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Online and On-Campus Colleges in
IOWA

Online and On-Campus Colleges in & Iowa

Article Sources
  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2015-16, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed March 2, 2016, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
  • Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2014-15, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, accessed March 2, 2016, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
  • School pages, accessed May 14, 2017: About Iowa State, Iowa State University, http://web.iastate.edu/about/; Leaders and Pioneers, The University of Iowa, https://uiowa.edu/homepage/leaders-and-pioneers; Programs, Distance and Online Education, The University of Iowa, https://distance.uiowa.edu/programs?location=All&type=71; Continuing & Distance Education, University of Northern Iowa, https://continuinged.uni.edu/distance; Fast Facts about BCU, Briar Cliff University, https://www.briarcliff.edu/about/fast-facts/; Mission and Overview, Grand View University, http://www.grandview.edu/aspx/audience/content.aspx?aid=0&pageid=23; Vision, Mission, Values, Graceland University, http://www.graceland.edu/about-gu/vision-mission-values; Academics, Maharishi University of Management, https://www.mum.edu/academics; NWC at a glance, Northwestern College, https://www.nwciowa.edu/about/at-a-glance; Loras College, http://www.loras.edu/;
  • Community Colleges, Iowa Department of Education, accessed May 14, 2017, https://www.educateiowa.gov/community-colleges
  • About Iowa, State of Iowa, accessed May 22, 2017, https://www.iowa.gov/about
  • State Grants & Scholarships, Iowa College Student Aid Commission, accessed May 14, 2017, https://www.iowacollegeaid.gov/content/state-grants-scholarships
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Iowa has a long history of providing quality education to its residents, but sometimes it can be difficult to tell which of the dozens of four-year schools in the state are most likely to give you the college experience you're looking for. We wanted to get an idea of which schools were the best traditional and online colleges in Iowa, so we turned to the numbers.

The data we used came from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and other U.S. Department of Education Sources. We analyzed the stats that covered 13 categories of comparison, from tuition and fees affordability to flexible scheduling factors like the availability of online degrees.

If you're attending or planning to attend one of Iowa's 15 community colleges, there's an extra piece of information that might help to keep in mind. The three Iowa universities overseen by the Iowa Board of Regents work together with the state's two-year schools to provide Transfer In Iowa, an easy transfer portal for your community college credits. You can find a link to the Transfer In Iowa site in the Additional Resources section at the bottom of the page.

Best 4-Year Colleges in Iowa

Here's the list of the best traditional and online colleges in Iowa, from No. 1 to No. 10. Information about our detailed in-house methodology used to create this list can be found by selecting the "methodology" button.

Methodology
1Iowa State University+
ADMISSION RATE
87%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
$40
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
21

Our No. 1 school isn't just the best four-year college in Iowa — it's one of the top universities in the country by the numbers. Iowa State University ranked an impressive No. 11 out of the 1,646 nationwide schools we surveyed for this analysis, thanks to placements near the top in a wide range of our metrics.

For starters, ISU students paid the lowest tuition and fees costs in the state in 2015-16. Iowa State also reported the state's largest number of degree programs available entirely through distance education and took the No. 2 spot in the state for the size of its on-campus degree catalog. Students at ISU received Iowa's second-highest proportion of institutional grant aid. In terms of graduating students, Iowa State posted the No. 2 graduation rate among the schools that made our top ten.

Additional Info
2University of Iowa+
ADMISSION RATE
81%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
$40
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
12

Founded less than two months after Iowa became a U.S. state in 1846, this Iowa City institution was the first university in the Hawkeye State. It took the No. 1 spot in the state for its variety of on-campus degree programs, offering more than 380 study plans in 2015-16. It also posted a graduation rate that ranked No. 4 statewide, and its retention rate for first-year students came in at No. 3 among schools on our list.

Just three other schools on our list reported higher online enrollment than UI, and students seeking an online bachelor's degree in Iowa can choose from a list of nine programs in business, political science, health care and more. On top of all that, UI placed first in the state and in the 98th percentile nationally for the proportion of institutional grant aid it awards to its students.

Additional Info
3University of Northern Iowa+
ADMISSION RATE
80%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
$40
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
15

The University of Northern Iowa took the No. 2 spot in the state for its affordable tuition and fees costs in 2015-16. No other school on our list reported a lower median student debt for its graduates. The selection of degree programs available on campus at the Cedar Falls school ranked No. 3 in the state, and its graduation rate placed it third in that category among our top ten schools.

