Online Degrees In Arkansas (AR)
Arkansas has unemployment at a record low. Jobs are increasing, but economic forecasters warn that the state’s economic growth could stall and employers could seek other locales to set up shop if it can’t rapidly increase its number of qualified workers. The state’s leaders are scrambling to meet this demand, attract more workers to the state and stem the worrisome declines in college enrollment. They’ve developed a master plan to increase postsecondary attainment and remove some of the barriers students face in earning those crucial credentials, which employers so desperately need.
Online degree programs in Arkansas can prove an important piece of this puzzle. Not only do online programs offer more flexibility than traditional programs, but they are frequently more affordable. This guide is to show you the many benefits of Arkansas colleges that offer online degree programs.
Why Earn an Online Degree in Arkansas?
To meet workforce demand, the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board (AHECB) set a goal of 60 percent postsecondary attainment in Arkansas by 2025. The state’s attainment rate still sits at 41.5 percent — several points below the national average of 47.6. Meanwhile, a severe shortage of qualified workers looms. Employers in construction, manufacturing and even health care have expressed concern about a looming shortage of skilled workers. The American Action Forum projects that Arkansas will experience a shortage of 80,000 workers with bachelor’s degrees by 2029.
But in a state where more than one-third of residents live in rural areas, and only 15 of the state’s 92 postsecondary institutions are rurally located, earning these needed credentials proves challenging. Additionally, with no need-based financial aid, affordability is a challenge.
Online education in Arkansas could be an important solution. With online degrees, students need not travel to their preferred schools, and they can complete coursework at times convenient with their existing schedules; for many returning students, these would otherwise be barriers to earning degrees. Also, many Arkansas colleges that offer online degree programs charge flat rates per credit hour to online students, regardless of whether they live in or out of state, and online students are not charged fees for campus-based services.
Plus, research demonstrates that salaries increase and unemployment decreases with each level of education beyond high school, which should make earning that online degree even more appealing.
Top 10 Arkansas Colleges that Offer Online Degree Programs
Whether you are looking to return to school and move into a higher-paying position or career or headed to college for the very first time, you might have different priorities when selecting online degrees in Arkansas. This list of the top 10 Arkansas colleges that offer online degrees is designed to make your selection process easier. Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), our methodology sorts colleges according to such details as cost, student support services, financial aid awards and more.
|Average in-state tuition||$6,300|
|No. of online programs||38|
|% of students in distance education||56|
|Avg. amount of Aid||$9,145|
|Average in-state tuition||$2,256|
|No. of online programs||2|
|% of students in distance education||47|
|Avg. amount of Aid||$4,764|
|Average in-state tuition||$2,240|
|No. of online programs||5|
|% of students in distance education||52|
|Avg. amount of Aid||$3,278|
|Average in-state tuition||$2,304|
|No. of online programs||7|
|% of students in distance education||49|
|Avg. amount of Aid||$4,197|
|Average in-state tuition||$2,160|
|No. of online programs||13|
|% of students in distance education||63|
|Avg. amount of Aid||$5,045|
|Average in-state tuition||$2,520|
|No. of online programs||2|
|% of students in distance education||15|
|Avg. amount of Aid||$3,916|
|Average in-state tuition||$2,250|
|No. of online programs||5|
|% of students in distance education||40|
|Avg. amount of Aid||$3,432|
|Average in-state tuition||$2,328|
|No. of online programs||4|
|% of students in distance education||47|
|Avg. amount of Aid||$3,889|
|Average in-state tuition||$6,840|
|No. of online programs||16|
|% of students in distance education||53|
|Avg. amount of Aid||$9,578|
|Average in-state tuition||$3,240|
|No. of online programs||8|
|% of students in distance education||36|
|Avg. amount of Aid||$5,571|
Top Online Degree Programs in Arkansas
NCES’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) data about the number of online education programs offered at Arkansas colleges helped us to create this helpful list of the top online degree programs in Arkansas. Note that these programs may be offered fully or only partially online.
Quality of Online Education in Arkansas
Fortunately for Arkansas’ students, the state has mandated significant student support efforts to increase retention and improve the student experience. Most of the higher education institutions in the state are offering such supportive features as college coaches, student mentoring, academic alert systems and more. These efforts help create a quality experience for online students who may feel isolated or unsure about fulfilling requirements.
Another factor that assures quality is that 33 postsecondary institutions in Arkansas are members of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement. This voluntary agreement among member states establishes oversight of distance education to ensure consistent program quality across state lines.
Individual schools in Arkansas have taken steps to ensure quality too. For example, the University of Arkansas Online participates in the Quality Matters (QM) program, a nationally recognized organization that promotes quality standards for online programs. Its programs and courses are designed according to the QM rubric for quality. And at Arkansas Tech University, its College of eTech oversees online course development with a rigorous vetting process for online course development, an extensive rubric for evaluating quality and faculty training in online teaching methods. Be sure to check with prospective schools about their own efforts to ensure quality.
What to Look for in Online Degree Programs in Arkansas
As Arkansas’ higher education leaders work to attract more students, the steps they’re taking include using alternative methods for remedial instruction, encouraging schools to use the same course numbers to streamline transfers and boosting student support efforts. When you’re considering online degree programs in Arkansas, it may be helpful to seek colleges that have implemented these steps, which may increase your chance of success and reduce your overall education costs.
The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) also suggests you consider the following:
Expectations: What are your academic and professional goals, and what are your limitations (time and money)? Are there any face-to-face requirements? Do the program’s expectations align with yours?
Learning experiences: Do you prefer high levels of interaction or more solitary pursuits? What is it like to be a learner in this online program on a day-to-day basis? Are the online instructors experienced? Will the experience be what you’re hoping for?
Technology: What are the program’s technology requirements and can you adhere to them? Will there be sufficient technical support?
Cost: Costs for online programs vary widely. What costs are associated with the program, and can you afford them? (Financial aid information is below.)
Top Occupations in Arkansas
The following list of top occupations in Arkansas comes from Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. This list may be helpful in selecting online degrees in Arkansas worth pursuing.
Number of Workers
|Office and Administrative Support Occupations||149,010||$32,160|
|Transportation and Material Moving Occupations||128,920||$29,930|
|Sales and Related Occupations||121,600||$25,130|
|Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations||110,010||$20,320|
|Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations||80,540||$55,000|
|Educational Instruction and Library Occupations||77,710||$44,160|
|Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations||58,040||$39,950|
|Business and Financial Operations Occupations||53,110||$56,950|
|Healthcare Support Occupations||51,850||$24,480|
|Construction and Extraction Occupations||44,900||$36,760|
|Fast Food and Counter Workers||40,720||$19,940|
|Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers||36,680||$41,440|
|Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations||33,930||$23,100|
|Protective Service Occupations||27,320||$34,490|
|Office Clerks, General||26,540||$29,510|
Top Metropolitan Areas in Arkansas
According to the BLS, the occupations employing the greatest concentrations of people in Arkansas are office and administrative positions, sales occupations, production jobs, food preparation/serving positions and transportation/material moving jobs. Manufacturing is a key industry here, and jobs in this sector have been growing at a rate of three percent, which is three times the pace of total employment. Distribution and logistics is important here as well, with more than 80 distribution centers and 22 major trucking companies located in the state.
Here are the major occupations in some of the state’s biggest metropolitan areas:
Little Rock: The capital and largest city of Arkansas, Little Rock is in the center of the state, at the crossroads of Interstates 30 and 40. It’s also home to a national airport and a U.S. Customs Port of Entry. Transportation, distribution and logistics are important occupations here. It’s also the site of many area hospitals and medical facilities as well as schools and colleges, so health care and education have some of the highest concentrations of employees in the city. Other major occupations include management/business/financial and production jobs. DXC Technology, a technology company that works with Medicaid programs, is expanding its facility in Conway, just north of Little Rock, and is planning to add 1,200 jobs to the area.
Fayetteville – Springdale – Rogers: In this northwest Arkansas metro area, manufacturing is a key industry, with employers such as the Tyson Foods, Inc. Manufacturing Automation Center located in Springdale. The largest segment of jobs (28 percent) are in information, finance, insurance, real estate, professional, management and administration. Wholesale trade, retail, transportation and warehousing jobs comprise 20 percent of employment.
Memphis, TN-AR-MS: Because Memphis is located at the extreme western edge of Tennessee, part of Arkansas comprises its metro area. West Memphis, AR, at the intersection of Interstates 55 and 40, is the site of major economic growth. Both Coca-Cola Bottling Co. and Southland Gaming & Racing are both expanding their operations here. In the entire metro area, the largest employment concentrations, according to the BLS, are in transportation/material moving, sales, food preparation/service and health care, with production occupations not far behind.
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Arkansas
Though the state currently has no need-based financial aid programs, leaders are working hard to make college affordable for students. One such effort includes the 2017 formation of a grant program called ArFuture, which was designed to increase the education and skills of Arkansas’ workforce affordably. Students enrolled in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) or other regionally high-demand fields can receive grant funding to cover tuition and fees for qualifying certificate and associate degree programs at the state’s public institutions. It’s available on a first-come, first-served basis. Students must have graduated from an Arkansas high school (or equivalent, in state). Funding may be renewed until the student graduates.
