To be included in our ranking of the best colleges for online degree programs, all colleges had to meet the following five criteria:
- Be an accredited U.S. institution
- Offer either 2- or 4-year degree programs
- Have at least 1 percent of students taking at least some of their classes via distance education
- Be active in the 2015-16 school year
- Report data for all 15 specific ranking variables included in our methodology
We then ranked the remaining 2,169 colleges and universities and scored each on a 100-point scale on these specific. Our data points include:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- The average amount of federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid awarded to undergraduate students, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Full-time Retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students participating fully or partially in distance education to total enrollment, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- No. of degree programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2013-14
- Open admissions policy for all or most entering first-time undergraduate-level students, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Dual credit
- Credit for life experience
- Advanced Placement credit
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Offers credit for military training
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- 2017 Annual Report On Wages Earned By Arizona University System Graduates, Arizona Board of Regents,https://www.azregents.edu/sites/default/files/public/2017%20Wages%20of%20Graduates.pdf
- 2017 Arizona "Year In Review", Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, Office of Education, 2017,https://azgovernor.gov/annualreport,accessed June 2018
- Achieve Prosperity, The Arizona Board of Regents,https://www.asu.edu/dashboard/DashboardDocs/arizona-higher-education-enterprise.pdf, accessed September 2018
- Application Requirements, Central Arizona College,https://centralaz.edu/admissions/application-process/application-requirements/, accessed June 2018
- A Stronger Nation, Lumina Foundation,http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/2018/#state/AZ, accessed June 2018
- Arizona Long-Term Occupation Employment Projections: 2014-2024, Office of Economic Opportunity,https://laborstats.az.gov/sites/default/files/documents/files/LT_OccProjReport_format.pdf, accessed June 2018
- Arizona Minority Student Progress Report 2018, Seventh Edition, Arizona Minority Education Policy Analysis Center,https://highered.az.gov/sites/default/files/AMEPAC%202018%20Report.pdf, accessed June 2018
- Arizona Student Financial Aid Programs,https://azgrants.az.gov/, accessed June 2018
- Arizona Quick Facts from the US Census Bureau, United States Census Bureau,https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/az,US/PST045217, accessed June 2018
- Attainment, Expect More Arizona,https://www.expectmorearizona.org/progress/attainment/?region=Arizona, accessed June 2018
- Changing the Game, Arizona Industries, Arizona Commerce Authority, https://www.azcommerce.com/industries/, accessed September 2018
- Explore Our Degrees, Northern Arizona University,http://pl.nau.edu/ExploreOurDegrees.aspx, accessed September 2018
- Growth on the Horizon: Arizona's 30-Year Outlook, Arizona's Economy, https://www.azeconomy.org/2017/09/outlook/growth-on-the-horizon-arizonas-30-year-outlook/, accessed June 2018
- Internet Course Exchange (ICE) Initiatives,https://www.wiche.edu/ice/initiatives, accessed September 2018.
- Making Digital Learning Work, Success Strategies from Six Leading Universities and Community Colleges, March 2018,https://edplus.asu.edu/sites/default/files/BCG-Making-Digital-Learning-Work-Apr-2018%20.pdf
- National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, http://nc-sara.org/, accessed September 2018
- New study indicates less than half of Arizona's high-school graduates eligible for admission to Arizona's public universities, Arizona Board of Regents Insights, 2015, http://www.azregents.edu/insights/new-study-indicates-less-half-arizona%E2%80%99s-high-school-graduates-eligible-admission-arizona%E2%80%99s
- Phillips, M., personal communication, August 29, 2014
- QM Member Institutions / Organizations, Quality Matters, https://www.qmprogram.org/qmresources/subscriptions/subscribers.cfm?program=0#, accessed September 2018
- Short-Term Industry & Occupation Employment Projections 2017-2019, Office of Economic Opportunity,https://laborstats.az.gov/sites/default/files/documents/files/ST_Projections.pdf, accessed June 2018
- Trends in Student Aid 2017,https://trends.collegeboard.org/, accessed September 2018
- UA Online: All This and Science, too, https://uanews.arizona.edu/story/ua-online-all-and-science-too, accessed September 2018
Arizona's achievements in online education are like no other state. From 2015 to 2017, online enrollment in the University of Arizona saw a 280 percent growth year-over-year. About 30,000 of its students in 2017 never stepped on campus. Through such strategies and more, the 125 colleges and universities in Arizona, many of which offer online programs, hope to increase education attainment to meet the needs of its growing workforce that is hungry for college graduates.