UNI also stood out as one of the best online colleges for Iowa students, particularly for those interested in education, technology and civil service professions. It came in at No. 4 statewide for the size of its online degree catalog, Students can choose among more than 350 individual courses available through the "UNI at a Distance" eLearning program.

Additional Info
4Briar Cliff University+
ADMISSION RATE
Open
TEST REQUIREMENTS
N/A
APPLICATION FEE
$20
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
11

This private institution in Sioux Falls was another of the best online colleges for Iowa students, ranking No. 5 on our list for its number of distance education programs and No. 4 among our top ten for its online course enrollment rate. The student-to-faculty ratio at this Franciscan Catholic university was 12:1 in 2016, which suggests that students are likely to have access to individualized attention from professors and staff.

Briar Cliff also presented a favorable profile of financial aid statistics, offering our list's sixth-highest amount of institutional grant aid and a median graduate debt figure among the five most manageable in our top ten. Graduates reported being able to repay their student loans within three years at the third-highest rate among schools that made our list.

Additional Info
5Grand View University+
ADMISSION RATE
98%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
N/A
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
0

Students at Grand View University were charged the state's lowest average total cost for books and supplies in 2015-16, according to the NCES. Affordability of tuition and fees placed at No. 6 statewide, and median graduate debt was the fourth-lowest among schools in our top ten.

The Des Moines school also fared well in the category of average net price, a comprehensive college cost measure that subtracts expected grant and scholarship aid from the total average cost of necessary expenses like tuition, fees and housing. Grand View ranked No. 5 in the state for the average net price charged to middle-income students, while those in the lower income bracket paid the state's No. 9 out-of-pocket total.

Additional Info
6Mount Mercy University+
ADMISSION RATE
61%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
N/A
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
3

Our No. 6 school was a top destination for low-income students, placing at No. 5 in the state in average net price for those with the greatest financial need. It also posted a median student debt figure for its graduates that ranked No. 7 in the state and No. 3 among schools on our list.

Students who require on-campus flexibility programs, such as adult learners returning to school and others in non-traditional circumstances, had access to eight out of the ten flexibility metrics included in our analysis. Whole degree programs were available to students who only want to attend classes in the evening or on weekends, for example, and incoming students had the option to use the accumulated knowledge of their life experience to test out of certain credit courses.

Additional Info
7Graceland University-Lamoni+
ADMISSION RATE
48%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
N/A
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
10

This medium-small liberal arts institution was founded over 100 years ago and takes an innovative approach to the college experience. For starters, the campus foregoes the traditional Greek Life model for a system of "houses" into which residential students are sorted at the beginning of their enrollment. What's more, while Graceland is sponsored by the Community of Christ, it equally welcomes students of all backgrounds and faiths.

Graceland had the rare distinction of being one of the best-attended online colleges in Iowa and the whole nation, posting a distance education enrollment rate that topped the state rankings and placed at No. 16 out of all 1,646 schools we studied. Nearly 99.5 percent of students at Graceland take at least some of their courses online.

Additional Info
8Maharishi University of Management+
ADMISSION RATE
37%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
N/A
APPLICATION FEE
$25
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
6

Maharishi University of Management is a consciousness-based institution that promotes the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique pioneered by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 20th century. Tuition is affordable here, ranking No. 8 in the state in that category. Only two other schools on our list offered a higher proportion of institutional grant aid than this Fairfield school.

The student body at MUM comprises primarily graduate students — roughly 78 percent in 2016, according to the school's website — but several undergraduate programs are available as well. It's also one of the top online colleges for Iowa students, ranking No. 3 in the state for its percentage of students enrolled in distance education courses.

Additional Info
9Northwestern College+
ADMISSION RATE
72%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
N/A
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
3

This small school in Orange City works to help its students stick with their education plans throughout the series of challenges that crop up in college life. Northwestern College posted a first-year student retention rate that ranked No. 5 in the state, and its graduation rate was high enough to take the No. 5 spot among the schools in our top ten.

NWC alumni also have reported considerable success in managing their student debt after finishing their degrees. Only one other school in Iowa saw its graduates have more success in paying off their loans within three years after graduation, and that's not all — just 25 schools in the whole country earned a higher rank than Northwestern in that category.

