North Dakota Online Colleges & Universities: Top Schools for 2017-2018

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Best Online Colleges In North Dakota

Due to its wide-open spaces and sparse population, North Dakota embraces distance education. When a prospective North Dakota student’s greatest barrier to a college degree is location, online education brings a virtual campus right into his or her home. Accessibility, however, isn’t the only big advantage to learning online. Another is flexibility, with coursework available day or night, seven days a week. However, finding a college program whose quality sets it apart from its competitors can be difficult. The following list has been compiled to make the search a little easier. See which schools rank among the Best Online Colleges in North Dakota 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 Dickinson State University Dickinson, ND 98.65$6,05060 63% 11:1 35% Yes Yes Yes

Dickinson State University offers six different online bachelor degree programs that allow students the flexibility of earning a degree without having to go to a scheduled class on campus. Using the Moodle system, class lectures can be watched when the student has time to view, and all assignments are submitted online, although some exams must be proctored to ensure student identity. If additional help is needed, students have the added bonus of online tutoring through their NetTutor program. In addition to generous in-school scholarship opportunities, students also have access to federal student loans and grants if more financial assistance is required.

2 Valley City State University Valley City, ND 92.19$6,67421 96% 11:1 48% No Yes Yes

Students can earn a bachelor's degree from the comfort of their own living room through Valley City State University's online degree completion programs. With multiple distance learning degree options available, students use the Blackboard system to review coursework, turn in assignments, interact in discussions, and take exams without traveling to the campus. The college offers several online assistance services such as a learning center, technology service desk, and online advising. By filing the FAFSA, federal student loans and grants are available as well as private student loans and institutional scholarships for students requiring financial aid to help achieve their academic goals.

3 Mayville State University Mayville, ND 91.87$6,48927 76% 17:1 42% Yes Yes Yes

Offering multiple online bachelor degree programs, Mayville State University gives students the flexibility of taking courses at their own pace and on their own schedules. The college uses Atomic Learning as an online resource that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With a rolling admissions process and a dedicated distance education office, students can begin working on their degree during the fall, spring, or summer semesters. Classes have a maximum enrollment of 20 students, so it’s easy to receive one-on-one instruction. Financial aid is available to all degree seeking students registered in at least six credits per semester.

4 Minot State University Minot, ND 91.00$6,22518 70% 13:1 40% Yes Yes Yes

The Center for Extended Learning at Minot State University offers a variety of online options to students who want to earn a bachelor's degree but can't visit a campus for classes. Students have the flexibility of taking classes anywhere with an internet connection. In addition to the eight bachelor degrees offered, the college also has an associate degree, certificate programs, and several master's degree programs. All classes are taught using the Blackboard system, making it easy to engage in your studies and connect with instructors and classmates. Institutional academic scholarships, federal student aid and in-school payment plans are available to eligible students.

5 University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND 90.88$7,74133 30% 19:1 55% No Yes Yes

With over 50 online degrees, including many bachelor's degree programs, students at the University of North Dakota can choose from a wide selection of options to achieve their academic and career goals. The Office of Extended Learning helps guide students through the admissions process and keeps them on track for success. The college offers generous scholarships, awarding more than 2000 to undergraduate students each academic year. In addition to state and federal grants, students can also apply for federal and private student loans to fund their educational expenses. To help with post-graduation employment, the college also has online career service assistance.

6 United Tribes Technical College Bismarck, ND 89.03$5,2106 44% 8:1 44% No Yes Yes

United Tribes Technical College primarily serves Native American students, but also accepts students from any background. Distance learning associate degree programs are available in business management, criminal justice, elementary education and general studies. They also offer a certificate program in medical coding and billing. Classes are delivered through either interactive video networking of fully through the internet. Students who participate in classes on the internet follow weekly class assignments and deadlines through the college's learning management system. To help fund education, institutional scholarships are available to Native American students, as well as federal and state grants, and student loans.

7 University of Mary Bismarck, ND 87.52$15,6656 100% 15:1 46% Yes Yes Yes

Working adults who need to earn their bachelor's degree online have many choices at the University of Mary. Their programs are designed to accommodate the busy lifestyle and can be completed in a minimum of fifteen months anywhere with internet access. The college offers institutional scholarships, federal grants and student loans for students who file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and assists veteran students in the Military Student Services office. They are on the VA's list of Military Friendly schools and offer military scholarships as well as the Yellow Ribbon program to eligible Post 9/11 veterans.

8 North Dakota State University-Main Campus Fargo, ND 86.07$7,8209 37% 19:1 56% Yes Yes Yes

Distance learning is easy and convenient at North Dakota State University. With several bachelor degree programs available, students can earn their degree from anywhere. Online classes are taught using the Blackboard system and are accessed through the internet. If financial assistance is needed to help pay for classes, the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships assists students in finding those resources. The college offers academic scholarships, state and federal grants, and federal student loans. There are also multiple veteran's benefits and programs available. All degrees are accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and other professional organizations.

9 Bismarck State College Bismarck, ND 86.00$3,5203 25% 14:1 42% Yes Yes Yes

Bismarck State College offers online classes in many subject areas so most students have the convenience of taking some of their courses outside the traditional classroom. Students can also earn a degree entirely online. These options include a bachelor of applied science in energy management degree, multiple options for an associate in applied science degree, as well as several certificate programs. With 58 online class start dates, students can begin their studies at any time. Using the CampusConnection system, classes are held in a virtual classroom and have weekly assignments, quizzes and exams. Multiple scholarship opportunities and federal student aid are available.

Best 2-Year Online Colleges in North Dakota

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 Dakota College at Bottineau Bottineau, ND 94.77$4,09827 40% 9:1 28% Yes No Yes

Founded in 1906 and adjacent to the picturesque Turtle Mountains, Dakota College at Bottineau started as a forestry-school and has developed into a college with over 30 degree and certificate areas. For students interested in remote learning opportunities, DCB offers online education services through Moodle in fields such as urban forest management, photography, and medical coding. To ensure student success, the student support center offers assistance with issues such as technical support, tutoring and career services, and disability support services. DCB is a part of the North Dakota University System and is an affiliate of Minot State University.

2 Lake Region State College Devils Lake, ND 94.11$4,07415 63% 14:1 40% Yes Yes Yes

With a wide offering of online courses, Lake Region State College’s online campus enables its students to pursue an education without sacrificing flexibility. This is possible because the schedules allow students and instructors to meet at different times through the online delivery platform, each participating at their own convenience. The courses are flexible and designed to meet the needs of working adults. Students can enroll in associate degree online courses in accounting or business administration, early childhood education, law enforcement, fitness trainer technician and speech language pathology assistant. Admission for online classes for the fall season are currently underway.

3 Williston State College Williston, ND 93.48$4,44527 74% 18:1 37% Yes No Yes

Operating as a two-year public community college within the North Dakota university system, the Williston State College created its distance learning program to offer additional educational opportunities to busy students. The school offers courses for associate degree programs like business administration, elementary education, early childhood education, accounting and business management. These degrees provide students with the industry theory and principles that will help them find employment or pursue a bachelor’s degree at an affiliated university. The online classes are taught through Interactive Video Network (IVN) wherein students and instructors communicate synchronously.

4 North Dakota State College of Science Wahpeton, ND 93.13$4,43815 31% 12:1 47% Yes Yes Yes

With its many campuses, North Dakota State College of Science offers many flexible learning opportunities for its students. Through the distance learning program, the school offers associate degree online courses for fields like architectural drafting, business administration, information and communications technology, health information technician, general liberal arts and career counseling. These online programs prepare students for competitive careers in different fields. NDSCS also offers online certificate courses like medical coding and pharmacy technology for working adults. The online classes are structured while still flexible, though not self-paced. This helps keep students on track for timely graduation.

Online Colleges and Universities Guide in North Dakota

North Dakota is currently ranked 47th in the nation in terms of total state population. One consequence of a smaller population is the limited number of postsecondary education choices within the state. Online education options are also quite limited compared to other states. Nevertheless, North Dakota students have a number of distance learning programs to choose from at both public and private institutions.

The two major providers of online programs in the state are the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks and North Dakota State University in Fargo. Both offer robust distance learning programs, featuring undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates as well as dozens of individual courses. A small number of private, not-for-profit colleges in the state also offer varying levels of distance learning courses and programs. Most notable is the University of Mary, a four-year Catholic university located in Bismarck.

