Arkansas Online Colleges & Universities – Top Online Schools for 2016

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Guide to Arkansas Online Colleges

In Arkansas, many schools now offer online coursework and programs, making distance learning a reality for busy college students. The University of Arkansas’ YOU of A Online, for example, has 30 online degree programs ranging from a minor in social work to a doctorate in educational leadership. Like many online programs at traditional institutions, YOU of A Online has sharp focus on the graduate level, with a majority of programs and coursework dedicated to master’s degrees in engineering and education.

College Education in Arkansas

While the University of Arkansas serves as the state’s educational anchor, it is far from the only postsecondary option available to students. The state is home to 90 colleges, universities and career schools with total enrollment of more than 235,000 students and a convenient mix of certificate, undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

The state capital, Little Rock, offers an array of academic choices, from historically black colleges with religious affiliations to large public schools with research centers for analytics and integrative nanotechnology. The city is home to two private four-year liberal arts colleges—Arkansas Baptist College and Philander Smith College. Both have a rich heritage, with the former dating back to 1884 and the latter, a founding member of the United Negro College Fund. Philander Smith offers four different baccalaureate programs, serving numerous low-income or “first in the family” students.

As for public institutions, Little Rock hosts the state’s largest two-year colleges as well as the University of Arkansas medical school. Situated in North Little Rock, Pulaski Technical College serves almost 10,000 students. Another big state school, University of Arkansas at Little Rock gives students a selection of more than 100 degree programs. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), which has its main campus in Little Rock, is the only state-sponsored health sciences school. UAMS offers 64 bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, professional and specialist degrees as well as certificates.

Spotlight on Online Learning in Little Rock

Although Pulaski Technical College has 15 years of experience providing online courses, the biggest distance learning provider in this city is the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Through UALR Extended Programs, students can customize web-based studies and follow either a seven-week accelerated schedule or the usual 17-week semester. The menu of choices for online programs spans 13 bachelor’s degrees, six master’s degrees and two graduate certificates. Certain options target high-growth professions, such as interpreting in American Sign Language or nursing, through the RN to BSN degree completion program. UALR students can also take advantage of electronic delivery for other disciplines, such as criminal justice, business administration, math and speech.

Tuition and Fees for College in Arkansas

Tuition costs can make or break a prospective student’s decision to attend a particular school, representing one of the most important considerations in choosing a college. Rates vary widely depending on the type of learning institution, with private and for-profit schools typically costing more. In Arkansas, student residents paid about $7,600 per year in tuition in 2012.

Students must take other costs into account as well. Most colleges and universities have added expenses, including application and enrollment charges, parking fees, technology costs and recreation fees.

The cost of living is one more factor for the college hopeful. Arkansas’ living expenses are relatively stable, however, housing and food prices do vary by city. The cost of living (COL) is about 10 percent less than the national average, allowing college studies for a comparatively minimal budget in the state. Below is more information about the COL in some of Arkansas’ most popular cities, compared to the national mean (100%).

Urban Area Composite Index Housing Groceries Utilities Transportation Health Care Misc.
Fort Smith -13.9% -25.5% -7.5% -9.5% -12.1% -12.5% -8.3%
Conway -13.4% -21.2% -2.1% -8.0% -3.4% -10.2% -16.0%
Jonesboro -11.1% -24.9% -2.5% -8.9% -11.2% -14.1% -2.7%
Fayetteville -7.9% -22.7% -4.7% -0.2% -4.8% -7.3% 0.6%
Hot Springs -6.2% -14.7% -2.7% -4.3% -14.4% -15.2% 2.9%
Little Rock -3.5% -7.8% -7.1% 4.1% -6.0% -6.5% 0.4%

College isn’t free, but an affordable education can pay dividends in lifelong career success and earnings. Below is a list of the top schools in Arkansas where affordability and a quality education provide a worthwhile return on investment (ROI). The following five colleges in the state represent the best ROI when calculating the lifetime earnings of graduates minus the total cost of attendance:

  1. University of Arkansas – Main Campus
  2. Hendrix College
  3. Harding University
  4. Southern Arkansas University – Main Campus
  5. Arkansas State University

Paying for College in Arkansas

Even with a moderate cost of living, many students seek out ways to lower out-of-pocket costs, while others may still need financial assistance. Students can choose from national, state and school-based aid options. Federal loans and scholarships are a great place to start. Students must first fill out FAFSA® forms so need-based funds can be allocated. About 75 percent of Arkansas undergraduate students received federal aid in 2012.

