Iowa Online Colleges & Universities – Top Online Schools for 2016-2017

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Focus on Iowa Online Colleges

The distance learning option in Iowa has risen in popularity to the point where many traditional institutions now offer coursework via an online platform. Major universities offer courses and programs in line with their face-to-face classes, leveraging technology such as Blackboard and video lectures to deliver instruction, engage with students and more.

One of the Iowa online colleges making strides is Iowa State University. ISU’s Online & Distance Learning section provides nearly 30 fully online degree programs, 27 of which are at the master’s level. The university also offers just short of 30 online certificates, 25 for graduate students. These degree and certificate opportunities exist within agriculture and life sciences, business, design, engineering, human sciences, liberal arts and veterinary medicine. To put the abundant educational possibilities in Iowa in perspective, let’s examine the breadth of institutions in one city alone: Des Moines.

College Opportunities in Des Moines

The academic scene in Des Moines offers an array of options, from multiple community college campuses to private schools with religious affiliations. Grand View University, a not-for-profit liberal arts institution founded in 1896, is linked to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. About 2,300 Grand View students pursue bachelor’s and master’s degrees at two locations in the greater Des Moines area. Another private school, Mercy College of Health Sciences, is sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church. Mercy College’s associate and bachelor’s degree programs center on building a liberal arts and science foundation for medical or nursing careers.

At Des Moines Area Community College, students can find more than 150 programs, including associate degrees and technical training for in-demand occupations. Individuals aiming for a four-year education can join DMACC’s University-College Transfer Program, while those seeking a boost their current careers can look into short-term certificate programs.

Focus on Des Moines: Online Courses and Degrees

Flexible study options for adult learners abound in Des Moines. For instance, AIB College of Business is a nonprofit institution that provides blended learning opportunities, combining evening class schedules with online and independent studies. AIB’s hybrid associate and bachelor’s degree programs cover several business-focused subjects. Des Moines University, an independent health science and medical school, features three online graduate degree programs. Mercy College of Health Sciences describes many of its courses as 50-75 percent online, with certain others available fully online.

Des Moines Area Community College students can explore credit and noncredit courses delivered via the Iowa Communication Network and cable TV broadcasts. DMACC also has a growing list of its own Signature Series web-based classes. In addition to individual Internet-based courses, students can select online associate degree and certificate programs in various disciplines, including the arts, business and management. The business administration program is offered in blended and fully online formats. Thanks to distance learning, student-centered schedules and numerous college campuses, higher education is never far away for residents of Des Moines.

The Cost of Higher Education in Iowa

The value of a college degree can be priceless when searching for a path to a profession, but college costs must be taken into consideration, and tuition is by far the costliest part of the equation. In 2012, Iowa students paid $15,394 on average for tuition. This figure will vary depending on the school of choice, residency and degree level.

In addition to tuition, most colleges charge minor fees to their attendees to help maintain the highest level of college experience possible. These fees can include things like laboratory materials, technology, recreation facilities and parking. Iowa students were charged an average of $990 in fees in 2012 to bring the total college cost to $16,384 per school year.

Beyond tuition and fees, prospective students need to consider the cost of living (COL) in the state of Iowa. On-campus students often take advantage of room and board charges to live in dorms and eat in dining halls, but online learners must consider costs like housing, food, utilities and transportation. Fortunately for those on a budget, Iowa’s COL index is about 6 percent lower than the U.S. average. Check below to see how the COL indexes for Iowa’s major cities stack up against the national average (100%):

Urban Area Composite Index Housing Groceries Utilities Transportation Health Care Misc.
Mason City -10.9% -26.9% -10.6% 5.6% -0.5% -5.2% -5.8%
Des Moines -9.1% -10.4% -9.1% -9.8% -4.1% -9.2% -9.1%
Waterloo-Cedar Falls -8.3% -10.4% -10.5% -11.8% -0.6% -4.1% -7.2%
Cedar Rapids -8.0% -20.9% -5.2% 1.6% -2.9% -5.6% -2.5%
Dubuque -4.1% -13.5% -1.9% 5.2% -0.5% -3.5% -0.5%
Iowa City -3.8% -2.7% -5.1% -19.9% 2.8% -4.6% -1.0%
Ames -3.2% 4.8% -6.3% -17.7% 1.8% -1.6% -6.3%
Burlington -3.0% -5.4% -6.2% 8.6% -1.4% -10.1% -2.9%

Accreditation Standards in Iowa

When planning to attend a college or university in Iowa, potential students should consider its accreditation status. Qualifying for federal financial aid depends on it. Organizations such as the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools or NCACS make sure that the colleges in Iowa comply with quality standards for degree offerings, professor pedigree and on-site facilities. In addition to this regional accreditation, universities in Iowa seek accreditation for their individual colleges, schools or programs. The University of Iowa’s College of Public Health, for example, has been accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health, a national organization with a mission to ensure quality education in this specialized sector.