The Arkansas Department of Higher Education also has created resources to assist students in receiving financial aid. These include the Arkansas YOUniversal system, a one-stop shop where students can apply to more than 25 scholarships with one application, and Fund My Future, a free statewide college planning service intended to make the college planning and scholarship process easier for students. Additionally, individual schools and programs as well as private organizations may offer grants and scholarships based on certain eligibility criteria. Be sure to check prospective schools to learn what might be available.
Tests You May Need to Take
Although there is no standard entrance exam required by all colleges and universities in Arkansas, it’s common for schools to require an SAT or ACT score as part of their admissions packages, including University of Central Arkansas or University of Arkansas at Little Rock. However some schools, like Southern Arkansas University Tech or North Arkansas College, have open admissions policies and require no test scores. Consult your prospective school’s admissions office to learn what’s required.
- College Navigator: Arkansas, Institute for Education Studies, National Center for Education, accessed October 23, 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=AR&pg=4
- May 2018 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 29, 2019, https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oessrcma.htm
- May 2018 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: Arkansas, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2, 2019, https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ar.htm
- Arkansas, Rural Health Information Hub, March 20, 2019, https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/states/arkansas
- Arkansas’s progress toward the goal, A Stronger Nation, Lumina Foundation, February 2019, http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/2019/#state/AR
- Wesley Brown, “Arkansas manufacturing sector faces dearth of skilled worker with tight labor pool, low unemployment,” Talk Business & Politics, Feb. 2, 2019, https://talkbusiness.net/2019/02/arkansas-manufacturing-sector-faces-dearth-of-skilled-workers-with-tight-labor-pool-low-unemployment/
- David Payne, “Kiplinger’s Economic Outlook for All 50 States, 2020,” Kiplinger, Oct. 16, 2019, https://www.kiplinger.com/slideshow/business/T019-S010-kiplinger-economic-outlook-for-all-50-states-2020/index/
- Andrew Demillo, “Tech company expanding in Arkansas and hiring 1,200 workers,” Washington Post, Oct. 22, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/tech-company-expanding-in-arkansas-and-hiring-1200-workers/2019/10/22/48ba7054-f50c-11e9-b2d2-1f37c9d82dbb_story/
- Resources, Arkansas Tech University, accessed October 23, 2019, https://www.atu.edu/etech/resources.php
- “Why choose to study online at the University of Arkansas?” University of Arkansas, accessed October 23, 2019, https://online.uark.edu/about/index.php
- “Student Questions,” NC-SARA, accessed October 23, 2019, https://www.nc-sara.org/student-questions
- Closing the Gap 2020: A Master Plan for Arkansas Higher Education, Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Oct. 30, 2015, https://www.adhe.edu/about-adhe/master-plan9/
- Work in Progress: Master Plan for Higher Education in Arkansas progress report, Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE), accessed October 23, 2019, https://static.ark.org/eeuploads/adhe/Master_Plan_update.pdf
- “Arkansas Tech University Establishes College of eTech,” KARK News, July 15, 2015, https://www.kark.com/news/arkansas-tech-university-establishes-college-of-etech/
- Douglas Holtz-Eakin & Tom Lee, “Projecting Future Skill Shortages Through 2029,” American Action Forum, July 18, 2019, https://www.americanactionforum.org/research/projecting-future-skill-shortages-through-2029/
- Lydia Mulvany, “Tyson bets on robots to fight meat industry worker shortage,” Missouri Farmer Today, Aug. 21, 2019, https://www.agupdate.com/missourifarmertoday/news/technology/tyson-bets-on-robots-to-fight-meat-industry-worker-shortage/article_b2f17610-c42f-11e9-b662-f3f713de8d87/
- Stephanie Bennett, “UAMS talks doctor shortage in Arkansas,” KATV-TV, Aug. 15, 2019, https://katv.com/news/local/uams-talks-doctor-shortage-in-arkansas
- West Memphis Economic Development, accessed October 23, 2019, http://www.westmemphisutilities.com/149/Economic-Development
- Economic Development, City of Little Rock, accessed October 23, 2019, https://www.littlerock.gov/city-administration/city-managers-office/divisions/economic-development/
- Employer Retention & Expansion, Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, accessed October 23, 2019, https://www.fayettevillear.com/employer-retention — expansion/
- Arkansas Future Grant (ArFuture), ADHE, accessed October 23, 2019, https://scholarships.adhe.edu/scholarships/detail/arfutures