Additional Info
10Loras College+
ADMISSION RATE
95%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
N/A
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
1

Loras College is a Catholic diocesan college that works to educate its students in a way that allows them to serve both the goals of their faith and the needs of the world they live in. The Dubuque school's website indicates that 100 percent of the student body receives some form of financial aid, and the average percentage of tuition covered by institutional grants ranked No. 7 in the state.

Engaging the student body is an important part of the mission at Loras. The student-faculty ratio was a comfortable 12:1 in 2016, and the numbers show that students tend to stay the course once they're enrolled. Loras ranked No. 8 in the state in first-year student retention rate, and its graduation rate was higher than all other schools on our list but two.

Additional Info

Most Popular Degree Programs in Iowa

Some of the most popular college majors show up on the list year after year, and some shift with the times. Here's a list of the top degree programs by enrollment in Iowa, according to the most recent data.

In-Demand Careers in Iowa

No degree can guarantee you a job after graduation, but keeping your finger on the pulse of the career market can help you be aware of certain courses and extracurriculars that might make the search for employment a little less grueling. Take a look at this year's hottest jobs in Iowa.

Career Title Projected Job Growth Total Employment Annual Salary
Wind Turbine Service Technicians119.1%360$60,380
Occupational Therapy Assistants43.5%420$55,720
Operations Research Analysts40.6%570$75,850
Information Security Analysts39.4%440$74,270
Physical Therapist Assistants38.3%960$46,690
Interpreters and Translators35.1%540$36,500
Occupational Therapy Aides34.9%50$32,720
Statisticians34.2%200$68,820
Home Health Aides32.2%5,630$26,990
Physical Therapist Aides32.2%330$28,480
Web Developers31.8%990$55,580
Therapists, All Other31.7%70$59,550
Actuaries29.6%710$97,870
Physical Therapists29.2%1,850$81,110
Occupational Therapists28.6%1,050$75,000
Nurse Practitioners28.4%1,510$97,970
Computer Systems Analysts28%5,660$80,430
Personal Financial Advisors26.8%1,710$95,480
Industrial Machinery Mechanics26.7%6,660$49,480
Veterinary Technologists and Technicians26.1%740$34,350
Personal Care Aides26.1%16,230$23,700
Optometrists24.7%360$117,670
Biomedical Engineers24.6%80$80,770
Speech-Language Pathologists24.6%1,340$72,170
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers24.6%860$62,470
Physician Assistants24.5%1,090$102,590
Insulation Workers, Mechanical24.2%830$45,350
Massage Therapists23.8%820$43,660
Helpers--Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble Setters23.8%120$32,230
Taxi Drivers and Chauffeurs23.7%1,670$23,220
Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Financial Aid and Scholarships in Iowa

State-based financial aid can help Iowa students afford the cost of college:

  • The Governor Terry E. Branstad Iowa State Fair Scholarship is a one-time award of up to $5,000 for outstanding high school seniors who have been active participants in the Iowa State Fair.
  • The All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship (AIOS) is a need-based annual disbursement for first-time college freshmen who have earned their Iowa high school diploma or GED within the last two years.
  • The Iowa Tuition Grant focuses on students attending private colleges and universities in the state and provides an annual, need-based award.
 
Provost Scholarship
Applicant must be an out-of-state resident with a minimum 3.75 GPA and minimum combined SAT Reasoning score of 1400 (composite ACT score of 32).
More

AWARD AMOUNT

$20,000

APPLICATION DEADLINE

November 15 (Early Action admissions deadline)

RENEWAL CRITERIA

Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.25 GPA and full-time status.

 
President's Non-Resident Scholarship
Applicant must be an incoming freshman student who is not a resident of Utah. Applicant is automatically considered with application for admission.
More

AWARD AMOUNT

$17,000

APPLICATION DEADLINE

Not Available

RENEWAL CRITERIA

Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.6 GPA.

 
Amigo Scholarship
Applicant must have a minimum 3.5 high school GPA with minimum composite ACT score of 23 (combined SAT Reasoning score of 1070) or have a minimum 3.0 high school GPA with a minimum composite ACT score of 26 (combined SAT Reasoning score of 1170). Applicant must not be from New Mexico.
More

AWARD AMOUNT

$14,815

APPLICATION DEADLINE

February 1 (fall); October 1 (spring)

RENEWAL CRITERIA

Renewable for four years.

 
Jayhawk Generations Scholarship
Applicant must be an admitted first-time, non-resident freshman student whose parent, step-parent, legal guardian, grandparent, step-grandparent, or great-grandparent earned a degree at the university. Minimum 3.5 GPA and combined SAT Reasoning score of 1090 (composite ACT score of 24) required.
More

AWARD AMOUNT

$12,154

APPLICATION DEADLINE

November 1

RENEWAL CRITERIA

Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.4 university GPA and completes 30 university semester hours per academic year.

Additional Resources

Article Sources
Methodology

To get our list of the best colleges, we ranked 1,649 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S. Each school was scored on a 100-point scale, using the most recent data available from government sources. Our data points include:

  • The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  • The estimated cost of books and supplies, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  • The average net price for students receiving Title IV grant and scholarship aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014-15
  • The average net price for low-income students receiving Title IV grant and scholarship aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014-15
  • The average amount of institutional grant aid awarded to full-time, first-time undergraduate students as a percentage of in-state tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014-15
  • Median debt of graduates, College Scorecard, 2014-15
  • 3-year student loan repayment rate of graduates, College Scorecard, 2014-15
  • No. of degree and certificate programs offered, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  • No. of degree and certificate programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  • Percent of students enrolled in any distance education classes, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  • Average retention rate for full-time and part-time students, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2015-16
  • Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  • Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
    • Dual credit
    • Credit for life experience
    • Advanced Placement credit
    • Programs of study that can be completed entirely on weekends or in the evening
    • Remedial services
    • Academic and career counseling
    • Job placement services for graduates
    • Guaranteed tuition plan
    • Tuition payment plan
    • Any other alternative tuition plan
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Briar Cliff University
Basic Information
Test Score Data
Address
3303 Rebecca Street
City
Sioux City
State
IA
Zip Code
51104
Website
www.briarcliff.edu
Test Scores
N/A
SAT Critical Reading 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
SAT Critical Math 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
SAT Writing 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
ACT Composite 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
Campus/School Overview
Campus Environment
Small
School Type
Private not-for-profit
Total UnderGraduate Enrollment
1,022
UnderGraduate Application Fee
$20
Admission Rate
Open
Offers On-Campus Housing
Yes
In-State Tution & Fees
$28,090
Student-to-Faculty Ratio
13
Number of Online Programs Offered
11
Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes
34%
Graceland University-Lamoni
Basic Information
Test Score Data
Address
1 University Place
City
Lamoni
State
IA
Zip Code
50140
Website
www.graceland.edu
Test Scores
Required
SAT Critical Reading 25th-75th Percentile
370-450
SAT Critical Math 25th-75th Percentile
410-490
SAT Writing 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
ACT Composite 25th-75th Percentile
18-24
Campus/School Overview
Campus Environment
Rural: Remote
School Type
Private not-for-profit
Total UnderGraduate Enrollment
1,554
UnderGraduate Application Fee
N/A
Admission Rate
48%
Offers On-Campus Housing
Yes
In-State Tution & Fees
$25,890
Student-to-Faculty Ratio
16
Number of Online Programs Offered
10
Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes
99%
Grand View University
Basic Information
Test Score Data
Address
1200 Grandview Ave
City
Des Moines
State
IA
Zip Code
50316
Website
www.grandview.edu
Test Scores
Required
SAT Critical Reading 25th-75th Percentile
380-580
SAT Critical Math 25th-75th Percentile
400-540
SAT Writing 25th-75th Percentile
340-570
ACT Composite 25th-75th Percentile
18-23
Campus/School Overview
Campus Environment
City: Midsize
School Type
Private not-for-profit
Total UnderGraduate Enrollment
1,921
UnderGraduate Application Fee
N/A
Admission Rate
98%
Offers On-Campus Housing
Yes
In-State Tution & Fees
$24,574
Student-to-Faculty Ratio
13
Number of Online Programs Offered
0
Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes
1%
Iowa State University
Basic Information
Test Score Data
Address
3410 Beardshear Hall
City
Ames
State
IA
Zip Code
50011
Website
www.iastate.edu
Test Scores
Required
SAT Critical Reading 25th-75th Percentile
460-620
SAT Critical Math 25th-75th Percentile
500-640
SAT Writing 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
ACT Composite 25th-75th Percentile
22-28
Campus/School Overview
Campus Environment
Small
School Type
Public
Total UnderGraduate Enrollment
30,034
UnderGraduate Application Fee
$40
Admission Rate
87%
Offers On-Campus Housing
Yes
In-State Tution & Fees
$7,736
Student-to-Faculty Ratio
19
Number of Online Programs Offered
21
Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes
16%
University of Iowa
Basic Information
Test Score Data
Address
101 Jessup Hall
City
Iowa City
State
IA
Zip Code
52242
Website
www.uiowa.edu
Test Scores
Required
SAT Critical Reading 25th-75th Percentile
460-630
SAT Critical Math 25th-75th Percentile
540-690
SAT Writing 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
ACT Composite 25th-75th Percentile
23-28
Campus/School Overview
Campus Environment
Small
School Type
Public
Total UnderGraduate Enrollment
23,357
UnderGraduate Application Fee
$40
Admission Rate
81%
Offers On-Campus Housing
Yes
In-State Tution & Fees
$8,104
Student-to-Faculty Ratio
15
Number of Online Programs Offered
12
Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes
41%
Loras College
Basic Information
Test Score Data
Address
1450 Alta Vista
City
Dubuque
State
IA
Zip Code
52004
Website
www.loras.edu
Test Scores
Required
SAT Critical Reading 25th-75th Percentile
460-540
SAT Critical Math 25th-75th Percentile
460-570
SAT Writing 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
ACT Composite 25th-75th Percentile
21-26
Campus/School Overview
Campus Environment
Small
School Type
Private not-for-profit
Total UnderGraduate Enrollment
1,462
UnderGraduate Application Fee
N/A
Admission Rate
95%
Offers On-Campus Housing
Yes
In-State Tution & Fees
$30,628
Student-to-Faculty Ratio
12
Number of Online Programs Offered
1
Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes
3%
Maharishi University of Management
Basic Information
Test Score Data
Address
1000 N 4th St
City
Fairfield
State
IA
Zip Code
52557
Website
https://www.mum.edu
Test Scores
N/A
SAT Critical Reading 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
SAT Critical Math 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
SAT Writing 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
ACT Composite 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
Campus/School Overview
Campus Environment
Town: Remote
School Type
Private not-for-profit
Total UnderGraduate Enrollment
353
UnderGraduate Application Fee
$25
Admission Rate
37%
Offers On-Campus Housing
Yes
In-State Tution & Fees
$26,530
Student-to-Faculty Ratio
11
Number of Online Programs Offered
6
Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes
68%
Mount Mercy University
Basic Information
Test Score Data
Address
1330 Elmhurst Dr NE
City
Cedar Rapids
State
IA
Zip Code
52402
Website
www.mtmercy.edu
Test Scores
Required
SAT Critical Reading 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
SAT Critical Math 25th-75th Percentile
510-530
SAT Writing 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
ACT Composite 25th-75th Percentile
19-23
Campus/School Overview
Campus Environment
City: Midsize
School Type
Private not-for-profit
Total UnderGraduate Enrollment
1,543
UnderGraduate Application Fee
N/A
Admission Rate
61%
Offers On-Campus Housing
Yes
In-State Tution & Fees
$28,226
Student-to-Faculty Ratio
14
Number of Online Programs Offered
3
Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes
12%
University of Northern Iowa
Basic Information
Test Score Data
Address
1227 W 27th St
City
Cedar Falls
State
IA
Zip Code
50614
Website
www.uni.edu
Test Scores
Required
SAT Critical Reading 25th-75th Percentile
410-570
SAT Critical Math 25th-75th Percentile
470-610
SAT Writing 25th-75th Percentile
360-550
ACT Composite 25th-75th Percentile
20-25
Campus/School Overview
Campus Environment
Small
School Type
Public
Total UnderGraduate Enrollment
10,169
UnderGraduate Application Fee
$40
Admission Rate
80%
Offers On-Campus Housing
Yes
In-State Tution & Fees
$7,817
Student-to-Faculty Ratio
17
Number of Online Programs Offered
15
Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes
21%
Northwestern College
Basic Information
Test Score Data
Address
101 Seventh St SW
City
Orange City
State
IA
Zip Code
51041
Website
www.nwciowa.edu/
Test Scores
Required
SAT Critical Reading 25th-75th Percentile
490-630
SAT Critical Math 25th-75th Percentile
450-650
SAT Writing 25th-75th Percentile
N/A
ACT Composite 25th-75th Percentile
22-28
Campus/School Overview
Campus Environment
Town: Distant
School Type
Private not-for-profit
Total UnderGraduate Enrollment
1,120
UnderGraduate Application Fee
N/A
Admission Rate
72%
Offers On-Campus Housing
Yes
In-State Tution & Fees
$28,950
Student-to-Faculty Ratio
13
Number of Online Programs Offered
3
Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes
25%
X
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