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Online Colleges in Iowa

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In 2015, Iowa became the most recent member of the twelve state Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC). Through this Compact, students enrolled at public colleges in member states can take advantage of non-resident tuition breaks, a greater selection of courses and a simplified transfer process. This agreement, which opens so many doors for its in-state distance student, captures Iowa’s support of online education.

To date,more than 50 colleges in Iowa offer online instruction. These include a number of private colleges, as well as the two largest public schools in the state: the University of Iowa and Iowa State University.

Before we look at the best online colleges in IA for 2016, let’s consider how both higher education and online education are faring in the state today.


A Brief Overview of Higher Education in Iowa

In 2013, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that Iowa had 67 degree-granting institutions, broken down as follows: 19 public schools, 34 nonprofits and 14 for-profits. The total number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the ’12-’13 school year at these schools was: 11,961 at public schools, 10,689 at private nonprofits and 18,797 at private for-profits.

According to a 2014 report produced by IowaCollegeAid.gov, Iowa state believes that by 2018, “1.1 million in the state, or 62 percent, will require postsecondary education or training beyond high school.” The report goes on to state that working professionals in Iowa who hold at least a bachelor’s earn 60% more than those who only hold a high school diplomas. The state, then, is not shying away from the value it believes higher education will bring its citizens.

Tuition-wise, the College Board found that, in the ’15-’16 school year, the average in-state tuition and fees for four-year public schools was $7,880, increasing by only 1% over the last five years, while the out-of-state average was $23,740, only increasing by 3% over the same time.

As for the state’s financial aid efforts, the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs (NASSGAP) reported that Iowa awarded $59.5 million in need-based grants and $4.8 million in non-need grants for the ’13-’14 school year. Grants make up 7.8% of the state’s total fiscal support for higher education.

It should be noted that Iowa also raised its local and state grant spending per college student by over 17.7% between 2010-12, over five times the average of all states during the same period; this is a clear indicator that, in a few short years, government-funded grant support has become a major priority in Iowa, which falls in line with the state’s stable tuition and the value it places on a highly educated workforce.


The State of Online Higher Education in Iowa

The NCES estimates that, as of fall 2012, 39.7% of students enrolled in Iowa’s Title IV institutions were in fully online programs. Of those, 83.1% were undergraduates and 13.1% were living in Iowa, suggesting the state does a tremendous job attracting out-of-state distance students.

The organizations leading the way for online colleges in IA include the Iowa Distance Learning Association (IDLA), the Iowa Communications Network (ICN) and the Iowa Community College Online Consortium (ICCOC). The IDLA is made up of the providers and administrators that work in support of online programs and courses throughout the state, showing just how committed professionals are to the state’s online educational infrastructure. The IDLA also awards grants to outstanding individuals and institutions conducting distance programs in the state.

The ICN, similarly, is a network of distance learning service providers, largely dealing with video technology. Of note to students is their Iowa Distance Learning Database, a robust, region specific library of distance learning course materials pertinent to Iowa’s students.

Lastly, the ICCOC is a network of seven Iowa community colleges committed to sharing their online resources, connecting students to the distance programs and courses offered at every school in the consortium. All told, these resources are a strong indicator of just how invested Iowa is in distance learning; when compared to other states in the region, Iowa’s online postsecondary programs and services seem more established, more professional and more extensive. A great sign for what’s to come in the state.


Best Online Colleges in Iowa

Below, you will find our rankings of the best online four-year programs in Iowa. Our profiles look at how schools approach online education and then list out their services for distance students and their popular, fully online degrees. After reviewing our best of Iowa, explore our state resources, like a database of every college and university in Iowa or our index of popular in-state scholarships.

Want to know what it takes to make our rankings? Check out our distinct approach.

Methodology

To determine the best online colleges in each state, we examined the factors most important to prospective students: Academic quality and reputation, online program strength, and cost and student aid. At the most basic level, we use the following formula to determine the best online colleges: Academic Quality + Online Offerings + Cost and Student Aid = Final Score. Of course, there's more to these calculations than meets the eye. Visit our methodology page to discover the data points that shape our formula and to learn more about the process we use to rank schools.

