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.

Find college admissions consultants in your state.

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.


What are Arkansas’s Colleges & Universities?

Arkansas’s Best Overall

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.

Arkansas's Best Public Colleges 2021 badge
Download Badge

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?

Methodology

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.

Best Public Colleges & Universities in Arkansas

  1. #1

    University of Arkansas

    Fayetteville , AR

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    68%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1210/26

    What is University of Arkansas known for?

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

    • Business
    • Law
    • Engineering
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Education
    • History
    • Literature
    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  2. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    12K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1116/24

    What is Arkansas State University known for?

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

    • Education
    • Business
    • History
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Engineering
    • Philosophy
    REQUEST INFO
  3. #3

    Henderson State University

    Arkadelphia , AR

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    34%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1044/21

    What is Henderson State University known for?

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

    • Education
    • History
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Nursing
    • Biology
    • Law

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  4. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1060/24

    What is University of Central Arkansas known for?

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

    • Education
    • Business
    • Philosophy
    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  5. Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Student body

    1K

    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
    • Biology
    • Nursing
    • Political Science
    REQUEST INFO
  6. Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    56%

    Graduation

    42%

    Student body

    7K

    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
    • Business
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • History
    • Communications
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  7. Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    69%

    Graduation

    43%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1067/21

    What is Southern Arkansas University known for?

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

    • Education
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • History
    • Computer Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Engineering
    • Medical
    • Social Work
    REQUEST INFO
  8. #8

    Arkansas Tech University

    Russellville , AR

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    98%

    Graduation

    44%

    Student body

    9K

    What is Arkansas Tech University known for?

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

    • Business
    • Education
    • History
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Chemistry
    • Criminal Justice
    • Communications
    • Earth Sciences
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  9. Tuition + fees

    $6K

    Graduation

    31%

    Student body

    5K

    What is University of Arkansas–Fort Smith known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Business
    • History
    • Education
    • Medical
    • Engineering
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Criminal Justice
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  10. Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    60%

    Graduation

    39%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    970/18

    What is University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff known for?

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

    • Education
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • Sociology
    • Computer Science
    • Communications
    • Criminal Justice

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO

Find the best public college for your interests

Resources for College-Bound Students