Arkansas’s Best Public Colleges & Universities of 2021

Public colleges and universities account for almost 75 percent of all undergraduate students in the U.S. The best public colleges in Arkansas provide broad access to reputable degree programs, affordable tuition, and sprawling educational communities.

Arkansas’s Best Public Colleges & Universities of 2021

Colleges and Universities in Arkansas

Colleges and universities in Arkansas are uniquely affordable, with just under half providing tuition rates of $9,000 or less. Included in this list are the state’s two largest universities, the University of Arkansas and Arkansas State University. Though students can find some overlapping degree programs at the two schools, each has its specialties. For example, students hoping to pursue degrees in architecture, agriculture, or business may want to consider the University of Arkansas, while those interested in biology, nursing, or political science may want to attend Arkansas State University.

Additionally, about one third of the schools in Arkansas have a religious affiliation. Student populations at these schools range from just under 200 students up to 5,000, and allow students to pursue degrees merging religious studies with fields like chemistry and history. While tuition at each of the state’s 12 private schools varies greatly, costing anywhere between $9,000 and $46,000, many of these colleges boast high graduation rates and small class sizes.

While Arkansas is perhaps best-known and loved for countless lakes, Hot Springs National Park, and the United States’ only active diamond mine. The Natural State houses many higher education institutes where students can earn associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in a full range of disciplines.

With so many affordable schools and competitive degree programs, students attending school in Arkansas have the luxury of combining their individual budget needs with their desired degree paths. For more information on attending school in Arkansas, check out some of the state’s top schools.

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What is a public college? And what is the difference between a private and public college?

Public and private colleges and universities operate under different business models — one is a private company with private funding; the other is owned by the state and receives both state and federal funding to operate. If you’re weighing the pros and cons of private vs. public college, consider that many public colleges provide diverse course offerings, influential professors, and an excellent return on your investment.

Public colleges are schools that receive most of their funding from tax revenues. As a result, the cost of a four-year degree at a public university is often lower than the equivalent cost at a private college — especially for students attending a public school in their home state. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average annual cost (tuition, fees, room and board for full-time students) at a four-year public university was slightly over $20,000. In contrast, private universities cost, on average, nearly $43,000 annually.

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The following list of Arkansas’s best public colleges and universities is composed entirely of schools offering four-year undergraduate degree programs. We’ve identified 10 public universities in Arkansas that satisfy the following three conditions:

  1. It must receive direct funding from the state.
  2. It must be fully accredited.
  3. Its graduation rate must be above 20%.
  4. Its offer a broad range of bachelor’s degree programs.

How do we determine Arkansas's best public colleges and universities?

The best colleges pound for pound!

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why, at the undergraduate level, we rank the best colleges and universities based on what we call Concentrated Influence. Concentrated Influence takes the combined influence score of a college or university’s top academic influencers (including faculty and alums) and divides it by the school’s total number of undergraduates.

Using concentrated influence gives small and mid-sized schools an opportunity to shine by taking away the size advantage of larger universities. A small school with proportionately more influential faculty than a large school, whose influence in absolute terms may be bigger, will nonetheless score higher in a concentrated influence ranking. Our approach highlights undergraduate schools that truly rank for excellence, regardless of size.

If you are serious about finding the best colleges and universities for a bachelor’s degree, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching and whether their graduates are themselves advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence.

Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Concentrated Influence provides a ranking that is free from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

Find out more about our ranking methodology here.

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Best Public Colleges & Universities in Arkansas

  1. University of Arkansas
    #1

    University of Arkansas

    #458 institution's overall influence
    #1356 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    24K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1195/26

    Fayetteville, AR

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    What is University of Arkansas known for?

    University of Arkansas's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Economics
    • Philosophy
    • Law
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Social Work
    • Chemistry
    • Political Science
    • Criminal Justice

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. Arkansas State University
    #2

    Arkansas State University

    #1449 institution's overall influence
    #1472 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    44%

    Student body

    13K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1113/24

    Jonesboro, AR

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    What is Arkansas State University known for?

    Arkansas State University's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Nursing
    • Medical
    • Education
    • History
    • Philosophy
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. Henderson State University
    #3

    Henderson State University

    #2398 institution's overall influence
    #841 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    91%

    Graduation

    33%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1054/22

    Arkadelphia, AR

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    What is Henderson State University known for?

    Henderson State University's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • History
    • Psychology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Political Science
    • Sociology
    • Business
    • Literature
    • Nursing
    • Education
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. University of Central Arkansas
    #4

    University of Central Arkansas

    #2557 institution's overall influence
    #1029 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    91%

    Graduation

    42%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/24

    Conway, AR

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    What is University of Central Arkansas known for?

    University of Central Arkansas's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Chemistry
    • Economics
    • Computer Science
    • Philosophy
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Psychology
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
    #5

    University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

    #1770 institution's overall influence

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Student body

    1K

    Little Rock, AR

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    What is University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences known for?

    University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Nursing
    • Biology
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. University of Arkansas at Little Rock
    #6

    University of Arkansas at Little Rock

    #1613 institution's overall influence
    #1043 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    28%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/21

    Little Rock, AR

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    What is University of Arkansas at Little Rock known for?

    University of Arkansas at Little Rock's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • Anthropology
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Chemistry
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Communications
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. Southern Arkansas University
    #7

    Southern Arkansas University

    #3251 institution's overall influence
    #1310 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    69%

    Graduation

    34%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1110/21

    Magnolia, AR

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    What is Southern Arkansas University known for?

    Southern Arkansas University's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Chemistry
    • Criminal Justice
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Business
    • Engineering
    • Social Work
    • History
    • Education
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. Arkansas Tech University
    #8

    Arkansas Tech University

    #9029 institution's overall influence
    #1227 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    90%

    Graduation

    37%

    Student body

    9K

    Russellville, AR

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    What is Arkansas Tech University known for?

    Arkansas Tech University's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Chemistry
    • Earth Sciences
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Political Science
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Business
    • Social Work
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. University of Arkansas – Fort Smith
    #9

    University of Arkansas – Fort Smith

    #8205 institution's overall influence
    #221 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $6K

    Graduation

    26%

    Student body

    5K

    Fort Smith, AR

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    What is University of Arkansas – Fort Smith known for?

    University of Arkansas – Fort Smith's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Chemistry
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Criminal Justice
    • Engineering
    • History
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
    #10

    University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

    #2288 institution's overall influence
    #1093 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    44%

    Graduation

    23%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    965/18

    Pine Bluff, AR

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    What is University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff known for?

    University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Social Work
    • Criminal Justice
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Communications
    • Nursing

    Most Influential Alumni

Find the best public college for your interests

Anthropology

Biology

Business

Chemistry

Communications

Computer Science

Criminal Justice

Earth Sciences

Economics

Education

Engineering

History

Law

Literature

Mathematics

Medical

Nursing

Philosophy

Physics

Political Science

Psychology

Religious Studies

Social Work

Sociology

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