A Guide to Online Colleges in Arizona

| BestCollegeReviews Staff

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Arizona — with its unique position on the map — is simultaneously considered to be a Southwestern and Western state for its connections with the mountain ranges to the west (namely The San Francisco Mountains) and Spanish population throughout it’s southern border with Mexico. Nicknamed "The Grand Canyon State", Arizona is home to some of the United States most magnificent monument and National Parks. In addition to the Grand Canyon, your adventures through Arizona may wind you around the Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River, over the unique patterns of The Petrified Forest National Park, or standing in awe at the West Mitten at Monument Valley. The great outdoors takes on a definite meaning here in the sixth largest state in the U.S. The southern part of Arizona is home to Tucson, the Saguaro National Park and artisan cities like Bisbee or Tubac, not to mention the old western feel of a town like Tombstone. To the north you’ll find less of the dessert and more fir forests with pines and some mountain ranges in addition Arizona’s capitol city, Phoenix and the surround areas. The cross-connection with the arts and the great out doors are apparent in the surrounding smaller cites such as Tempe and Mesa. At the top of Arizona’s map and perhaps the top of most people’s bucket list is the Grand Canyon originally inhabited by Native Americans who built their settlements within the canyon and its plethora of caves. According to the Pueblo people, the Grand Canyon was considered a holy site. While one of the perks to online education is its accessibility to from anywhere, there are several reasons an individual would prefer to remain in Arizona for their education.

In-state tuition is often applied to public schools offering online programs. Many online programs require some face-to-face time, or more numerous support services at their brick and mortar locations. Intensive study experiences–often on the weekends or in several week long bouts–enable many online students to accelerate their time until graduation. And students looking at online education can drastically expand their educational options if they also look to hybrid degrees (degrees where degrees can be taken partially, or mostly online). Finally, one of the most common stipulations in scholarships is that students be from a certain state or region, often more funds are available to students seeking degrees in-state.

Public School offerings

Arizona is home to some of the most innovative top public schools in the country. Arizona state is the number one school for Fulbright awards and The University of Arizona is houses the OSIRIS-REx program (UA’s reaching for a near-Earth asteroid projected as of 2020). Both schools are top 150 schools according to U.S. News and provide a total of over 70 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs all completely online. You can earn degrees like a master’s in geological and geophysical engineering, or a doctor of behavioral health completely online. Another great option for online public education is Northern Arizona University which offers 17 bachelor’s and 21 master’s degrees completely online. Engage in programs such as a BS in criminal justice, or an MA in construction management just to name a couple. The best community colleges for online offerings are Rio Salado, and Masa Community College. Both of these community colleges provide associate’s degrees that transfer into the Arizona State University system.

Private School offerings

Though not as many public school offerings, the private schools that ranked highly in Arizona are Ottawa University- Phoenix and The Thunderbird School of Global Management. The programs at Ottawa are created for nontraditional learners whether working professionals or parents who are looking to change careers, Ottawa has a number of options completely online at the bachelor’s level including several degrees in accounting and business. Ottawa University- Phoenix aims to keep programs effective and flexible and offers online master’s degrees as well where some practium hours may be required. The Thunderbird School of Global Management is a management school offered with Arizona State University. They offers an MBA an a Master’s in Global Management completely online.

Featured Online Schools

Phoenix is Arizona’s capital city situated in the Sonoran Desert. The city is known for its perpetual sunshine, live music venues, and art walks. Whether you’re heading down Roosevelt Row to walk in the eclectic art galleries, browse a boutique or relax in a coffee shop or restaurant, you’re enjoying life in what the USA Today has listed as one of the country’s 10 Best Art Districts. As one of the 6 largest cities in the US, there are numerous places to go in Phoenix. Or step outside and enjoy the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert. Take a hike up camelback mountain or enjoy a road trip through the areas scenic mountain ranges. Greater Phoenix is home to Arizona State University.

Tucson is located 60 miles north of the border of Nogales, Mexico and makes up the second part of the Arizona Sun Corridor. Tucson is known for its cuisine, particularly Mexican as well as ceramics as Tucson was a focal point for extensive use of pottery for cooking and storage. In addition to attractions such as the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (with its Earth Sciences Center and hummingbird aviary), Tucson Botanical Gardens or The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures, there are numerous hiking adventures in the Chiricahua Wilderness, Tucson Mountains and Santa Catalina Mountains. Its close proximity to Mexico and other surrounding towns enhance Tucson’s diversity. Tucson is just a short drive away from quaint Southwestern style towns such as Bisbee or Tombstone.

Surrounded by the Sonoran Desert, Mesa is a beautiful city with endless outdoor adventure opportunities. Mesa is located just 30 miles east of Phoenix and is home to the Arizona Museum of Natural History, and the Commemorative Air Force Museum as well as Arizona’s largest arts center, the Mesa Arts Center. If you’re looking for something to do outside, try the Desert Belle Paddleboat Cruise on Saguaro Lake or observe the Park of the Canals a 31-acre park featuring the ancient and intricate canal system of the Hohokam Native Americans. According to Trip Advisor, Mesa is know for its inexpensive winter sports amenities. Mesa is also home to the Polytechnic campus of Arizona State University.

Bordered to the north by Tempe and Arizona State University, Chandler is a city located directly east of South Mountain Environmental a 16,000-acre park with several trails, mountain bluff views and wildlife. Fifteen miles northwest is Tempe, home to Arizona State University, one of the most innovative college campuses in the nation, according to U.S. News. Chandler is known for its many parks and recreational amenities, such as the Mesquite Groves and Aquatic Center and colorful festivals like the annual Ostrich Festival. This is a fast-growing city that takes care of its inhabitants. With the mean annual income over $74,000, close proximity to major cities like Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Phoenix not to mention its recognition as “100 Best Communities for Young People” according to America’s Promise Alliance , it’s no wonder uprooting to head back to school wouldn’t necessarily be the first choice for citizens of Chandler.

Population: 1537,058
Cost of Living: 93.1%
Top Industries: Health Care, Construction, retail, educational services
Local Online Degrees: 3

Population: 527,972
Cost of Living: 88.5%
Top Industries: Health Care, Construction, Education, retail
Local Online Degrees: 1

Population: 464,704
Cost of Living: 92.7%
Top Industries: Health Care, Construction, Education, retail trade
Local Online Degrees: 1

Population: 254,276
Cost of Living: 93.8%
Top Industries: Health Care, Manufacturing, Education, Retail Trade
Local Online Degrees: 0

Population: 239,277
Cost of Living: 93.9%
Top Industries: Health Care, Manufacturing, Education, Retail Trade
Local Online Degrees: 0

Population: 237,517
Cost of Living: 92.7%
Top Industries: Health Care, Retail, Construction, Education
Local Online Degrees: 1

Population: 230,512
Cost of Living: 97.5%
Top Industries: Health Care,Professional Scientific and technical services, Education, Retail
Local Online Degrees: 0

Population: 172,816
Cost of Living: 94.3%
Top Industries: Education, Health Care, Retail, Accomodation and Food Service
Local Online Degrees: 2

Population: 166,934
Cost of Living: 93.4%
Top Industries: Construction, Health Care, Retail, Education
Local Online Degrees: 0

Population: 126,275
Cost of Living: 93.8%
Top Industries: Retail, Health Care, Waste Management, Education
Local Online Degrees: 0

The Best Online Colleges in Arizona

1. University of Arizona

Online Programs: 40
Type: Public

The University of Arizona is a public flagship research university located in Tucson, Arizona. Tucson is located an hour from Mexico and is home to many beautiful sites and borders the Saguaro National State Park. More than the only medical school in the state of Arizona, the University of Arizona has strong space research and development programming which a goal to send a spacecraft to a near-Earth asteroid in 2020 as well as manufacturing the world’s largest telescope mirrors. It is also one of the world’s premier public research universities. With over 32,000 undergraduate and nearly 10,000 graduate and professional students enrolled, the University of Arizona provides a major economic impact on the state of Arizona, totaling over $8 billion dollars of economic activity impacting some of the nation’s best hospitals, tech parks, and outreach programs such as OSIRIS-REx. The virtual campus allows for your to pay per credit hour offers a total of 40 online degrees, 22 bachelors, 17 masters, and one doctoral program all accredited through the Higher Learning Commission.

2. Arizona State University

Online Programs: 33
Type: Public

Ranked number one for Fulbright scholars and innovation according to U.S. News, Arizona State is a tremendous resource for students seeking affordable accessible public education. Arizona State University (ASU) is a public university with a national ranking of #129th according to U.S. News. Its campuses are located in Tempe, Arizona just outside of Phoenix, and includea downtown Phoenix Campus, Lake Havasu City Campus, and a Polytechnic. Arizona State is also home to one of the top 50 business schools according to The Economist a “best college value” according to Kiplinger , a university with very high research activity according to the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education and the number 11 school to earn an online degree according to U.S. News, offering a total of 33 online degrees 18 undergraduate, 14 graduate and on doctoral degree. The Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College continues to present one of the nation’s top educational graduate programs. In addition, ASU enrolls the largest student body in the US with over 82,000 students enrolled to receive comprehensive education accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

3. Northern Arizona University

Online Programs: 39
Type: Public

Northern Arizona University is a public university located in Flagstaff, Arizona with 36 satellite campuses located throughout the state. The Higher Learning Commission accredits 150 degree programs in education, business, speech-language pathology, nursing, and others. The online program provides 17 bachelor’s, 21 masters, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice and is the first public university offering competency-based online degree programming allowing you to earn credit for your experiences outside of the classroom. Northern Arizona University is also considered a top university for Native American Students, and has a top ranked nursing school according to College Factual . Flagstaff is nestled in the Kaibab National Forest between Phoenix (to the south) and the Grand Canyon National Park located about an hour north. Flagstaff has a reputation for outdoor enthusiasts due to its proximity to the Grand Canyon, Walnut National Monument, Crater Volcano National Monument and others. No need to leave this natural beauty behind when pursuing an online education degree through Northern Arizona University.

4. Rio Salado College

Online Programs: 15
Type: Public

Rio Salado College is a community college headquartered in Tempe, Arizona and through the Higher Learning Commission is accredited to offer academic certificates and associate’s degrees. Tempe is located just 20 minutes from downtown Phoenix. Students at Rio Salado enjoy all of the conveniences from Phoenix and the surrounding natural beauty. Tempe is also home to Arizona State University, so that graduates from Rio Salado College have an opportunity to transfer any of their 15 fully online associate’s degree program into the university system through their partnership with Arizona State, Norther Arizona University the University of Arizona and Ottawa University and other private institutions. For active military or veterans, Rio Salado offers career and counseling services for those looking to transfer into civilian life or continue their education while actively serving in the military.

5. Mesa Community College

Online Programs: 15
Type: Public

Mesa Community College is located in Mesa, Arizona, is the largest community college (enrolling 40,000 students) in the region and is one of the largest transfer colleges for Arizona State University. Through the North Central Association, Mesa Community College is accredited to offer more than 200 degrees as well as career and certificate programs to adults while being named a “Best 2-Year College for Adult Learners” by Washington Monthly magazine. As a student, you have an opportunity to engage in on-campus, hybrid or fully online programs to suit your individual needs. There are 15 associates degree programs offered completely online offering a range in fields from Fashion Merchandising and Design to an Associate of Applied Science in Business. Mesa, Arizona is just outside of Phoenix and houses rugged areas for outdoor reception, museums and golf resorts.

Monitoring the accreditation of a university you are interested in attending is incredibly important. Accreditation ensures your credits can transfer that you can receive Federal financial aid, and most importantly that certain standards of educational quality are during your schooling. The highest accreditation standard for most programs in the United States is provided by regional accreditation agencies. The regional accrediting agency for Arizona is the Higher Learning Commission, one of six regional accrediting agencies responsible for accrediting schools in Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Making sure that a University you're hoping to attend is regionally accredited — or accredited by a real and respected accrediting agency — is one of the most important choices you can make in ensuring the quality of your education.

Three Steps for Securing Financial Aid

  • Submit your FAFSA.
  • Check to see if additional forms are needed at your university of choice.
  • Search and apply for private scholarships.

Through the previous three steps most students find themselves offered some sort of federal grant, work study, private grant, scholarship, or stipend.

Great Arizona Higher Education Resources

  • If you’re looking into community college, check ASU's transfer page to make sure your credits transfer to Arizona State, one of the most innovative schools in the country.
  • The University of Arizona teams up with NASA on the asteroid mission with plans to land in 2020. OSIRIS-REx is NASA’s third New Frontiers program.
  • At CollegeGrant you can access a number of grants for any stage in the education process, whether as a high school student or a student already enrolled in a community college or university, The College Grant Database has something for you.
  • The Arizona Community Foundation offers over 90 scholarships provided by local and national individual and business donors. If you're from Arizona, or planning to attend school in the state, make sure to check out these scholarship offerings today.
  • Students hiking The Grand Canyon may want to check out Grand Canyon Hostel located in downtown Flagstaff.
  • With nearly 23 miles of Mexican food offerings, it’s no wonder that Tuscon Foodie is the top blog for foodies and residents of Tucson. More than just a great fresh taco, you’ll find everything from Vegan fare to Vietnamese cuisine.
  • For a completely interactive experience with nature, culture and history, The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum provides everything from a desert hike, a to visit Cat Canyon, an opportunity to learn about Ancient Arizona and an enchanting encounter in their hummingbird aviary, just to name a few.
  • Check out this page for a comprehensive list of Arizona’s mind-blowing National Parks, Monuments, Historic Trails, and National Recreation Areas.
  • From the Navajo to Route 66, head to the Arizona Historical Society for the ins and outs of the diverse cultural influences and poignant moments and traditions that make Arizona unique.
  • The Arizona Language Institute Is a great option if you’re ready to communicate in Spanish and engage in the rich Latin-American culture present in Arizona.
  • For on of Arizona's best-kept-secrets visit Arizona Ruins for information on the lesser-known Native American sites in Arizona.

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