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AIB College of Business

1
AIB College of Business
Des Moines
$14,913

An Online Education at AIB College of Business

AIB’s online students will conduct their online courses and programs through the popular Blackboard Learning Management System. A three-part “readiness” course is provided to help future students determine if they are fully prepared for working on Blackboard. This entirely web-based platform is where students will actively participate in discussion forums, collaborate on group work, submit assignments, check their grades and take tests and quizzes.

Any prospective students residing outside the state of Iowa should note that at this time, AIB is not authorized to deliver distance education in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin.

Online Undergraduate Degrees

  • Bachelor of Accounting
  • Bachelor of Business Administration
  • Bachelor of Contemporary Business Communications
  • Bachelor of General Studies
  • Bachelor Marketing
  • Bachelor of Science in Sports and Event Management (Degree Completion)
  • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (Degree Completion)

While AIB does not offer any graduate level programs, several associate programs in the field of business may be earned online.

Thanks to a cooperative agreement with the Iowa Community College Online Consortium (ICCOC), AIB makes it easy to transfer credits from Iowa community colleges. Students can transfer in as many credits as they can, as long as a minimum of ten classes are taken at AIB. Another unique aspect of AIB is that course registration is not necessary; a personal schedule of courses will be arranged by AIB’s registrar.

Contact Information

2500 Fleur Drive
Des Moines, IA 50321-1799
(515) 244-4221

University of Northern Iowa

2
University of Northern Iowa
Cedar Falls
$7,685
$17,181

An Online Education at University of Northern Iowa

UNI uses eLearning platform Blackboard as its online learning management system of choice. Although the majority of online courses are delivered asynchronously to allow students the maximum amount of flexibility, software tools such as Adobe Connect allow for occasional synchronous elements like web-conferencing. Communication between students and instructors is primarily conducted through email and chat.

Most online programs are scheduled with two courses per semester, enabling busy adult students to continue working while they earn their degree.

Online Undergraduate Degrees

  • Bachelor of Liberal Studies
  • Bachelor of Arts in Technology Management

Online Graduate Degrees

  • Master of Art in Art Education
  • Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
  • Master of Music Education
  • Master of Arts in Philanthropy and Nonprofit Development
  • Master of Arts in Physical Education: Teaching/Coaching
  • Master of Elementary Education
  • Master of Arts in Instructional Technology

Aside from the degrees listed above, distance students have the option to earn certificates or endorsements in the field of education. Courses and workshops are available through distance education as well.

In addition to classic online learning, UNI offers a variety of distance education delivery methods, from optional on-campus learning to minimally guided independent study options, allowing students to design the program format that works best for them.

Contact Information

1227 W 27th St
Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0005
(319) 273-2311


Acclaim for online programs

  • #1on Affordable Colleges Online’s "Online Colleges in Iowa That Win on Affordability”

University of Iowa

2
University of Iowa
Iowa City
$8,079
$27,409

An Online Education at University of Iowa

The University of Iowa offers online education via its own learning management system, Iowa Courses Online (ICON). Since ICON courses are customizable, each online class is unique in its components. Most, however, will incorporate tools for asynchronous learning. Student can access lectures, assignments and discussion boards at any time of day on this dashboard. Of course, help with ICON courses for students is easily accessible 24/7, even before the start of the semester, so that students have the ability to navigate the ICON dashboard and manage their account settings before their course even begins.

Online Undergraduate Degrees

  • Bachelor of Applied Science
  • Bachelor of Arts in Social Work
  • Bachelor of Business Administration
  • Bachelor of Liberal Studies
  • Bachelor of Nursing (RN to BSN)

Online Graduate Degrees

  • Master of Arts in Educational Leadership
  • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
  • Master of Science in Nursing (primarily online)

Several certificate programs that allow students to narrowly focus their studies are available online as well. The University has also partnered with a number of Iowa community colleges to further encourage students to finish their four-year degree at U of I.

