Hendrix does not offer any online degrees.

The learning commons at Hendrix provides students with one-on-one academic advising and tutoring resources, and the college introduces new degree-seekers to student life through a one-week orientation session during the fall semester. Popular clubs and organizations include the Environmental Concerns Committee, the Climbing Coalition, and the Culinary Club.

Hendrix does not accept GED certificates. Applicants must submit high school transcripts, recommendation letters, and an essay. The college's Tuition Advantage program provides significant cost savings to academically gifted degree-seekers.

Arkansas Tech University View School Profile Russellville, AR

An excellent choice for students planning to enter a STEM profession, Arkansas Tech University awards associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees as well as professional certificates. This Arkansas university offers multiple bachelor's programs in the biological sciences, computer and information science, and electrical engineering. Online programs at ATU include an associate in law enforcement and an RN-to-BSN program.

At ATU, degree-seekers nearing graduation can sign in online to apply for jobs and set up on-campus interviews. Other student support services include theLink, a unique search engine that connects learners to tutors, organizations, and campus events.

Prospective students can apply for the spring or fall semester. Applicants should have a minimum score of 19 on the ACT and at least a 2.0 high school GPA. Transfer credits must reflect a minimum 2.0 undergraduate GPA. This Arkansas university boasts multiple scholarships, many of which incoming learners receive automatically if they meet GPA and test score cutoffs.

Lyon College View School Profile Batesville, AR

With an average class size of only 15 students, Lyon College is a great choice for prospective learners who want an individualized academic experience. Undergraduates can select from 17 majors, 14 concentrations, and 23 minors. Academic programs include a concentration in military science and a minor in Celtic studies. All degree-seekers complete a robust core curriculum that emphasizes English, history, and the natural sciences.

Lyon boasts 14 honor societies for learners who maintain excellent grades. Student life at this Arkansas college also features intramural sports like archery, lacrosse, and disc golf. Learners approaching graduation -- as well as alumni -- can visit the career center to receive resume critiques or practice interviewing skills. Advisors also help students create a personal brand they can present to prospective employers.

Lyon requires that applicants submit a high school diploma and ACT or SAT scores. Students interested in college-funded financial aid opportunities should submit the YOUniversal Scholarship Application by the June 1 deadline.

Southern Arkansas University Main Campus View School Profile Magnolia, AR

Southern Arkansas University delivers more than 80 degrees and programs, including undergraduate programs in agricultural sciences like animal science, plant science, and veterinary science. Graduate students can earn a master's in teaching, which qualifies them for an initial Arkansas teaching license. Online education at SAU features more than 30 degree and certificate options.

The Honors College at SAU uses a cohort learning model for all four years. Honors students take experiential-learning trips to sites throughout the state and live together at the university's Honors Hall. All Honors College degree-seekers receive an annual stipend of $600 to cover academic expenses.

Prospective undergraduates submit high school transcripts or GED scores as well as SAT or ACT scores. Incoming students who earned a score of 30 or above on the ACT automatically receive a Presidential Scholarship, which awards them $5,000 a semester for eight semesters.

University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff View School Profile Pine Bluff, AR

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff features over 100 undergraduate majors in fields such as aquaculture, regulatory science, and mass communications. The School of Education offers teacher preparation programs, and the Carolyn F. Blakely Honors Program offers small class sizes and unique educational opportunities. In addition, graduate education at UAPB includes both degrees and continuing education opportunities.

Like many excellent Arkansas colleges and universities on this ranking, UAPB participates in the TRIO Program to provide first-generation degree-seekers with additional student services at no extra charge. Learners can visit the university's career center to receive individualized advice. Other career services include job fairs and online career interest surveys.

UAPB accepts new students in the fall, spring, summer terms. Application requirements include a high school diploma or GED scores and a minimum score of 19 on the ACT or 980 on the SAT. Institutional scholarships for incoming freshmen award up to $16,500 per year, and transfer students may qualify for up to $5,000 per year.

University of Arkansas-Fort Smith View School Profile Fort Smith, AR

The five colleges and schools that comprise the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith educate over 6,600 students each year. Learners can pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in addition to certificates. Notable undergraduate programs at this Arkansas university include rhetoric and writing, editing for clarity, and the history and development of the English language. UAFS offers two graduate programs: a master of science in healthcare administration and a master of education.

UAFS boasts seven on-campus advising centers, each of which has a unique mission, such as academic advising or career counseling. Freshmen can access the university's first-year advising center to research majors, select courses, and learn academic success strategies. Additionally, each college features specialized advising services to help students succeed.

In addition to high school transcripts or GED scores, undergraduate applicants must submit ACT or SAT scores as well as immunization records. The latter requirement does not apply to online learners. Graduate programs feature unique application requirements. Degree-seekers may qualify for scholarships if they have an excellent high school GPA and standardized test scores.

Henderson State University View School Profile Arkadelphia, AR

The academic opportunities at Henderson State University include a teachers college with programmatic accreditation from nine organizations. The college offers undergraduate and graduate programs that allow students to specialize in an academic field while fulfilling all requirements for an Arkansas teaching license. Other educational programs at this Arkansas university include undergraduate and graduate degrees in arts, sciences, and business.

The Honors College at HSU accepts incoming degree-seekers with an ACT score of 26 or above. As underclassmen, honors students take 12 honors credits in areas like civilization since 1660 and general psychology. Juniors and seniors must complete an honors research project that involves a colloquium and a seminar.

Applicants who earned at least a 20 on the ACT can gain unconditional admission. Undergraduate and graduate transfer credits must reflect a minimum 2.0 GPA, and each graduate program uses different application requirements. Academically gifted students may qualify for a Distinguished Freshman Scholarship, which awards $11,000 per year and a housing stipend.

Central Baptist College View School Profile Conway, AR

Central Baptist College affiliates with the Baptist Missionary Association of Arkansas. The school's nearly 900 students can select from more than 50 academic programs, including degrees in accounting, middle-level education, and marketing. This Arkansas college also features a specialized program that helps learners earn a bachelor's degree either on campus or online. Additionally, degree-seekers can enhance their program by completing an optional minor.

Spiritual life at CBC gives learners many opportunities to reaffirm their faith. Both on and off campus, the college hosts religious services, discipleship groups, and Christian concerts, among other events. Other students activities at CBC include the President's Leadership Council and the Medical Professions Society.

Applicants must possess either a high school diploma or a GED certificate and meet CBC's ACT and SAT score cutoffs. Other required admission materials include immunization records, a housing application, and FAFSA results. CBC proudly participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which awards additional financial aid opportunities to active-duty military personnel and veterans.

Ecclesia College View School Profile Springdale, AR

A nondenominational Christian college located in Springdale, Ecclesia College offers nine associate degrees and bachelor's programs to nearly 200 students. Degree-seekers can major in biblical studies or Christian Leadership, both of which provide learners with the knowledge and skills necessary to become lay ministers. Traditional liberal arts programs at this Arkansas college include business administration and sport management.

Student life at Ecclesia emphasizes spiritual growth. The school's music clubs often play at on-campus religious services, and Ecclesia's Character Counts program fosters students' personal development through discussions on how to apply Christian teachings to modern life. All degree-seekers participate in a work-learning program.

Ecclesia does not accept GED diplomas, and all applicants must submit ACT or SAT scores and complete an interview with a counselor. Incoming learners may qualify for one of four scholarship opportunities. Scholarships award up to $3,500 per year and renew as long as students stay in good academic standing.

University of the Ozarks View School Profile Clarksville, AR

At University of the Ozarks, degree-seekers can pursue a bachelor's in one of 26 undergraduate majors. Bachelor's programs at this Arkansas college include environmental studies, pre-med, and physical education K-12 licensure. The school also offers minors in various liberal arts fields. All learners receive an iPad with Compass learning software installed. Online students also receive an iPad and can access asynchronous course content through Canvas.

Learners can enhance their bachelor's program in many ways. For example, Ozarks boasts study abroad agreements with universities in Ireland, Japan, Argentina, and Spain. Additionally, as the university affiliates with the Presbyterian Church, it features many Christian student groups, including Faith Exploration, Interfaith Relationships, and Presbyterian Connection.

Applicants must have a high school diploma and submit ACT or SAT scores. Prospective students can provide two recommendation letters or a writing sample in place of fulfilling the test score requirement. Scholarships award up to $18,500 per year. Students can also participate in an on-campus work-study program.

Crowley's Ridge College View School Profile Paragould, AR

Crowley's Ridge College emphasizes academic scholarship, spiritual enrichment, and service learning. Students can select from one associate degree and 10 bachelor's degrees in areas such as biblical studies, elementary education, and accounting. Most programs offer minors or several electives that allow students to personalize their degree. Many on-campus courses use digital tools to enhance degree-seekers' educational experience.

Athletics make up a significant part of student life at CRC. This Arkansas college hosts six men's and four women's intramural teams, and CRC holds membership in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Finally, all learners attend religious services once per week and take a Bible course each semester.

CRC accepts new degree-seekers in the spring, summer, and fall semesters. Applicants must have either a high school diploma or GED certificate. Incoming learners who earned at least a 30 on the ACT qualify for a $10,500 scholarship. This scholarship renews each year as long as recipients maintain a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA.

University of Arkansas at Monticello View School Profile Monticello, AR

At the University of Arkansas at Monticello, students can receive an affordable education while taking advantage of a wide array of resources. Academic offerings at this Arkansas university include certificates, undergraduate degrees, and graduate degrees. The institution consists of 12 colleges and schools, many of which have honor societies.

UAM offers career and academic advising, counseling, and tutoring resources. On-campus degree-seekers can also take advantage of the state-of-the-art exercise center. The university's residence halls offer modern amenities including wireless internet, cable, and suite-style bathrooms.

New courses start at five points throughout the year, making UAM a great choice for prospective degree-seekers who want to begin a program as soon as possible. Applicants with GED diplomas must possess high school transcripts that reflect six semesters of attendance. New learners submit only one form to apply to all university-funded scholarship opportunities.

Click here to see the best community colleges in Arkansas.
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