According to the 2017 Distance Education State Almanac, more than 383,000 students enroll in online college schools in Arizona, with the number of online students growing 72.2% between 2012 and 2015. In 2015, Grand Canyon University served as the top school in the state for distance enrollment. Arizona’s many public universities also boast high online enrollment, including Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University. Graduates from accredited online colleges in Arizona pursue careers in education, healthcare, business, and all other sectors of the Arizona economy.
This article ranks the best online colleges in Arizona. It also assesses the state of online learning in Arizona, explains tuition discount opportunities, and provides job outlook statistics for Arizona college graduates. Students attending the best online colleges in Arizona can also benefit from the list of scholarships available to online students.
A Brief Overview of Higher Education in Arizona
Prospective Arizona college students benefit from the state’s variety of colleges and universities. Arizona counts 86 degree-granting institutions within its borders, including 30 two-year and four-year public colleges and universities, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. College students also attend the state’s 13 private, nonprofit schools and 43 for-profit institutions. In 2016, 608,084 students attended a college or university in Arizona, with over half that number taking at least one online course, according to the 2017 Distance Education State Almanac.
- 30 public
- 13 non-profit
- 43 for-profit
Tuition rates at Arizona institutions vary depending on the type of school and the degree level. The College Board reports that Arizona community colleges offer some of the lowest tuition rates in the country, with an average rate of $2,580 a year in 2018-19. Arizona’s four-year public institutions charge an average tuition rate of $11,540, with the University of Arizona charging an in-state tuition rate of $12,487 in 2018-19. By comparison, out-of-state students at the University of Arizona pay $36,386 per year in tuition. Private schools typically charge higher tuition rates than out-of-state public institutions.
Arizona college students fund their degrees with a mix of savings, loans, and scholarships. The state offers grant aid to students with financial need, according to the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs. For example, the Arizona Financial Aid Trust awarded over $20 million in need-based grants in 2015-16. In total, Arizona students received nearly $23 million in grants to support their education that year.
The State of Online Higher Education in Arizona
According to the 2017 Distance Education State Almanac, Arizona’s robust online higher education offerings serve more than half of the enrolled students at Arizona institutions. In Arizona, 383,700 students took at least one online course, representing 59.1% of all students and vastly exceeding the national average of 29.7%. Just under 300,000 of these students complete all of their college classes online. Of that number, 221,670 enroll as undergraduates and 77,550 enroll as graduate students. Arizona’s fully online students represent 46.1% of all college students enrolled across the state, much higher than the national average of 14.3%. Only 20.5% of fully online students live in Arizona, with the remainder enrolling from out of state.
The Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education works to expand access to higher education in the state. As part of that mission, the commission helps college students pay for college by offering savings plans and granting more than $2.4 million each year for college students attending an Arizona institution of higher learning.
Tuition Breaks for Out-of-State Students
Many of the best online colleges in Arizona offer tuition discounts for the state’s many out-of-state college students. These discounts can include lower tuition rates, or even in-state tuition rates, for fully online students or for students from qualifying states. For example, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) helps lower costs by allowing out-of-state students from 16 member states and territories to attend Arizona schools at discounted tuition rates.
WICHE member states include Arizona, Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. During the 2017-18 academic year, over 40,000 students participated in WICHE’s Western Undergraduate Exchange, saving over $365 million on out-of-state tuition. The program caps out-of-state tuition rates at no more than 150% of in-state tuition.
In addition, WICHE offers the Internet Course Exchange to increase student access to online courses offered by other institutions within the exchange program. The exchange program makes it easier for students enrolled in accredited online colleges in Arizona to take online classes from other WICHE member institutions.
Best Online Colleges in Arizona
Below, you will find our rankings of the best online four-year programs in Arizona. Our profiles look at how schools approach online education and then list out their services for distance students and their popular, fully online degrees. After reviewing the best online schools in Arizona, explore our state resources, like a database of every college and university in Arizona or our index of popular in-state scholarships.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
|1||University of Arizona||Tucson||$$$$$||1401 E University|
Tucson, AZ 85721-0066
When the school was founded in 1885, Arizona was the state’s only university. The 380-acre main campus is located in central Tucson. With 29 bachelor’s degree programs available online, UA has become one of the best online colleges in Arizona. Most online programs are designed to work the same as on-campus programs with the added flexibility of studying asynchronously, but some of the classes are taught synchronously. They feature scheduled class times, discussions, and/or online meetings. Undergraduate programs include administration of justice, Africana studies, business administration, and cyber operations. The school also offers master’s and graduate certificate programs. All online students have access to free tutoring for writing and math, and academic skills tutoring, such as general time management and best practices for online learning. UA has an IT support center open 24/7 to help troubleshoot any problems.
|2||Arizona State University||Tempe||$$$$$||University Drive and Mill Avenue|
Tempe, AZ 85287
Arizona State is one of the largest universities in the country with more than 90,000 students in over 350 undergraduate majors. ASU is also one of the top online colleges in Arizona. ASU Online offers more than 150 degrees and enrolls more than 30,000 students. It also offers six start dates per year. Online programs include business administration, art history, food industry management, and criminal justice. The school has a dedicated support staff available for every student. This includes enrollment counselors who help students apply for programs, academic advisors who provide advice and assistance, and success coaches who assist with academic issues, such as tutoring. Online students can access the IT help center any time. ASU has also established several online clubs and other resources for networking and community building to provide its distance learners with an on-campus experience.
|3||Northern Arizona University||Flagstaff||$$$$$||1900 S. Knoles Dr, Babbitt Administrative Center|
Flagstaff, AZ 86011-4132
In 1899, Northern Arizona University opened its doors to 23 students. The school now serves nearly 30,000 students from all over the world. The main campus is located in Flagstaff, Arizona. NAU is one of the leading online colleges in Arizona. The school offers more than 150 degrees, including more than 90 at the bachelor’s level; 45 are available online. Most online courses are taught asynchronously, but some have synchronous components. The university also offers Personalized Learning Degree programs. These are self-paced programs that allow students to complete coursework entirely on their own time. Online resources include 24/7 technical support, extensive online library resources, and online academic support in any subject. NAU encourages online students in the Arizona area to visit one of its many locations, where they can use on-campus resources or support one of the school’s 15 NCAA Division I athletics teams.
|4||Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott||Prescott||$$$$$||3700 Willow Creek Road|
Prescott, AZ 86301-3720
In 1926, the Embry-Riddle School of Aviation was founded to train local pilots. Embry-Riddle is now a world-leader in aviation and aerospace with campuses in Arizona and Florida, making it one of the leading online colleges in AZ. Degree programs are available in seven different fields of study: applied science, aviation, business, computers & technology, engineering, security, intelligence and safety, and space. Online students have access to courses in each of these fields, including 15 fully online bachelor's degrees. When it started in 1971, ERAU-Worldwide became one of the first schools in the country to offer distance learning. The university offers 12 different start dates throughout the year to undergraduate students. Each online student is paired up with an academic advisor who ensures that they are on track. Student resources are designed and created with online students in mind.
|5||Ottawa University - Phoenix||Phoenix||$$$$$||9414 North 25th Avenue|
Phoenix, AZ 85021
For more than 150 years, Ottawa University has been providing a Christ-centered education to its students. In 2008, OU-Online was founded and has since become one of the best online schools in AZ. The university has online degrees available in the fields of health and applied sciences, education, business, and arts and sciences. Undergraduate programs include English, history, law enforcement, health care management, and business administration. Graduate programs are also available. Each online course lasts eight weeks and is taught asynchronously. Online courses have a student-to-faculty ratio of 4:1, giving students more access to their instructors than most programs offer. Online students are also paired with a personal academic advisor to walk them through the admissions process and to help with accessing online resources, such as online tutoring, the e-library, and technical support. Ottawa allows students to sample an online course. All online courses are taught through Blackboard.
|6||CollegeAmerica-Phoenix||Phoenix||$$$$$||9801 N. Metro Parkway East|
Phoenix, AZ 85051
CollegeAmerica, established in 1964, started in Arizona and has since expanded to six-campus locations in Wyoming, Colorado, and Arizona. CollegeAmerica-Phoenix was founded in 2004 and has developed an online affiliation with Independence University, making them one of the top online colleges in Arizona. CollegeAmerica offers associate, undergraduate, and graduate degree program options in the fields of healthcare, technology, business and graphic arts, including 13 degrees that are available online. Online programs include forensic accounting, business administration, health information management, and web design and development. Students have access to online instructors, tutors, and career services professionals. All textbooks and supplies, including tablets and laptops, are provided at no extra charge. The school’s Better Life Blog offers students tips and tricks for studying, de-stressing, and other life-hacks. CollegeAmerica also offers credit for military experience.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in Arizona
Below you’ll find the online schools in Arizona sorted by lowest tuition rate.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||School Link||Cost|
|1||Northern Arizona University||Flagstaff||School profile||$$$$$|
|2||Ottawa University - Phoenix||Phoenix||School profile||$$$$$|
|3||Arizona State University||Tempe||School profile||$$$$$|
Job Outlook for College Graduates in Arizona
In Arizona, college graduates join a strong economy that employs over 2.7 million workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Those employees earn a mean annual wage of $48,160 across all sectors in the state, and typically college graduates earn higher salaries than those without a college degree. Earning a college degree also makes professionals more competitive in the job market and leads to lower unemployment rates. As a study conducted by Georgetown University found, college graduates make $1 million more in wages during their lifespan than those without a college degree.
In September 2018, the BLS reported a 4.6% unemployment rate in Arizona, slightly above the national average. Research shows that college graduates benefit from a lower unemployment rate than average. For example, the BLS reported in May 2018 that the national unemployment rate stood at 3.9% while the unemployment rate for professionals with a college degree stood at 2.1%.
Arizona boasts several strong industries, including aerospace, business and financial services, technology, and healthcare. Within these sectors, college graduates work as sales representatives, managers, software developers, and registered nurses. Many of these jobs offer above-average salaries. Registered nurses, for example, earn an average salary of over $75,000 in Arizona, while management occupations average six-figure salaries.
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Arizona
College Success Arizona Scholarship
Graduates from an Arizona high school attending an Arizona community college, four-year college, or university who demonstrate financial need may qualify.
Arizona Community Foundation Scholarships
With one application, college students can qualify for more than $1 million in scholarship opportunities; eligibility requirements vary.
Project Management Institute Phoenix Chapter Scholarship
Undergraduate and graduate students at an accredited college or university earning a degree in project management or a related field may quality. Applicants must be Arizona residents.
Arizona Business and Professional Women’s Foundation Scholarship
Women who are 21 or older qualify if they plan to return to a community college to improve their job prospects.
Korean American Foundation Scholarship
Full-time undergraduate or graduate students with Korean heritage currently living in Arizona qualify with a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Arizona Elk Society Scholarship
Arizona residents earning a degree related to wildlife science qualify. Recipients must attend an accredited college or university with a minimum 2.7 GPA.
Mattie Cowan Scholarship
Arizona high school graduates planning to pursue an agricultural degree qualify for the scholarship, including online students.
Italian Catholic Federation Scholarship
Arizona Roman Catholics of Italian descent or those with a parent, guardian, or grandparent who is a member of the federation qualify with a minimum 3.2 GPA.
Future Business Leaders of America Arizona Scholarship
Current, dues-paid FBLA members with a minimum 3.0 GPA qualify for the scholarship.
Arizona Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership
Arizona residents enrolled part time or full time at an Arizona college or university qualify if they demonstrate substantial financial need.
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