Minnesota Online Colleges & Universities – Top Online Schools for 2016

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Online Minnesota Colleges Guide

Opportunities for online learning continue to expand nationwide, and Minnesota mirrors that trend with traditional colleges now far outpacing for-profit online schools on the digital learning frontier. Minnesota is big in space and relatively sparse in population, meaning online education is a particular draw to students outside the St. Paul/Minneapolis metropolitan area, especially those in rural areas.

Leading the way in public postsecondary online education is the Minnesota Public State Colleges and Universities system, which currently includes 30 two-year community and technical colleges and seven four-year state universities.

Additionally, Minnesotans can choose from a number of private, non-profit colleges offering online degree programs and courses, including Crown College, Macalester College, and Concordia University-St. Paul.

Given its size, it is no surprise that Minneapolis serves as Minnesota’s main postsecondary education hub. There are over 24 colleges and universities alone calling the St. Paul/Minneapolis metropolitan area home, including the University of Minnesota. The next two sections provide a brief look at the current online college programs available in the Twin Cities.

College Choices in Minneapolis

Minneapolis offers abundant educational opportunities, ranging from large public institutions to smaller private schools such as Augsburg College, a four-year Lutheran college. Among public options, Minneapolis Community and Technical College emphasizes student support among its many services. The school has free tutoring not only in math, reading and writing but also in areas of technical documentation and health services. MCTC students also have access to resources held by the vast Minnesota State Colleges and Universities consortium.

The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities spans both Minneapolis and St. Paul and ranks among the largest public research universities in the nation. Forbes named UMTC a “rising star college” in its list of America’s Best Colleges. Thanks to its urban location, UMTC allows students the chance to gain experience in fields such as health care, business, government, public services, and the arts. The University of Minnesota takes pride in environmental responsibility and social engagement, with 51 departments providing service learning opportunities. The Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center focuses on community programs relating to areas of safety, nutrition, and literacy.

Learning Online in Minneapolis

Online offerings in this metropolis meet many different student needs, including degree completion, workforce training, and transfer to four-year institutions. Minneapolis Community and Technical College’s online associate degree programs cover business management, library information technology, and liberal arts, with emphases available in areas such as music and African Diaspora Studies. Some MCTC online courses may require a limited number of hours on campus.

The University of Minnesota features online degree completion programs, allowing customization for individuals with prior work experience or education. Online bachelor’s degree programs include multidisciplinary studies, with concentrations including arts and humanities, communication, science, and health science available. Students can choose from 16 online bachelor’s degrees in disciplines ranging from accounting to sport and recreation management. UM’s numerous graduate and undergraduate programs may be delivered fully online or in a blended format, as evidenced by the hybrid master’s program in health care administration.

Tuition, Fees & Cost of Living in Minnesota

Prospective Minnesota college students should do their homework by creating a budget for school-related expenses. Tuition, typically the largest cost, varies for public and private schools, and students should determine their eligibility for state resident status. Minnesota students who qualified saw average yearly tuition priced at $14,132 in 2012, the 12th highest in the nation.

Colleges may also charge additional fees for parking, campus shuttles or recreational opportunities like gym access. In 2012, Minnesota students paid an average of $696 in fees, bringing the total annual cost of education to $14,826.

The budget for college goes beyond tuition and fees, stretching to accommodate living expenses, books, supplies, and Internet connectivity for web-based coursework. Living costs in Minnesota are estimated at about 2 percent above the U.S. average; however, prices may vary for different parts of the state. The table below demonstrates the cost of living (COL) for major population centers in Minnesota, measured on a scale where 100% represents the national average:

Urban Area Composite Index Housing Groceries Utilities Transportation Health Care Misc.
Mankato -7.00% -23.50% -6.20% 13.50% 3.10% 4.30% -3.60%
St. Cloud -1.70% -19.30% 1.70% 17.20% -0.10% 2.00% 5.80%
Rochester -0.80% -8.90% -10.40% 4.80% 6.30% 9.50% 5.00%
St. Paul 10.00% 12.90% 7.00% 6.80% 3.40% 6.70% 12.20%
Minneapolis 11.00% 16.80% 11.60% 4.70% 3.70% 5.40% 10.40%

Return on investment could be one of the most overlooked criteria when it comes to college evaluation. Students and parents research tuition, fees, and location but less frequently evaluate post-graduation prospects. The following list examines the Minnesota colleges offering the best lifetime ROI, calculated by subtracting the total cost of attendance from the average lifetime earnings of alumni.

