Minnesota Online Colleges & Universities – Top Online Schools for 2015

Minnesota residents hold more college degrees per person than the U.S. average, demonstrating a commitment to education. More than 632,000 Minnesota students enrolled in post-secondary programs ranging from certificates to doctoral degrees in 2013, meaning that one in 47 U.S. college students attended one of state's 145 institutions of higher learning. Compared to other states, Minnesota achieved a rating of 18th in terms of the total colleges available and a ranking of 14th for the number of students. Academic and training opportunities encompass private and public entities, with a blend of career institutes, two- and four-year colleges, online schools and more, as shown here:

College Type Number in Minnesota
Public 43
Private for-profit 28
Private not-for-profit (religious affiliation) 23
Private not-for-profit (no religious affiliation) 10

Top Cities in Minnesota for College Education

Educational opportunities abound in Minnesota: In addition to private colleges and universities and the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system boasts 31 institutions serving 47 communities. School names reflect the unique character of the state, with Rainy River Community College in the far north and Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College in the east. The following data illustrates the distribution of colleges and students across Minnesota:

Minnesota Cities Popular for College Students (Total)

  • Minneapolis (98,100)
  • Saint Paul (46,100)
  • Saint Cloud (24,800)
  • Duluth (23,800)
  • Brooklyn Park (20,200)

Minnesota Cities with the Most Colleges (Total)

  • Minneapolis (17)
  • Saint Paul (16)
  • Rochester (9)
  • Duluth (5)
  • Bloomington (4)

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 the public options, Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) emphasizes student support services. For example, the school has free tutoring for not only math, reading and writing but also for studies in technical documentation and the health service occupations. In addition, MCTC students have access to the resources of the vast Minnesota State Colleges and Universities consortium.

The University of Minnesota's flagship campus spans both Minneapolis and St. Paul. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (UMTC) 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 safety, nutrition, literacy and more.

Learning Online in Minneapolis

Online opportunities 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 entail some time on campus.

The University of Minnesota features online degree completion programs that allow customization for individuals with prior work experience or education, as in the applied studies major. Online bachelor's degree programs include multidisciplinary studies, with concentrations such as arts and humanities, communication, or science and health science. Students can choose from 16 online bachelor's degrees in a range of disciplines, from accounting to sport and recreation management. UM's numerous graduate and undergraduate programs may be delivered fully online or as blended learning, as is the case for the hybrid master's program in health care administration.

Online Colleges in Minnesota

Opportunities for online education continue to expand nationwide, and Minnesota mirrors that trend -- traditional colleges have joined for-profit online schools on the electronic frontier. Minnesota is less densely populated than the national average, and online schools can serve those living in rural areas. Students dreading a snowy city commute can also take advantage of technological advances in course delivery. In 2013, students at 27 four-year Minnesota colleges enjoyed access to some type of online learning, with options from career certificates to advanced degrees.

Tuition, Fees and Cost of Living in Minnesota

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

Colleges in Minnesota also may charge miscellaneous fees, for example, for parking and campus shuttles or recreational opportunities like gym access. Minnesota college students paid an average of $14,826 for tuition and fees together in 2012. Keeping an eye on the academic calendar can help Minnesota students avoid potential penalties for late registration or changing their course schedule after the deadline.

The budget for college goes beyond tuition and fees, stretching to accommodate living expenses, books, supplies, and Internet connectivity for web-based research or 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 -7.0% -23.5% -6.2% 13.5% 3.1% 4.3% -3.6%
St. Cloud -1.7% -19.3% 1.7% 17.2% -0.1% 2.0% 5.8%
Rochester -0.8% -8.9% -10.4% 4.8% 6.3% 9.5% 5.0%
St. Paul 10.0% 12.9% 7.0% 6.8% 3.4% 6.7% 12.2%
Minneapolis 11.0% 16.8% 11.6% 4.7% 3.7% 5.4% 10.4%

Return on investment could be one of the most overlooked criterion when it comes to college evaluation. Students and parents check out tuition, fees, location, etc., but rarely take post-graduation prospects as seriously. The following list looks at the colleges in Minnesota that offer the best lifetime ROI, the difference between alumni lifetime earnings (average) and total cost of attendance:

  • Saint John’s University
  • University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
  • Carleton College
  • University of St. Thomas
  • Macalester College

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Minnesota students can turn to a variety of public and private sources for help in financing their academic journey. Federal aid could include Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Federal Work-Study or TEACH Grants. Candidates complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to demonstrate financial need. In 2012, 70 percent of Minnesota undergraduates benefited from federal support, giving the state a ranking of 17th in the country.

Among other state initiatives, the Minnesota Department of Education sponsors the Minnesota Indian Teacher Training Program. The Alliss Educational Foundation Grant targets adult learners beginning or returning to community college. TRiO Minnesota outreach and support programs are designed to help low-income, first-generation college students as well as individuals with disabilities.

