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 their online offerings each year. The result is a broad range of options for potential distance learners.
But before we dive into our list of the best online colleges in AR for 2016, let’s start with the state of higher education and online education in particular in Arkansas today.
A Brief Overview of Higher Education in Arkansas
In 2013, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that Arkansas had 52 degree-granting institutions, broken down as follows: 33 public schools, 14 nonprofits and 5 for-profits. The total number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the ’12-’13 school year at these schools was: 11,638 at public schools, 2,545 at private nonprofits and 135 at private for-profits.
- 33 public
- 14 non-profit
- 5 for-profit
Tuition-wise, the College Board found that, in the ’15-’16 school year, the average in-state tuition and fees for four-year public schools was $7,870, while the out-of-state average was $18,150. This affordable in-state tuition beats the rate of 35 other states, making Arkansas one of the more affordable options for degree seekers.
As for the state’s financial aid efforts, the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs (NASSGAP) reported that Arkansas awarded $8.3 million in need-based grants and $130.7 million in non-need grants for the ’13-’14 school year. Grants make up 13.9% of the state’s total fiscal support for higher education.
Further boosting programs and financial aid, Arkansas officials recently announced that the U.S. Department of Education Student Support Services Program is awarding $2 million in funding for Arkansas Higher Education. The funds will provide support for at least nine colleges and universities throughout the state.
The State of Online Higher Education in Arkansas
The NCES estimates that at least 9.2% of students enrolled in Arkansas’s Title IV institutions are in fully online programs. Of those, 71.8% were reported to be undergraduates and 85.2% were found to be living in Arkansas.
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, the 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.
Arkansas is also a member of the Southern Regional Education Board’s Electronic Campus, an initiative that lets students sift through an impressive directory of online programs throughout the southeast U.S. SREB also has strong aid initiatives. Services like the Academic Common Market/Electronic Campus and the Regional Contract Program for Health Professions let students fully enroll in a selection of out-of-state programs while paying in-state rates. While the program selection is small and the admissions criteria strict, for qualified students these are incredible opportunities.
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 out their 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 college and 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||Arkansas State University||Jonesboro||$$$$$||2105 E. Aggie Road|
Jonesboro, AR 72401
ASU, the second-largest university in Arkansas, is home to a diverse student body of more than 14,000 students. The school is a doctoral-level research institution offering more than 150 programs. There are also 150 student organizations; the college emphasizes learning outside the classroom, whether it be through real-world experience, participating in student activities, or involvement in the Leadership Center.
One of the university’s successful programs is A-State Online. This online offering is one of the oldest and most career-focused of online colleges in Arkansas, and it gives students the opportunity to earn the same credentials as they would through classroom learning. There are 11 online bachelor’s degrees offered, including business administration, criminology, and political science. Arkansas State faculty have experience in online teaching. Distance learners can chat with ASU staff for help with the admissions process, financial aid, advising, and more.
|2||Arkansas Tech University||Russellville||$$$$$||Administration Bldg 200; 1509 N Boulder Ave|
Russellville, AR 72801-2222
Arkansas Tech, located in Russellville, offers individual attention to each student. The university has one of the highest graduation rates in the state and nation. ATU currently enrolls over 12,000 students and employs more than 400 faculty members.
The university delivers a selection of degrees across seven colleges. They also offer options to traditional and nontraditional students through the College of eTech: ATU’s online component. Online programs, taught through Blackboard Learn, include associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. ATU is among online colleges in Arkansas to offer a specialist degree in educational leadership. The RN to BSN program can be completed in one-year. eTech offers support and training for students in choosing the right online courses. The school offers help with finding internships and employment through their career services. Students apply for the capstone course once they’ve earned about 60 credits. Credits earned are applied towards their degree.
|3||University of Arkansas at Little Rock||Little Rock||$$$$$||2801 S University Ave|
Little Rock, AR 72204
UA-Little Rock is a metropolitan research university located on 250 acres near the state’s capital. The school boasts over 100 academic programs – 22 of which are accredited online programs – and one of the most affordable tuition rates of online schools in Arkansas. Bachelor’s programs cover subject areas such as technical writing, management, nursing, and applied communication. Students can select from more than 450 courses available fully online through Blackboard. Students can also take advantage of online resources offered through UALR’s library, including research databases, scholarly journals, and ebooks.
UALR provides extra-curricular activities on campus, such as leadership opportunities, diversity programs, registered student organizations, and the Power of Women program. Students can explore campus life through the Fountain, UALR’s social media hub. Distance learners receive academic and technical support. The school offers master’s and certificate programs online.
|4||University of Central Arkansas||Conway||$$$$$||201 Donaghey Ave|
Conway, AR 72035-0001
Central Arkansas covers 356 acres in Conway, one of the most progressive cities in the state. The school is guided by three core values: academic vitality, integrity, and diversity. The university enrolls over 11,000 students each year into its 150 degree and certificate programs; 84 are undergraduate programs. The program are taught across six departments.
Central Arkansas’ online courses require no classroom attendance. UCA Online, one of the most flexible online colleges in Arkansas, has 24/7 technical support and state-of-the-art learning technologies. Central Arkansas is the only school in the state to offer a bachelor of science degree in addiction studies. Other bachelor’s programs include business information systems, elementary education, professional and technical writing, accounting, and more. All courses are offered through Blackboard. A Blackboard orientation is offered online for students new to online learning. Central Arkansas offers one undergraduate certificate in workplace Spanish.
|5||University of Arkansas||Fayetteville||$$$$$||Administration Building 425|
Fayetteville, AR 72701
Arkansas, located in Fayetteville, is a leading research institution and one of the best online colleges in Arkansas. It’s among the top 2% of universities worldwide. This is where Bill and Hillary Clinton began their careers as teachers. Arkansas offers over 210 academic programs, 52 of which can be studied exclusively online. The online programs offer the same depth and quality as on-campus study. There are five online bachelor’s programs to choose from: communication, interdisciplinary studies, general business, human resource and workforce development education, and nursing.
Students who visit the historic campus can enjoy several arts facilities: the Fine Arts Center, featuring the work of visiting artists, professors, and students; the Faulkner Center, which hosts theatrical performances, comedies, and musicals; and the Chi Omega Greek Theatre, which holds concerts and pep rallies. The campus is also a short drive from many of the popular outdoor amenities of Northwest Arkansas.
|6||John Brown University||Siloam Springs||$$$$$||2000 W University St|
Siloam Springs, AR 72761
John Brown is a leading Christian-focused online college in Arkansas, located in Siloam Springs. The school enrolls over 2,600 students from 37 nations and 40 states, making a diverse student body. Campus life includes clubs and activities, student ministries, athletics, and a substantial catalog of student services, and opportunities for international study.
John Brown offers graduate and undergraduate programs in over 40 subject areas. Its top five undergraduate programs (by enrollment) are engineering, nursing, graphic design, family & human services, and elementary education. The university offers four bachelor’s degrees completely online: business administration, liberal arts, management accounting, and psychology. Prospective students can preview a class through Demo Courses on the university’s Blackboard platform. John Brown also offers online master’s programs in higher education, leadership and ethics, collaborative design, and business administration. Four MBA’s are offered, each with a different focus.
|7||Central Baptist College||Conway||$$$$$||1501 College Avenue|
Conway, AR 72034
Central Baptist, located in Conway, is one of the top online schools in Arkansas, offering a Christ-centered educational experience. The college is a small, independent institution with a student population of just over 800 and a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio. The college provides an engaging, personalized experience with opportunities for students to participate in leadership or career development activities.
Central Baptist offers degrees in four academic divisions: humanities & arts, professional studies, natural & social sciences, and nontraditional programs. Nontraditional program are taught in hybrid, online and PACE (Professional Adult College Education) formats. Bachelor’s degrees offered through CBC’s online college include the bachelor of business administration and the bachelor of science in leadership & ministry. Both are taught in an accelerated format. Courses are offered through WebStudy. An associate in general education is also available online. The degree meets most undergraduate requirements and can be easily transferred within the school.
|8||Ecclesia College||Springdale||$$$$$||9653 Nations Dr|
Springdale, AR 72762
Ecclesia, located in Springdale, is one of the best online schools in Arkansas and is accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education. All courses are studied from a biblical perspective. The school offers eight online bachelor’s degrees, including biblical studies, christian leadership, business administration , political science, and more. The business administration program offers emphases in marketing and management. There are also online courses available for personal enrichment or to supplement other pursuits. Online students have access to electronic resources through the EC Online Library, the majority of which are free. Ecclesia also offers two online associate degrees and a teaching English as a second language certificate.
EC is committed to character development and academics; the school encourages hands-on experiences such as work learning programs, service learning, and internships. Ecclesia is one of only seven work learning colleges in America. There are many skill development opportunities for online students who get involved in face-to-face activities.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in Arkansas
Below you’ll find a list of online colleges in Arkansas sorted by lowest tuition rates.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||School Link||Cost|
|1||University of Arkansas - Fort Smith||Fort Smith||School profile||$$$$$|
|2||Harding University||Searcy||School profile||$$$$$|
|3||Arkansas Tech University||Russellville||School profile||$$$$$|
|4||University of Arkansas at Little Rock||Little Rock||School profile||$$$$$|
|5||Arkansas State University||Jonesboro||School profile||$$$$$|
|6||University of Arkansas||Fayetteville||School profile||$$$$$|
|7||Central Baptist College||Conway||School profile||$$$$$|
|8||John Brown University||Siloam Springs||School profile||$$$$$|
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Arkansas
Arkansas Governor’s Distinguished Scholars
This scholarship is open to freshmen entering college in Arkansas. To be eligible, students must have a minimum ACT score of 32 or SAT score of 1410. In addition, applicants must have either a minimum GPA of 3.5, or be a National Achievement/ Merit finalist. Funds are administered by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.
Arkansas Governor’s Scholars Award
A highly competitive academic scholarship, this award is granted annually to one graduating high school senior in each Arkansas county. Applicants must have a minimum ACT score of 27 or GPA of 3.5. Selection based on academic record, test scores, and leadership. Funds are provided by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.
Blue and Gold Scholarship
For freshmen entering Southern Arkansas University, the Blue and Gold Scholarship requires applicants to have a minimum composite ACT score of 24 to 26, or SAT equivalent. The award amount is determined by financial need, and may be up to $3,300 per semester.
Chancellor’s Merit Scholarship
Awarded to Merit finalists who name the University of Arkansas as 1st choice to the National Merit Corporation
Leadership Incentive Award
Open to freshmen entering Southern Arkansas University. Applicants must have a 3.25 GPA, a composite ACT of 20-23, and must be recommended by a high school principal, counselor or teacher. Recipient is expected to attend Leadership Academy in August prior to registration at the university.
Nontraditional Student Scholarship
Southern Arkansas University offers this scholarship to incoming students who graduated from high school five or more years ago, and have completed at least one semester of college coursework. To be eligible, students must have a GPA of 2.75 or higher. This award is renewable for one semester.
For freshmen entering the University of Arkansas. Applicants must have a composite ACT score of 30 or higher, or be a National Merit Competition finalist or semi-finalist.
Top 10% Scholarship
This scholarship is available to freshmen entering Southern Arkansas University. Applicants must be in the top 10% of their graduating high school class, and have a composite ACT score of 19 to 23. Award amount is determined by financial need, up to $3,300 per semester.
This scholarship is open to freshmen entering the University of Southern Arkansas. The scholarship amount is determined based on the amount of other aid the recipient qualifies for. Maximum award is $4,500 per semester. A composite ACT score of 27-29 (or SAT equivalent) is required.
This award is for entering freshmen at Southern Arkansas University who were valedictorians or salutatorians of their graduating high school class. Composite ACT score of 19-23 is required.
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