  1. Saint John’s University
  2. University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
  3. Carleton College
  4. University of St. Thomas
  5. Macalester College

Accreditation Standards for Online Colleges in Minnesota

Accreditation assures prospective students that schools have met the recommended standards for providing a quality education. Students seeking financial assistance should ask prospective colleges about their accreditation status, as federal aid programs typically mandate that schools can demonstrate accreditation by an accepted organization. Colleges in Minnesota seeking regional accreditation apply to the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools ( www.northcentralassociation.org ).

Great Resources for Online Students in Minnesota

Online colleges and universities open up a new and exciting world of educational options for Minnesota students. As with anything new, there is much to discover about online learning and students should familiarize themselves with the tools and support services available to help ensure their academic success. The following list contains free resources specific to the Minnesota postsecondary educational landscape.

Best Online Colleges in Minnesota for 2015-2016

Minnesota is home to a number of excellent online college and university programs. Busy students routinely seek the flexibility offered by online learning to help them achieve academic and career success. Over 200 online postsecondary education programs are currently available throughout the state, but searching through these programs to find the best can be difficult without help. We’ve analyzed data for hundreds of Minnesota’s higher education institutions to assess quality, services, range of subjects, and resources. See which schools stand above their peers and earned a place on our list of the Best Online Colleges in Minnesota for 2015-2016.

RANK COLLEGE ScoreStudent-Teacher RatioFinancial AidCost MORE INFO
1 Metropolitan State University 98.8917:184%

Students can access online college degree courses through Metropolitan State University. Distance learning can be completed through the school's 245 online course offerings and researched via the Minnesota Online course catalogue. Both undergraduate and graduate level programs are offered online through the university.

2 Crown College 93.6717:196%

Crown College, through its School of Online Studies, provides interested students with an online option for college learning. Course work is available for students at every stage of their college degree career, including those seeking associate's and bachelor's degrees. Crown College online degrees are accredited.

3 Bemidji State University 93.3723:190%

Bemidji State University provides adult distance learning through its online college in Minnesota. Their Center for Extended Learning maintains the online program, which features individual course offerings in addition to complete degree programs achievable in the online classroom. Major course components for online learning at the university include online chat and newsgroups.

4 Concordia University-Saint Paul 92.6416:199%

The online program at Concordia University at Saint Paul is comprised of a number of different degree options. The university offers their online study at a more fast-paced, accelerated format for expedient attainment of a selected degree. Online degree work is offered for undergraduate and graduate programs such as Business, Finance & Marketing, Criminal Justice and even Teacher Education.

5 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities 91.9817:177%

Degree options offered via the digital campus at the University of Minnesota in Twin Cities offers students many a choice in their online degree path. Both undergraduate and graduate level studies are offered completely in an online forum at the university. Specific programs include manufacturing management, marketing, communication and family education.

6 University of Minnesota-Crookston 91.1319:192%

The University of Minnesota at Crookstona makes available undergraduate degrees, undergraduate minors and certification programs online for distance learners to learn at their own pace. The Crookstona campus' program listing, the first U of M online bachelor's degrees, includes exciting subject areas such as applied health, management and communication.

7 University of Minnesota-Duluth 89.6718:183%

Giving student an online college choice in Minnesota, the University of Minnesota in Duluth provides students who prefer a distance learning arrangement with a wide number of online courses in order to complete their college degree studies online. Courses that are available online through this university include those on topics such as accounting and business.

8 Minnesota State University-Mankato 88.0224:185%

The Minnesota State University at Mankato online learning program offers adult distance learners the option to complete degree programs in their entirety through their online coursework. Students have the option to choose from undergraduate degrees, undergraduate minors and graduate degrees for their online college goal.

9 Saint Cloud State University 87.9323:186%

An online college choice in Minnesota, Saint Cloud University offers students seeking out an online college experience a great variety of course options. An added facet to the online learning program is its use of multiple types of technologies to accomplish online learning, which include the use of podcasts, interactive television and video conferencing.

Search Accredited Minnesota Online Colleges

The search for the right online college degree, certificate or course begins with students taking inventory of their academic needs and wants, including elements such as schedules, financial concerns, specific major interests, and career goals. The next step is to locate a program that fits the criteria. The search tool below takes these preferences into account and helps students narrow the search and find the right online degree program

Degree Level:
Student Population:
School Type:
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Spotlight on Three Minnesota Online Colleges

We asked three of our top ranked schools to tell us what makes their programs rise above the rest. Here’s what they had to say:

Online Departments in Minnesota

Crown College

How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?

  • Christian Focus. We integrate faith and ethics into every course and all that we do.
  • Academically Excellent. Our students are challenged to think critically and strategically.
  • Personal. Our mission is to prepare students; our faculty and staff are real people who are passionate about your success

What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

  • Convenient. All of our programs are available fully online and most courses can be completed in just 7 weeks from wherever you are.
  • Affordable. We’re one of the Top 10 most affordable Christian colleges in the Midwest
  • Relevant. Each degree program equips you with the relevant skills needed to succeed in your discipline.

Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?

  • Crown College will continue to expand the number of fully online degree programs offered at both the undergraduate and graduate level.
  • High demand concentrations will be added to degree programs.
  • Demand-based education and training will be offered to supplement full degree programs.
Oak Hills Christian College

We provide:

  • Flexible programs, courses and schedules that fit the adult learner.
  • Relevant and high quality academic courses and programs that are anchored in a biblical worldview and that integrate faith and learning in the real world context of each learner.

What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

Oak Hills Christian College promises the online student:

  • You will graduate. If your goal is to complete an authentic academic degree, we will back you up! We are personal by choice and we will work with you.
  • You will be equipped and brought to a higher level in your job or ministry.
  • You will be a better person in any context with a solid grounding in your faith.
  • You will be a life long learner. Learning doesn't end with the degree! You will have the skills needed to keep pursuing your personal and professional interests.

Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?

Our goal is to ensure that every Christian adult has access to quality biblical higher education that leads to effective service. We will continue to expand our available degree programs and will offer online and extension programs.

The College of Saint Scholastica

How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?

Personal. Our online students are not isolated. Rather, they establish personal connections with faculty, staff and other students that allow them to truly be a part of the St. Scholastica community. They have access to:

  • Personal advisors that help them define their academic plan, reach their goals and support them along the way.
  • Small class sizes and all the individualized attention that comes with it.
  • Over 20 undergraduate and graduate degree options, and many online certificates.
  • The same access to services like tutoring, financial aid, student community groups and career counseling as on-campus students.

What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

Aside from the personal touch and close contact with faculty and fellow students, our flexibility is a tremendous boon to students.

Through our CSS Complete program, we offer students a flexible and affordable pathway to finishing a college degree.

We evaluate and validate learning acquired through a variety of settings – including previous online course work, military service or work experience, and transfer credits – and determine how this experience meets our degree requirements. That means for many students, it's possible to design a very low-cost degree that can be completed in a much shorter time.

Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?

St. Scholastica plans to continue to broaden its portfolio of online programs and explore new, innovative delivery formats. Online learning at St. Scholastica is vibrant, personal and engaging. Here we offer:

  • Interactive online learning tools that provide a variety of learning strategies to keeps students wanting to learn more
  • Multi-media presentations
  • A focus on communal and group learning
  • Online discussion boards visited by other students and faculty

Major Minnesota Educational Resources