20 Best Colleges in Arkansas

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Arkansas is home to dozens of renowned universities and colleges that graduate an impressive number of successful students across industries, from healthcare and technology to education, government, and non-profit.

Reasons for this are multitude, but primarily anchored in the state’s commitment to student development.

In the last few years alone, Arkansas has allocated over $714 million annually to the state’s higher education system. It also recently passed legislation to assist with student transfer credits and to add an additional 7 million in scholarship aid. Additionally, Arkansas residents as well as non-residents have the opportunity to participate in the unique Arkansas 529 plan, a state-wide operation that helps parents and grandparents save money for their students’ academic futures.

Top 10 Best Colleges in Arkansas

Rank School Location
1 University of Arkansas-Main Campus Fayetteville, AR
2 Hendrix College Conway, AR
3 Lyon College Batesville, AR
4 Ouachita Baptist University Arkadelphia, AR
5 University of Arkansas at Little Rock Little Rock, AR
6 Arkansas State University Jonesboro, AR
7 Henderson State University Arkadelphia, AR
8 Southern Arkansas University Magnolia, AR
9 University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Pine Bluff, AR
10 Central Baptist College Conway, AR

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Finally, in the next few years Arkansas students will see a dramatic change in higher education by way of the Closing the Gap 2020 program, a plan that seeks to increase the post-secondary education rate in the state. The Top Online Programs in Arkansas will play a role as well in the increasing digital age we’re living in. With these initiatives and more, it is projected that college graduation rates will rise 10 percent, enrollment of adult students (ages 25-54) will rise by 75 percent, the attainment rates of undeserved student groups will rise 10 percent, and 25 percent of state scholarship funds will go directly to need-based programs. These state-issued commitments to accessible and affordable education that prepares students to be successful leaders in their communities makes Arkansas a great place to earn a degree.

Best Colleges in Arkansas Badge

What are the Best Colleges and Universities in Arkansas?

Whether they are large research institutions with several campuses and facilities, or small, intimate liberal arts colleges, the following schools all share one thing in common: they’re the best in the state. We’ve collected substantive data from schools across the state to arrive at a definitive list of Arkansas’ best colleges and universities. We looked at the rates of student retention and tuition costs, the opportunities for student involvement and advancement, as well as the academic reputation of each university, college, and tech school to present you with those schools that will simultaneously give you the best academic and professional development experience at an affordable, accessible rate. Our figures and information come from the university and colleges’ websites, PayScale, Arkansas Department of Higher Education, and nationally recognized U.S. News & World Report and The National Center for Education Statistics.

Rankings

See our rankings methodology page.

  1. University of Arkansas-Main Campus
    Location

    Fayetteville, AR

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The University of Arkansas, also known as U of A, UARK, UA, or “The Hill”, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, was founded in 1871 under the Morrill Land-Grant Acts of 1862. It is the first public university in Arkansas as a land-grant, space-grant top tier research university – the flagship campus of the University of Arkansas System with additional locations in Little Rock, Monticello, Pine Bluff, Fort Smith and the Medical Sciences. Its campus sits on a former hilltop farm that includes two arboreta and panorama of the Ozark Mountains.

    Features

    Today, the university reaches more than 27,000 students from all 50 states and over 120 countries pursuing over 210 various degree programs from undergraduate to doctoral programs. Outside the classroom, over 74% of the student body lives off campus. Students enjoy an array of student organizations and NCAA Division I games. Inside the classroom, the student-faculty ratio is 19 to 1 and nearly 50% of the classes have less than 20 students. Top undergraduate programs include:

    • Business
    • Marketing
    • Engineering
    • Health Professions
    • Social Sciences

    Notables

    Since its inception, the University of Arkansas’ focus is students. You can see this on campus with the Senior Walk that bears the names of over 175,000 graduates. It is literally concrete proof that they stand behind their students.

  2. Hendrix College
    Location

    Conway, AR

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Hendrix College was founded in 1876 in Conway, Arkansas, by the United Methodist Church members. It was named Hendrix after Rev. Eugene Russell Hendrix, the presiding Bishop over three Arkansas Methodist conferences. Today, Hendrix College is a 4-year, private, residential, co-ed liberal arts college with a passion for STEM disciplines on 175 acres. It is recognized to be one of the top “up and coming” liberal arts colleges for its “best and most innovative” curriculum and commitment to engaged learning.

    Features

    Today, Hendrix serves 1,327 undergraduates. About 85% live on campus and participate in over 70 student organizations and attend NCAA Division III sports. Inside the classroom, students pursue over 33 undergraduate majors and over 73% of their classes have less than 20 students. The student-faculty ratio is 12-to-1. This makes the average class size 16 students. The top 5 Majors include:

    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
    • Economics & Business
    • Interdisciplinary Studies

    Notables

    Hendrix is one of the top 30 higher education institutions whose graduates earn doctorates. That is will ahead of Ivy League schools such as Duke, Dartmouth, John Hopkins, Harvard, Yale and Stanford. Another accolade includes their Phi Beta Kappa Honors chapter and their Odyssey Program. The Odyssey Program requires the completion of 3 experimental learning projects in the arts, global serve or special projects living up to their motto – ‘Unto the Whole Person’.

  3. Lyon College
    Location

    Batesville, AR

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Lyon College was founded in 1872 in Batesville, Arkansas, on 136 acres in the foothills of the Ozarks. Today, it is known as the oldest higher education institution in Arkansas and regularly recognized as a top-rated institution by the Princeton Review, Washington Monthly and US News & World Report. This selective 4-year institution is also recognized for recruiting and graduating the highest percentage of low income students within the state.

    Features

    Lyon takes great pride in their Scottish Heritage. They offer 15 undergraduate degrees. There are over 60% of the classes with less than 20 students and a student-faculty ratio of 8-to-1. Outside the classroom, students can join student organizations, NAIA sports activities or learn how to play a bagpipe. Over 75% of the students live on campus. Top programs include:

    • Biology & Biological Sciences
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Social Sciences
    • Visual & Performing Arts

    Notables

    Lyon’s Scottish Mascot and their own distinctive crimson and navy blue tartan are now registered in the Scottish tartans in Scotland. However, the local area is known for their Scottish festivals in Spring and Summer –bands, Highland Dancing, heavy athletics, and sheep dog demonstrations are just some of festival activities that you will find. Lyon states that if you are not Scottish when you arrive to campus, you definitely will when you leave.

  4. Ouachita Baptist University
    Location

    Arkadelphia, AR

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Ouachita Baptist University was founded in 1886 by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. The 200-acre campus is in Arkadelphia, Arkansas with the banks of the Ouachita River forming the outer boundary. Arkadelphia is located 65 miles southwest of Little Rock. Today, the school is known for its passion for God, dedication to its students and the positive impact they have on the local community and their graduates. Most alumni graduate with less debt than the national average.

    Features

    Ouachita serves over 1,500 students at its private, liberal arts institution. Inside the classroom, students have an average class size of 17 with a student faculty ratio of 13 to 1. Over 60% of the classes will have less than 20 students. Outside the classroom, students can attend NCAA Division II athletic team events, engage with student groups and residential life. Please note: all students under the age of 22 are required to live in campus-owned residences. Top majors include:

    • Biological & Biomedical Sciences
    • Business
    • Theology
    • Visual & Performing Arts
    • Education

    Notables

    One of the top traditions at Ouachita Baptist University is their tradition of service. Every semester, the college celebrates a Tiger Serve Day. Hundreds of students gather on a Saturday morning so that the campus community can support local community by painting, yard cleanup, or assistance with moving items. Since 1997, Ouachita has volunteered over 80,000 hours during these events.

  5. University of Arkansas at Little Rock
    Location

    Little Rock, AR

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The University of Arkansas at Little Rock was founded in 1927 in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was originally created to be a junior college for the local community. Since that time, the campus has expanded to be a full-fledged university located in midtown district of Little Rock near the Coleman Creek Greenway and the Trail of Tears Park. Today, the university has a total of 350 acres that includes the baseball field, Benton Center and School of Law.

    Features

    At University of Arkansas at Little Rock, students can pursue over 170 different academic programs: 10 doctoral, 44 masters, 31 graduate certificates, 4 specialty degrees, 61 bachelors, 11 associate and 12 undergrad certificates. At the undergraduate level, there are over 9,500 undergraduate students. Inside the classroom, the student-faculty ratio is 14 to 1 and over 66% of the classes have less than 20 students. Outside the classroom, students can engage with other students through the student organizations, Greek life and NCAA Division I sports. The top majors include:

    • Business
    • Health Professions
    • Homeland Security & Protective Services
    • Psychology
    • Biological & Biomedical Sciences

    Notables

    The Carnegie Foundation regularly recognizes UALR as one of the 115 US colleges and universities with a high community engagement focus. University of Arkansas at Little Rock does this by continually reaching out to local businesses, non-profits and other groups have a quality workforce and the local support to be successful.

  6. Arkansas State University
    Location

    Jonesboro, AR

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Arkansas State University (“A-State” or “ASU”) was founded in 1909 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, as a regional agricultural training school to teach agriculture, horticulture and the art of textile manufacturing. Soon after, the school expanded to undergraduate and graduate degrees. The Jonesboro, Arkansas, campus is the flagship campus of the Arkansas State University system with cutting-edge research capabilities on over 1,400 acres.

    Features

    Today, ASU provides over 14,000 students the opportunity to study over 160 different degrees and certificates in Jonesboro. 9,500 of those students are undergraduates. Outside the classroom, students can participate in over 165 student organizations, 20 Greek life organizations, 7 fraternity chapter houses, five sorority houses, and NCAA Division I sports. Inside the classroom, students enjoy nearly 50 of their classes with less than 20 students and a 17-to-1 student-faculty ratio. Top undergraduate majors include:

    • Liberal Arts & Sciences
    • Humanities
    • Health Professions
    • Education
    • Psychology

    Notables

    ASU is the second largest university in Arkansas. Jonesboro is the 5th largest city in Arkansas. These two qualities provide plenty of opportunities for their students to pursue internships, careers or to enjoy the local culture. Jonesboro is 1-hour from Memphis Tennessee; 2-hours from Little Rock, Arkansas; and 4-hours from St. Louis, Missouri, and Nashville, Tennessee.

  7. Henderson State University
    Location

    Arkadelphia, AR

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Henderson State University was founded in 1890 in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, by the local Methodist congregation and their minister, Reverend John McLaughlin, a Confederate States Army veteran. The university is named after Charles Christopher Henderson, a school Trustee and a prominent Arkadelphia Businessman. Today, Henderson State University is Arkansas’ public liberal arts university revered as “The School with a Heart” that provides a lifetime of intellectual and personal growth for students’ academic and career pursuits by integrating professional studies and the liberal arts.

    Features

    Henderson State University supports the academic pursuits of over 3,500 students pursuing over 75 undergraduate and graduate programs. Inside the classroom over 40% of the classes have less than 20 students and a 16 to 1 student-faculty ratio. Outside the classroom, students can participate in Greek Life, student organizations or attend a NCAA Division II game. However, it is important to remember that over 50% of the attending students live off campus. Top majors include:

    • Business
    • Education
    • Liberal Arts & Sciences
    • Psychology
    • Visual & Performing Arts

    Notables

    Arkadelphia is a small town in southwest Arkansas. It is 35 miles from Hot Springs and 8 miles from DeGray Lake Resort State Park. It might be a rural, small area; but, it has a made a huge impact on the community. Henderson State University offers the only bachelor program in the state for aviation. The need is so great that anyone who graduates from the program has guaranteed interviews with major airlines.

  8. Southern Arkansas University
    Location

    Magnolia, AR

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Southern Arkansas University was founded in 1909 as an agricultural school on the northern edge of Magnolia, Arkansas. However, by 1950s, the school expanded into bachelor degrees. Today, Southern Arkansas University – Main campus is located on over 1,400 acres. Its continual growth has named it the fastest growing, affordable university in Arkansas.

    Features

    Today, Southern Arkansas University has over 4,100 students pursuing over 80 degrees. Students can participate in over 100 student organizations, Greek life, or attend NCAA Division II sports teams. Inside the classroom, the students are 17 to 1 student teacher ratio and over 40% of the classes have less than 20 students. Top majors include:

    • Business
    • Education
    • Biological & Biomedical Sciences
    • Health Professions
    • Psychology

    Notables

    Magnolia, Arkansas is a beautiful small town of 11,000 people. Every May they have their Magnolia Bloom Festival. However, if you missed the festival, there are plenty to do in Lake Columbia – on the largest fish and animal reserves in southern Arkansas.

  9. University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
    Location

    Pine Bluff, AR

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff is a historically black college founded in 1890 to educate teachers. Today, it is the second oldest public institution and one of the state’s land-grant institutions. As the area grew, the college shifted course in 1972 and became part of the University of Arkansas system in south central Arkansas. Today, the Pine Bluff location continues to serve students as they seek and fulfill their own potential. Additional locations are found in Lonoke, Newport and Lake Village to ensure all students have access to these programs.

    Features

    The University of Arkansas at Pine Buff supports over 2545 undergraduates. Outside the classroom, students can join over 90 organizations or attend NCCA I athletic games. Over 48% of the students live on campus. Inside the classroom, over 53% of the classes have less than 20 students. The student-faculty ratio is 15-to- 1. Top majors include:

    • Criminal Justice & Safety Studies
    • Biology & Biological Sciences
    • Business Administration
    • Physical Education

    Notables

    University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff has engaged the following institutions to make education as schedule and budget friendly as possible to their students: Arkansas Research and Education Optical Network (ARE-ON), National Science Foundation (NSF) and Arkansas Louis Stoke Alliance for Minority Participation (ARK-LSAMP). These institutions include tools to support all students pursue STEM or other programs in pursuit of their own dreams.

  10. Central Baptist College
    Location

    Conway, AR

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Central Baptist College was originally founded 1891 by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention in Conway, Arkansas. However, by 1947, the school closed. In 1952, the campus property was purchased by the Missionary Baptist Association and opened their doors in 1952 as what we know as Central Baptist College. Today, the college has grown continually while remaining true to the Baptist history and traditions.

    Features

    Today, Central Baptist College serves over 881 undergraduate students towards finishing their degrees. Over 80% of the classes will have less than 20 students. Students can build a strong connection with their faculty since the student-faculty ratio is 12-to-1. Top majors include:

    • Bible & Biblical Studies
    • Organizational Behavior Studies
    • Psychology
    • General Studies

    Notables

    Conway, Arkansas is the regional shopping, educational, work, healthcare, sports, and cultural hub for Faulkner County and surrounding areas. The city of Conway has grown tremendously due to jobs in technology and higher education employers like Acxiom, the University of Central Arkansas, Hewlett Packard, Insight Enterprises, and many other technology startup companies.

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