Scholarships are a popular option for college students because the funds are gifted and do not have to be repaid upon graduation. Private companies, nonprofit organizations, individual colleges and universities, and the government all offer scholarship monies to students. Here are some of the scholarship programs available in Arkansas:

  • American Council of Engineering Companies
  • Arkansas Farm Bureau
  • Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
  • Arkansas Nurses Foundation
  • Arkansas Single Parent Association
  • Bird Dog Foundation
  • Cargill
  • Dixie Youth Baseball
  • Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Company
  • Murphy Oil
  • Trinity Foundation

Accreditation Regulations in Arkansas

Students looking at online colleges in Arkansas should do research on institutional accreditation, especially if they plan to apply for federal aid. Schools must meet specific accreditation requirements in order for the student to receive such assistance. In Arkansas, the primary regional accrediting organization is the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Arkansas colleges may also have individual programs or departments with accreditation from specialized agencies. For instance, the University of Arkansas’ Walton College of Business maintains accreditation from the American Association of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International). This approval tells students and parents that the business school has passed muster by a peer-review board with more than 70 years of experience in the major.

Best Online Colleges in Arkansas for 2015-2016

The state of Arkansas and its postsecondary institutions have embraced online learning, and enrollment figures in such programs have steadily increased year over year. Traditional and online colleges alike are investing in fully online degree programs to make education more accessible to students. The following list ranks top institutions in the state for online programs. These rankings take into account a variety of factors, including a commitment to delivering the best online education possible.

RANK COLLEGE ScoreStudent-Teacher RatioFinancial AidCost MORE INFO
1 Arkansas Tech University 99.3320:195%

Arkansas Tech University's online program, eTech, provides coursework leading to associate, bachelor's and master's degrees. Associate programs include Early Childhood and General Education. Bachelor's degree programs are available for Professional Studies, Early Childhood Education, Emergency Management and Administration, and RN to BSN. Master's degree programs include Emergency Management and Homeland Security, and College Student Personnel.

2 Ecclesia College 95.889:1100%

Ecclesia College emphasizes an organic life in Christ as the foundation for a higher education experience. The school's mission is to graduate leaders whose spiritual life is the basis of their professional life. Online courses at Ecclesia College offer an Associate of Biblical Studies, a Bachelor of Biblical Studies and a Bachelor of Christian Leadership.

3 University of Arkansas 94.7219:181%

University of Arkansas offers many of its degree programs online for students who have family and work responsibilities that require a flexible school schedule. Study for a bachelor's, masters or even a doctoral degree without setting foot on campus. Degree diplomas earned online are the same as those earned in the classroom.

4 University of Central Arkansas 94.2017:195%

The University of Central Arkansas online graduate program is committed to excellence. All online courses are taught by UCA faculty, not other graduate students. Student-to-professor ratio is kept low so professors and students get to know each other. Tuition rates are low, and financial aid is available to qualified students in all programs.

5 John Brown University 93.2715:199%

John Brown University offers all graduate business degrees online, giving business professionals the convenience of a flexible course participation. Graduate courses include an MBA in Leadership and Ethics, MBA in International Business, MS in Leadership and Ethics or MS in Higher Education Leadership. Online bachelor's degree programs are offered for a BS in Business Administration and BS in Liberal Arts.

6 Arkansas State University-Main Campus 92.1418:195%

The Large Scale Distance Learning Operations of Arkansas State University-Main Campus give students in all types of circumstances the flexibility to earn a degree online. Whether you are pursuing a bachelor's or master's degree, ASU online classes provide the same course material as campus classes. The difference is that the classes are available 24/7 at your convenience.

7 University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences 86.927:1 N/A

At the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, students can earn a number of degrees online, including an RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Online programs are flexible, allowing students to begin studies throughout the calendar year. Courses are seven and a half weeks long, with students graduating in as little as 12 months. An online degree completion program is also available for ARDMS certified sonographers who want to pursue a bachelor's degree in diagnostic medical sonography. Online degrees at UAMS help busy students meet their educational and professional goals while continuing to work.

Search Accredited Arkansas Colleges Online

Prospective students in Arkansas have extensive choices for online studies. The search tool below can help students narrow their search to find schools that meet their educational and professional needs. Using the tool’s filters, students can review and compare factors ranging from tuition to degree programs for online colleges in the state

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Online Resources for Students in Arkansas

For individuals considering Arkansas online colleges, knowledge is power. Having a better understanding of the online education landscape and services for students can make a big difference. The listed resources below cover wide-ranging topics, including tips on locating scholarship opportunities in the state.

Major Arkansas Educational Resources: