Arkansas education officials report a statewide effort among colleges and universities to increase online offerings. The common goal is to improve graduation rates. It is estimated that 350,000 Arkansas adults have completed college coursework but have not earned a degree. By boosting online educational opportunities, Arkansas schools plan to improve this rate of degree attainment. The state’s major institutions are greatly expanding online educational offerings each year. The result is a broad range of options for distance learners.
But before we dive into our list of the best online colleges in Arkansas for 2019, let’s start with the state of higher education and online education in Arkansas.
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A Brief Overview of Higher Education in Arkansas
With a total of 53 degree-granting institutions in the state, Arkansas is a great place for individuals seeking higher education at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate levels. Arkansas boasts more than 30 public institutions of higher learning, including public two-year and four-year schools. Students have the option to attend one of 16 nonprofit schools or choose between one of four for-profit institutions. As the presence of distance education continues to grow, more schools are offering online programs to both in-state and out-of-state students. Between distance learners and traditional face-to-face students, more than 167,000 students were enrolled in higher education programs in Arkansas in 2016, among the highest enrollment levels in the United States.
- 33 public
- 16 non-profit
- 4 for-profit
When making the decision to go to college, people often consider the cost of their desired degree. College is expensive and it is important to consider the total cost of education. On average, residents of Arkansas attending a public two-year college spend approximately $4,000 per year on education, while those attending a four-year school spend almost $9,000. Out-of-state students attending an Arkansas college will pay more, though the difference in tuition varies by school. Some online colleges in Arkansas offer in-state tuition to distance learners all over the country. Tuition rates in Arkansas flagship universities may also be slightly higher. Financial aid is also available to students on a need and non-need basis.
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The State of Online Higher Education in Arkansas
As an increasing number of adults return to school after spending some time in the workforce, the rate of enrollment for online programs has been rising. Students opt to take classes online for the added flexibility, the lower cost, and the ability to complete a degree at a school in another state. It is also common for students, particularly those in-state, to enroll in a hybrid program with some classes online and some on-campus. Many online colleges in Arkansas offer these blended programs with the majority of work done at a distance with a weekly meeting in the evenings or on weekends.
The number of online colleges in AR continues to grow due to statewide efforts to enhance opportunities. The Arkansas Distance Learning Association is dedicated to promoting and leading initiatives for distance learning in the state. The association hosts annual conventions to promote these initiatives. Managing all financial aid programs and overseeing budgets and development, the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE) continually works to nurture both online and on-campus initiatives throughout the state.
Two recent enterprises have given online education in Arkansas a massive boost. By offering easy access to coursework in a variety of fields, the 100% online eVersity has opened its “doors” and is positioned to greatly enhance online learning opportunities in Arkansas as part of the University of Arkansas System. Similarly, Arkansas Tech University’s new eTech College hopes to offer a streamlined process to encourage online learning. A top goal of these projects is to reach Arkansas distance learners who started college but never completed their degree.
Tuition Breaks for Out-of-State Students
As out-of-state tuition is notoriously higher than in-state tuition, many students have historically opted to attend a local school to keep costs low. In addition to many online schools opting to provide in-state tuition to distance learners, some online colleges in Arkansas have joined the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) in its Academic Common Market (ACM) program. The SREB is a nonprofit organization devoted to improving public education at all levels. The board consists of 16 member states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.
The SREB formed the ACM to assist out-of-state students seeking a degree not offered in their state. The ACM works to minimize unnecessary duplication of degree programs in participating schools and recognizes that it is unreasonable for any school to offer every program. Students interested in one of the 1,900 participating undergraduate and graduate degrees are able to complete their degree at an out-of-state school for in-state tuition. Participation in the ACM is not merit based. Interested students must meet the academic requirements of their school of choice, once admitted, students will qualify to enroll in this program.
Best Online Colleges in Arkansas
Below, you will find our rankings of the best online four-year programs in Arkansas. Our profiles look at how schools approach online education and then list services for distance students and their popular, fully online degrees. After reviewing the best online schools in Arkansas, explore our state resources, like a database of every university in Arkansas 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 Arkansas||Fayetteville||$$$$$||Administration Building 425|
Fayetteville, AR 72701
From a crowded stadium participating in The Hog Call -- one of the most recognized chants in sports -- to the five-mile stretch of sidewalks engraved with names of graduating seniors dating back to 1876, the University of Arkansas campus is steeped in tradition. No wonder each academic year more than 20,000 prospective students apply for admission there. Since its founding in 1871, the public, land-grant research university has grown to 718 acres, and it boasts 378 buildings in the third-largest city in Arkansas, Fayetteville.
Prospective students unable to attend on-campus classes in Fayetteville do not need to lose out on top-quality education, as U of A serves as one of the best online colleges in Arkansas. Undergraduate online offerings developed by on-campus faculty feature seven degrees in diverse fields: communication, accounting, business, supply chain management, human resource and workforce development education, nursing, and interdisciplinary studies. Online learning options also include master's degrees, nondegree certificates, licensing options, and specialist programs.
U of A voluntarily participates in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, which allows institutions to offer online education to residents of other member states. This means you can become an Arkansas Razorback no matter where you live. As a bonus, every online student pays in-state tuition regardless of his or her residency.
All programs offer students a path to completion without learners needing to step foot on campus. That said, the nursing program at U of A requires attendance at an on-site practicum near the student's home location.
U of A admission requirements vary depending on one's status as an incoming freshman, transfer student, or international student. The school generally requires submission of transcripts, a minimum high school GPA of 3.0, and a minimum score of 20 on the ACT (or equivalent SAT score).
|2||Arkansas State University||Jonesboro||$$$$$||2105 E. Aggie Road|
Jonesboro, AR 72401
In 1909, the Arkansas legislature founded the First District Agricultural School for regional training in the agricultural industry. In 1933, this institution evolved into Arkansas' second-largest college system and the second-largest university in the state by enrollment. A-State offers local, national, and global students an extensive set of high-quality educational opportunities, all of which hold accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The 1,376-acre main campus, sitting alongside earthquake-created Crowley's Ridge in metropolitan Jonesboro, serves as a regional hub of Northeast Arkansas.
A-State proudly claims its position as a leading provider of online college education to individuals of all backgrounds and levels of experience. To date, more than 10,000 online participants have completed the school's 13 undergraduate degrees, nearly 20 master's degrees, and multiple certificate programs at the graduate and undergraduate level.
A-State offers one of the most diverse ranges of subjects to its students. Represented fields include special education, nursing, sociology, creative media production, business administration, criminology, disaster preparedness/emergency management, and strategic communication. To ensure maximum flexibility for prospective students, each program supplies several start dates throughout the year.
A-State offers the same affordable, flat-rate tuition for all U.S. residents. The cost includes administrative fees and adheres to a "pay-as-you-go" structure, meaning students only pay for the courses in which they enroll each term.
A-State accepts both high school graduates and GED recipients. First-time freshman looking to apply must possess a high school GPA of 2.75 or better or a GED score of 500-525. Transfer students with at least 13 credits of college coursework do not need to submit high school materials, but all applicants must supply ACT or SAT test scores and pay a $30 application fee.
|3||Arkansas Tech University||Russellville||$$$$$||Administration Bldg 200; 1509 N Boulder Ave|
Russellville, AR 72801-2222
Located in Russellville, ATU sits on a rural 516-acre campus. Called the Second District Agricultural School, this public institution offered its first classes in 1910. In 1925, the school changed its name to Arkansas Polytechnic College, and in 1976, it adopted its current name. ATU also owns a satellite campus in Ozark, AR. With two locations and a high acceptance rate of 95%, ATU boasts a significant and consistently growing alumni population.
In addition to conferring the largest number of STEM degrees in the state in recent years, ATU remains one of the leading online colleges in Arkansas. Offerings include nine online nondegree certificates, four associate degrees, seven bachelor's degrees, and eight master's degrees for distance learners. Between 50%-100% of each program's coursework is available for online completion.
For working adults looking to expand career or promotional opportunities in their current field by earning a college degree, ATU's accelerated bachelor's program in professional studies offers eight specializations, including public relations, criminal justice, child development, agricultural business, and workforce technology. Through a prior learning assessment evaluation process, qualified students in this program can earn up to 12 credits for documented knowledge in specific content areas.
First-time freshman applicants must submit proof that they completed either high school with a 2.0 GPA or the GED with a minimum score of 600. Transfer student applicants with prior college credit must submit transcripts from their prior institutions. ATU requires ACT or SAT scores from every applicant except those transferring 24 or more credits.
Out-of-state students at ATU pay an increased tuition rate compared to residents of Arkansas. However, residents of contiguous states -- including Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas -- can receive tuition waivers, reducing costs to the in-state rate.
|4||University of Arkansas at Little Rock||Little Rock||$$$$$||2801 S University Ave|
Little Rock, AR 72204
A whopping 56 buildings, spanning 250 acres across the state's capital and most-populated city, comprise the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. From its founding as a public junior college in 1927, its transformation to a four-year private university in 1957, and its ultimate merger with the University of Arkansas System in 1969, this public research university boasts a storied history. Today, UA Little Rock boasts more than 100 undergraduate degrees, 60 graduate degrees, and 14 athletic teams under the Trojans banner. UA Little Rock also holds full accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
As a top online college in Arkansas, UA Little Rock offers dozens of degrees and nondegree certificates through 100% online components. Fifteen of these include undergraduate degrees such as criminal justice, applied science, communication, management, nursing, and social work. Each 120-credit program consists of general education, core, and elective courses. That said, the RN-to-BSN program requires 34 credit hours and offers accelerated completion in as few as 12 months.
Applications to UA Little Rock require the submission of official high school transcripts, applicable college transcripts, ACT or SAT scores, and a $40 application fee (waived for veterans and active duty military). Military students receive tuition discounts, while senior citizens can receive 100% tuition waivers on a space-available basis. All other online students, regardless of their state residency, pay a flat-rate, per-credit tuition rate with no additional campus-related costs.
To assist in covering tuition costs, UA Little Rock and partnering organizations offer a variety of scholarships each year, including one for single parents and one for new incoming transfer students. Student services at the UA Little Rock include access to the library, disability resource center, veterans affairs office, and an online writing lab.
|5||University of Central Arkansas||Conway||$$$$$||201 Donaghey Ave|
Conway, AR 72035-0001
Located in the middle of Arkansas in the city of Conway, the aptly named University of Central Arkansas enjoys bragging rights as one of the oldest colleges in the state, originally founded in 1907. In the years since, the school's educational scope has expanded into the liberal arts. This public research university now retains nationally recognized programs in nursing, education, physical therapy, performing arts, and business. It also maintains a small student-to-faculty ratio of 17:1 and a high acceptance rate of 92%.
Available for Arkansas natives and nonresidents alike, UCA offers six online bachelor's degrees in general studies, insurance and risk management, general business, health and safety professional studies, addiction studies, and an RN-to-BSN program. The addiction studies program stands out as the only undergraduate degree of its kind in the entire state.
While a few of UCA's degrees (e.g., general business and insurance and risk management) allow for online fulfillment of all 120 credits, most online programs act as completion degrees not suitable for incoming freshman. Students must either transfer college credit or hold an associate degree from an accredited school. Exact prerequisite requirements depend on the program in which one enrolls.
UCA and UCA Online take a "student's first" approach to their operations. Each online student can directly contact program coordinators to ensure that their individual support needs are met. Students also gain access to library, advising, disability, writing, and career services.
Like other online colleges in Arkansas, UCA offers its distance learners a tuition break, charging a flat-rate, per-credit cost regardless of their location or state residency. Required steps for admission include filling out an online application form, paying a $25 application fee, and submitting transcripts for all prior university or college attendance.
|6||John Brown University||Siloam Springs||$$$$$||2000 W University St|
Siloam Springs, AR 72761
Founded in 1919, John Brown University provides Christ-centered education to 2,500 students across the country and around the world. The private university's main campus in Siloam Springs sits on 200 acres and features the iconic Cathedral of the Ozarks among its residence halls, academic buildings, and recreation and performance complexes.
The liberal arts curriculum at JBU requires all students to complete a core curriculum that includes Bible classes, humanities courses, and foreign language and STEM classes. Student residents must also sign a community covenant abstaining from profanity, pornography, alcohol and tobacco use, premarital sexual activity, gambling, and harassment.
Beyond its main campus, JBU offers seven online college degrees in Arkansas (and beyond) in business administration, communication, politics and ethics, liberal arts, organizational leadership, psychology, and an RN-to-BSN program. JBU's online undergraduate degrees cater to adult professionals who either hold an associate degree or who failed to complete their first bachelor's.
In order to graduate, all incoming online students at JBU need to transfer at least 45 credits from prior learning and then complete the remaining credits to graduate. In addition to accepting traditional college credit transfers, JBU allows eligible students to receive credit for military service, learning outside of the classroom, and credit-by-exam methods.
The typical completion time for online degrees falls between 12-18 months, depending on the number of one's transfer credits and course load. Each class takes eight weeks to complete. An asynchronous format allows students the flexibility to complete weekly course assignments on their own time. To promote educational accessibility, JBU charges a flat-rate, per-credit cost, regardless of the student's in-state or out-of-state residency.
|7||Central Baptist College||Conway||$$$$$||1501 College Avenue|
Conway, AR 72034
Founded in 1952, the private Central Baptist College in Conway maintains a student population of fewer than 1,000. The school prides itself on offering a high-quality, Christ-centered liberal arts education, as well as various extracurriculars and required weekly chapel for all full-time students. CBC is owned and operated by the Baptist Missionary Association of Arkansas and employs more than 50 full-time faculty members.
In 2011, Central Baptist College received the necessary accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission to begin offering online degrees. It has since expanded to become one of the best online colleges in Arkansas, featuring three online associate degrees and nine bachelor's degrees through its Professional Adult College Education (PACE) program. Of the 732 students enrolled in the 2018 school year, more than 200 accessed their education through PACE. Available degrees represent a variety of fields and disciplines, including church administration, business administration, leadership and ministry, psychology, human resource management, and organizational management.
Each online program at Central Baptist College offers three completion methods. Students can progress through five-week courses completely online, on campus (requiring attendance in classroom meetings from 6:00-10:00 PM once a week), or through a hybrid combination of both. Flexible course schedules allow for standard holidays and vacations, full-time employment, and family obligations.
CBC's PACE programs provide opportunities to all individuals, whether they already possess some college credit and want to finish their degree, or they plan to begin their first college experience. Eligible students can also earn credit for their work experience through CBC's prior learning assessment.
To apply for a PACE program at Central Baptist College, prospective students must submit an online application, provide prior college transcripts, or, in the case of students without college credit, a high school transcript and test scores (SAT, ACT, or Placement Test).
|8||Ecclesia College||Springdale||$$$$$||9653 Nations Dr|
Springdale, AR 72762
Situated in the northwest corner of the state, Springdale holds bragging rights as the fourth-largest city in Arkansas and the home of Ecclesia College -- a private, four-year Christian college accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education and the Arkansas Course Transfer System. Since its founding in 1975, Ecclesia has expanded its campus size to 200 acres and its degree offerings to include liberal arts subjects.
Ecclesia began offering online college degrees in Arkansas in 2005. Its current contributions consist of two associate degrees, seven bachelor's degrees, and one master's. Online degree offerings strike a balance between biblical and liberal arts subjects, including Christian leadership, biblical studies, business administration, psychology and counseling, and political science specializations. All undergraduate programs, regardless of field of study, require the completion of an introductory religion component of six or seven classes.
Organized in an asynchronous format, each eight-week online course at Ecclesia can be completed according a student's own individual schedule, though guidelines encourage class attendance five days a week. A small student-to-teacher ratio ensures one-on-one attention and assistance when needed. Although Ecclesia Online requires no on-campus visits, students must complete service learning hours each semester, such as helping local churches or nonprofit organizations. Reported service learning hours must match the number of credit hours in which the student enrolls.
The admissions process for Ecclesia Online requires submission of high school and college transcripts and ACT or SAT scores. Also, a pastor or mentor must submit a reference form. Although academic performance holds the most weight in admissions consideration, applicants must supply information about their religious affiliation and congregational participation if applicable. Ecclesia Online students pay a per-credit tuition cost regardless of state residency.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in Arkansas
Below you’ll find a list of online colleges in Arkansas sorted by lowest tuition rates.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||School Link||Cost|
|1||University of Arkansas - Fort Smith||Fort Smith||School profile||$$$$$|
|2||Harding University||Searcy||School profile||$$$$$|
|3||Arkansas Tech University||Russellville||School profile||$$$$$|
|4||University of Arkansas at Little Rock||Little Rock||School profile||$$$$$|
|5||Arkansas State University||Jonesboro||School profile||$$$$$|
|6||University of Arkansas||Fayetteville||School profile||$$$$$|
|7||Central Baptist College||Conway||School profile||$$$$$|
|8||John Brown University||Siloam Springs||School profile||$$$$$|
Job Outlook for College Graduates in Arkansas
Earning a college degree in any state increases an individual’s earning potential in most fields. The average mean salary across all recognized professions in Arkansas is $45,530 annually. People who earn an online college degree in Arkansas often see their mean annual salary rise. For example, management professionals earn an average salary of $89,130 and professionals in engineering earn approximately $69,540 per year. With only a 3.8% unemployment rate in Arkansas, the career outlook is promising for college graduates of all levels in this state.
When searching for a career in Arkansas, it may be beneficial to look into some of the biggest industries in the state, such as agriculture, transportation, logistics, food production and manufacture, and timber/paper products. Examples of careers in these fields include general and operations management, farming and ranching, agricultural engineering, and soil and plant science. While bachelor’s and master’s degree-holders may have access to more roles, careers in these industries may also be accessible to students who have an associate degree from an online community college in Arkansas.
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Arkansas
AQHA Swayze Woodruff Memorial Mid-South Scholarship
This scholarship is available to an undergraduate or graduate student with a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5. Applicants must also be members of the AQHA for at least one year prior to applying.
Arkansas High-Tech Scholarship Program
Open to graduates of an Arkansas high school who are enrolled in, or planning to enroll in, a technical, post-secondary program in Arkansas.
NIADA Foundation Regional Scholarships
Applicants must have demonstrated undergraduate academic excellence. Criteria for acceptance varies by applicant.
Presbyterian Student Opportunity Scholarship
Offered by the Presbyterian Church of the United States. Applicants must be seeking their first degree and be enrolled in, or applying to, a full-time, four-year program.
Southern Automotive Women’s Forum Scholarship
Applicants must be a woman enrolling in a STEM degree at an accredited four-year or two-year institution. Applicants looking to enter the automotive field will be given priority.
Cornerstone Scholarship Charitable Trust
Targeted toward African-American students, applicants must be under the age of 25 and enrolled in, or applying to, an accredited vocational school, two-year college, or four-year university.
Bernie Varnadore Scholarship Program
Applicants must be a graduate from an Arkansas high school and have participated in a Dixie Boys Baseball Incorporated program.
Army ROTC Green to Gold Scholarship Program
Applicants must be enrolled in a two or four-year college and maintain an average GPA of 2.5 or higher. Scholarships are awarded for two, three, or four years.
ARNF Research Grants
Applicants must be a registered nurse in Arkansas and have graduated from a Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accredited program. Scholarship funds are awarded for applicants to pursue further licensure and research.
Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund
Applicants must be a single parent, currently living in Arkansas, and be considered economically disadvantaged. Funds are available to students seeking their first higher education degree.
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