Best Arizona Colleges & Universities

Become Team
Become Team
September 7, 2021

With Arizona's diverse educational landscape, prospective students from all backgrounds can find a great fit for college. The state is home to over 24 four-year institutions and 21 community colleges. Some students may be interested in big public universities like Arizona State University, while others may seek a smaller, private education from an institution like Grand Canyon University. Keep reading to see which Arizona colleges took the top spots in our rankings, compare Arizona college costs against the national average, learn about college readiness programs, and find other resources to help make a smart college decision.

Arizona College Leaderboard: Rankings

There are key differences among colleges in Arizona that push some above the rest. We've performed a comprehensive evaluation of Arizona colleges based on essential criteria to create an unbiased ranking of the state's best two- and four-year colleges. Students can compare these top-ranked institutions on features like alumni earnings, tuition cost, financial aid, student-to-teacher ratio, and graduation rate.

Rankings Methodology Minimum Qualifications
  • Located in Arizona
  • Public or private not-for-profit
  • Institutionally accredited
  • At least 10 total programs
Ranking Metrics
  • Median annual alumni earnings 10 years after entering the college
  • In-state tuition and fees for undergraduates
  • Student/teacher ratio
  • 6-year graduation rate
  • % of students receiving institutional financial aid (first-time, full-time undergrads)
  • Average amount of institutional aid awarded per student (first-time, full-time undergrads)
  • Availability of placement services upon completion
  • Availability of academic/career counseling services
  • Availability of employment services
  • 3-year student cohort loan default rate
Data Sources

Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS): National Center for Education Statistics

Latest 'Final Release' data available as of Fall 2016 College Scorecard: U.S. Department of Education

2-Year Programs

Cochise College View School Profile $ 18% 99.8 $31,200 16:1 22% N/A 8 103 No Yes
Northland Pioneer College View School Profile $ 11% 99.64 $22,100 10:1 37% N/A 0 92 Yes Yes
Mesa Community College View School Profile $ 12% 98.64 $36,000 20:1 25% N/A 8 143 Yes Yes
GateWay Community College View School Profile $ 13% 98.43 $29,800 13:1 32% N/A 3 111 No Yes
Eastern Arizona College View School Profile $ 22% 98.22 $27,800 20:1 26% N/A 1 82 Yes Yes
Pima Community College View School Profile $ 7% 97.79 $30,100 25:1 9% N/A 4 191 No Yes
Yavapai College View School Profile $ 17% 97.64 $28,200 18:1 15% N/A 7 85 No Yes
Arizona Western College View School Profile $ 18% 97.62 $25,600 21:1 20% N/A 7 116 Yes No
Phoenix College View School Profile $ 11% 97.48 $32,500 17:1 13% N/A 3 127 No Yes
Paradise Valley Community College View School Profile $ 17% 97.48 $32,300 18:1 35% N/A 0 71 No Yes
Estrella Mountain Community College View School Profile $ 12% 97.35 $30,800 19:1 26% N/A 0 64 Yes Yes
Chandler-Gilbert Community College View School Profile $ 19% 97.24 $39,400 21:1 22% N/A 6 63 Yes Yes
Rio Salado College View School Profile $ 17% 96.81 $36,600 20:1 4% N/A 16 93 Yes No
Central Arizona College View School Profile $ 18% 96.51 $28,700 17:1 25% N/A 0 76 No No
South Mountain Community College View School Profile $ 16% 95.74 $27,100 17:1 28% N/A 0 60 No Yes
Mohave Community College View School Profile $ 18% 94.99 $26,700 14:1 9% N/A 12 94 No No
Coconino Community College View School Profile $ 5% 93.59 $29,100 27:1 10% N/A 2 51 Yes No
Scottsdale Community College View School Profile $ 15% 86.56 $35,700 17:1 23% N/A 1 99 No No
Glendale Community College View School Profile $ 12% 86.12 $33,300 21:1 25% N/A 0 93 No Yes
Tohono O’Odham Community College View School Profile $ 25% 86 N/A 8:1 23% N/A 0 20 No No

4-Year Programs

Arizona State University-Tempe View School Profile $$ 58% 99.65 $45,200 22:1 86% 84% 12 190 Yes No
University of Arizona View School Profile $$ 61% 98.45 $44,400 20:1 77% 75% 12 241 Yes No
Northern Arizona University View School Profile $$ 49% 93.96 $38,800 18:1 66% 81% 47 186 Yes No
Arizona Christian University View School Profile $$$ 51% 89.6 $31,000 15:1 94% 57% 0 18 Yes Yes
Prescott College View School Profile $$$$ 45% 87.96 $35,200 9:1 90% 69% 43 57 No Yes
Ottawa University-Phoenix View School Profile $$ N/A 86 $40,700 6:1 N/A N/A 19 41 No Yes

Search and Compare Colleges in Arizona

Finding the right fit in a university is a critical step for an applicant. There are many things to consider, and the decision-making process should be careful and deliberate. When searching for and deciding on a school, students should consider many things, including their desired field of study, financial aid opportunities, student population, and public or private school type. The search tool below allows students to narrow this search according to these facts, making the decision process easier.

College Readiness Programs in Arizona

Arizona is committed to improving student outcomes at all education levels, including college. Each university and community college has an outreach program designed to support college-readiness, as do several state organizations. The following state and private initiatives are available to students and parents planning for college.

Arizona Family College Savings Program

This state-sponsored plan from the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary offers families a flexible and tax-advantaged way to save for college. Parents or grandparents can start tax-exempt accounts for their future college students. Funds can be used at any institution accredited by the U.S. Department of Education, plus a handful of international programs. Savings plans start at as little as $15 a month.

Arizona Race to the Top

Arizona Race to the Top is the state's education reform program, funded by a $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The goals of the program are to implement college and career readiness standards through educational training programs, to establish five regional centers of education to provide support and to ensure education reform.

Dropout Prevention Program

This Arizona Department of Education program aims to produce more Arizona high school graduates by improving residents' drop-out rate. It recognizes that all students should have equal access to opportunities and resources, and that all districts should have multiple ways for students to find success. The program leads the Education and Career Action Plan and offers an online toolkit that keeps students on track. Other online resources include strategies for dropout prevention and early warning signs and systems.

Science Foundation Arizona

The Science Foundation of Arizona (SFAZ) is a non-profit organization seeks to diversify the economy by through an education system that aligns with state needs. The organization has given $110 million in support of more than 150 individual grants. Its STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) initiatives have helped more than 385,000 students. SFAZ focuses primarily on rural schools.

Cost Analysis of Arizona Colleges

The cost of an Arizona college degree depends on a number of factors, including residency, program type, course load and school choice. The graphic below will help prospective applicants compare Arizona college costs with those on the national level, and give an accurate idea of the percentage of students that receive financial aid.

Source: CollegeBoard

Source: IPEDS

Source: IPEDS

* Institutional aid represents grant and scholarship funds directly awarded by a postsecondary institution.

* Financial aid data represents 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

The Most Affordable Colleges in Arizona

College affordability is not simply a matter of tuition, though that certainly plays a role. Excellent financial aid, costs of living and other expenses all contribute to one’s final cost—and the amount of education debt they’ll likely carry. The information below highlights which Arizona colleges score best on overall net price.

Arizona College Net Price vs. National Average

Annual Net Price
ARIZONA $16,688

Source: College Scorecard
Note: Rankings/data represent 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Best Arizona Colleges for Maximizing Earnings Potential

Many students' top priority when selecting schools and majors is their long-term return on investment. Graduates may have student loan debt to pay off in addition to real-life expenses. Some universities in Arizona also have high job placement rates, usually through highly-ranked degree programs. The comparison below provides a snapshot of graduates' median annual earnings by school, and how they compare to the national average.

Arizona Alumni Salaries vs. National Average

Annual Median Earnings
10 Years After Entering College
ARIZONA $48,411

Source: College Scorecard
Note: Rankings/data represent 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Best Arizona Colleges for Minimizing College Debt

The Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education reports that students received nearly $2.5 million in financial aid in 2015. There are a number aid sources available to Arizona students, including federal grants and loans, private scholarships, and university- or department-specific. Graduates of the following universities in Arizona tend to carry the least amount of educational debt.

Arizona College Grad Debt Vs. National Average

Median Federal Student
Loan Debt After Graduation
ARIZONA $22,483

Source: College Scorecard
Note: Rankings/data represent 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Evaluating Arizona's Cost of Living

Arizona has no shortage of enticing college towns, but its average cost of living exceeds the national average. Like other states, some cities or regions are more affordable than others — something to consider when budgeting for college. See how the five most populous cities in Arizona compare in characteristics like housing, food, utilities and health care.

area composite index housing groceries utilities transportation health care misc.
Statewide Average 100% 103% 100% 99% 99% 101% 99%
Flagstaff 116% 136% 107% 115% 100% 112% 108%
Phoenix 96% 96% 97% 96% 100% 97% 94%
Scottsdale 113% 143% 105% 91% 96% 103% 106%
Tucson 93% 82% 96% 92% 98% 103% 97%
Yuma 99% 87% 104% 117% 97% 97% 102%

Source: The Council for Community and Economic Research

Arizona College Accreditation

Accreditation indicates that an independent body fully evaluated and confirmed that a college meets certain quality standards. In other words, it certifies that students can expect to receive an education on par with state and national standards. Arizona has multiple national and regional accrediting bodies, including the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education and the Higher Learning Commission. Some national, industry-specific organizations accredit individual college departments or degree programs. Some of those at work in Arizona include:

Arizona Cities With a Major College Presence


Fairbanks, which has a population of 32,469, offers two- and four-year college programs at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Some key industries in the city are manufacturing, construction, leisure and hospitality, and health services.

College Name School Type Annual Net Price Annual Median Earnings
10 Years After College

Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.

FairbanksUniversity of Alaska, Fairbanks Public $9,372 $38,200
The University of Alaska, Fairbanks has 9,870 graduate and undergraduate students enrolled at its nine colleges and schools, such as the School of Education, the School of Management, the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, and the College of Natural Science and Mathematics. UAF offers 146 degree and 31 certificate options, with psychology, biology, and public administration among the most popular. With 2,784 faculty members, the school boasts small class sizes that allow students to get individualized attention.

Many Arizona colleges call Tucson, the state's second-largest city, home. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated a metropolitan population exceeding 1 million in 2010. Tucson's unique college vibe is perfect for nature lovers, history buffs and art enthusiasts.

College Name School Type Annual Net Price Annual Median Earnings
10 Years After College

Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.

TusconPima Community College Public $21,849 $48,000
PCC is an open-admissions institution that aims to provide an affordable education. It has six campuses in the across the Tucson metro, which extend college access and give students more options. In addition to associate-level degree programs, PCC offers workforce development, career training programs, and adult education.
TusconUniversity of Arizona Public $4,963 $33,500
Established in 1885 as the state's first university, U of A draws 50,000 students and faculty members from around the world. A global leader in research, it claims 100 percent of undergraduates will get a chance to conduct hands-on research or gain internship experience before they graduate. The college offers more than 300 individual programs.

Source: College Scorecard

Arizona College Resources for Further Research

Potential applicants to Arizona colleges should take advantage of the multitude of resources available online. Every university has a website with corresponding information on degree programs and financial aid. Additionally, there are many external, objective sources from which to draw information, including the state's accreditation agencies and organizations for higher education. Here a few to get started.

Arizona Academic Scholars

This program is committed to motivating students to complete an enriched high school education. The goal is for students to be better prepared for postsecondary education and the workforce.

Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education

Committed to expanding access to all students and improving postsecondary education, ACPE offers a college and career guide, FAFSA courses and college application seminars.

Arizona Department of Education

The Department provides a wealth of information for students of all ages and their families. Learn more about post-secondary standards and evaluation, programs for increasing opportunity and access, and career development opportunities.

Arizona State Board of Education

ASBE fosters excellence in all levels of public institutions state-wide. It is charged with regulating the conduct of the school system, and has a lot of great resources for students preparing for college.

AZ Transfer

This hub connects prospective students with different Arizona college options and provides information on every public and tribal community college or university across the state.

College and University Resource Center

The Arizona Department of Education's College and University Resource Center provides contact information for higher education boards and commissions, state universities, community colleges, and private schools. - Arizona State Resources

This website offers information on Arizona colleges, financial aid programs, benefits for veterans and specialty programs for students of all kinds.

Become Team
Become Team
Contributing Writer