Arizona has a lot to offer, from unique desertscapes and natural wonders to bustling destinations and exciting tourist attractions. The “Grand Canyon State” is also the home of some of the best colleges in the country, from large public universities to small private institutions. It’s no surprise that Arizona denizens are proud of their home state.
How Are the Top Arizona Universities and Colleges Determined?
Many different factors can be used to determine which schools in Arizona are the best. These factors vary widely depending on who is doing the ranking, but some criteria are used consistently.
For example, U.S. News & World Report, which has been ranking schools for 38 years, uses several criteria for its rankings. The specific factors this kind of calculation uses have changed throughout the years, some of the most influential include the following:
- Social mobility
- Graduation rates
- Undergraduate academic reputation
- Graduation rate performance
- Faculty resources
- Return on investment
- Retention rates
- Graduate indebtedness
- Financial resources per student
- Student selectivity
- School quality
- Average alumni giving rate
In addition, many organizations use the cost of attendance, student-faculty ratio, and median graduate earnings, among other factors, to determine rankings.
Best Arizona Colleges and Universities
The best colleges in Arizona are chosen for their high scores in the categories and factors mentioned above and are listed as follows.
Arizona State University
With its main campus spanning 1,989 acres, Arizona State University (ASU), located in beautiful Tempe, has an undergraduate enrollment of almost 65,000 students. As the state’s flagship university, the main campus offers an astonishing 400 undergraduate degree tracks.
The acceptance rate at ASU is 85%, the median SAT scores for incoming freshmen are 1120–1360, and the median ACT scores are 22–28. The ASU Sun Devils compete in the NCAA Division I Conference and are especially well-known for their baseball program.
With a heavy focus on innovation and inclusion, ASU is world-renowned for its transdisciplinary programs and research. Entrepreneurial opportunities abound at its Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute.
The school’s internal colleges are world-famous and include the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, the W.P. Carey School of Business, and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
With approximately 2,700 undergraduate students enrolled, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has an acceptance rate of 67% at its campus in Prescott, AZ. Educating the country’s security, aerospace, and aviation leaders, Embry-Riddle has the distinction of being the nation’s #1-ranked aerospace engineering program.
The university allows students in its aviation degree programs to fly its fleet of airplanes and helicopters and also offers best-in-class ROTC programs, research opportunities, and more.
At Embry-Riddle, incoming students’ median SAT score range is 1130–1350, and the mid-50% ACT score range is 23–29. It was also ranked the #1 Regional College in the West by U.S. News & World Report.
Grand Canyon University
GCU is a nondenominational Christian private college located in Phoenix, Arizona. Founded in 1949 and another of the best schools in the Phoenix area, Grand Canyon University is the home of almost 64,000 undergraduate students on campus, which spans 100 acres of beautiful land. The university offers undergraduate degrees in hundreds of areas through six different colleges.
Students are able to customize degree tracks that are broad but allow concentrations in many different areas. In addition, the university is renowned for its master’s degree programs, including those through its College of Nursing.
From biology and pre-medicine to web design and animation, the opportunities at the best schools in Phoenix area are hard to top.
University of Arizona
The University of Arizona, located in Tucson, is home to just over 34,000 undergraduate students and spans 392 acres. Founded in 1885 and known for its substantial student financial aid program, its Wildcat spirit, and more than 310 undergraduate programs, U of A is a shoo-in for the list of Arizona’s best colleges.
This public university is also known for its large yet welcoming student community, superior academic programs, and exceptional individual ROI and value. U of A is consistently ranked as one of the top 100 global universities and also prides itself on its student-centered campus.
The middle 50% of ACT scores for U of A are 21–29, and the mid-50% of SAT scores are 1110–1360.
Northern Arizona University
With an undergraduate enrollment of 27,000 students, an acceptance rate of 83%, and a stunning location in Flagstaff, Northern Arizona University (NAU) consistently ranks high among AZ universities and colleges. The student-centered campus offers service-forward education and is a renowned supporter of first-generation students.
In fact, first-generation students make up almost half of the student population. It’s the #1 school in the country for Native American attendance and has more Indigenous Studies programs than any other university in the U.S. The middle 50% of SAT scores for NAU are 940–1160, and ACT scores are 20–25.
Located in Prescott, AZ, this prestigious university has an acceptance rate of 95%, middle 50% SAT scores of 1060–1185, and middle 50% ACT scores of 19–27. Prescott College is home to about 400 undergraduate students and aims to turn diverse learners today into the leaders of tomorrow. It was founded in 1966 and is a private institution.
Prescott College offers a wide variety of distinctly Arizonan courses, such as Grand Canyon courses and Border Studies. Students are exposed to flexible learning experiences and opportunities as the school leverages its location to connect students with fully customizable degree programs.
Arizona State University — Polytechnic Campus
One of the best colleges in Arizona is the Polytechnic Campus of Arizona State University. This campus offers STEM-based degrees to approximately 4,500 undergraduate students situated in Mesa, AZ. The acceptance rate is about 83%, the average SAT score range is 1120–1360, and the average ACT score range is 22–28.
The most popular degree programs at this campus include engineering, education, interdisciplinary sciences, technology, and management.
Known for its in-depth hands-on learning opportunities, ASU’s Polytechnic Campus exposes students to a wide array of internship opportunities and industry partnership opportunities. This gives them access to first-rate laboratory spaces and workshops and real-world exposure to learning opportunities.
Diné College is located in Tsaile, AZ, and is the proud home of approximately 1,500 undergraduate students. As one of the top Arizona colleges, it has several research institutes that students use to solve issues facing the Navajo community. This tribally-controlled college in the Navajo Nation provides education to the Navajo student population there.
Diné College offers associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields, Navajo studies, the humanities, social sciences, and business. It’s the home of the Diné Environmental Institute as well.
This Arizona college has an open admission policy and an acceptance rate of 100%. Students are required to provide an Official Certificate of Indian Blood to submit an application. The school does not require SAT or ACT scores.
University of Advancing Technology
The University of Advancing Technology in Tempe, AZ, is a proprietary institution of learning with just under 800 undergraduates on its campus. The school focuses on innovation in technology and is ideal for students who want a degree in advanced technology fields.
The university offers degrees in a wide variety of fields and is one of the few entirely STEM-based colleges in the United States. Some degree offerings include game studies, software engineering, cyber security, digital arts, and creation & simulation.
Arizona Christian University
In the heart of Glendale, Arizona, is Arizona Christian University, which 1,053 undergraduate students call home. The acceptance rate at this prestigious school is just 76%, the middle 50% SAT score range is 940–1180, and the middle 50% ACT range is 16–23.
The college is a theologically conservative one that operates to deepen students’ Christian faith and foster a close-knit community of students. There are more than 40 areas of study and degree programs available here, many of which apply to Christian ministry.
Arizona Christian University is well-known for its excellent bachelor of science in secondary education degree program, Cultural Research Center, and sociological research opportunities.
The Best Colleges in Arizona
To have the best chance of admissions success at any of the top universities in Arizona, you’ll need to ensure you understand your competition. Becoming familiar with the academic profiles of students at the school you’re considering will give you an idea of what that school seeks in applicants.
Take the time and do your due diligence to choose the school that is the best fit for your needs and goals. It’s never too early to get started learning about the best colleges in Arizona.