In order to provide prospective students with the best chance at having a great education, we have compiled this list of the top universities and colleges in Iowa. Some schools may excel at online programs while others may focus exclusively on the traditional, on-campus aspect of higher education. Regardless of the delivery format, these schools excel at providing a quality education for their students.
The best colleges in Iowa feature some of the best associate, bachelor, master and doctorate degrees available anywhere in the country. Iowa also enjoys a mix of the major public universities and smaller private schools.
Online education in Iowa has grown immensely thanks to the creation of the Iowa Community College Online Consortium. Iowa promotes several initiatives to enhance online learning for students. As a result, many online colleges in Iowa are highly accessible and up-to-date. Iowa’s demonstrated commitment to making distance learning more accessible and technologically innovative makes online college a worthwhile investment for many.
Online degrees in Iowa provide the same quality of education as in the classroom. As part of our list, we look at the quality of the program, graduation rate, job placement, and tuition costs. The graduation rate is the student’s ability graduate within four years of starting school. Each of these qualities helps determine how well a student will succeed by enrolling in an Iowa academic program in the U.S.
Here are the Best Colleges in Iowa of 2020
1. University of Northern Iowa
The University of Northern Iowa is ranked as one of the best online colleges in Iowa with approximately 2,000 students participating in online learning. Starting in the fall of 2018, students could select from seven online bachelor’s degree programs including education, criminal justice, emergency services, and technology management. Currently, there are five programs available for undergraduate students.
UNI, located in Cedar Falls and has 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students, offers more than 90 academic degrees through its four colleges and graduate school.
- Graduation Rate: 66 percent
- Number of Online Programs: 42
- Tuition Cost: $15,133/yr
2. Iowa State University
Iowa State University has an online learning program that offers some different degrees and certificates. Undergraduates can participate in the bachelor of liberal arts program. Students can transfer up to 75 percent of the required course credit from another institution. The school has over 25 graduate degree programs online. Graduate degrees include engineering, science, education, and business. Iowa State also offers two online Ph.D. programs in philosophy.
Iowa State is an international university with nearly 36,000 students with over 100 majors, and more than 800 student organizations and clubs.
- Graduation Rate: 71 percent
- Number of Online Programs: 50+
- Tuition Cost: $13,647/yr
3. Upper Iowa University
The Center for Distance Education at Upper Iowa University has several undergraduate programs in three dozen concentrations. Graduate and certificates programs are also available. Online bachelor’s degrees are available in three different BA levels, or students can select from the over 20 BS majors, including communications, human services, and public administration.
A private institution known as UIU, it has the residential campus that is in northeast Iowa. The university provides programs for over 6,000 students.
- Graduation Rate: 39 percent
- Number of Online Programs: 40
- Tuition Cost: $22,980/yr
4. University of Iowa
The University of Iowa offers some bachelor’s degree programs that can be taken 100 percent online in areas such as business administration, political science, and RN-to-BSN. Also, there are over ten different graduate programs available for students. Some of those include MBA, Master of Science and Master of Artis in Learning Sciences.
A prestige public research university, the University of Iowa (UI) offers its 33,000 students a curriculum of the arts, sciences, and humanities administered by 11 colleges.
- Graduation Rate: 51% (4-year), 76% (6-year)
- Number of Online Programs: 40
- Tuition Cost: $9,189.50/year
5. Graceland University-Lamoni
Graceland University, located in Lamoni, offers over 50 academic programs to its 2000 students. Bachelor’s degrees can be earned 100 percent online in nursing, business administration, healthcare management, and organizational leadership. As for graduate degrees, GU provides online degrees in Master of Arts in Religion, Master Of Science In Nursing, Master of Education, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice.
The Community of Christ sponsors GU. The liberal arts institution has two campuses and online learning serving just under 2,000 students.
- Graduation Rate: 50 percent
- Number of Online Programs: 24
- Tuition Cost: $26,440/yr
6. Buena Vista University
Buena Vista University offers online degree and degree completion programs in areas such as accounting, criminal justice, health services leadership, and marketing. BVU offers three graduate programs in Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership, Master of Education – Exceptional Student Services and Instruction (Special Education), and Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction.
Buena Vista University, a Presbyterian institution established in 1891, offers students over 40-degree programs across five academic colleges.
- Graduation Rate: 51 percent
- Number of Online Programs: 23
- Tuition Cost: $20,431/yr
7. Northwestern College
Northwestern College offers more than 80 undergraduate programs and 11 different online programs including Master of Education degrees and bachelor’s degrees in Nursing (RN-BSN) and Early Childhood Education. Graduate students can choose among online programs in Early Childhood, Early Childhood + Birth through Grade Three Endorsement, Educational Administration + K-12 Principal Endorsement, Master Teacher, Special Education, Supervisor of Special Education Endorsement, and Teacher Leadership. Northwestern also offers online graduate-level education endorsements in Early Childhood (Birth through Grade Three), Special Education (Instructional Strategist I and II), and Principal and Supervisor of Special Education. The Principal Endorsement is one of only 6 online programs that lead to principal certification in Iowa. Northwestern College is located in Orange City, Iowa.
- Graduation Rate: 63.2 percent
- Number of Online Programs: 11
- Tuition Cost: $5,850/yr (online programs)
8. Iowa Wesleyan University
Iowa Wesleyan University was founded in 1842 and is one of the oldest, four-year, church-related universities in the eastern united states. IW has a highly ranked online program that is popular with students for many reasons. Not only do online programs allow you to study anywhere at any time, but they also eliminate some of the hidden fees of higher education without losing any of the quality of on-campus coursework.
- Graduation Rate: 31.2 percent
- # of Online Programs: unknown
- Tuition Cost: $29,500
9. Briar Cliff University
At Briar Cliff University students with prior university credits can use up to 90 pre-earned credit hours towards their online BCU degree program. Students complete their degree remotely through BCU in nursing, accounting, business administration, social work, health sciences, and management.
Briar Cliff University is a Catholic, Franciscan learning place and in the Franciscan tradition. The private, liberal arts college is located outside Sioux City, Iowa and started in 1929 along the same hilltop.
- Graduation Rate: 46.1 percent
- Number of Online Programs: 6
- Tuition Cost: $18,138/yr
10. Northeast Iowa Community College
Northeast Iowa Community College offers more than 85 programs of study that include online options and evening studies for students who need a more flexible schedule for their busy lives. One of the programs is called the Z-degree, which allows students to obtain an Associate of Arts degree online in 8-week courses without having to pay for textbooks. Although online courses require active participation and deadlines, students have the flexibility to work whenever is convenient.
- Graduation Rate: unknown
- # of Online Programs: 10
- Tuition Cost: $4,480
11. Mount Mercy University
Last year, Mount Mercy University offered online courses at a 40 percent discount from the regular tuition price for undergraduate students. Students are still able to get it for the next school year. Mount Mercy offers affordable programs in four different concentrations: business, human resource management, nursing (RN to BSN program), and criminal justice.
A four-year Catholic liberal arts university, Mount Mercy University, is located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
- Graduation Rate: 72 percent
- Number of Online Programs: 7
- Tuition Cost: $20,274/Yr
12. Maharishi University of Management
The Maharishi University of Management is an accredited, non-profit university. Maharishi combines self-exploration with a healthy lifestyle for students and offers three online MBA programs, all of which take approximately three years to complete with the built-in flexibility of working anytime wherever you live.
- Graduation Rate: 32.4 percent
- # of Online Programs: 3
- Tuition Cost: $13,500
13. Clarke University
Clarke University is a four-year private liberal arts institution founded in 1843 by Mary Frances Clarke, BVM. The 55-acre campus sits on a bluff overlooking the city of Dubuque, Iowa and the Mississippi River. Clarke offers 31 undergraduate academic majors and seven graduate and adult programs. Clarke offers two degrees that are 100% online: Master of Arts in Education and RN to BSN. Clarke also has two hybrid online programs: Master of Social Work and Doctor of Nursing Practice.
- Graduation Rate: 57%
- Number of Online Programs: 4
- Tuition Cost: $30,950/yr
The list draws from the best colleges in Iowa, combining important quality-indicating attributes to determine each school’s individual place. For more information on how this was done, please visit our methodology page.
We invite schools featured and not to reach out for possible inclusion in an updated version of our best colleges in Iowa. We’re constantly looking to recognize top-tier institutions.