North Dakota’s largest city is Fargo, with an approximate population of 115,000 residents. Despite its size, Fargo and the adjacent cities of West Fargo, North Dakota; Moorhead, Minnesota; and Dilworth, Minnesota together make up the major educational hub of the state. The next two segments examine the current learning environment in the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area.

Higher Education in Fargo

Fargo is home to North Dakota State University, which serves about 14,000 students every year. As part of the Tri-College University system, NDSU students can also take classes at Minnesota State University and Concordia College in Moorhead. NDSU was founded in the late 1900s as an agricultural school but has since branched out to offer a range of disciplines, including nursing, music, landscape architecture, fine arts, and engineering. Students who want to earn a degree as quickly as possible also benefit from the university’s accelerated degree programs. The North Dakota State College of Science provides community college coursework and vocational or technical degrees, as well as associate degree programs.

Colleges with Online Offerings in Fargo

Distance learning is ideal for students who live in and around the rural and outlying areas of Fargo. The North Dakota State College of Science’s distance learning office provides support 24 hours a day, seven days a week to its online students. While not all programs have online classes, there are still many opportunities for distance learning. At NDSU, students can choose from more than 30 online degrees and graduate certificate programs in academic areas such as exercise science, youth development, and transportation leadership. Students in the North Dakota University system may also choose from more than 1,000 online courses and many degree and certificate programs, some of which are offered entirely online.

Costs for Online Colleges in North Dakota

College is a valuable, but significant investment. Potential students researching North Dakota colleges should consider finances when compiling their short lists. One of the largest costs associated with higher education is tuition, or the baseline cost of enrolling in a particular program. Tuition can vary by location and institution. Some schools–particularly public universities–offer North Dakota residents a reduced rate. In 2012, North Dakota’s in-state student paid an average of $5,698 per year in tuition, ranking it the 2nd most affordable college in the nation.

Tuition is not the only cost to consider when evaluating North Dakota colleges and universities. Fees can quickly add to a program’s price tag. Taking public transportation can eliminate parking costs and opting out of an activity might avoid a certain fee for recreation. Additional fees may be required, however, such as those for health services or laboratory use.

Another important item to take into account for a college budget in North Dakota is the cost of living. Whether living on campus or off, students must estimate how much they need to pay for housing, food, utilities, and other expenses–especially for full-time students with little or no steady income. In general, North Dakota’s cost of living (COL) is four percent below the national average, a promising statistic for students on a tight budget. Keep in mind, however, that COL varies from one city or metropolitan region to the next. The following chart provides a snapshot of how much living expenses can change across the state. All expenses are compared to the national average, shown as 100.

Urban Area Composite Index Housing Groceries Utilities Transportation Health Care Misc.
Bismarck-Mandan -4.7% -8.5% 5.9% -29.9% 2.6% 0.5% -0.6%
Minot -0.1% -4.1% -0.7% -26.5% -1.8% -9.0% 13.6%

Perhaps the most overlooked financial factor when assessing colleges is return on investment (ROI). Does a degree from a specific college mean career prospects and salary potential? Or do graduates have problems finding work once they have a diploma in hand? The following colleges in North Dakota had the highest ROI in 2013:

  1. North Dakota State University
  2. University of North Dakota
  3. University of Mary
  4. Minot State University
  5. Jamestown College

Postsecondary Accreditation in North Dakota

Students must attend accredited schools in order to qualify for financial aid. Accreditation is a process by which an outside organization reviews programs to certify that they meet regional or national quality standards. There are several agencies working with North Dakota colleges and universities, including the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges and the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, which focuses on online schools specifically. The primary regional accrediting agency for North Dakota schools is the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Many institutions in North Dakota also hold programmatic or specialized accreditation for individual schools and programs or departments. For example, accrediting agencies that have approved the University of North Dakota at the college or school level include the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC), the Accreditation Board for Engineering & Technology (ABET), and the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).

Great Resources for Online Students in North Dakota

Distance education may present a number of challenges for those who have never taken an online class or program. Fortunately, there is no shortage of online resources available to help make the experience simple and successful. Students have access to countless tools, applications, databases, reference materials, and tutorials, covering every subject imaginable. Most are easy to find with a little help from your search engine, but others will require some digging. Below is an introductory list of just a few of the tools and resources to be found online, free of charge, for North Dakota college students.

Major North Dakota Educational Resources: