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.
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.
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 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.|
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:
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:
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.
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||University||Location||Score||Annual Tuition||# of Online Programs||Financial Aid %||Student-Teacher Ratio||Grad Rate||Credit for Experience||Placement Services||Counseling Services||University Information|
|1||University of Arkansas at Little Rock||Little Rock, AR||99.79||$$$$$||29||50%||13:1||27%||No||Yes||Yes|
At University of Arkansas at Little Rock, students can access their classes anywhere and anytime through the online degree programs. Both undergraduate and graduate programs are offered online. Students access courses, campus organizations and other resources through Blackboard, while the BOSS system helps students complete the administrative part of their education, like registering for classes. Students can use Blackboard to access video lectures, manage assignments, participate in class discussions and contact the class instructor. Students can also access the school library, contact IT services and access OWL (the Online Writing Lab), along with other resources traditional campus students enjoy.
|2||Arkansas State University-Main Campus||Jonesboro, AR||99.22||$$$$$||15||65%||17:1||39%||No||Yes||Yes|
Arkansas State University-Main Campus has online degrees that help students achieve their educational goals on their schedule. Students can gain both undergraduate and graduate degrees that run the gamut. Public administration, sociology, criminology, and engineering management are a few of the subject students can choose to study. The school boasts that it has one of the oldest online degree programs in Arkansas. Students can choose associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, certificates and a doctorate of nursing practice degree. In terms of content, the degrees are identical to those offered at the main campus.
|3||Southern Arkansas University Main Campus||Magnolia, AR||98.87||$$$$$||7||82%||16:1||31%||No||Yes||Yes|
Southern Arkansas University Main Campus offers several online degrees where students can take master’s, undergraduate or professional licensure programs. Students take their courses through the course management system Blackboard. First time online students take the Online Student Primer to learn how to manage and work within the system. Students can study topics like management, computer and information science, teaching, counseling and nursing. Those in the program also have access to regular campus resources like the library, finding textbooks and the employment resource center. Students are also offered online course support through the school.
|4||Arkansas Tech University||Russellville, AR||98.79||$$$$$||9||56%||20:1||45%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
At Arkansas Tech University, students can choose from a number of associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees. There is also a specialist degree in educational leadership and an Ed2Go certificate. The school offers a number of professional areas to study, such as early childhood education, RN to BSN, health informatics and business administration. There are also liberal arts courses, like history and general studies. The school makes use of the Blackboard course management system. There is also a campus support portal to help students navigate Blackboard and other technical issues like accessing certain drives.
|5||University of Arkansas-Fort Smith||Fort Smith, AR||98.41||$$$$$||6||47%||18:1||26%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
University of Arkansas-Fort Smith has specific courses that students can take online. Courses are offered fully online, in a hybrid format or as a web-enhanced option. In full online courses, students access class assignments, discussions and projects online and students do not have to attend campus for classes. Final exams are proctored off campus. In hybrid courses, the materials are mostly online. Class meeting time is reduced by at least a third of the time of normal courses. Web-enhanced courses are regular in-person courses that have course materials like lectures and the syllabus online. Certain degrees can be completed online, like the RN-BSN completion program.
|6||University of Arkansas||Fayetteville, AR||98.37||$$$$$||14||38%||19:1||62%||No||Yes||Yes|
At the University of Arkansas, the online programs are designed by the same departments that run the campus programs. The programs are specifically geared for students with responsibilities like family and work. Students online have access to the school’s support network. The school offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees online, as well as minors, certificate & licensure and specialist tracks. One notable feature of the school is its self-paced courses, where students can enroll in 12-week courses with proctored exams at the end. But the student paces themselves through the coursework over the 12-week period. However, a degree cannot be earned with only self-paced courses. Traditional courses, by contrast, are more formally led and structured by faculty.
|7||John Brown University||Siloam Springs, AR||98.27||$$$$$||3||99%||15:1||61%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
The earliest days of John Brown University date back to 1918, when the school was founded by educator John Brown and several associate on a stretch of farm land in Neosho, Missouri. Today the school is located in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. John Brown University is a private, Christian higher education school. Degree programs are offered in over 40 disciplines, including education, engineering, business and computer science. About 450 pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees each year. Ongoing learning and networking opportunities are available at John Brown University through the school’s alumni relations.
|8||Harding University||Searcy, AR||98.26||$$$$$||6||91%||16:1||63%||No||Yes||Yes|
Harding University is a private four-year Christian school in Searcy, Arkansas. Bible lectures are regularly held at the school that awards degrees in over 100 majors and minors. In addition to Bible ministry, majors and minors are offered in subjects like biology, business, journalism, communication, fashion and public administration. To identify an academic field that best fits students’ lifetime and career goals, the school has a career services test that high school graduates and adults can take online. Students who are ready to declare a major are encouraged to work through Academic Affairs to map out their degree completion path. Opportunities to study abroad are available. Students can also register to participate in missions trips.
|9||University of Central Arkansas||Conway, AR||98.09||$$$$$||3||85%||17:1||45%||No||Yes||Yes|
Established in 1907, the University of Central Arkansas is a public school where adults are awarded undergraduate and graduate degrees in business, education, communications, health, fine arts, sciences, math and liberal arts. Five residential colleges are established at the university. At the residential colleges, students learn in a team environment. Leading the residential colleges is a resident faculty member and resident student coordinators. Other forms of non-traditional learning at the university come through the study aboard and honors programs. The school teaches classes in-person and virtually.
|10||Ecclesia College||Springdale, AR||91.62||$$$$$||6||98%||11:1||3%||Yes||No||Yes|
Ecclesia College offers several online undergraduate degrees in topics like Biblical studies, business, political science and general studies. There is also a master of Christian leadership online degree. The program offers a flexible schedule of short courses offered in staggered two-month sessions. Courses are taught by the same qualified teachers as on campus. Courses revolve around the syllabus, which students log in and find on the first day of class. That will instruct students on when to complete assignments, when to complete readings and requirements for participation on the class discussion board.
|11||University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences||Little Rock, AR||91.28||$$$$$||12||N/A||7:1||N/A||No||No||Yes|
At the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, aspiring health care professionals can earn the degree online that will help jump-start their careers. A degree completion program for a bachelor of science in diagnostic medical sonography is just one of the programs available online. Students access coursework and lectures online and are able to interact with health care professionals across the country, building a professional network they can use later in their careers. Some programs will require on-site practicum experience due to the nature of the field.
|12||Central Baptist College||Conway, AR||86.71||$$$$$||3||91%||10:1||32%||Yes||No||Yes|
Central Baptist Colleges offers online degree programs through its Online Studies Section. The curriculum takes the busy lifestyles of its students to heart and offers everything students need—right from their home computer. Students can enroll in the college, register for programs and complete all coursework online. Students can log in 24 hours a day, seven days a week to watch video lectures and lecture notes and view PowerPoint presentations. They also participate in discussions online, which can happen both synchronously or asynchronously. The length of each course varies, depending on the student’s degree program, however they are usually five weeks long.
|13||Arkansas Baptist College||Little Rock, AR||86.00||$$$$$||6||16%||23:1||19%||No||No||Yes|
Arkansas Baptist College has a variety of unique degrees available, including both bachelor’s and associate degrees in urban community leadership and associate programs in music business and public administration, among others. The school has a department dedicated to supporting veterans and walking them through the application process. The career services department assists students in finding employment after graduation and an adult education program assists those looking to earn a GED. ABC’s center for Teaching and eLearning ensures that faculty and staff are knowledgeable about best teaching practices as they raise the academic bar.
|Rank||University||Location||Score||Annual Tuition||# of Online Programs||Financial Aid %||Student-Teacher Ratio||Grad Rate||Credit for Experience||Placement Services||Counseling Services||University Information|
|1||Arkansas Northeastern College||Blytheville, AR||95.61||$$$$$||9||26%||14:1||20%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Arkansas Northeastern College specializes in community education and business and industry training. Formation of the college began on December 17, 1974 when Mississippi County voters approved the development of a local college district. Today, Arkansas Northeastern College is headquartered in Blytheville, Arkansas and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Part-time, full-time and distance learning options are available at the schools Paragould, Leachville, Osceola, Blytheville and Burdette campuses. Approximately 200 high school students participate in the college’s dual enrollment program each semester. Veterans services, a wellness center, allied health technology center and university center support social, academic and personal engagement and learning.
|2||Arkansas State University - Beebe||Beebe, AR||95.18||$$$$$||12||34%||17:1||35%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Arkansas State University was founded in 1927. The physical address of its main campus is in Beebe, Arkansas, a town about 40 miles North of Little Rock. Associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees are awarded at the school. Degrees like the associate LPN to RN program offer a fast track graduation option. Undergraduate and graduate degree programs fall under six academic departments. Included among the departments are Advanced Technology and Allied Health, Education and Social Science, Mathematics and Science, Business and Agriculture, English and Fine Arts and Occupational Technology. Distance education is administered using tools like Blackboard, campus email and Campus Connect. Support services for military veterans and students with disabilities are provided upon request. Campus tours are in-person and scheduled through the admissions office.
|3||North Arkansas College||Harrison, AR||95.13||$$$$$||9||32%||16:1||24%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
North Arkansas College was founded in 1974. Its main administrative offices and academic classrooms are located in Harrison, Arkansas. As many as 70 study areas are taught at the school, with many of the credentials leading to technical and professional certificates. Non-credit continuing education classes are also offered. Focal study areas prepare students for careers in agriculture, business, information technology, education, criminal justice, construction and the automotive industry. Tutoring is offered for free to students Monday through Friday, as needed. As part of the admissions process, students must submit immunization records, high school transcripts and college entrance exam results.
|4||Ozarka College||Melbourne, AR||95.09||$$$$$||20||25%||16:1||22%||Yes||No||Yes|
Ozarka College is located in Melbourne, Arkansas. The college has been offering degree and non-degree training to the public since 1975. Certificate and associate degrees are awarded in career fields like nursing, information technology, criminal justice and health professions. Student placement is through individual departments and the admissions office. Documents used during the placement process include immunization records, an online application, high school transcripts and scores on college entrance exams. Some programs like culinary arts, hospitality and the LPN program have additional admissions requirements. Criminal justice leadership majors must have already be certified or be in the process of getting certified. They must also be working in the criminal justice field. Local business and social support events are regularly held at the college.
|5||College of the Ouachitas||Malvern, AR||94.52||$$$$$||15||24%||15:1||23%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
The College of the Ouachitas is a public academic institution that awards certificates and two-year degrees. A state appointed board oversees the college's operations. The Higher Learning Commission accredits the college that is located in Malvern, Arkansas. A total of approximately 3,500 students take degree and non-degree classes at the college. College of the Ouachitas is active in the community, providing career training to high school students. Opportunity for adults to earn a GED is offered through the school's adult education center. Degrees and certificates are awarded in applied science technology, arts, sciences, business, technology and health sciences.
|6||East Arkansas Community College||Forrest City, AR||94.51||$$$$$||20||15%||16:1||12%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
The Fine Arts Center, a Computer Education Center and Workforce Development Office are East Arkansas Community College facilities that are used to serve the public, preparing adults for artistic careers and traditional job readiness. Formation of East Arkansas Community College began in 1968. Adults can earn general education, technical, allied health, business and social science degrees and certificates from the college. Students must submit an application before they register for classes. The college accepts campus tour requests online using a brief form. A large portion of the college's classes are held at its Forrest City, Arkansas campus.
|7||National Park College||Hot Springs, AR||94.18||$$$$$||16||71%||26:1||20%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
The home base of National Park College is in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Trees and flatland surround the main campus. Annual enrollment at the school is more than 2,600. A primary aim of the two-year public institution is to provide training and counseling that helps adults to discover their career path and gain the skills to succeed along that path. Degree programs are in communications, business, arts, health sciences, math, nursing, social sciences and technical and professional specialties. It's possible for high school seniors to take college courses while they are still in high school through the college's concurrent enrollment program. Assistance with transferring credits earned at the school to a four-year educational institution are available via the school's National Park University initiative. The Higher Learning Commission accredits National Park College.
|8||Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas||De Queen, AR||93.94||$$$$$||13||16%||16:1||22%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas is a public college that is a part of the University of Arkansas System. De Queen, Arkansas, a foothills community, is where the college's main campus is located. Adults can take technical, medical, business, agriculture, education and criminal justice classes at the school. Several of the associate degrees and technical certificates are taught fully online. Academic support is conducted through the Educational Resource Center. In addition to free tutoring, students get access to computer stations while visiting the center. Orientation for new students is held at the De Queen, Ashdown and Nashville campuses. All new students must attend the orientation prior to the start of classes.
|9||University of Arkansas Community Hope - Texarkana||Hope, AR||93.73||$$$$$||6||13%||15:1||23%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
At the University of Arkansas Community Hope - Texarkana, flexibility is offered through part-time class schedules and online learning. The school is on Highway 29. Its campus covers 72 acres. Academic programs that are designed with an online learning option include accounting, economics, communications, literature, psychology, sociology and history. Traditional classroom programs are offered in several academic divisions. The school confers associate degrees in health professions, sciences, math, industrial, technical, business, education and arts and humanities. Applications to enroll in a course or degree program are retrieved online or from the Registrar's office. The university accepts two forms of placement exams, the ACT or COMPASS.
|10||University of Arkansas Community College - Batesville||Batesville, AR||92.87||$$$$$||3||36%||17:1||26%||Yes||No||Yes|
Every January an online LPN-RN program starts at the University of Arkansas Community College Batesville. This distance learning course is an intensive 11-month program that takes students from a licensed nurse practitioner qualification to graduates with an Associate in Applied Sciences in registered nursing degree. UACCB’s requirements for online enrollment include a proficient Kaplan Nurse Entrance Test grade and 18 prerequisite credit hours. UACCB is also part of the University of Arkansas Online Consortium through which a transfer-based Associate of Arts degree is offered. This program was awarded the 2005 Excellence in Distance Learning Programming in Higher Education title by the Arkansas Distance Learning Association.
|11||Arkansas State University - Mountain Home||Mountain Home, AR||92.86||$$$$$||6||18%||20:1||28%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Arkansas State University Mountain Home has a wide range of web classes available to students and the community. In particular, students intending on receiving a four-year degree from ASU-Jonesboro, can complete the first two years at ASUMH through a hybrid education of web classes, video and face-to-face courses. Online classes at ASUMH are conducted through Blackboard, a web classroom that makes virtual learning easy for those who are computer and internet competent. Students interested in earning their degree at ASUMH can achieve the associate level in fields such as agriculture, funeral science, healthcare, business, welding, automotive and general studies.
|12||Phillips Community College||Helena, AR||92.73||$$$$$||3||17%||12:1||25%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Part of the University of Arkansas system, Phillips Community College is one of three UA community schools that offers an online Associate in Arts degree. Called the University of Arkansas Online Consortium, the AA degree program varies slightly within the three colleges. At Phillips, students are required to complete 64 credits for graduation, the highest standard among the schools in the consortium. Across the board, the liberal studies AA curriculum is designed for transfer to a bachelor’s degree. In 2005 and 2006, this program won excellence in distance awards from the Arkansas Distance Learning Association and the Instructional Technology Council by the American Association of Community Colleges respectively.
|13||Southern Arkansas University Tech||Camden, AR||92.17||$$$$$||24||22%||21:1||42%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Five completely virtual associate programs are offered at Southern Arkansas University Tech in environmental science, business administration, fire science management, teacher education and the liberal arts. With the exception of the APS degree in environmental science, these full-time two-year programs are intended for continuing education in a bachelor’s program. The AS degree in teacher education is formatted for baccalaureate transfer to Southern Arkansas University or Henderson State University. In addition, SAUT has two partial online associates in office management and computer information technology that at times require student attendance on campus.
|14||South Arkansas Community College||El Dorado, AR||91.69||$$$$$||3||4%||14:1||10%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
South Arkansas Community College has college courses online and in a hybrid format available for distance learners. While no complete online degree program yet exists at SouthArk, students with a busy schedule can alleviate the burden of traveling to campus with the assistance of web-based classes. These courses do follow time constraints, and so students are expected to complete assignments accordingly. In addition, some instructors and courses may require students to take a proctored exam, for which attendance is necessary. Technology needed for SouthArk distance learning include Blackboard Learn 9.1, Adobe Presenter, Faronics Insight and Respondus Monitor.
|15||Southeast Arkansas College||Pine Bluff, AR||91.23||$$$$$||3||4%||14:1||12%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Students enrolled at Southeast Arkansas College (SEARK) can diversify their education pattern through the use of web classes. SEARK provides students online courses in economics, history, health, psychology, business and languages among other subjects, yet does not offer a 100 percent online degree program. To access web classes, students use Moodle, a system that creates an online classroom environment. In order to determine if distance learning compliments a student, a short questionnaire helps find students’ compatibility. Distance learning classes are ideal for students who have other commitments, such as full-time work or a family. SEARK is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
|16||NorthWest Arkansas Community College||Bentonville, AR||89.46||$$$$$||12||4%||18:1||14%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Independent learners looking to earn a degree from home can take advantage of the online associate programs at Northwest Arkansas Community College. NWACC offers four associate programs that are 100 percent online in business, general education and safety and health. The AA and AS in business degrees have a transfer option built-in that assist students in enrollment at a four-year university. Associate in Science programs in business with concentrations in banking, retail and logistics are 95 percent online as they require an internship for completion. NWACC operates its online courses through Blackboard Learn 9.1 and MyMathLab.
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.