Best Online Colleges In Iowa For 2016-2017

Accessible education is a mainstay in Iowa, and so it’s no surprise that many exceptional, fully online four-year colleges call the state home. Online Iowa colleges offer enhanced flexibility and convenience for Internet-based studies. Such programs generally utilize the same curriculum as on-campus coursework, with additional options like accelerated formats. Among the numerous schools expanding their distance learning departments, certain ones lead the pack with their unsurpassed achievements in delivering online degree and certificate programs. Discover which schools made the list of the Best Online Colleges in Iowa for 2016-2017.

Score Tuition & Fees Financial Aid % #ONLINE PROGRAMS Student-teacher RatioGrad Rate
Score Tuition & Fees Financial Aid % #ONLINE PROGRAMS Student-teacher RatioGrad Rate
1 Iowa Central Community College
93.41 60% 25 20:1 34%

Over the course of eight weeks, students attending Iowa Central Community College can complete any of their online classes toward an associate degree. Classes at Iowa Central are small, both online and in person, creating a personalized academic environment designed to expedite student success. Many of the courses and programs at Iowa Central are also designed to transfer up to a four-year institution, granting most students junior status upon acceptance. Special tuition rates are available to both veterans and active military personnel, ensuring that returning to school will be an affordable goal.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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2 Western Iowa Tech Community College
93.33 46% 6 17:1 20%

Not only are hundreds of individual courses at Western Iowa Technical Community College available to be completed from home, but many of the associate degrees offered are designed to incorporate online-only sections, allowing students to earn their degree without ever attending in-person classes. Similar to the experience of on-campus students, online students will receive around-the-clock technical support, and are always able to receive academic support whenever they feel it is needed. Online courses can be taken in eight, 12, or 16-week periods, giving students the benefit of finding the right pace for their education.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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3 Eastern Iowa Community College District
92.39 17% 18 17:1 23%

Finding the right pace for completing coursework is often one of the most common struggles of busy college students. With Eastern Iowa Community College’s online associate degree programs, students will have the ability to control this pace. With the flexibility afforded to online classes, students can complete their classes whenever they like, and numerous course length options let students decide how quickly they would like to progress through their program. Credits earned in an online program provide students with the same academic and career opportunities after graduation, and many of them will transfer to four-year institutions.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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4 Northeast Iowa Community College-Calmar
91.65 12% 18 14:1 29%

A student’s personality plays a large role in their academic success. While some students are more comfortable in a traditional classroom setting, there are others who feel their success is more achievable when they are allowed to control their schedule. That’s why Northeast Iowa Community College in Calmar offers many of its associate degrees through online programs. Just like traditional students, distance learners can apply for a variety of financial aid opportunities. NICC is also happy to evaluate transcripts from prior institutions, helping students to fulfill their degree requirements with classes they have already succeeded in.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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5 Kirkwood Community College
91.06 19% 9 18:1 20%

With Kirkwood Community College’s numerous online associate degree programs, students will always be able to find the time to continue their education. Online courses are offered in traditional semester formats, as well as winter and summer sessions. Because of the flexibility allowed by these courses, many of them can be completed quicker than traditional in-class sections, giving online students the opportunity to finish their degree in the fastest manner possible. At Kirkwood, more than $3 million in scholarships is available to any student who meets the requirements, including distance learners.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesNo
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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6 Des Moines Area Community College
90.93 11% 12 20:1 17%

Des Moines Area Community College combines high-quality course instruction with the convenience of working from home, creating a number of affordable associate programs for students looking for more scheduling flexibility. While not all 225 degrees offered at DMACC are offered entirely online, nearly all of them can be supplemented with online coursework to speed up the college process. For students looking to transfer schools, online credits offered at DMACC are accepted just as readily as credits earned in a classroom format. DMACC holds transfer agreements with 10 different four-year institutions, giving transfer students junior status upon advancing to earn their bachelor’s degree.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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7 Indian Hills Community College
90.88 7% 6 17:1 21%

With user-friendly online interfaces, Indian Hills Community College provides an educational learning experience from which students may benefit without having to commute to the Indian Hills campus. Over 250 courses at Indian Hills can be taken online, many of which fit into specially designed associate programs that are intended to be completed entirely from a distance. Despite attending class from home, distance learners with Indian Hills will still have the opportunity to interact with their peers and their instructor; online discussions, video chats, and streaming audio allow for interaction between students and faculty participating in an online course.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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8 Marshalltown Community College
90.88 37% 6 26:1 24%

Online coursework can play a role in any number of degrees offered at Marshalltown Community College. Whether a student is taking hybrid courses as part of a traditional degree program, or students are completing the entirety of their coursework from home, online classes afford students the benefit of time. Earning a degree with MCC is also made more affordable through online coursework, as students will not have to worry about paying for the commute to campus. MCC students who wish to continue their education with a four-year institution may wish to consider an associate of arts degree, giving students the freedom to earn the credits they’ll need at their next school.

