Arizona is the last of the 48 contiguous states to have joined the U.S., becoming a part of the nation on Valentine's Day, 1912. Its system of higher education, however, can trace its roots to a time well before the southwestern territory achieved statehood. When the vaunted University of Arizona, Tucson became Arizona's first post-secondary educational institution in 1885, it was ensconced in desert. Who could have imagined that this educational oasis would one day serve more than 40,000 students while employing more than 2500 staffers?
This top-ranked four-year university is one of 28 public institutions in the state. An additional 13 non-profit private schools draw enrollees from throughout the U.S., with liberal arts institutions like Prescott College standing out for their academic reputation, their varied course offering, and the stunning vistas that surround the 200 acre-campus. With a seven-to-one student to faculty ratio, Prescott provides students with uniquely intimate and inspiring learning environment.
Arizona is also host to one of the nation's most fertile private, for-profit college scenes, with no fewer than 50 of such institutions dotting the higher education landscape. With leading for-profit college the University of Phoenix making its home in the desert capital, Arizona would become a major catalyst to growth in the for-profit sector. Founded in 1976, the University of Phoenix claimed 600,000 enrollees nationwide at the time of its 2010 peak.
A distinguishing feature of Arizona colleges, aside from the intense heat index, is the exceptionally high proportion of women. In 2012, Arizona topped all other states in the nation with a 61.9% female enrollment. Presumably, this fact has helped to propel the University of Arizona's Wildcats to an incredible 8 national softball championships in 25 years.
- See who ranks as the best college and university in Arizona today.
- The University of Arizona and Arizona State University both rank among the 100 Best Universities in the World.