Top 10 Best Nursing Schools in Arkansas
To become licensed to work as a nurse in Arkansas, nursing students must pass the NCLEX-RN to become registered nurses (RNs).
But earning your nursing license as an RN doesn't guarantee you a nursing position, and many entry-level nurses have a higher average salary — all because they complete a bachelor's of science in nursing (BSN).
While not required, a BSN is the best way to maximize your chances of finding a high-paying position right out of college. If your goal is to work as a nurse in Arkansas, then earning a BSN at one of the best Arkansas schools puts you in a great position to find a nursing job.
This is a panel-reviewed selection based on a number of factors including,
- NCLEX pass rate
- Acceptance rate, when available
- Only ACEN or CCNE accredited schools are eligible
Our selection panel includes 4 Registered Nurses with over 55 years of combined nursing experience and 7 nursing degrees.
- Tracy Everhart, MSN, RN, CNS
- Tyler Faust, MSN, RN
- Kathleen Gaines, BSN, RN, BA, CBC
- Leah Helmbrecht, BSN, RN
Because nursing careers take different forms, the top 10 Arkansas nursing schools are ranked in no particular order.
Top 10 Nursing Schools in Arkansas
Annual In-State Tuition: $8,902 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $10,612 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 92.6%
Originally a private school, Henderson State University has since become public and earned a reputation as Arkansas's public liberal arts university. While liberal arts might not interest nursing students, each nursing degree is offered through the Ellis College of Arts and Sciences. Options for study include an on-campus BSN, an online RN-BSN, and an online master's of science in nursing (MSN). Henderson State's nursing school has been growing over the past decade with the number of graduates jumping from 9 in 2015 to 27 in 2019. Also, Henderson State nursing grads have enjoyed a perfect pass rate on the NCLEX three of the past five years.
Annual In-State Tuition: $9,188 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $15,998 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 94.2%
Based in Conway, the University of Central Arkansas blends a large-school atmosphere with a small-school education. The impressive 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio in uncharacteristic of a school with over 11,000 students -- and these small class sizes could be one reason nurses do so well on the NCLEX. UCA's nursing program is one of the largest in the state, and while transfer students can enter the two-year BSN program, preference is given to students who complete their first two years of schooling at UCA.
Annual In-State Tuition: $9,384 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $25,872 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 93.8%
The University of Arkansas is the premier school in the University of Arkansas system. Considered one of the top public schools in the nation, U of A is a go-to destination for students interested in many different careers -- including nursing. The Eleanor Mann School of Nursing has three main options: a traditional BSN, an online RN to BSN, and an LPN to BSN. This is by far the largest nursing program in the state as 180 students graduated from the BSN program in 2019. U of A is a large school, but the sheer size of the nursing program could increase your chances of being accepted.
Annual In-State Tuition: $7,338.50 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $16,428.50 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 81.1%
Over half of the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith's students come from Sebastian and Crawford county, but UAFS is working to change that. The in-state tuition is extended to residents of Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississipi, Louisiana, and Texas, so UAFS could be an affordable option for some regional students. The potential low tuition cost also attracts nursing students as the BSN program has nearly doubled in size over the past five years. UAFS's NCELX pass rates aren't the best in Arkansas, but tuition discounts could make this degree worth it to some border-state students.
Annual In-State Tuition: $11,778 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $22,402| NCLEX Pass Rate: 97.9%
Yes, the tuition costs for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences is steep compared to other schools on this list; however, that's the price you pay when you study at one of the best medical sciences institutions in the region. The nursing school currently has 590 students spread across multiple programs, the largest of which is the BSN program. Nurses that currently have a BSN can enroll in the BSN-DNP, BSN-PhD, or the MSN as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) or a nursing administrator. If you can stomach the cost (or reduce it with financial aid), then you'll earn a BSN from Arkansas's only academic health center.
Annual Tuition: $21,000 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 97.8%
Located in the small town of Searcy (about an hour northeast of Little Rock), Harding University offers a private education and small-school atmosphere. Harding is affiliated with the churches of Christ, though many of the 5,100 students are non-religious or don't follow the same religion. Founded in 1975, Harding University's Carr College of Nursing has had decades to develop into the nursing powerhouse it is today. Graduates routinely excel on the NCLEX, and all BSN graduates from 2016-2018 passed the NCELX.
Annual Tuition: $27,668 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 90.5%
John Brown University is a small school with just over 2,5000 students. As a private school, students don't receive access to in-state tuition; however, the average student ends up paying much less than the annual tuition thanks to financial aid. Interestingly, the nursing program is the most popular degree option at John Brown with 128 students currently enrolled to earn a BSN. The BSN is a relatively new program, and graduates only started taking the NCLEX in 2018. The good news is that pass rates have never dipped below 90%, a good sign for the future of this program.
Annual In-State Tuition: $8,900 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $15,860 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 94%
As the second-largest university in Arkansas, Arkansas State University is a common destination for many Arkansas residents. Located in Jonesboro, the campus is spread over 1,376 acres, leaving plenty of room for the 14,000 students to roam and enjoy. Students interested in nursing have no shortage of options at A State. Along with a traditional BSN, online RN-BSN, and accelerated BSN, students can complete an AASN, LPN-BSN, MSN in anesthesia or as a family nurse practitioner, or a DNP. A State's nursing school is already one of the largest in Arkansas, so nearly any student can find a nursing option that suits their needs.
Annual In-State Tuition: $3,712 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $7,424 (Based on per-credit tuition rates) | NCLEX Pass Rate: 93%
Arkansas Tech University has locations across the Arkansas River Valley, though the main campus is in Russellville. The Department of Nursing is also based in Russellville, so students earning a traditional BSN will study at the home campus. Arkansas Tech's nursing program has improved over time, and NCLEX pass rates have reflected the improved quality of education. Aside from the traditional BSN, nursing students can complete an online RN-BSN, LPN-BSN, or MSN. It's also worth noting that, students from states bordering Arkansas are eligible to waive the out-of-state tuition and earn in-state tuition, so ATU could be an affordable option for many students.
Annual In-State Tuition: $6,420 | Annual Out-of-State Tuition: $10,920 | NCLEX Pass Rate: 96.9%
Southern Arkansas University prides itself on its quiet town of Magnolia near the Louisiana border. With a large campus and just 4,100 students, SAU provides a unique college atmosphere. The quiet and tranquility should be perfect for students completing their BSN. This 120-credit hour program has excellent outcomes, and nearly every recent grad passed the NCLEX to become an RN. Current RNs can take advantage of SAU's low tuition and complete their BSN through the online RN-BSN.
4 Key Factors That Affect Nursing School Tuition
Keep in mind that colleges and universities reserve the right to change tuition rates at any time. The yearly tuition rates listed here will vary for each student depending on various factors including,
- Transfer credits
- Completed competency exams
- Amount of credits taken per year
- Financial aid awards
Check with the specific school for current tuition rates.
Nurse Salary and Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),
- Arkansas nurses earn an annual mean wage of $60,780, lower than the national average.
- Arkansas employs 25,380 nurses and more nurses per capita than the national average.
No, Arkansas is not the highest paying state for nurses -- likely because Arkansas has one of the lowest costs of living in the US. Money goes much further in Arkansas than states like California or New York.
Also, keep in mind that the BLS doesn't differentiate the wages for BSN and non-BSN RNs, so the wage you earn after completing your bachelor's degree could be higher than the mean.
The good news is that Arkansas nurses experience higher-than-average employment, with just under 21 nurses for every 1,000 workers.
After doing some preliminary research on potential schools, it's time to create a list of schools you'd like to apply to. When applying, make sure you keep the application deadline in mind -- you wouldn't want to submit a late application!
Once you've put your list of schools together, here are the next steps:
Contact each school’s admissions office. The admissions office is responsible for the entire admissions process, so if you have any questions about the way a school accepts applications, reviews candidates, and approves future students, as a representative from the admissions office.
Check to see if you meet the nursing school requirements. Nursing programs often have additional (and stricter) application requirements than the college they're a part of. Before you apply to a school, find out if you're eligible for the nursing program. If you aren't, find out what you can do to improve your chances of being accepted.
Submit your application(s). The final step in the application process is to apply! Many college applications require similar materials, so this process could be relatively painless. However, you'll want to spend plenty of time ensuring your applications are as strong as they can be!
On your application, you'll likely be required to submit:
- High school transcript (GPA)
- ACT and/or SAT scores
- College entrance essay(s)
- Letter(s) of recommendation
Important considerations when comparing schools:
Choosing a school can be tough, especially if you've been accepted to multiple programs that you're interested in. While factors like tuition and NCLEX pass rate are important, you should make your decisions based on multiple factors. The school you choose should be the best school for you and your wants and needs.
When comparing schools, consider the following:
- Total cost of the nursing program
- In-state or out-of-state tuition
- Financial aid, scholarships, and grants offered
- Cost of living on-campus or in the area
- School and nursing program acceptance rate
- Difficulty of the program
- Commute to school/hospital for clinicals
- Length of program
- Program outcomes (NCLEX pass rate and job placement)
- Accreditation (regional and programmatic)
Why you should care about the nursing program’s accreditation
Accreditation is how schools and programs verify their academic quality. In Arkansas, you'll want to pick a school that's regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Also, make sure the nursing program has programmatic accreditation.
The two nursing accreditation organizations to look for are
- Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
- Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
If you earn a degree from an unaccredited school, you may have trouble securing federal financial aid and finding work as a nurse after graduation.
Getting a License in Arkansas
Arkansas is part of the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC), meaning it follows the same standards for nursing licensure as most other states. As a result, a license in Arkansas also works in any state that's part of the eNLC. Of course, nursing graduates must first earn a license in Arkansas.
To get a license in Arkansas, you'll need to:
- Study at a state-approved nursing school
- Take and pass the NCLEX-RN
- Pass a criminal background check and submit fingerprints.
- Apply through the Arkansas State Board of Nursing website.
Arkansas's low cost of living and high nursing employment make it an excellent place to begin a nursing career. Most of the top nursing schools in Arkansas are public, so residents of Arkansas can earn a BSN from a top school at a relatively low cost. Some schools also offer in-state tuition to residents from bordering states. Once you complete your BSN and pass the NCLEX-RN, you'll be eligible for nursing licensure in most states.