  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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9 Ellsworth Community College
90.56 53% 3 21:1 21%

Ellsworth Community College offers numerous programs specifically designed to offer freedom and flexibility to students who may have prior commitments. With one of ECC’s entirely online associate degrees, students can prepare to transfer to a four-year institution without disrupting their busy schedules. Regional high school seniors have the opportunity to receive college credit while they're still in the process of earning their high school diploma, allowing them to save the money that may have gone toward completing those credits. This is also a great opportunity for students to become exposed to the numerous opportunities available at the college level.

  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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10 Southeastern Community College
90.43 21% 3 18:1 25%

With more than 200 degree-necessary courses offered in an online format, students attending Southeastern Community College will be able to speed through their associate degree program in the most comfortable and affordable manner possible. SCC provides its distance learners with the same service that can be found at their campus, including tutoring, career counseling, and academic advising. 24-hour technical support is also available for online students, ensuring they will always be able to complete their coursework on time. At SCC, the faculty that teaches online sections are the same that teach in the classroom, and are prepared to provide the same thorough education in an online format.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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Score Tuition & Fees Financial Aid % #ONLINE PROGRAMS Student-teacher RatioGrad Rate
Score Tuition & Fees Financial Aid % #ONLINE PROGRAMS Student-teacher RatioGrad Rate
1 Graceland University-Lamoni
99.78 100% 9 13:1 54%

With 16 accredited online bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees, Graceland University-Lamoni's online programs build on their tradition of educational excellence in the classroom. Students take courses taught by the same faculty who teach on campus and will get to know their fellow students just like traditional classroom settings. Undergraduate students are required to attend a four-day, on-campus focus session. Graduate students are required to attend two on-campus focus sessions. Graceland University uses eCollege to deliver online courses. Students who enroll in online courses should expect to give 12-15 hours per week to each course in which they are enrolled.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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2 University of Iowa
99.75 59% 9 16:1 70%

Online students at the University of Iowa receive the same high-quality instruction as the on-campus programs while being able to complete their degree entirely online. Distance courses vary in delivery format and are supported with various technologies. Some are structured so students can complete them at a time that is most convenient for them, while others provide a more specific set of deadlines and opportunities to collaborate with classmates. Distance education is also available at satellite locations including Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, the Quad cities, Sioux City, and Iowa Lakeside Laboratory at non-traditional class times.

  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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3 Allen College
99.51 100% 6 9:1 75%

Allen College specializes in healthcare education and offers a variety of certificates, associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The school is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and online courses are delivered using Blackboard Learn course management system. All instruction is provided via the Internet and no face to face instruction is required. Students may be required to attend an orientation or take proctored exams on campus or at an approved location near the student. Allen College has developed partnerships with several universities and community colleges in Iowa for general education instruction. This allows students to combine the clinical learning components learned at Allen College with the academic excellence of these partners.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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4 William Penn University
99.38 96% 6 17:1 35%

Non-traditional students have the option of taking courses online at William Penn University. Associate and Endorsement K-12 are some of the online education programs the college offers. The AA program is in leadership studies and runs for two years. Class meetings are held during the evenings and Saturdays through an online format. The BA program offers a major in Elementary Education with courses that meet in-person as well as online. The ESL program is primarily for undergraduate students who prefer online-based courses. The computer lab, peer tutoring, and Internet access are resources William Penn offers to students.

  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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5 Iowa State University
99.35 75% 3 19:1 69%

Students at Iowa State University can pursue fully online college learning programs. Graduate and undergraduate degrees are offered online as well as certificates and professional programs. Iowa State College is in partnership with the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance. The (GPIDEA) provides fully online courses for students pursuing their graduate or undergraduate degrees in professional fields. Courses are available through the learning management system, Blackboard. Students can access grades, quizzes, and tests through Blackboard. Various services are offered to students attending the university. Exam preparation, time management, and study skills are just a few of the resources available to students.

  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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6 University of Northern Iowa
99.06 59% 3 16:1 64%

The University of Northern Iowa provides fully online undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs for students. The university uses the UNI eLearning learning management system. Students can access information on the courses through the UNI eLearning system as well as quizzes and exams. Video conferences, student support, and technical support are available for students who are enrolled in online courses. Guided independent study program offers over 60 courses from which students can choose. Students enrolled in the GIS program are able to work at their own pace and entirely online. Exams are taken on campus and are proctored by university faculty.

  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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7 Mercy College of Health Sciences
91.71 31% 8 8:1 41%

Mercy College of Health Sciences provides online courses for students interested in distance learning. Students have access to the syllabus, grades, and assignments through the learning management system- Desire2Learn. The college also uses D2L or ELEOS, which is the online resource portal. An online tour of D2L and ELEOS is provided for students to prevent technical complications. Various services are provided to students who might have concerns regarding financial aid, scholarships, and tutoring. Students who are interested in working while attending the college have access to the job board where a variety of on-campus jobs are posted. Mercy medical center positions are also available to students.

  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesNo
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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8 Shiloh University
86.00 N/A 3 3:1 N/A

Shiloh University provides busy students with an alternative style of learning. Students who don't have time to take courses on campus can enroll in online courses at the university. Students who take online courses finish their degrees within a reasonable amount of time due to the 15-week-long terms. There are three terms of study available each year in which students can enroll. Online courses are designed with everything students need to succeed. This includes access to online textbooks, notes, lectures and other materials. Shiloh University provides online library resources for students who need free online resources as well as research tutorials.

  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesNo
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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Search Accredited Iowa Online Colleges

The sheer number of online programs in Iowa can be daunting to a student searching for the right degree. Choices include public and private institutions, for-profit schools, colleges with a spiritual or religious focus, major state universities, vocational schools and community colleges. Jump-start your research: This custom search tool sorts online colleges by key factors such as cost of tuition, school accreditation, and types of degree or certificate programs.

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Best Online Colleges in Iowa for 2015-2016

RANK COLLEGE ScoreStudent-Teacher RatioFinancial AidCostMORE INFO
1 University of Northern Iowa 98.7016:187%

University of Northern Iowa offers a wide variety of online undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs through its Continuing Education and Special Programs instructional development teach, which earned the Iowa Distance Learning Association (IDLA) Innovators Award in 2013. The school is military-friendly, and some degree programs can be completed entirely online.

2 Briar Cliff University 95.8912:197%

Students considering online colleges in Iowa may want to research the online programs available through Briar Cliff University. The university specializes in affordable online completion programs that quickly prepare students for the job market. Students can choose from programs in accounting, business administration, nursing (RN-BSN), operations management, and social work.

3 Graceland University 95.7815:1100%

Graceland University offers a variety of online graduate and undergraduate degree programs in fields such as nursing, religion and healthcare management. Some online programs may require students to complete field work or residency programs. The university's Master of Arts in Religion program can be completed mostly online but requires students to complete two week-long focus sessions.

4 Upper Iowa University 95.2817:185%

Upper Iowa University (UIU) is one of the online colleges in Iowa that is offering self-paced online degree programs. The school offers 17 post-secondary degree programs, five certificate programs and three master's degree programs. Online classes are taught through a web-based format. All of UIU's flexible online programs are military-friendly.

5 Iowa Wesleyan College 94.539:1100%

Iowa Wesleyan College offers an RN to BSN program that can be completed entirely online as well as a variety of online courses from other departments. The online RN to BSN program is designed for practicing registered nurses to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. Coursework can be completed on a part-time schedule.

6 AIB College of Business 93.6720:198%

AIB College of Business is an independent college that offers bachelor's and associate degrees to students interested in everything from business administration and accounting to information technology and sports/event management. Bachelor of Science degrees are offered in accounting, business administration, court reporting and steno reporting, and Associate of Applied Science degreesin accounting, business administration, information technology, sports and event management, travel and tourism, media communications, and voice captioning all of which can be earned completely online. This is one of the few colleges in America to offer a degree in voice captioning. AIB operates on a quarter-based academic calendar and offers rolling admissions.

7 Shiloh University 86.90 N/A N/A

All programs at Shiloh University are fully-online, with no residency requirements. The school has a religious focus and promotes a biblical worldview through its two undergraduate and two graduate degree programs. Courses are delivered in 15-week terms, with three trimesters held each year. All courses have an introduction with study tips, a syllabus and weekly lessons with content from textbooks, lectures and online resources. Classes also include weekly discussion forums for interaction among students, and between students and professors. Upon completion of the program, students are invited but not required to attend an in-person graduation ceremony in Kalona, Iowa

Resources for Iowa Colleges Online

Every online student depends on digital resources to thrive in an academic setting. The following free websites have important information about college financial aid, military education benefits, Iowa grants and more.

Major Iowa Educational Resources: