Minnesota Online Colleges & Universities: Top Schools for 2017-2018

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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

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 2016-2017.

Rank University Location ScoreAnnual Tuition# of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher Ratio Grad Rate Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Concordia University-Saint Paul Saint Paul, MN 99.77$$$$$45 85% 15:1 46% Yes Yes Yes

Engaged learning is promoted at Concordia University-Saint Paul via focused student and instructor interactions, internships and tutoring programs. This learning is open in dozens of technical, science, education and career fields. There are marketing, music, hospitality management, religion, sociology and writing major options, to start. Adults with broad work experience can enter the cohort program and learn in individual and group settings. Cohort offers in-person, blended and fully online learning environments. Purpose is to combine academic instruction with real life experiences to accelerate and improve adult education. Students can expect to push themselves while participating a cohort program.

2 University of Minnesota-Crookston Crookston, MN 99.27$$$$$28 84% 21:1 48% Yes Yes Yes

Academic learning at the University of Minnesota-Crookston is enriched with on campus student life activities like athletics, seminars, group discussions and student club events. Five campuses where the school offers classes are in Duluth, Morris, Rochester, Twin Cities and Crookston. An even number of the school's 1,800 students attend class online or in-person at one of the school's five campuses. The school has been awarding bachelor's degrees since 1993. Technology has been a major part of the school's learning for more than 20 years. To graduate within four years, every semester students need to take courses that equal 15 to 16 credits.

3 Bemidji State University Bemidji, MN 98.98$$$$$30 43% 22:1 46% Yes Yes Yes

Lake Bemiji borders the university's main campus. During warm months, students learn how to sail on the nearby lake. Holistic academic and experiential learning at Bemidji State University takes place via internships, honors lecture series, artistic exhibitions and career expos. During online, classroom and blended courses, the school serves approximately 5,300 students. More than 85% of the students are from Minnesota. The remaining students are from 36 other states and as many as 38 other countries. Bemidji State's more than 75 undergraduate and graduate programs are enhanced by training initiatives sponsored by the American Indian Resource Center.

4 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Minneapolis, MN 98.74$$$$$15 54% 17:1 78% Yes Yes Yes

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities connects first time students, working adults continuing their education, instructors and international students to the community. These interactions come through activities like Native American conferences, local anthropology outings and science walks. Research and health sciences are areas of excellence at the university. Through its research studies, the school aims to develop students into progressive visionaries. About 2,600 of the school's 30,500 students complete part of their training in another country. Within Minnesota, the school educates about 7,000 students from other countries. The public, land grant school is accredited by the Higher Leaning Commission.

5 University of Minnesota-Duluth Duluth, MN 98.10$$$$$6 56% 18:1 59% Yes Yes Yes

Students interested in psychology or tribal administration and governance can pursue degrees completely online. There are also hybrid degree programs available for undergraduate students interested in social work, as well as two graduate degrees offered in the hybrid format. All coursework is delivered through the Moodle learning management system. For fully online programs that require a rotation or practicum, students will be able to fulfill those requirements in their local communities. Student resources include technology help, access to the university's libraries, web-based tutorials and workshops, free training courseware, and guidance for success in online learning.

6 Saint Cloud State University Saint Cloud, MN 97.88$$$$$3 39% 22:1 45% Yes Yes Yes

More than 200 courses are available online every semester, as well as degree programs and degree-completion programs at the associate, bachelor's and graduate level. The university is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association, as well as many other professional and academic associations. The Pathways Program offers incarcerated individuals the opportunity to pursue certain degrees online. Library services for distance learning includes access to articles, databases, books, streaming media and movies, and academic and professional journals. Most online coursework is delivered through the D2L learning management system.

7 Minnesota State University Moorhead Moorhead, MN 97.79$$$$$6 38% 20:1 42% No Yes Yes

Established in 1887, Minnesota State University Moorhead has grown to offer 247 academic programs today with an average class size of 23 students. For students residing outside of Moorhead or who have busy lives, MSU provides four online B.S. degrees, seven MS online degrees, and graduate-level education and counseling certificates. Students who want to augment their on-campus studies with an online class can enroll in hundreds of distance courses offered each semester. MSU also offers blended or hybrid courses that combine online and on-campus components for students who prefer some face-to-face time with peers and professors.

8 Minnesota State University-Mankato Mankato, MN 97.70$$$$$6 22% 23:1 50% No Yes Yes

Minnesota State University-Mankato traces its origins to Mankato Normal School, founded in 1868 with 27 students. Today there are 15,000 students pursuing higher education in Mankato or at one of MSU’s 30 metro area extensions in Minneapolis-St. Paul. MSU Mankato has 130 undergraduate programs, over 75 graduate degrees, and 13 pre-professional programs. For online students, MSU’s Extended Education division administers six undergraduate minors, two undergraduate certificates, five bachelor-completion programs, five areas of graduate certificates, and ten Education graduate certificates. Distance students can also enroll in one of seven, 100 percent online master’s degree programs.

9 Crown College Saint Bonifacius, MN 91.50$$$$$18 89% 18:1 57% Yes No Yes

Crown College is a Christian college, founded in 1916, that awards more than 40 accredited degrees. Nursing, music, church ministry, elementary education and sports management are leading programs at Crown College. The school's main campus is in Saint Bonifacius, Minnesota. Near the 215-acre campus are waterways and miles of natural, open land. Instructor to student 1 to 14. A faith village, gender-based residence halls, study lab, campus store and counseling services are provided to the school's 1,300 students. More than 20 online degrees are conferred. On campus degree options are slightly higher. Range of degrees online and in-person go from associate to the master's level.

10 Oak Hills Christian College Bemidji, MN 91.11$$$$$9 96% 16:1 21% Yes No Yes

The first graduating class of what was to become Oak Hills Christian College took its degrees on April 8, 1949. Located in proximity to three large reservations, the Christian college opened The Center for Indian Ministries in 1897 to broaden its service reach. All students enrolling in online associate and bachelor degree programs at Oak Hills Christian College degree programs are eligible to petition for credit for previous post-secondary classes. The minimum course load requirement is 12 semester credits, which also satisfies course-load requirements for financial aid. Fully online programs lead to associate degrees in Biblical Studies or Business Administration.

11 Metropolitan State University Saint Paul, MN 86.00$$$$$21 N/A 17:1 34% Yes No Yes

Students can pursue an entire degree online, or simply take a few web-based courses. Undergraduate programs include BA, BS and BAS degrees across nine different fields of study. There are also three online graduate degrees and five graduate certificates. In total, there are 245 online programs and a full 6,500 courses available completely online. Distance learners are expected to participate in class discussions, conduct research, fulfill requirements, meet deadlines and submit assignments, just like their peers who take physical, on-campus classes. The university offers a self-assessment test called Are You Ready, which helps distance learners determine if they're a good fit for online learning.

Best 2-Year Online Colleges in Minnesota

Rank University Location ScoreAnnual Tuition# of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher Ratio Grad Rate Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 North Hennepin Community College Brooklyn Park, MN 90.06$$$$$27 2% 24:1 16% Yes Yes Yes

North Hennepin is a military veteran friendly organization in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. Areas of study at North Hennepin center on specialties like arts and design, accounting, human services, music, film, science and business. Each year, about 800 students receive an associate degree from North Hennepin. Another 670 students earn certificates from the college each year. Popular majors are business administration, pre-nursing, liberal arts, computer science and law enforcement. The Higher Learning Commission is the college's accrediting agency. Applications are completed online for all students, including international, local, transfer and non-degree seeking students.

2 Leech Lake Tribal College Cass Lake, MN 86.58$$$$$3 1% 10:1 10% No No Yes

Leech Lake Tribal College was established in July 1990. Setting for the school's campus runs along the winding Leech Lake, Minnesota's third largest lake. Career retraining for experienced workers and foundational classes for high school graduates are at the core of the training at Leech Lake Tribal College. Types of career retraining are construction, carpentry and business management. Some of these programs are certified by organizations like the Minnesota State Electrical Board. A majority of the student population comes from the nearby Red Lake and Leech Lake reservations. The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association accredits the school to award associate degrees.

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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Best Online Colleges in Minnesota for 2015-2016

RANK COLLEGE ScoreStudent-Teacher RatioFinancial AidCostMORE 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.

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