Contact Information

101 Jessup Hall
Iowa City, IA 52242-1316
(319) 335-3500


Acclaim for online programs

  • #65on U.S. News and World Report’s Best Online Graduate Education Programs
  • #78on U.S. News and World Report’s Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs

Buena Vista University

3
Buena Vista University
Storm Lake
$29,448

An Online Education at Buena Vista University

Buena vista uses the Blackboard-owned learning management system called ANGEL to host online courses. Web-conferencing is conducted on Blackboard Collaborate, adding “live” and interactive components to online courses. Students use several additional software suites to interact:

  • TurningPoint ResponseWare to respond to live lectures and PowerPoint presentations
  • Video Dashboard to create and send video messages through school email
  • PhotoShop, Dreamweaver and Illustrator for preparing presentations and portfolios

IT support, tutorials and guides are available for all of these to help those unfamiliar with them learn to use them with ease.

Online Undergraduate Degrees

  • Bachelor of Accounting
  • Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Human Services
  • Bachelor of Psychology
  • Bachelor of Finance and Banking
  • Bachelor of General Studies

Undergraduates with 60 credit hours will be able to earn their full degree in as little as two years.

Online Graduate Degrees

  • Master of Education in Curriculum Instruction
  • Master of Education in Special Education

For those looking to promote their careers, Professional Development Studies offer the chance to enhance one’s skills while continuing in the workforce.

Contact Information

610 W 4th St
Storm Lake, IA 50588
(712) 749-2400

Graceland University - Lamoni

4
Graceland University - Lamoni
Lamoni
$23,530

An Online Education at Graceland University - Lamoni

Graceland provides its online learning through the eCollege Learning Management System. A help desk is available around the clock to ensure students avoid any potential snares in the virtual learning environment. Prospective students can take a readiness quiz to help determine if online is the best path for them.

Students should plan on spending 12-15 hours per week working on each of their courses. This includes both logged-in class time and outside study. Instructors and students communicate mostly through email, chat and on the rare occasion, by phone.

Financial aid is available for those online students who qualify.

At this time, Graceland is unable to accept online students residing in the state of Maryland, and while the University does accept students from Texas, it is not regulated under the Texas Higher Education Code.

Online Undergraduate Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Health Care Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)
  • Bachelor of Business Administration
  • Business Administration and Organizational Leadership (Dual Major)
  • Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership

Undergraduate students are expected to visit campus once for a 4-day Focus Session, while graduate students have to attend two Focus Sessions (education programs are excluded from this requirement).

Online Graduate Degrees

  • Master of Business in Instructional Leadership
  • Master of Nursing
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • Master of Arts in Religion
  • Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction
  • Master of Nursing: Family Care Practitioner
  • Master of Nursing: Nurse Educator

Graceland accepts transfer credits acquired through CLEP and DANTE exams.

Contact Information

1 University Place
Lamoni, IA 50140
(641) 784-5000


Acclaim for online programs

  • #148on U.S. News and World Report’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs
  • #5on U.S. News and World Report’s Best Online Graduate Education Programs
  • #9on U.S. News and World Report’s Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs

Mount Mercy University

5
Mount Mercy University
Cedar Rapids
$11,160

An Online Education at Mount Mercy University

Mount Mercy University offers online courses through the Moodle learning management system. Online course structure is asynchronous, allowing students to log in at any time and complete weekly assignments at their own pace. Course content is delivered in various formats, including recorded video sessions, PowerPoint presentations with audio and written lectures and readings.

Coursework often includes discussions through online forums, written assignments, individual and group project-based work and online quizzes and exams. Many instructors list available online office hours and additional video sessions for interested students. Mount Mercy provides links to a 24-7 Moodle online training center, which includes guides and live chat support.

Online Undergraduate Degrees

  • Bachelor of Business Administration in Business
  • Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resource Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)

*Tuition based on 24 credit hours at online tuition rate

Contact Information

1330 Elmhurst Dr NE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402-4797
(319) 363-8213

Iowa State University

6
Iowa State University
Ames
$7,726
$20,278

An Online Education at Iowa State University

ISU’s Online and Distance Learning department offers online courses for its seven colleges entirely through the Blackboard Learn management system. This web-based course delivery portal provides access to all course materials and is where students check announcements, submit assignments, take part in ongoing discussion forums, chat with classmates, work on projects, take quizzes, review grades and more. Online exams are most often conducted within an online testing center. Most course communication takes place via email, blogs, chat rooms, video conferencing, wikis and social media. Helpful tutorial videos for Blackboard are accessible for future students not yet comfortable with the LMS.

Online Undergraduate Degrees

  • Bachelor of Liberal Studies (Degree Completion)

Online Graduate Degrees

  • Master of Science in Statistics
  • Master of Engineering in Aerospace Engineering
  • Master of Science in Human Computer Interaction
  • Master of School Mathematics
  • Master of Science in Plant Breeding
  • Master of Science in Agronomy
  • Master of Engineering in Industrial Engineering

A large number of resources and services are available to eLearners, including administrative help, academic aid and technology support. Additionally, stand-alone online courses can be taken by non-degree seeking students who enroll.

Contact Information

3410 Beardshear Hall
Ames, IA 50011-2030
(515) 294-5836


Acclaim for online programs

  • #27on U.S. News and World Report’s Best Online Graduate Computer Information Technology Programs
  • #53on U.S. News and World Report’s Best Online Graduate Engineering Programs

Northwestern College

7
Northwestern College
Orange City
$26,764

An Online Education at Northwestern College

Online students access all courses, as well as administrative and community resources, through the MyNorthwestern (MyNWC) portal. The Northwestern learning portal is powered by the Blackboard learn management system. Classes are usually asynchronous and can be completed at the student’s convenience during the week. Most programs require students to take one 8-week course online at a time, which works out to two classes per semester. Online students have remote access to library resources, including reference instruction via live chat. Students may also reach out to the Peer Learning Center online for academic help.

Online Undergraduate Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)

Online Graduate Degrees

  • Master of Education Early Childhood
  • Master of Education Teacher Leadership

Contact Information

101 Seventh St SW
Orange City, IA 51041
(712) 707-7000

William Penn University

9
William Penn University
Oskaloosa
$23,210

An Online Education at William Penn University

WPU delivers its Distance Learning in the College for Working Adults via the Moodle learning management system. Students take one 5-week long class at a time with synchronous, weekly cohort team meetings. This single course immersion format allows full-time students to completed their program within two years. A demo course, a tutorial and an assessment are provided to help students learn to navigate their way around the Moodle platform so they feel totally prepared come the first day of class.

Online Undergraduate Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education
  • Bachelor of Arts in Business Management
  • Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor Arts in Human Resources Management

Online Graduate Degrees

  • Master of Business Leadership

In addition to the bachelor program, an associate program in leadership studies and an English as a second language (ESL) K-12 endorsement are also offered via Distance Learning.

Students may earn college credit for previous life and work experience if they successfully complete a CLEP or DSST exam. A testing center is accessible to online students in the Des Moines area, while the Wilcox Library, bookstore and advising are accessible to all online WPU students.

Contact Information

201 Trueblood Ave
Oskaloosa, IA 52577
(641) 673-1001

Briar Cliff University

10
Briar Cliff University
Sioux City
$26,650

An Online Education at Briar Cliff University

Briar Cliff students log in to the BCYou portal to access online courses via the Brightspace learning platform. The online learning space delivers all course content, including assignments, exams and discussions, as well as collaboration and communication tools for interaction with peers and instructors. The collaborate section also provides web conferencing and video, powered by Blackboard Collaborate; these sessions can be accessed via an iPhone or iPad.

Most coursework is delivered in asynchronous fashion, allowing students to complete weekly assignments at their own pace. Briar Cliff provides an online orientation guide with information on how to access and what to expect from the online learning experience.

Online Undergraduate Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Accounting
  • Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN)
  • Bachelor of Arts in Operations Management
  • Bachelor of Social Work

Contact Information

3303 Rebecca Street
Sioux City, IA 51104
(712) 279-5321


Most Affordable Online Colleges in Iowa

Below you’ll find another listing of the online schools in Iowa, this time sorted by their tuition rates, from lowest to highest.

Want to know what it takes to make our rankings? Check out our distinct approach.

Methodology

Our list of the most affordable online colleges is based on in-state yearly tuition, or annual tuition rates if a school does not differentiate between in-state and out-of-state students. Tuition rates are based on a full course load each semester or term. All colleges on the list offer at least one bachelor's degree completion program available entirely online. Those institutions with the lowest tuition are ranked highest, providing prospective students with a true list of the most affordable online colleges in their state.

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University of Northern Iowa

1
University of Northern Iowa
Cedar Falls
$7,685
$17,181

Iowa State University

2
Iowa State University
Ames
$7,726
$20,278

University of Iowa

3
University of Iowa
Iowa City
$8,079
$27,409

Upper Iowa University

4
Upper Iowa University
Fayette
$405
$9,720

AIB College of Business

5
AIB College of Business
Des Moines
$14,913

Mercy College of Health Sciences

6
Mercy College of Health Sciences
Des Moines
$15,642

William Penn University

7
William Penn University
Oskaloosa
$23,210

Graceland University - Lamoni

8
Graceland University - Lamoni
Lamoni
$23,530

Buena Vista University

9
Buena Vista University
Storm Lake
$29,448


Scholarships and Financial Aid in Iowa

Carver Scholarship

Deadline: April 1, 2016
Scholarship Amount $7,600 See Scholarship

For Iowa residents entering their junior year of college. A GPA of 2.8+ and a demonstration of financial need is required. Average award is $5,200 at public universities and $7,600 at private colleges. Funding is provided by the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust.

Helen Boyack Memorial Scholarship

Deadline: March 1, 2016
Scholarship Amount $2,000 See Scholarship

The Helen Boyack Memorial Scholarship is for incoming freshmen at Iowa State University who graduated from an Iowa high school. Selection is based on financial need; preference is given to students with a GPA of 3.0+. This is a one-time award of $2,000.

Iowa Tuition Grant

Deadline: July 1, 2016
Scholarship Amount $20,000 See Scholarship

For Iowa residents enrolled in an eligible Iowa private college or university. The award is for undergraduates only, and preference is given to applicants with the greatest financial need. Funding is provided by Iowa College Aid.

Iowa Vocational-Technical Tuition Grant

Deadline: July 1, 2016
Scholarship Amount $1,200 See Scholarship

For Iowa residents enrolled in an Iowa community or technical college. Applicants must demonstrate financial need, and must be enrolled in at least 3 credit hours per quarter. Award amount is $1,200 per year for two years. Funds are provided by Iowa College Aid.

Jane and Clem Werner Scholarship

Deadline: na
Scholarship Amount $5,000 See Scholarship

Administered by the Iowa Community Foundation, this $5,000 scholarship is awarded yearly to one student from each of the following schools: Davenport Central, Davenport North, Davenport West, Bettendorf, and Rivermont Collegiate. GPA of 3.0+ is required, and financial need is considered.

Norman V. Peale Scholarship

Deadline: December 12, 2016
Scholarship Amount $17,500 See Scholarship

The Peale Scholarship is open to freshmen entering Northwestern College with an ACT score of 29+. Finalists in the National Merit Competition are automatically considered. The total amount is $17,500, distributed over 4 years; An additional grant of $1,000 per year is available.

Northwestern Grant

Deadline: na
Scholarship Amount Amount varies See Scholarship

Northwestern College provides this grant program to students who have demonstrated financial need and show evidence of academic potential. The award amount is determined by Northwestern College based on applicants’ FAFSA information; award is renewable for 4 years.

Presidential Scholarship

Deadline: na
Scholarship Amount $13,000 See Scholarship

The Presidential Scholarship is available to freshmen entering Northwestern College with an ACT score of 25+. Award amount is $13,000, distributed over 4 years. An additional grant of $1,000 per year is available based on high school GPA and SAT scores.


Higher Education Resources in Iowa