With such a strong focus on online higher education, entering Arizona's virtual classrooms can be a top-tier academic experience. If you are fresh out of high school, a professional, or an at-home parent wanting to go back to school to complete your education, online programs can offer the flexibility and convenience you are looking for. And the state of Arizona has set its mark on helping you succeed as an online student.
Why Earn an Online Degree in Arizona?
Arizona has more than 1,200 aerospace and defense companies, excels in tech and innovative industries, and is home to industry giants such as Intel, Microchip, Honeywell, Frito Lay and JDL Software, among others. The state has one of the fastest-growing biosciences industries in the country. The stable climate favors more than 50 major data centers and, with near year-round sunshine and scenic locations, it's a paradise for filmmakers.
With such a growing economy, job growth in this state is projected to outpace the national average of 1.7 percent. Mitsu Phillips, the Associate Provost of the mentoring department at Western Governors University, an online school with an office located in Phoenix, says that online schools can be a great choice for students who want to pursue careers in the state. And although there was skepticism about the legitimacy of online degrees in years past, she says that employers are increasingly coming to appreciate the skills and knowledge that online school graduates bring to the table.
"Employers should be particularly excited about someone who has been able to navigate through their education using current technology to complete their degree," she says. "Companies want to hire someone with that technological aptitude, and, in my opinion, students don't necessarily get that at a traditional institution."
Employment opportunity can be a good reason to earn an online degree in Arizona, but take a look at a few more reasons why earning an online degree in Arizona can be worthwhile:
The future workforce needs more college graduates. According to the Lumina Foundation, although Arizona has a college attainment rate at 49.7 percent, which is higher than the nation's average at 46.9 percent, it has a long way to go before it meets its ambitious goal of 60 percent. By 2020, nearly 7 out of 10 of all jobs in Arizona will require some form of education after high school.
According to a 2013 Georgetown University study, by 2020, the composition of the job market in Arizona may look like this:
- 39 percent of the future workforce may require some college, an associate degree or a postsecondary vocational certificate
- 21 percent may require a bachelor's degree
- 9 percent may require a master's degree or higher
Expanding online degree options. The Arizona Board of Regents reports that colleges across the state are working on expanding online degree options, as well as creating more hybrid degree programs that will reduce the achievement gap and the cost of earning a degree — two issues that the Board has been actively working to remedy.
Arizona is a part of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE. The WICHE Internet Course Exchange (ICE) program enables students to access high-quality online courses and degree programs, not offered in their state, but offered by two- and four- year member institutions in other states.
Flexibility. It's not surprising that Arizona educators are working to expand the reach of online schools, considering the numerous benefits students can reap from obtaining their degrees online. Phillips explains it this way, "When you attend an online school, you get expanded access to your coursework, you're able to work independent of time, and you're not tied to a seat or tied to a brick and mortar campus."
Wider networking. Phillips has this to say, "You get the experience of interacting with students from all over the country, not just those in your classroom, so you expand your reach to people in different places. You also have the benefit of enhancing your communication skills through technology."
Convenience. Online education is particularly attractive to Arizona residents because of the commute generally associated with traveling back and forth to a brick-and-mortar institution. According to Philips, "The ability to get from one place to another in Arizona isn't always easy since you're working through traffic and you're working through one of the most populated cities in the country," she adds. "Taking advantage of distance education and being able to save money and work is a pretty great option in the state of Arizona."
Wages tend to increase with higher education. A study by Arizona's Board of Regents (ABOR) has shown that Arizonans with an undergraduate degree earn a median wage that is about 82 percent more than individuals with a high-school diploma; while individuals with a graduate degree earn 23 percent more than individuals with a graduate.
Top Online Colleges in Arizona (AZ)
Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics we have developed a methodology that includes factors that are very likely, important to you as you consider enrolling in an online degree program in Arizona. Accreditation, percentage of students taking online programs, student services and graduation rates are just some of the factors considered. You'll find details of our methodology at the bottom of this page.
Top Ten Online Degree Programs in Arizona
As Arizona's economy grows, employment is expected to increase particularly in sectors like education and health services; trade, transportation, and utilities; and professional and business services over the next 30 years. This is a list of the most popular online degree programs in Arizona based up on number of student enrollments reported by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
Quality of Online Education in Arizona
Arizona is a member of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (NC-SARA) which works toward achieving national quality standards of distance learning education through participating states. The benefits for students not only work out to be cost-effective, but moreover, NC-SARA enhances the overall quality of distance education programs.
Arizona has over 20 colleges and universities offering online and hybrid courses that are certified by Quality Matters, a certifying body that helps colleges continually improve the quality of their online offerings through a peer-reviewed process.
Making Digital Learning Work: Arizona Success Story
While many colleges in Arizona prioritize high-quality online programs and student success, two were highlighted in a large study tracking outcomes of digital or online higher education.
Arizona State University (ASU) and Rio Salado Community College in Tempe were among the 6 colleges that were a part of this study as leading examples of digital learning strategies with successful outcomes. Both these colleges invest heavily in online course development and refreshes, online student services, and technology for its digital learning offerings.
ASU is a four-year public research university with four campuses offering online programs in multiple formats. ASU-Online offers online undergraduate and graduate level programs mainly to working professionals and students who prefer learning through nontraditional modes. ASU serves an online undergraduate student body of 80,000.
To encourage online enrollments:
- ASU offers six sign-up periods per year
- The timeline for transcript evaluations, credit transfers and financial aid communications are run through a streamlined process that takes only 24 hours instead of the usual two weeks
- Each semester undergoes a 360-review process that helps to continually improve the quality of a program
- ASU students have 24/7 tech support, access to online tutoring services, and success coaches who can provide students with individualized support to help them balance work, life and study
Rio Salado Community College predominantly offers online programs serving an online student body of 47,000.
- The college offers start dates on more than 40 Mondays in a year, taking flexibility a step further.
Interestingly, the study notes savings for students enrolled in fully online programs in these two colleges by way of grants and tuition costs.
- The number of Pell Grant recipients was consistently higher by 5 percent for students who were enrolled in fully online programs when compared to those enrolled in fully face-to-face programs. About 36 percent of the ASU online student body is eligible for Pell Grant; 18 percent in Rio Salado.
- The study also notes consistent savings in tuition for students enrolled in online programs primarily because of the rise in the number of online enrollment levels in these colleges.
Top Occupations in Arizona
Data from Arizona's Office of Economic Opportunity shows the highest occupational job growth is projected to occur in these major occupational groups:
- Office and Administrative Support
- Sales and Related Occupations
- Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations
- Construction and Extraction
- Healthcare Practitioners
- Technical Occupations
- Business and Financial Operations
The educational and health services sectors are expected to add the highest number of jobs openings over the next couple of years.
The following table from the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the top occupations in the state of Arizona which may serve as a guide for prospective students looking for careers in in-demand occupations.
Number of Workers
|Office and Administrative Support Occupations||461,030||$37,010|
|Sales and Related Occupations||289,980||$37,030|
|Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations||260,910||$25,450|
|Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations||160,350||$82,290|
|Transportation and Material Moving Occupations||159,200||$37,630|
|Business and Financial Operations Occupations||140,330||$68,190|
|Education, Training, and Library Occupations||139,780||$47,260|
|Construction and Extraction Occupations||111,570||$44,020|
|Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations||109,390||$45,620|
|Personal Care and Service Occupations||95,870||$27,010|
|Customer Service Representatives||94,680||$33,490|
|Computer and Mathematical Occupations||93,490||$82,940|
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Arizona
Depending on your financial position, you may qualify for federal aid in Arizona. You can find out if you qualify by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA form. A few examples of state grants you can apply for are listed here:
- Arizona Leveraging Education Assistance Partnership (AzLEAP)
- Arizona Teacher Student Loan Program (formerly Math, Science, Special Education Teacher Loan Forgiveness program (MSSE)
- Arizona Family College Savings Program (529 Plan)
Apart from federal and state aid, you may qualify for scholarships awarded by institutions or private funding bodies such as:
- Maricopa County Community College (Publicly Funded) District (MCCCD) Scholarships
- Phoenix Hispanic Network Community Engagement Scholarship 2018
- AQHF Arizona Quarter Horse Youth Scholarship Program
- PMI Phoenix Chapter Scholarship
Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-19 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.
Tests You May Need To Take
Online colleges in Arizona generally set their own requirements and standards for admission. Some colleges may require students to complete SAT or ACT tests before applying. Prospective students are advised to call a college admissions office for more information.