Students conducting research on scholarships may discover grants from an array of organizations, both public and private. Certain universities earmark scholarships for particular majors -- for example, anthropology and microbiology -- or for specific groups such as single mothers. Other awards may honor community service or target individuals with the dream of studying abroad.

Minnesota students can also inquire about support from entities such as the following:

  • American Legion Auxiliary, Dept of MN Memorial Scholarships
  • Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
  • Korean American Scholarship Foundation - Midwestern Regional Chapter
  • Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) Midwest Section
  • Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council
  • Minnesota Indian Scholarship Program
  • Page Education Foundation
  • SFM Foundation
  • Vincent L. Hawkinson Foundation
  • White Earth Scholarship Program


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


Students in Minnesota consider numerous criteria when planning their educational trajectory -- for example, whether or not they live near particular schools. Students with pre-existing commitments might opt for part-time studies or distance learning instead of residing on campus. Deciding on a Minnesota college could entail crunching the numbers for tuition, fees, books, living expenses and more. The data points listed above can bolster a student's exploratory research on academic opportunities, and the profiles below reveal more specifics about colleges in Minnesota, particularly the options for online coursework.

Minnesota, the state with the fourth highest percentage of students enrolled in distance education courses, is home to some of the country's best online schools. We asked three of those schools what set their programs apart from the rest. The interviews are below:

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

Minnesota claims some of the best online distance learning programs in the country. From esteemed faculty to tuition assistance, students at online schools in Minnesota enjoy all of the same benefits as their on-campus peers. This state has a plethora of fully online four-year degree programs that are all accredited institutions. So, distance learners can work toward degrees and certifications with more flexibility and excellent tuition assistance at some of the best Minnesota online colleges. To ease the search for the right online college, we’ve listed the best online programs in Minnesota, ordered from lowest tuition to highest.

Click here to see our methodology.
Metropolitan State University
Tuition and fees: $6,642 Enrollment: 10,041 Accredited: YES Website: Metropolitan State University

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.

Saint Cloud State University
Tuition and fees: $7,472 Enrollment: 18,373 Accredited: YES Website: Saint Cloud State University

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.

Minnesota State University-Mankato
Tuition and fees: $7,531 Enrollment: 15,553 Accredited: YES Website: Minnesota State University-Mankato

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.

Minnesota State University Moorhead
Tuition and fees: $7,834 Enrollment: 7,887 Accredited: YES Website: Minnesota State University Moorhead

The Minnesota State University Moorhead campus offers individuals the option to pursue complete degree programs online. The university offers a select number of degrees in their online program, which include a B.S. in business administration, nursing and operations management. Other degree programs do offer online classes to complete a majority of the coursework, as well.

Southwest Minnesota State University
Tuition and fees: $8,074 Enrollment: 7,345 Accredited: YES Website: Southwest Minnesota State University

Students that have already achieved an associate degree can pursue an online bachelor’s degree in the virtual classroom through the Associate to Bachelor degree program offered at Southwest Minnesota State University. This special conversion program focuses in on two specific disciplines: early childhood education and management.

Bemidji State University
Tuition and fees: $8,107 Enrollment: 5,972 Accredited: YES Website: Bemidji State University

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.

Winona State University
Tuition and fees: $8,710 Enrollment: 9,287 Accredited: YES Website: Winona State University

Winona State University is an online college in Minnesota that offers many course options for students to complete their degree work from a location of their choosing. A wide variety of online tools are provided and used to help students complete online coursework, including webmail, Desire2Learn and library reference databases.

University of Minnesota-Crookston
Tuition and fees: $11,456 Enrollment: 3,152 Accredited: YES Website: University of Minnesota-Crookston

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.

Martin Luther College
Tuition and fees: $11,770 Enrollment: 1,184 Accredited: YES Website: Martin Luther College

Martin Luther College provides students who prefer to seek out college coursework via distance learning with an opportunity to complete program courses online. The Continuing Education Office at the college offers online learning for a variety of education-based professionals as well as lay workers and staff ministers.

University of Minnesota-Morris
Tuition and fees: $12,549 Enrollment: 2,085 Accredited: YES Website: University of Minnesota-Morris

The University of Minnesota – Morris works to appeal to a broad base of online learners. Their online program offerings include coursework relevant for advanced high school students and even distance learners who virtually commute to the classroom. Online program students have access to university resources such as the bookstore and advising.

University of Minnesota-Duluth
Tuition and fees: $12,785 Enrollment: 11,361 Accredited: YES Website: University of Minnesota-Duluth

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.

University of Minnesota-Rochester
Tuition and fees: $13,106 Enrollment: 290 Accredited: YES Website: University of Minnesota-Rochester

The University of Minnesota - Rochester is an online college option in Minnesota that offers both undergraduate and graduate degree courses via their online program, as well as doctorate course options. Degrees that are offered include health, information technology and marketing. Online students can access the Digital Campus for resources to help them along the way.

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Tuition and fees: $13,459 Enrollment: 43,535 Accredited: YES Website: University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

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.

Oak Hills Christian College
Tuition and fees: $14,670 Enrollment: 142 Accredited: YES Website: Oak Hills Christian College

Oak Hills Christian College boasts online coursework that is centered on Christian-based curriculum. Courses are available online for adults looking to complete degree work in the following program areas: bachelor's in leadership and ministry and associate in biblical studies and ministry. Students who are seeking dual credit opportunities can also find available online courses through the college.

Crossroads College
Tuition and fees: $15,280 Enrollment: 188 Accredited: YES Website: Crossroads College

Crossroads College offers campus and online degree programs. A Christian school, Crossroads College counseling degree courses have the advantage of traditional classroom study as well as distance learning, providing students the flexibility to work and attend school simultaneously.

Dunwoody College of Technology
Tuition and fees: $18,154 Enrollment: 1,493 Accredited: YES Website: Dunwoody College of Technology

Dunwoody College of Technology provides prospective students with the options of both traditional classroom study as well as online degree program study for their Applied Management and Entrepreneurship offering. The Applied Management program is focused on developing independent business owners, and offers Bachelor’s degree completion options for graduates of technical two-year Associate’s degree programs.

North Central University
Tuition and fees: $19,066 Enrollment: 1,445 Accredited: YES Website: North Central University

North Central University, an online college in Minnesota, maintains an online program in which distance learners can gain their master’s degree in a number of subject concentrations. These areas of study include master’s of business administration, master’s of education and master’s of arts in psychology.

Crown College
Tuition and fees: $22,100 Enrollment: 1,108 Accredited: YES Website: Crown College

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.

Northwestern College
Tuition and fees: $26,960 Enrollment: 3,474 Accredited: YES Website: Northwestern College

University of Northwestern (UNW) offers both classroom (campus) and distance (online) degree programs. UNW is a Christian liberal arts college, and since early in the 20th Century, students have developed knowledge and focused on their faith through Christ-centered, academically excellent education.

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
Tuition and fees: $28,320 Enrollment: 2,366 Accredited: YES Website: Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Providing those seeking out a graduate degree online, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota provides adult students with a diverse portfolio of master’s degree options. Career-focused coursework helps students along their path toward degrees such as a master’s in science or master’s in arts.

Concordia University-Saint Paul
Tuition and fees: $29,700 Enrollment: 2,131 Accredited: YES Website: Concordia University-Saint Paul

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.

The College of Saint Scholastica
Tuition and fees: $30,398 Enrollment: 3,277 Accredited: YES Website: The College of Saint Scholastica

Offering an online college option in Minnesota, the College of Saint Scholastica allows students to complete online coursework toward their degree. Online students at the college have the benefits of small class sizes, as well as a personal advisor to assist them in their online learning experience.

Minneapolis College of Art and Design
Tuition and fees: $31,650 Enrollment: 626 Accredited: YES Website: Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Minneapolis College of Art and Design is a diverse school, where enrollment includes more than 600 students from 29 states and 12 countries. MCAD offers these students both classroom and online degree programs in Art, Design, Creativity / Humanities, Digital Media, Fine Arts, and more. MCAD student body is an equal mix of men and women, with the average student at 21 years of age.

St Catherine University
Tuition and fees: $33,176 Enrollment: 4,438 Accredited: YES Website: St Catherine University

St. Catherine University, or St. Kate’s as it’s also referred to, provides an online college choice in Minnesota for adults looking to complete degree work from their own location. The university offers a large number of over 20 degree and certificate choices that contain online course options

Hamline University
Tuition and fees: $33,752 Enrollment: 2,268 Accredited: YES Website: Hamline University

Hamline University gives students an online college choice in Minnesota. The university lists a wide variety of degree options under their online program that include bachelor’s and master’s coursework. Their most highly offered area of online degree coursework is concentrated in the university’s School of Education, with over a dozen degrees available

University of St Thomas
Tuition and fees: $33,787 Enrollment: 6,515 Accredited: YES Website: University of St Thomas

The University of St. Thomas provides online learning to students wanting to advance their knowledge in the field of education. The school, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, requires students to complete 36 hours of graduate-level coursework and have two years of field experience to complete their online Master's of Education degree program.

Saint Johns University
Tuition and fees: $35,486 Enrollment: 1,929 Accredited: YES Website: Saint Johns University

St. John's University in Minnesota offers students the added opportunity to seek out select online courses available by the university. Providing an added option for student's course work, the option for online courses is available as they relate to the accounting degree plan course requirements.