Arkansas is setting its sights high when it comes to higher education.
In the past, Arkansas has been successful in recruiting and enrolling college students, but graduation rates have been low. To help encourage degree completion, the state has set a long-term objective of reaching 60% post-secondary attainment by 2025. Their stepping stone plan, “Closing the Gap 2020,” focuses on shorter-term goals, such as:
- Improving college readiness
- Reducing remedial enrollment
- Concentrating on adults and underserved populations
- Improving affordability
One significant step in the right direction was the new funding formula that links college and university funding to performance measures such as graduation rates, rather than enrollment numbers.
These ambitious goals and significant changes make it clear that Arkansas values higher education and wants to see students succeed.
Overview of Higher Education in Arkansas
The state of Arkansas has 53 degree-granting institutions for students to choose from, according to a 2018-2019 report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Of the 53, 33 are public, 18 are non-profit and 2 are for-profit institutions.
Data from the NCES shows the average cost of tuition and fees at a 4-year public institution is $8,391 for Arkansas residents and $20,825 for those out of state. Both are below the national average.
The Arkansas Division of Higher Education (ADHE) serves as the administrative staff for the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The ADHE is a 12-member team that works closely with the state’s public colleges and universities. They review academic programs, administer state financial aid programs, review and make recommendations about institutional budgets, and collect data on academic programs.
The ADHE also works with the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), a 15-state collaboration focused on sharing resources and initiatives to improve higher education. Through this organization, Arkansas residents are able to pursue degrees at participating states and pay in-state rates.
About Online Colleges in Arkansas
Sometimes college students drop out because it’s difficult to balance school, work, and family. Online programs provide a convenient alternative, allowing students to fit classes in when their schedules allow.
According to 2018 data from the NCES, 13.5% of Arkansas undergraduate students are enrolled in fully online degree programs. Another 24.6% participate in a hybrid of online and on-campus classes.
The University of Arkansas, for example, offers around 40 online undergraduate and graduate degree programs, as well as a number of certifications, specialist,s and licensure programs. US News and World Reports has consistently ranked the school among the “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs,” and many of the school’s online graduate programs have been recognized as well!
Likewise, students at Arkansas State University can choose from online programs in nearly any field — liberal arts, business, criminal justice, nursing, and education. There are online programs at the certificate, undergraduate and graduate level, as well as degree completion opportunities.
But robust online education offerings aren’t exclusive to large public universities. Private schools offer online and hybrid learning options, too.
Harding College, a private Christian institution, offers 10 completely online programs, primarily at the master’s degrees and certifications.
Ouachita Baptist University has online undergraduate programs in Christian studies, interdisciplinary studies, nursing, and organizational leadership.
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Arkansas
There is plenty of financial aid available to college students in Arkansas.
First, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The FAFSA gives you access to all kinds of aid – federal, state, and private! The money is awarded to applicants on a first-come, first-served basis, so be sure to apply right away. The application will be available to you on October 1st of the year before you plan to attend.
To complete the FAFSA, you will need to provide income, assets, taxes, and other financial information for you and your parents (unless you’re considered “independent”). This information will be used to determine how much and what kinds of financial aid are offered to you.
The ideal type of financial aid is a grant or scholarship, which is money that does not have to be repaid. This aid is often awarded to those who demonstrate financial need or academic excellence but may also be given out based on intended major, geographic region, specific achievements or talents, etc.
Here are some grants and scholarships available to Arkansas residents:
|Grant/Scholarship Name||Details||Grant/Scholarship amount|
|State Teacher Education Program (STEP)||Yearly loan repayment to Arkansas public school educators teaching a subject or in a geographic area with a shortage of teachers||Up to $4000 per year / Up to 3 years|
|Teacher Opportunity Program (TOP)||Reimbursement opportunity for teachers and administrators opting to further their education||Covers out-of-pocket tuition and fees paid up to $3000 per year|
|Arkansas Health Education Grant (ArHEG)||Available to students pursuing degrees in chiropractic medicine, dentistry, optometry, podiatric medicine, or veterinary medicine||In-state tuition rates at out-of-state schools|
|Workforce Challenge Scholarship||Available to high school graduates pursuing workforce training in high demand areas of healthcare, information technology, and industry||Cost of certificate/program up to $800|
|Arkansas Future Grant (ArFuture)||Available to students seeking certificates or Associate degrees in science, technology, engineering and/or math or regional high demand areas of study||Covers public school tuition and fees|
|Academic Challenge Scholarship||Open to residents graduating high school, already attending college, or returning to school; No academic requirements||Graduated schedule of award|
|Governor’s Distinguished Scholarship||Graduating seniors who scored 32 or better on the ACT and 1410 or better on the ACT and have at least a 3.50 GPA||Pays tuition, fees, room and board up to $10,000 per year|
You can find more information about the scholarships above as well as scholarships for dependents of law enforcement officers, military dependents, single parents, and more on the ADHE website.
To search for others, try using scholarship search websites such as Fastweb.com. The college(s) you are interested in is another great resource, as schools often have their own financial aid programs. The financial aid office can tell you about those.
Finally, be sure to check out Arkansas’s state-wide college planning tool, “Fund My Future.” This is a free resource providing scholarship searches, FAFSA assistance, financial aid checklists, scholarship application tips and so on. Many of these tools are available to the public already, but the information provided here is specific to Arkansas students and organized on one site.
List of Online Colleges in Arkansas
|Online Colleges in Arkansas||Location||Annual Tuition||Accreditation||Application Fee|
|University of Central Arkansas||Conway, Arkansas||$8,224||Regional||$25|
|University of Arkansas||Fayetteville, Arkansas||$8,820||Regional||$40|
|Arkansas State University||Jonesboro, Arkansas||$8,200||Regional||$15|
|University of Arkansas – Little Rock||Little Rock, Arkansas||$8,061||Regional||$40|
|Southern Arkansas University||Magnolia, Arkansas||$8,196||Regional||$0|
|Harding University||Searcy, Arkansas||$18,635||Regional||$50|
|John Brown University||Siloam Springs, Arkansas||$25,324||Regional||$25|
The higher education options in Arkansas are excellent, and they’re set to get even better!
The funding to restructure and their ambitious goals for degree attainment prove that Arkansas is committed to helping college students complete their degrees and achieve long-term success.