Iowa Online Colleges & Universities – Top Online Schools for 2016

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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 2015-2016

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 2015-2016.

RANK COLLEGE ScoreStudent-Teacher RatioFinancial AidCost MORE 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

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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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: