Nebraska is home to two public university systems: the University of Nebraska System and the Nebraska State College System. The University of Nebraska system consists of three general education university campuses, a multi-site health sciences academy and a college of technical agriculture. The Nebraska State College system comprises three regional four-year schools.
If you've already taken some college credit at Nebraska community colleges or elsewhere, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents provides a utility to help you plan your transfer. Whether you intend to transfer to a state system school or an independent institution, articulation agreements exist to help you transfer credits from a two-year to a four-year institution.
Best 4-Year Colleges in Nebraska
In order to figure out which Nebraska schools can truly be called the best, we gathered data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) on tuition cost, schedule flexibility, academic variety, financial aid and more. Read on for information about the top colleges and universities in Nebraska, and explore the top Nebraska community colleges, too.
Creighton University was founded in 1878 with just 120 students, and today its student body of more than 8,000 makes it one of the largest Jesuit Catholic institutions in the Midwest. Degrees at Creighton are offered through nine academic schools and colleges, including schools of medicine, law and dentistry with more than 100 years of history behind them.
A total of more than 200 degree programs are available to Creighton students. The catalog includes over 90 programs for graduate students, 20 professional programs and close to 120 undergraduate majors, minors and certificates.
Creighton is located in Omaha, which plays host to the range of amenities you might expect from an urban area of nearly 450,000 people. Omaha residents have access to shopping, dining, nightlife, outdoor recreation and a variety of arts, live music and other cultural events.
Founded nearly 150 years ago in 1869, the Lincoln campus of the University of Nebraska is the system's flagship school. Nearly 26,000 students were working toward degrees at UNL in 2016, and the overall trend shows enrollment on the rise -- the institution has grown by more than 4,000 students since 2005.
UNL is one of the best colleges and universities in Nebraska for online graduate degrees, thanks to more than two dozen master's degree programs and nearly 20 graduate certificates available in the virtual classroom. Blended and hybrid degree programs are also available, for students who aren't ready to leave behind the traditional classroom altogether.
More than 150 undergraduate majors are available at UNL. If you're undecided, you can visit a specialized advising hub called the Explore Center to help you find the degree plan that fits you best.
The University of Nebraska's Omaha location is a medium-sized public university with a metropolitan feel. Just shy of 11,000 full-time students attend regular classes at UNO, where more than 200 programs of study are offered through six academic colleges.
Affordability is one of the top stats at UNO. The national average cost for annual tuition and fees at public four-year universities was $9,970 in 2017, according to the College Board. In-state undergraduates here paid about 70 percent of that average -- right around $7,000 -- for a 24-credit year of on-campus study.
UNO also seems set to join the best online schools in Nebraska, nearly doubling its online programs since 2015. Undergraduates can pursue Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degrees, as well as a Bachelor of Multidisciplinary Studies (B.M.S.) degree with more than a dozen available concentrations.
The smallest general-purpose campus in the University of Nebraska system lies in Kearney, just north of the Platte River. Fewer than 6,700 students were enrolled here in 2017, which can be an encouraging statistic for students who worry that they might feel overwhelmed or anonymous at a large, bustling university.
UNK was founded in 1903 as a teacher preparation academy called Nebraska State Normal School. The first class of students was admitted two years later, and the institution grew into a comprehensive state college by the 1960s. It became part of the University of Nebraska system in 1989.
The academic catalog at UNK is sizeable, particularly for a school of its size. Students can choose among more than 170 academic majors and 20 pre-professional programs, and close to 400 online courses can bring some flexibility to your schedule.
This small public university in Wayne maintains four academic schools -- arts and humanities, business and technology, education and counseling and natural and social sciences -- and offers more than 90 programs of study for undergraduates. Partnerships with regional health care organizations and the Northeast Nebraska Teachers Academy provide opportunities for students to enhance their degree program with hands-on experience.
On top of that, WSC is one of the top online colleges in Nebraska for graduate programs in business and education. Advanced degree seekers can choose among numerous concentrations within Master of Science in Education (M.S.E.) and Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) programs.
Enrollment expenses at WSC were some of the most affordable among Nebraska universities, as well. Tuition and fees here came to $6,988 in 2017 -- nearly $3,000 less than the national four-year university average.
Founded in 1887, Nebraska Wesleyan University is one of the smaller Nebraska colleges. Approximately 2,100 students attend classes at this close-knit Lincoln institution and its Omaha satellite site, where the combined student-faculty ratio is a comfortable 13:1 and the average class size is less than 20.
The core educational experience at NWU, known as the Archway Curriculum, takes a slightly unorthodox approach to cross-disciplinary learning. Students choose one or two "threads" of courses that touch on an array of academic fields and instruct them peripherally in writing, speaking, discourse or diversity.
Students hoping for some assistance with the looming specter of college debt are likely to find it here -- no fewer than 98 percent of students at NWU receive some form of financial aid, and the student loan default rate for graduates is less than half the national average.
This modest public institution features state-of-the-art learning facilities in a quiet, rural setting. Just shy of 3,000 students were enrolled at Chadron State College in 2016, with close to 80 percent of them pursuing bachelor's degrees and the remaining 600+ enrolled in graduate programs.
The town of Chadron is one of the smallest home cities among Nebraska colleges. The U.S. Census reports a population of just over 5,700 permanent residents in the northwestern Nebraska municipality, which was founded in the 1870s and today serves as the seat of Dawes County.
CSC also reported some of the most affordable tuition and fees numbers among the top schools in Nebraska, if not in the U.S. at large. In-state enrollment expenses for a 24-credit year here totaled less than $5,750 for undergraduates, and qualifying out-of-state students may be able to pay a similar rate.
Bellevue University is a medium-small institution that serves around 8,000 students annually. The city of Bellevue has a population of fewer than 55,000 residents, which makes it a great size for a college town -- large enough to provide urban amenities and recreation but small enough to provide plenty of quiet when it's time to study.
Bellevue is one of the top schools in Nebraska for accredited online degree programs, especially in terms of its undergraduate catalog. More than 50 B.A., B.S. and Bachelor of Applied Sciences (B.A.S.) study plans are available for bachelor's degree seekers, including programs in valuable and uncommon disciplines like health communication and non-profit management.
Nearly 30 master's degrees are also available online, primarily in business administration, information technology and criminal justice. An online Ph.D. in human capital management is available as well, for those who prefer online courses and plan to take their education as far as they can.
Founded shortly after the end of the U.S. Civil War, Peru State College has been educating Nebraska students for more than 150 years. It's grown quite a bit since the first 60 students enrolled in 1967, but today's student body of around 2,400 should still suit those who prefer a fairly intimate learning environment.
Resident on-campus tuition and fees at this Peru institution are less than $250 per credit hour in 2018-19, which works out to less than $6,000 in enrollment expenses for the year. Online or out-of-state students may pay a bit more, but Nebraska residents can earn their degrees here for approximately 40 percent less than the national average.
Peru State has an additional draw for nature lovers. Known as the "Campus of a Thousand Oaks," the southeast Nebraska campus is a member of the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum.
The School of Arts and Sciences at Doane University features more than 40 areas of undergraduate study, including pre-professional programs in engineering, law, medicine, dentistry and more. Students whose academic goals reach across disciplines can work with advisors to design an interdisciplinary major that suits their needs.
The average class size at Doane is just 11 students, which allows for personalized interaction between students and professors. What's more, the Crete institution has offered a four-year graduation guarantee since 1995, and 100 percent of enrolled students were awarded some form of financial aid.
Founded in affiliation with the United Church of Christ, Doane University serves as the representative institution for the Nebraska, Kansas-Oklahoma, Rocky Mountain and South Dakota conferences of the Church. Despite its Protestant foundations, Doane welcomes all students regardless of religious affiliation.
Most popular degree programs in Nebraska
Nebraska residents enroll in certain college majors more than others, and knowing which are the most popular may help you better understand the students around you. Here's a quick rundown of the most popular degree programs in Nebraska, according to the most recent NCES data.
In-Demand Careers in Nebraska
The Nebraska job market is shifting with the times and knowing which professions have the highest demand for educated applicants can help you better prepare for the workforce while you're still in school. Take a look at today's high-growth careers in Nebraska.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Home Health and Personal Care Aides||41.1%||13,090||$26,730|
|Information Security Analysts||37.7%||570||$91,150|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||33.7%||150||$53,160|
|Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers||31.4%||7,740||$90,820|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||30.5%||650||$49,480|
|Hearing Aid Specialists||29.4%||-||$44,420|
|Operations Research Analysts||29.2%||650||$59,470|
|Veterinary Technologists and Technicians||26.9%||560||$35,010|
|Computer and Information Research Scientists||25%||70||$81,570|
|Physical Therapist Aides||25%||470||$29,210|
|Loan Interviewers and Clerks||25%||1,540||$41,130|
|Dental Laboratory Technicians||24.8%||260||$45,710|
|Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists||24.3%||3,290||$55,990|
|Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators||24.2%||-||$50,550|
|Ambulance Drivers and Attendants, Except Emergency Medical Technicians||24%||170||$30,000|
|Personal Financial Advisors||23.6%||1,350||$97,260|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||23.4%||310||$37,180|
|Helpers--Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||22.4%||-||$36,440|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Nebraska
State-based financial aid programs can help shoulder some of the cost burden for Nebraska students. The Nebraska Opportunity Grant (NOG) is a state-funded program awarded at the institution level that bases its aid amount on a student's expected family contribution (EFC) In addition, the Access College Early (ACE) Scholarship Program helps qualifying low-income high school students pay tuition and fees for dual- or early-enrollment college courses.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
- University of Nebraska System
- Nebraska State College System
- Nebraska's Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education
- EducationQuest Foundation
- Nest 529 College Savings Plan
- Nebraska Community College Association
- Transfer Nebraska
To get our list of the best colleges, we ranked 1,383 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S. Each school was scored on a 100-point scale, using the following data points and the weights specified. In order to be included in the ranking, schools had to report data for each of the following data points:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- 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, 2015-16
- Percent of full-time first-time undergraduates awarded any financial aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Median debt of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- 3-year student loan repayment rate of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered on campus, 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, Fall 2016
- Full-time student retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2013-14
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- 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
Note:Tuition prices are based on data for the 2016-17 academic year reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.
All of the National Center for Education Statistics data came from IPEDS:
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2015-16, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- School pages, accessed May 10-11, 2018: Academic Programs, Creighton Univeristy, https://www.creighton.edu/programs/filter/online/All/accelerated/All/professional/1/prg_offered/All/dual_programs/All/undergrad_cert/All/grad_cert/All/doctorate/All; History, Creighton University, https://www.creighton.edu/about/history; About, Creighton University, https://www.creighton.edu/about; Life in Omaha, Creighton University, https://www.creighton.edu/student-experience/life-omaha; About, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, https://www.unl.edu/about/; Total Enrollment, Fact Book 2016-2017, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, https://iea.unl.edu/publications/fb16_17.pdf#page=53; Graduate Distance Programs, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, https://online.unl.edu/programs/graduate; Explore Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, https://explorecenter.unl.edu/; Majors, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, https://admissions.unl.edu/why-nebraska/majors/; About UNO, University of Nebraska Omaha, https://www.unomaha.edu/about-uno/index.php; Facts and Figures, University of Nebraska Omaha, https://www.unomaha.edu/about-uno/rankings-and-statistics.php; Tuition Rates, University of Nebraska Omaha, https://www.unomaha.edu/accounting-services/cashiering-and-student-accounts/tuition-fees-and-refunds/tuition-rates.php; Student Fees, University of Nebraska Omaha, https://www.unomaha.edu/accounting-services/cashiering-and-student-accounts/tuition-fees-and-refunds/student-fees.php; Academics, University of Nebraska Omaha, https://www.unomaha.edu/academics/index.php; Online Learning, University of Nebraska Omaha, https://www.unomaha.edu/academics/online-learning.php#ex; University of Nebraska at Kearney, http://www.unk.edu/about/index.php; History, University of Nebraska at Kearney, http://www.unk.edu/about/history.php; Academics, University of Nebraska at Kearney, http://www.unk.edu/academics/index.php; Student Enrollment, Factbook, University of Nebraska at Kearney, https://factbook.nebraska.edu/default.aspx?campus=uni_unk; About, Wayne State College, https://www.wsc.edu/about; Academics, Wayne State College, https://www.wsc.edu/academics; Graduate Studies, Wayne State College, https://www.wsc.edu/graduate; Tuition & Aid, Wayne State College, https://www.wsc.edu/tuition; Facts about NWU, Nebraska Wesleyan University, https://www.nebrwesleyan.edu/about-nwu/nwu-facts; Archway Curriculum Features, Nebraska Wesleyan University, https://www.nebrwesleyan.edu/undergraduate/archway-curriculum/curriculum-features; Who We Are, Chadron State College, http://www.csc.edu/about/; Quick Facts, Chadron State College, http://www.csc.edu/about/facts/index.csc; On-Campus Course Costs, Chadron State College, http://www.csc.edu/businessoffice/oncampus.csc; Enrollment Quick Facts, Chadron State College, http://www.csc.edu/ir/quickfacts.csc; Statistics and Facts, Bellevue University, http://www.bellevue.edu/about/about-us/statistics-facts/; Degrees and Programs, Bellevue University, http://www.bellevue.edu/degrees/; About, Peru State College, http://www.peru.edu/about/; Tuition, Fees, Room & Board, Peru State College, http://www.peru.edu/businessoffice/tuition/; School of Arts and Sciences, Doane University, https://www.doane.edu/school-of-arts-and-sciences; Why Doane, Doane University, https://www.doane.edu/why-doane; About Us, Doane Unviersity, https://www.doane.edu/about-us;
- Colleges and Universities, Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, accessed May 10, 2018, http://www.ajcunet.edu/institutions
- University of Nebraska, accessed May 10, 2018, https://nebraska.edu/
- Tuition and Fees and Room and Board over Time, Trends in Higher Education, The College Board, accessed May 11, 2018, https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-fees-room-and-board-over-time
- QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, accessed May 10-11, 2018: Omaha city, Nebraska, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/omahacitynebraska/PST045217; Chadron city, Nebraska, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/chadroncitynebraska/PST045216; Bellevue city, Nebraska, http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/bellevuecitynebraska/PST045216;
- History, Chadron, Nebraska, accessed May 11, 2018, http://chadron-nebraska.com/253/History
- Chadron, Nebraska, Community "Fast Facts" Profile, Nebraska Public Power District, accessed May 11, 2018, http://econdevtools.nppd.com/aedc/fastfacts.asp?city=Chadron
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- Campuses, University of Nebraska System, accessed May 26, 2017, https://nebraska.edu/campuses.html?redirect=true
- Nebraska's Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education, accessed May 16, 2017: Nebraska Opportunity Grant, https://ccpe.nebraska.gov/nebraska-opportunity-grant-nog;