Arizona Online Colleges & Universities: Top Schools for 2017-2018

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Arizona has nearly 140 accredited postsecondary institutions, both big and small, urban and rural. For prospective students interested in online education, there are multiple factors to consider prior to selecting a program. The search tool below can help start the search process through customizable filtering of data on schools in Arizona. Before making a decision about a particular school, it’s easy to do research on its online programs and degrees, tuition, enrollment, location and more.

Online Arizona Colleges

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Best Online Colleges In Arizona

Arizona is home to numerous universities featuring different types of online learning programs. Both public and private schools in the state offer the opportunity to complete fully online degrees that match their on-campus counterparts. The list of the top Arizona online colleges below focuses on entities that provide a balanced approach to curriculum, program flexibility, affordability and student support. See who made the list of the Best Online Colleges in Arizona for 2016.

Rank University Location ScoreAnnual Tuition# of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher Ratio Grad Rate Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, AZ 99.78$8,72872 66% 18:1 52% No Yes Yes

Northern Arizona University has a wide variety of programs that are offered online. Students can earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree online. Topics students can major in include administration, health professionals, management, recreation, business, education, social sciences, engineering, communication and modern languages, to name a few. The school programs are arranged most commonly by emphasis so students can better customize what they learn. For instance, administration comes with a health sciences emphasis. Students use the Blackboard system to access their coursework, as well as connect with other students and faculty. Through the system, students participate in digital discussion and can view online lectures. Students also have access to online tutors.

2 Arizona State University-Tempe Tempe, AZ 97.81$10,1273 86% 22:1 63% No Yes Yes

At the Arizona State University-Tempe, students can choose from several undergraduate or graduate degrees, along with several online certificate programs. Degree topics range from business to art history to sustainability to biomedical diagnostics. The school prides itself on its interactive online environment, rather than just being online lectures. Students collaborate digitally with instructors and other classmates to fully understand the material. Courses are developed and taught by the same on-campus faculty. Students are also given access to Success Coaches to help them stay on track through their online education. The school uses technology like Google Apps to help students engage with a smooth online learning process.

3 University of Arizona Tucson, AZ 97.80$10,5816 77% 20:1 60% No Yes Yes

The University of Arizona offers a number of degrees online, like Africana studies, care, health & society, communication, retailing & consumer science and history. There are also highly specific programs, like the applied science, informatics emphasis: systems administration track, which helps students prepare for a very specific career goal after graduation. Programs can be completed online from anywhere in the world. Math requirements range from general to substantial, depending on the degree. Many programs also require four semesters or less of a second language.

4 Ottawa University-Phoenix Phoenix, AZ 86.00$11,67045 N/A 6:1 N/A Yes No Yes

Ottawa University-Phoenix has online learning that allows students access to their lectures and coursework 24/7 from anywhere in the world. The courses are 100 percent online, and require no outside study groups. The online programs even have a student-to-faculty ratio of four-to-one. Students are also given an academic advisor to make sure they are successful in the program. The school offers several bachelor’s and master’s programs. Students can choose from the school of arts and sciences, the school of business, the school of education and the school of health and applied sciences.

Best 2-Year Online Colleges in Arizona

Rank University Location ScoreAnnual Tuition# of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher Ratio Grad Rate Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Cochise College Douglas, AZ 95.97$1,80024 22% 16:1 18% Yes No Yes

With 18 years of experience in online learning, Cochise College has a virtual campus with authorization to admit students living in most of the U.S. The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) regulates e-learning by allowing participant states to enroll students from other participant states to promote fluid standards in online learning. As a member of SARA, Cochise currently enrolls 2,500 students for online studies and utilizes the virtual classroom software Moodle. Cochise offers 11 online associate degree programs in multiple disciplines and prepare students for transfer to bachelor’s degree programs.

2 Arizona Western College Yuma, AZ 95.97$1,82421 20% 21:1 18% No Yes Yes

Located in the border town of Yuma, Arizona Western College is a community college offering associate degrees for employment, associates for transfer and certificates to enhance career opportunities. AWC has satellite campuses in five cities throughout the state and degrees are transferable to major Arizona universities such as Arizona State and Northern Arizona Universities. Available programs at AWC include degrees in agricultural sciences, fine arts, languages, nursing, business and sciences. For students interested in technical education, AWC offers career-oriented programs in construction, culinary arts, public safety, massage therapy and radiologic technology. Many classes required for degree or certification completion can be completed in online or hybrid formats.

3 Mesa Community College Mesa, AZ 95.83$2,04624 25% 20:1 12% Yes Yes Yes

Mesa Community College provides online students with valuable support before, during and after enrollment into one its online degree program. MCC offers YouTube video demonstrations, a technical help center, online tutoring, writing center and a readiness questionnaire to see if virtual learning is a good fit for prospective students. With many programs related to business, MCC has 29 associate degrees and certificates available. The eLearning department at MCC operates courses through the virtual platform Canvas. These online courses and programs follow guidelines created by the Quality Matters Program, a research-based quality assurance program for digital classroom education.

4 Chandler-Gilbert Community College Chandler, AZ 95.29$2,04618 22% 21:1 19% Yes Yes Yes

Part of the Maricopa Community College organization, Chandler-Gilbert Community College has eLearning courses available in conjunction with face-to-face learning. While online classes are not for everyone, they can help reduce stress for busy students. The eLearning courses at CGCC can be all online or hybrid, which is a class that demands some participation on campus. Canvas, a system for delivering online education, is used by CGCC for all eLearning and support in using the system is offered online. Other support services for students include online tutoring that is available 24/7.

5 Yavapai College Prescott, AZ 95.15$1,89621 15% 18:1 17% Yes No Yes

For an more affordable college education, students can earn an associate degree fully online at Yavapai College. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, Yavapai College has nine associate degree programs and 18 different certificates available for eLearning. The Associate in Arts, Business and General Studies programs have the Arizona General Education Curriculum built into the framework of classes and are targeted for students continuing onto a four-year degree. Conversely, professionals looking for a career change or advancement can study one of six AAS degrees that prepare graduates for employment. The online programs function on the Canvas software and are partly accessible on mobile devices.

6 GateWay Community College Phoenix, AZ 94.95$2,0469 32% 13:1 13% Yes No Yes

As one of Arizona’s nationally accredited Maricopa Community Colleges, GateWay Community College has three associate programs that meet the requirements for higher education transfer within Arizona public education. Students can achieve an associate in science, business or art and continue to enroll in a related bachelor’s degree. GWCC also offers Associate in General Education programs that mostly transfer, yet usually require some additional classes. As a vocational school, GWCC provides certificates and associate degrees in technical skills such as cosmetology, construction, automotive and industrial design. Three GWCC campuses are located within the Phoenix area.

7 Rio Salado College Tempe, AZ 94.78$2,04648 4% 20:1 17% No Yes Yes

RioLearn, Rio Salado College’s online learning system, conducts over 600 online degree and certificate programs. RioLearn stores course information such as reading materials and syllabus and is the method of communication between instructors and students. Before committing to an online program, students can interact with a demo version of RioLearn. Students can get their associate degree online or in a hybrid format in a bucket-full of focuses, such as design, adult learning, mobile apps programming, accounting and business. Rio Salado is part of Arizona’s Maricopa Community College system and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

8 Mohave Community College Kingman, AZ 94.38$2,61036 9% 14:1 18% No No Yes

Mohave Community College has four campuses within the state of Arizona and multiple options for distance learning. Having the flexibility to study when it fits their schedule, students can earn an associate degree or certificate without having to relocate or drive to campus every day. MCC provides online learners with the tools necessary for a successful education, such as academic advising, tech support and an e-library. Students can work towards an associate degree in business, liberal studies, accounting, paralegal and substance addiction to name a few. Mohave Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

9 Eastern Arizona College Thatcher, AZ 93.50$2,0003 26% 20:1 22% Yes Yes Yes

Serving the rural communities of Thatcher and Safford in Arizona’s Upper Gila Valley, Eastern Arizona College is committed to offering education for employed students through distance learning courses. Online courses at EAC are completed throughWebStudy, the school’s selected course management system. Offered in diverse majors, web courses can compliment a student’s traditional on-campus education and can fill general education requirements. EAC’s online learning department is designed for students to complete in their free time with deadlines set by professors. Examinations may be completed through WebStudy, or depending on the instructor, the exam may need to be proctored.

10 Phoenix College Phoenix, AZ 93.24$2,0469 13% 17:1 11% Yes No Yes

With strong internet connection and self-motivation, students can finish their degree at home with an online associate program at Phoenix College. Phoenix College offers an Associate in Arts, an Associate in General Studies and an AAS in administration of justice and two general education certificate courses to e-learners. The AA degree features transfer curriculum prescribed by the Arizona General Education Curriculum that promotes articulation to a bachelor’s degree. All online programs are run through Canvas, a web classroom, where professors can deliver lecture information and upload course materials. Phoenix College provides online students with multiple resources for using Canvas.

11 Pima Community College Tucson, AZ 92.61$1,84412 9% 25:1 7% Yes No Yes

Students at Pima Community College can receive an associate degree completely online in two programs, either the Associate of Arts or Associate in General Studies. The AA degree is a program that prepare students for transfer to a liberal studies baccalaureate education, while the AGS gives the student the freedom to design the study course, also for transfer. In addition, PCC offers a certificate in human resources fully online that is designed for employment. Online programs at PCC are executed through Desire2Learn (D2L), the school’s system for providing an e-learning platform. Instructions and support for technical issues using D2L are provided to students online.

12 Scottsdale Community College Scottsdale, AZ 92.07$2,0463 23% 17:1 15% No No Yes

Scottsdale Community College is a two-year school located in the heart of the Arizonan desert that provides a host of diverse education programs for students. One of 10 schools in the Maricopa Community College system, SCC offers associate programs that follow standards for baccalaureate transfer in education, arts, business and science; as well as Associate in Applied Sciences programs for occupational preparedness in areas such as culinary arts, hospitality and journalism. Students interested in eLearning can enroll in a growing number of online classes offered at SCC. Online, hybrid and web-enhanced courses are run via the course management system Canvas.

13 Coconino Community College Flagstaff, AZ 91.07$2,8206 10% 27:1 5% No Yes Yes

Coconino Community College provides one fully online degree program, an Associate in Arts in general studies that readies students for a bachelor’s degree program. The program is based in Arizona General Education Curriculum and its state-wide standard for general education that seamlessly transfers to Arizona State and Northern Arizona Universities and the University of Arizona. CCC brings eLearning to students through the use of the online education platform Canvas. Through Canvas students can interact with one another, upload assignments and communicate with the instructor. Tips for using Canvas are located on the school website along with contact numbers for technical support.

An Overview of Arizona Online Colleges

Arizona State University offers nearly 100 fully online programs at the certificate, undergraduate and graduate levels. ASU Online also dedicates time and effort orienting new students to distance learning via web-based and in-person tutorials. And planning sessions, document management and extensive use of multimedia allow students to work toward a degree conveniently.

Other online colleges in Arizona include private, for-profit schools with a strong background in technology-based education. For example, the University of Phoenix reports that it serves as the largest single post-secondary educator in the United States. To illustrate the diverse opportunities available in the state, let’s focus on the types of online learning found in a community like Chandler.

Distance Learning in Chandler

As mentioned, ASU Online offers a multitude of online bachelor’s and master’s degrees as well as undergraduate and graduate certificate programs. Utilizing cloud technology, students can collaborate in real time or asynchronously. Even with a traditional campus only a few miles away, complete with library and research facilities, Chandler students have online access to resources via ASU Libraries’ website.

Chandler is also home to Chandler-Gilbert Community College, one of the 13 campuses in the Maricopa County Community College District. This community college offers online courses as well as access to all its partner campuses across the valley. A variety of private institutions round out this rich educational landscape for online learners.

Introducing Chandler’s Higher Education Opportunities

Located in the suburbs of metropolitan Phoenix, Chandler offers small-town charm on the outskirts of a big city. Chandler’s economy has grown from an agricultural base to incorporate high-tech, industrial and other interests. It’s a diverse place to live and learn and has a vibrant arts district. Both the Chandler Center for the Arts and ASU’s Gammage Auditorium are family-friendly venues that allow residents to enjoy quality arts programming without leaving “their own backyard.”

With Arizona State University’s main campus a few miles away in Tempe, Chandler residents can take advantage of a big-name university that offers countless undergraduate and graduate degrees. ASU is one of the top 10 producers of Fulbright Scholars in the country, and U.S. News & World Report has ranked it among the top five up-and-coming schools nationwide. Chandler students can also take a short trip to the east to ASU’s Polytechnic campus in Mesa, with opportunities to explore professional and technical careers in a smaller setting.

Understanding the Total Cost of College in Arizona

Whether a prospective student lives in an urban or rural area of Arizona, cost is usually the first concern when choosing a college. Tuition is typically the largest item on the college price tag, and it differs depending on the type of school, location and whether or not the student is a resident of the state. In 2012, those qualifying as residents of Arizona paid about $10,100 each year for tuition.

In addition, there are often costs associated with individual colleges and universities as well as specific academic programs. These include special fees for labs and technology, parking, recreation centers, application, enrollment and other services. Including fees, the total cost of college for the average undergraduate student in Arizona was $10,600 in 2012.

Though tuition is the biggest cost related to college, students must also consider living expenses when deciding where to attend school. The cost of living in Arizona is about 4 percent higher than the national average. Below is the cost of living (COL) for some of Arizona’s largest cities, compared to the national mean (100%):

Urban Area Composite Index Housing Groceries Utilities Transportation Health Care Misc.
Tucson -3.5% -8.1% -2.8% -13.3% 4.6% -0.8% 0.5%
Sierra Vista -2.1% -0.3% -3.5% -2.8% 4.0% -3.9% -4.5%
Phoenix 0.7% -9.6% 8.1% -3.4% 8.9% 8.8% 4.6%
Yuma 1.2% -3.6% 7.4% 12.2% 4.6% 7.8% -2.4%
Prescott-Prescott Valley 3.7% 18.1% -4.8% -8.2% 0.3% -2.2% -0.3%
Lake Havasu City 11.8% 39.3% -7.1% 4.1% -6.5% -2.0% 1.7%
Flagstaff 14.9% 49.3% 6.6% -7.5% 5.5% 0.0% -0.5%

Students and parents exploring colleges should also think about return on investment (ROI). This metric takes tuition and fees into consideration, but also looks at salary potential after graduation. In this equation, ROI is measured by subtracting the total cost of college from the average lifetime earnings of the graduate. The following Arizona colleges have a documented ROI higher than their peers:

  1. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Prescott, AZ
  2. Arizona State University
  3. University of Arizona
  4. Northern Arizona University

Financial Aid and Paying for College in Arizona

Students looking to reduce the out-of-pocket cost of college have quite a few national, state and school-based assistance opportunities in Arizona. For example, federal financial assistance can make a huge impact for students, no matter what degree level they’re seeking. The first step in applying for federal aid is filling out the necessary FAFSA® forms so need-based funds can be distributed. About 62 percent of Arizona’s undergraduate students got federal aid in 2012.

Another form of financial assistance is scholarships, which students can pair with federal aid to further reduce the cost of fees and tuition. Scholarships can come from the individual learning institutions, nonprofit organizations, private companies or the government. Here are some of the major establishments that offer scholarships in Arizona:

  • American Quarter Horse Association
  • Arizona Business & Professional Women’s Foundation
  • Arizona Nurses Foundation
  • Arizona Small Business Association
  • Arizona Society of CPAs
  • Arizona State Savings & Credit Union
  • Buzz Sands Chevrolet
  • Central Arizona Project
  • E. Blois de Bois Foundation
  • Flinn Foundation
  • Italian Catholic Federation
  • John C. Lincoln Hospital
  • Medical Group Management Association

Accreditation Guidelines in Arizona

No matter the funding source for college, every Arizona student must research the accreditation of the school before enrolling. Funding programs generally require that colleges meet specific quality standards, as determined by regional or national accrediting agencies. The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools is the main regional organization for accreditation in Arizona. However, certain colleges and degree programs may receive accreditation from specialized entities. For example, the University of Arizona’s law school holds accreditation from the Association of American Law Schools and American Bar Association. These unique stamps of approval ensure that programs pass review from a board with clear and demonstrated experience in that field.

Excellent Resources for Online Students in Arizona

There is a wide-ranging collection of educational resources available to prospective students, including information about how to pick a college and how to pay for studies. This list of resources is a starting point and provides students with insight into government services available and state-specific support via groups such as the Arizona Community Foundation.

Major Arizona Educational Resources: