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Our Research

This list features some of the best online schools in Iowa. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions. We included liberal arts colleges and research universities as well as small, midsize, and large institutions. Next, we compared this comprehensive list to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report among others to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

The academic institutions on our list are all accredited to ensure they offer a high-quality education program. Most of the Iowa colleges on our list are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), which offers accreditation for colleges and universities located within a 19-state area and holds institutions to high quality standards.

We evaluated each school on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, and reputation as well as the student resources provided for online students. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Online College Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

The Top 50 Online Colleges in Iowa

Best Online Colleges in Iowa Badge

University of Iowa

Iowa State University

University of Northern Iowa

Buena Vista University

St. Luke's College

Mount Mercy University

Graceland University

Northwestern College

Maharishi International University

Upper Iowa University

Morningside University

Briar Cliff University

St. Ambrose University

Clarke University

Simpson College

William Penn University

Grand View University

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Frequently Asked Questions: Online Colleges in Iowa

Does Iowa have good online colleges and universities?

It depends. At the bachelor’s degree level, Iowa’s offerings are not highly ranked compared to other states. At the graduate level, online degree options in Iowa are relatively limited, but the strongest contender is University of Iowa, which ranks No. 37 in Online Master’s in Education programs, No. 15 in Online General Management MBA programs, and No. 7 in Online Master’s in Nursing Administration programs, according to U.S. News & World Report. Iowa also offers online courses and degree plans at the community college level through the Iowa Community College Online Consortium, which enables you to access all the online classes available at the different community college branches in the state.

Given the limited number of highly ranked programs available in Iowa, you may want to check out our guide to the best accredited online colleges in the entire United States. In addition to showing you the country’s top 30 schools for remote learning, this guide offers expert advice on how to choose a college and complete the application process.

Do online college credits in Iowa cost more than in-person classes?

The answer to this question depends on which college you attend. Some colleges offer discounted rates for online courses regardless of where you live, while others charge an additional fee for online courses to help cover the cost of software licenses, technical support, etc. At present, only private universities in Iowa offer online bachelor’s degree programs, so the tuition is the same for in-state and out-of-state students. At the community college level, however, out-of-state students tend to pay more than in-state students.

Why should you choose Iowa for online higher education?

Iowa’s Community College Online Consortium is a great option if you want to take community college classes or work toward an associate degree. Iowa’s online bachelor’s degree options are not particularly affordable, nor are they particularly highly ranked, so it may be best to look elsewhere. At the graduate level, some universities in the state, such as University of Iowa and Drake University, have programs that rank well and are relatively affordable.

The Cost of Online College in Iowa

How much does an online degree in Iowa cost?

The cost of an online degree in Iowa depends on which institution you attend as well as the type of degree you choose to pursue. For example, undergraduate courses are usually more affordable than graduate degrees. Also, you may find yourself paying more for your degree if you major in a STEM field rather than the humanities.

Regardless of the cost per credit, you should also consider that you may be able to save a lot of money on indirect expenses, such as transportation and housing, by earning your college degree online.

To give you a sense of exactly how much you should expect to pay for your online education, we’ve listed the current rates for earning an online bachelor’s degree in Iowa below:

Most affordable online college in Iowa: Mercy College of Health Sciences, $321 per credit

Most expensive online college in Iowa: Drake University, $650 per credit

Average College Tuition Cost

Source: Education Data Initiative

How long do you have to live in Iowa to get in-state tuition rates?

Establishing Iowa residency typically requires you to live in Iowa for at least 12 months, including a summer, prior to declaring Iowa residency. You must prove you are in the state for a reason other than education, so you should not take more than a half-time course load during your residency-qualifying year. You should also plan to work in the state and pay Iowa income taxes.

Who qualifies for reduced tuition costs in Iowa?

Iowa does not offer any tuition reciprocity agreements with other states. However, Iowa does offer several other ways to reduce your tuition costs. One is through the Iowa Tuition Grant, which provides need-based funding to Iowa students who are enrolled or will enroll at an accredited private university in the state. The award amount is up to $7,500 per year per student.

Furthermore, the state sponsors the All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship, which provides need-based aid to Iowa students who demonstrate financial need. Eligibility for both the grant and the scholarship is determined based on FAFSA application data, so it’s important to file early and accurately. The FAFSA will also show if you are eligible for Federal Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), and other financial aid awards.

College Financial Aid, Scholarships, and Grant Programs in Iowa

In addition to the Iowa Tuition Grant and All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship, there are a number of other programs available that can help you cover the cost of college. Some of these programs are also based on financial need, while others are awarded based on factors such as demographics or academic merit. We’ve reviewed a few of the most prominent financial aid options for you below:

Iowa Scholarship for the Arts

As the name suggests, this scholarship provides $2,500 in funding to Iowa students who demonstrate excellence in the arts and plan to pursue a postsecondary education in art.

Who’s eligible? Iowa high school seniors who excel at art and will study art at a college or university in Iowa.

Contact information: [email protected] | 515-281-8352

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Kibbie Grant (Iowa Skilled Workforce Shortage Tuition Grant)

This state-sponsored grant awards funding up to one-half the cost of tuition at an eligible community or technical college in Iowa for students in a qualified program of study.

Who’s eligible? Iowa community or technical college students earning a degree or certificate in any of these fields.

Contact information: [email protected] | 877-272-4456

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Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship

This program aims to cover any remaining gap between federal and state grants/scholarships and tuition and qualified fees for community college students.

Who’s eligible? Iowa students enrolled in an eligible program at an Iowa community college who demonstrate unmet financial need.

Contact information: [email protected] | 877-272-4456

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Brian Pearson Memorial Scholarship

In memory of former Iowa State University basketball player Brian Pearson, the Iowa Games awards scholarships to two outstanding high school athletes in Iowa each year, one male and one female. The scholarship is worth $1,000 per student.

Who’s eligible? Iowan athletes who compete in the Iowa Games and demonstrate strength of character.

Contact information: [email protected] | 888-777-8881

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Top 5 Fast-Growing Industries in Iowa

If you’re still in the process of assessing your college options, you may also be undecided on your major. When selecting a major, one of the most important factors to consider is your future employability. Thinking about which industries and careers are growing the fastest in Iowa can make it easier to find a job once you graduate, and being in demand should also help you earn a higher salary. By consulting the U.S. Department of Labor’s Long-Term Occupational Projections (2020–2030), we’ve determined that the following five careers have some of the highest projected growth rates in Iowa:

Information Security Analysts

Information security analysts monitor and manage an organization’s computer networks and systems. Specifically, information security analysts keep an organization’s data safe. As cybersecurity and information security become increasingly important in our digital world, security analysts are in high demand. They are also well-compensated, making an average annual salary of $132,590 in Iowa.

Personal Care Aides

As Iowa’s population ages and chronic and acute medical conditions become more prevalent, the state is in increasing need of personal care aides to assist patients, often older adults or disabled people, with tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and bathing. In Iowa, personal care aides make an average annual salary of $32,090.

Medical Assistants

Medical assistants perform a range of administrative and clinical duties to support physicians. They schedule appointments, maintain medical records, oversee billing and insurance coding, and sometimes take patients’ vitals, draw blood, and administer medication as directed. In Iowa, they earn an average salary of $40,360.

Financial Managers

Financial managers tend to the financial health of an organization. Iowa is home to the headquarters of several Fortune 500 companies, and many other organizations in the state need financial managers as well. This occupation offers an average annual salary of $131,080 in Iowa.

Registered Nurses

Registered nurses (RNs) perform a wide range of health and patient care duties, depending on where they work (hospital, doctor’s office, health clinic, etc.). Iowa expects to add thousands of RN jobs over the next decade. RNs in Iowa earn an average salary of $69,370.

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