A Guide to Online Colleges in Arkansas

Updated May 10, 2021 | BestCollegeReviews.org Staff

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Students can find much to enjoy in the state of Arkansas. The state is driven by a unique philosophy, which is centered around a person’s prosperity and fulfillment as an individual. This philosophy acts like a backdrop to the vibrant culture and history of Arkansas, dating back to before the Civil War. The state’s motto, Regnat populus, which translates into “The People Rule,” and its former nickname, “The Land of Opportunity” both imply this philosophy. The new nickname of Arkansas is “The Natural State,” and was coined due to the state’s extensive state park system, and robust natural resources. So students with a knack for outdoor adventure, will find Arkansas offers endless opportunity. Students will also be pleased to know that the state has earned national reputation for its continuous and enormous improvements in the area of its educational systems.

Arkansas has dedicated enormous resources in the past decade to developing its educational offerings. Education Week has praised Arkansas for its recent strides in student-centered policies, ranking the state in the top 10 of their “Quality Counts” set of state educational review rankings. Arkansas ranked consecutively starting in 2009, and was also placed in the top 5 states during 2012 and 2013. Through statewide reforms, Arkansas has become a leader in curricula designed specifically to prepare students for continuing education. These reforms have focused on positively rewarding professors for their students’ achievement, and for providing incentives for universities to prepare their students for successful careers. Evidencing this, Education Week rated Arkansas with an A in “Transition and Policy Making,” citing excellent progress in areas of early-childhood education, college preparation, and career readiness.

While one of the most notable perks of online education is the ability to complete schooling from anywhere, Arkansas offers a number of reasons for both residents and prospects to seek online education within its borders. For instance, in-state tuition is often applied to public schools that offer online programs. Also, many online programs require some face-to-face time, or more numerous support services at their brick and mortar locations. Intensive study experiences — often on the weekends or in several week long bouts — enable many online students to accelerate their time until graduation and reduce overall tuition costs. And a factor that can often make the most impact is that students seeking online education can drastically expand their educational options if they also look to hybrid degrees (degrees where coursework is completed partially online with required courses or events on campus). Finally, one of the most common stipulations in scholarships is that students be from a certain state or region, and so often more funds are available to students seeking degrees in-state.

Featured Online Schools

Top Public Offerings in Arkansas

Arkansas officials have gone to great lengths to improve the state’s educational infrastructure at both the pre- and post-secondary level. As such the majority of the state’s most reputable universities are public institutions that benefited from such statewide initiatives. Arkansas supports a large network of reputable public universities and colleges, many of which offer strong departments of distance education. Most notable among these are the state’s two major university systems: The Arkansas State University System and The University of Arkansas System. These two university systems and the programs they collectively offer account for a large portion of the state’s higher education opportunities. According to U.S. News & World Report, the flagship campus of the University of Arkansas System in Fayetteville ranked among the best public schools in the nation. The state’s remaining top public institutions are as follows: University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Arkansas Tech University, Henderson State University, Southern Arkansas University, University of Central Arkansas, and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. All of these schools offer numerous online degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate level, while some offer fully accredited online associate’s and even postgraduate programs.

Top Private Offerings in Arkansas

Arkansas is home to 11 private colleges and universities — among which is Hendrix College, one of the nation's top 100 liberal arts colleges. While much of Arkansas’ state funding and support has been directed towards its public institutions, the resulting competition has apparently driven many private schools to greater heights, particularly in the area of online education. John Brown University, Ecclesia College, and Remington College-Little Rock are great examples of this trend. While fewer in number than their public counterparts, these schools offer a number of nationally recognized online degrees at the undergraduate level. John Brown offers 2 fully online bachelor’s and 4 master’s degree options. Ecclesia College offers online programs at the associate, undergraduate, and graduate level. And while Remington College focuses on undergraduate online offerings instead of associate or doctorate options, it offers 7 online bachelor’s degrees — the most of any of the state’s private schools.

According to the American College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2016–2017 school year was $33,480 for students enrolled in private colleges, $9,650 for state residents in public colleges, and $24,930 for their out-of-state peers. A major plus for Arkansas students is that educational costs are lower than national averages across the board. For example, Arkansas’ in-state students in public universities pay an average of $8,247 while out-of-state students can expect to pay around $20,000. The 2015-16 average tuition cost for private colleges in Arkansas was $16,622. Though for non-residential students, there are also the factors of living expenses, which include housing, utilities, groceries, and other expenses associated with student life. The average cost of living for students throughout a 4 year program totals to about $11,000. Arkansas, however, offers living expenses 12% lower than the national average. So Arkansas students can look forward to impressive affordability both in the cost of their education and in the costs of living outside of their degree program.

Little Rock is the capital and the most populous city in Arkansas with a current population of around 200,000. Located at the heart of the state along the Arkansas River, Little Rock boasts a rich history as a hub for trade and travel dating back to the early 17th century. Today, Little Rock functions as a center for cultural, economic, government, and transportation both for the state of Arkansas and for the larger region of the southern U.S. As such, Little Rock demonstrates thriving markets across numerous industries and supports headquarters for many national and international corporations. And as the functional “heart” of the state, Little Rock also houses several of the state’s cultural and historical centers. Among these are the Arkansas Arts Center, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, and the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. Residents of Little Rock enjoy a very unique blend of metropolitan urban infrastructures with the outdoor wonders, and warm rural communities with no lack for professional opportunities in any category.

Fort Smith is a relatively small city compared to Little Rock with a population of just 86,209 and 68 square miles of city limits. The city, however, still ranks as the state’s second most populous city and is hailed as offering excellent living conditions — from a comfortable climate, to 316 acres of nationally acclaimed public park space within the city limits, to housing costs expenses 35% lower than the national average. According to the statistics of the Council for Community Economic Research (C2ER) and analysis by the Kiplinger Agency, Fort Smith ranks as the #1 cheapest place to live in the country. The report attributes this to Arkansas being a low-cost, low-tax state, and to Fort Smith’s fortuitous geographic location in the west of the state. The city also houses several major nationwide corporations and manufacturing plants. So the median household income of nearly $36,000 combined with city’s below-average living expenses make Fort Smith an ideal place to live for any student looking to make the most the of each dollar in a very well-reviewed city.

Fayetteville is the second most populous city in Arkansas totalling out at around 83,000. Fayetteville is home to the University of Arkansas, the state’s largest university, which impacts the city’s economy enormously. The city has received raving reviews in numerous categories. U.S. News ranked the city as the 23rd best place to live in the country, and one of the best places to retire in the South. Forbes also ranked the city as the 24th best city for businesses and careers in 2016, and Lonely Planet named it among its top places to visit in the South. The top employers in the city are in order: University of Arkansas, Washington Regional Medical center, Veterans Administration Medical, Washington County Government, and the Fayetteville School District. Fayetteville is by all accounts an excellent place to live for anyone, not to mention students, who can benefit even more from the thriving business markets, affordable living costs, and the city’s close relationship with the University of Arkansas.

The fourth-largest city in Arkansas, Springdale sports a population of about 70,000 with rapid growth in recent years, as indicated by the growth between 1990 and 2010 where there was a 133% growth in population. Alongside this growth was the breaking of ground at a new community college, a history museum, and a minor league baseball team. Nicknamed “The Poultry Capital of the World,” the city is home to Tyson Foods, the world’s largest meat producing company. Walmart and J.B. Hunt are two other Fortune 500 companies based in close proximity to the city. Besides Tyson, the city’s top employers are George’s, Springdale Public Schools, Cargill Meat Solutions, and Northwest Medical Center-Springdale. There are plenty of reasons to live in Springfield, but students interested in working with the any of the three Fortune 500 companies listed above may find it unbeatable.

Little Rock

Population: 197,357
Cost of Living: 0.964
Top Industries (Male): Retail trade; Health care and social assistance; Manufacturing; Accommodation and food services; and Construction
Top Industries (Female): Health care and social assistance; Educational services; Retail trade; and Public administration
Local Online Degrees: 44

Fort Smith

Population: 87,650
Cost of Living: 0.861
Top Industries (Male): Manufacturing; Retail trade; Health care and social assistance; Accommodation and food services; and Construction
Top Industries (Female): Health care and social assistance; Manufacturing; Educational services; Retail trade; and Accommodation and food services
Local Online Degrees: 16


Population: 78,960
Cost of Living: 0.921
Top Industries (Male): Educational services; Manufacturing; Retail trade; Health care and social assistance; and Construction
Top Industries (Female): Educational services; Health care and social assistance; Retail trade; Professional, scientific, and technical services
Local Online Degrees: 12


Population: 75,229
Cost of Living: 0.938
Top Industries (Male): Manufacturing; Construction; Retail trade; Wholesale trade; and Health care and social assistance
Top Industries (Female): Manufacturing; Healthcare and social assistance; Educational services; and Retail trade
Local Online Degrees: 9


Population: 71,551
Cost of Living: 0.889
Top Industries (Male): Manufacturing;
Retail trade;
Accommodation and food services;
Construction; and
Health care and social assistance
Top Industries (Female): Health care and social assistance; Educational services; Retail trade; Manufacturing; and Accommodation and food services
Local Online Degrees: 17


Population: 64,490
Cost of Living: 0.866
Top Industries (Male): Retail trade; Manufacturing; Construction; Educational services; and Accommodation and food services
Top Industries (Female): Health care and social assistance;
Educational services;
Retail trade;
Accommodation and food services;
Professional, scientific, and technical services
Local Online Degrees: 21

Pine Bluff

Population: 45,332
Cost of Living: 0.805
Top Industries (Male): Manufacturing; Educational Services; Transportation and Warehousing; Public Administration; and Retail Trade
Top Industries (Female): Health Care and Social Assistance; Educational Services; Retail Trade; Manufacturing; and Public Administration
Local Online Degrees: 6

The Best Online Colleges in Arkansas

1. University of Arkansas

Online Programs: 23
Type: Public

Founded in 1871 as the state’s land-institution, the University of Arkansas boasts many rich traditions tied with the history of both the and the university. Among these is the ‘Senior Walk’ where graduates walk more than 3 miles across campus on sidewalks where the names of more than 175,000 graduates are engraved — with some names dating back over 140 years. The University of Arkansas offers 23 total degree programs: 3 at the undergraduate level, 16 at the graduate level, and 4 doctoral degrees. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the university has having “the highest possible level of research,” which places it among the top 2 percent of colleges and universities nationwide. The University consistently ranks among the top public universities in the country.

2. University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

Online Programs: 23
Type: Public

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff was founded in 1890, and for over 140 years has worked to improve the learning environment it provides to its students. The University’s primary philosophy is to provide students with both the tool to most effectively learn within their chosen area of expertise, but to also prepare them to advance within the real world job market. To best accomplish this, online students are given numerous opportunities to engage in internship and research opportunities, engaging local businesses and research organizations so students can build their expertise with real world experience.

3. University of Central Arkansas

Online Programs: 15
Type: Public

The vision of the University of Central Arkansas is to provide the utmost as a public university and “to be a premier learner-focused public comprehensive university, a nationally recognized leader for its continuous record of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, scholarly and creative endeavors, and engagement with local, national, and global communities.” This mission is important because it underpins the design of its online degree programs. The University offers 14 fully accredited online bachelor’s degree programs and various master’s degrees. At both level these degree programs employ both curriculum and virtual technology to encourage students to collaborate with their peers and instructors to complete projects and work towards their goals. The University prides itself on emphasizing collegiality and constructive discourse both between peers and with instructors.

4. Arkansas State University-Main Campus

Online Programs: 13
Type: Public

Arkansas State University is a public institution that was founded in 1909, and today enjoys success as a well-reviewed institution serving over 14,000 students. Arkansas State University offers doctoral level education, and as such the majority of its online degree offerings are at the graduate level with 12 graduate degrees and 3 bachelor’s. Arkansas State University Main Campus serves as a hub for academic events and presentations, professional training, and research initiatives. So online students in the area can supplement their degree curriculum with on-the-ground learning experiences. The University as designed for these experiences to empower students with a professional network in the local and national community, so that they can hit the ground running upon graduation.

5. Henderson State University

Online Programs: 14
Type: Public

Founded in 1890, Henderson State University is a public institution that prides itself on tradition, history, and action-based philosophy. The University is relatively small, servicing about 3,500 undergraduates and close to 400 postgraduates. Henderson fervently applies the liberal arts philosophy, and regardless of the degree program, students are prepared for the increasingly global workplace, so that their skills transcend one job-type or profession. This philosophy, however, is central to the curriculum of Henderson’s online degree programs. Online degree program curriculums are student-centered with flexible projects and research projects, so that students employ interdisciplinary skills to build a highly versatile expertise. If the quality of graduates are a measure of success, then Henderson’s tactics are highly successful; having Arkansas governors, Medal of Honor recipients, Academy Award-winning screenwriters and actors, a former general and Chief of Staff, and a famous novelist among the ranks of its alumni.

6. John Brown University

Online Programs: 6
Type: Private

John Brown University (JBU) is a christian private institution founded in 1919 with a rich history in the higher education of Arkansas. Though it is committed to its Christian foundations, John Brown offers a interdenominational curriculum, so that students of all backgrounds can pursue spiritual development alongside their education. With just over 2,000 students, JBU offers a close-knit and collaborative learning environment where students truly work together and where instructors offer genuine investments to their students. JBU offers degrees in more than 40 areas of study with 2 fully online bachelor’s programs and 4 online master’s. Despites its quaint student body, JBU offers learning centers in Rogers, Little Rock, and Fort Smith. So regardless of student location, distance learners can participate in on-campus events including professional trainings, research conventions, and community-engaging projects.

7. Arkansas State University-Newport

Online Programs: 13
Type: Public

Arkansas State University-Newport is a member of the Arkansas State University System. Its mission is an ambitious one: “ASU-Newport provides an accessible, affordable, quality education that transforms the lives of our students, enriches our communities and strengthens the regional economy.” ASU-Newport offers a robust collection of online degrees. With three locations, students can take advantage of hybrid degrees, take tests with their peers, and participate in other on-campus events. Online degree programs are designed to genuinely prepare students for successful careers, and emphasize collaboration with fellow students and mentorship with instructors. Career training options also create enormous potential for online students, so that upon graduation they are prepared for the challenges of the real-world job market.

8. Arkansas Tech University

Online Programs: 11
Type: Public

Arkansas Tech University is a public institution founded in 1909 that is now one of the fastest growing universities in Arkansas. With one of the highest student retention averages in the country, Arkansas Tech has demonstrated the effectiveness of its student-centered approach. Arkansas Tech offers online degree programs at the associate, undergraduate, and graduate level. While its online programs offer the freedoms of distance education, Arkansas Tech has designed them to also offer numerous avenues for civic engagement, including internships, research projects, and community outreach.

9. Remington College-Little Rock Campus

Online Programs: 9
Type: Private

Remington College-Little Rock Campus is a private, non-profit institution that offers a career-oriented philosophy in both online associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs. While these programs cover a variety of topics, the most popular programs cover topics in business, management, marketing, criminal justice, and paralegal. These online degrees were designed to propel graduates forward in existing careers, or create success in entirely new careers. Remington College also offers a tuition freeze so that students will never pay an increased tuition price. The college also further demonstrates its career-oriented philosophy by reserving faculty employment only for those with actual career experience within their field of expertise. So students can take pride in learning from those with real-world experience concerning the job markets they are bound to enter.

10. Southern Arkansas University Main Campus

Online Programs: 8
Type: Public

Southern Arkansas University-Main Campus is the #1 fastest growing university in Arkansas, and according to the U.S. Department of Education, provides the highest return on investment. SAU-Main Campus was also found to be the 6th most affordable in the country. The University’s online programs are designed to engage students in various ways, so that students feel engaged throughout their time in the program. This means that students will explore course content in different mediums, fine-tune their interests through career-oriented electives, and work with peers on collaborative research projects. Online students in the area can also take advantage of the University’s impressive library with 152,000 books, 75 databases, and 12,000 full-text publications.

Monitoring the accreditation of a university you are interested in attending is incredibly important. Accreditation ensures your credits can transfer that you can receive Federal financial aid, and most importantly that certain standards of educational quality are during your schooling. The highest accreditation standard for most programs in the United States is provided by regional accreditation agencies. The regional accrediting agency for Arkansas is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, one of six regional accrediting agencies responsible for accrediting schools in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

Making sure that a University you're hoping to attend is regionally accredited — or accredited by a real and respected accrediting agency — is one of the most important choices you can make in ensuring the quality of your education.

Three Steps for Securing Financial Aid

  • Submit your FAFSA.
  • Check to see if additional forms are needed at your university of choice.
  • Search and apply for private scholarships.

Through the previous three steps most students find themselves offered some sort of federal grant, work study, private grant, scholarship, or stipend.

Great Arkansas Higher Education Resources

Fund My Future is a program for Arkansas students to plan out their entire college process, including scholarships and financial aid.

This program and its website are an excellent springboard for adult learners looking to jump back into academics after spending extended time away from traditional schooling. Adult students looking to earn their degrees may find this particularly useful.

IDEAS is an acronym for Internet Delivered Education for Arkansas Schools. The site is full of content relevant to both educators and students alike. Training videos, educational content, and information concerning state and national initiatives.

The Arkansas Department of Career Education is designed to serve youth, adults, and persons living with disabilities. The core mission of ACE is to oversee post-secondary education programs, and enhance their functionalities by providing additional resources to prepare students for their careers.

The Arkansas Department of Education’s website is more than just a website for school faculty members, it’s an excellent resource for aspiring educators and students seeking either learning resources or resources for assistance with their higher education experience.

The Arkansas Army National Guard Education and Incentive Benefits Program and Services is a program that can help you pursue your Associate, Bachelor, or Master’s degree at little to no cost. The program can also help interested students earn their technical certificates and licensures, making it an excellent resource for students interested in such opportunities.

Learning Media is a highly innovative project where Arkansas teachers and students alike can enjoy high-quality educational videos. These videos are excellent for any students who may have teaching responsibilities at some point in their degree program, or for any student looking to quickly brush up on a specific content area.

The Arkansas Department of Career Education-Adult Education program is designed to help adults progress through educational systems that they may feel out of touch with. Regardless of the situation, however, this program offers numerous resources for students progressing their education.

”Reaching Out from Farm to City:” From educational resources to scholarships, the Farm Bureau’s mission is to connect students with a greater understanding of the state’s agricultural industry, and to set interested students on the track to success within it.

If you’re an Arkansas single parent, then this program is an amazing resource for obtaining scholarships, financial aid, and other educational resources. And if you’re not a single parent there are also numerous opportunities to participate in supporting the program.

The Arkansas Leadership Academy employs a core mission that fosters equality and excellence in education. This program has been a primary component of the state’s recent strides in education systems performance and development. This website is the ideal springboard for seeking information or involvement in this program’s initiative.

The Arkansas Community Foundation is a perfect union between state and private funding, higher education, and local communities. The foundation provides numerous educational events, internship opportunities, and more.

This site is an excellent resource for any prospective students with Native American ancestry. Scholarships, financial aid, grants, and more are available throughout this site and its listed partners.

Arkansas Transition is a prestigious program serving the entire state of Arkansas through providing platforms for training, educational resources, and consulting services for students with disabilities so that they can successfully transition from school to school, or from school to the real world.

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