I've lived in little rock for 13 years, and I've been attending UALR since January, and just got accepted into their nursing program a few weeks ago =)
as a general rule, west little rock is more middle class, south and east little rock tend to be poorer, and sections like the heights and hillcrest (which are in the middle, but north of highway 630) tend to be upper middle class and trendier. there's also a lot of very expensive "new money" development in farther west little rock, like Chenal. if you want to live in a mostly middle-class suburban kind of environment, where it's safe to jog at night and so on, try for west of 430 and north of 630. if you want a more artistic neighborhood, look in hillcrest, around Kavanaugh, or in downtown north of 630.
maumelle is a white-flight community that was founded across the river from west little rock when they integrated the schools...not a great way to start a city but it's now a bedroom community to little rock and I think most people commute in. lots of people live in jacksonville, benton, conway, and cabot too - and it would probably be a lot cheaper there, assuming you are ok with lots of driving.
I live with my parents in Pleasant Forest, and it takes me at most 15 minutes to drive to UALR campus.
if I weren't living with my parents, I would try to find something off of North University avenue. UALR is on South University, so it's not far away. there are also some decent neighborhoods along Mississippi. I've never looked for an apartment or house in little rock, so I don't know much about prices. I DO know that the Sierra Club has been concerned that there is a very illegal dump of toxic waste in the landfill near Asher Ave, just south of UALR campus, and that they are getting away with it because it is a low-income neighborhood. again, the father south and east you are in little rock proper, the more you're probably going to deal with crime. (in this case rich people screwing the poor ones over...)
a few people have even been robbed in the UALR parking lot after dark, and I think they've had at least one drive by over the last 5 years, if that gives you any idea. I'm happy with my choice of school and have never felt unsafe while I've been on campus, (in fact suburban UCA up in Conway had a shooting last semester that was part of my moving to little rock and going to UALR), but I wouldn't wander around with my laptop in the middle of the night. personally I'd rather add 5 minutes to my drive to school than have to worry about that kind of thing.