To meet the challenges of a continually expanding and diverse online education environment, the Minnesota Online Quality Initiative has implemented the Quality Matters program, which provides a forum and a set of guidelines for peer-review designed to enable educators to better serve their students by meeting certain general standards and specific criteria. It aims to improve the overall quality through this review and certification process by focusing on online course design and planning. Courses that pass the evaluation standards are rewarded with a seal of approval, enabling students and educators to have a benchmark for evaluating the effectiveness and content of these courses.
This statewide collaborative spirit is prevalent in Minnesota’s higher education system and students will be pleased with the balanced attention state’s educators are giving to their on-campus and online programs.
Before we look at the best online colleges in Minnesota, let’s start with the state of higher education and online education in particular in Minnesota today.
A Brief Overview of Higher Education in Minnesota
In 2013, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that Minnesota had 119 degree-granting institutions, broken down as follows: 43 public schools, 36 nonprofits and 40 for-profits. The total number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the ’12-’13 school year at these schools was: 21,436 at public schools, 11,011 at private nonprofits and 3,879 at private for-profits.
- 43 public
- 36 non-profit
- 40 for-profit
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 $10,830, while the out-of-state average was $18,420, the fourth lowest out-of-state tuition amongst states.
As for the state’s financial aid efforts, the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs (NASSGAP) reported that Minnesota awarded $180.231 million in need-based grants and $1.458 million in non-need grants for the ’13-’14 school year. Grants make up 13.0% of the state’s total fiscal support for higher education.
In 2013, by voting to reject tax cuts for certain high-earning households and businesses, the Minnesota legislature was able to prevent serious budget cuts to higher education funding, and was able to freeze tuition for public colleges. This comes at a critical time since in-state tuition costs continue to rise and remain above the national average. State and local appropriations have risen to meet the cost of tuition, and it seems for the time being that state funding for higher education has stabilized.
Also in 2013, the state legislature was able to pass the MN Dream Act into law. This “Prosperity Act” enables undocumented students to become eligible for in-state tuition and financial aid. Students can find numerous financial aid tools and resources at the Minnesota Office of Higher Education website.
The high degree of need-based grant money offered in-state combined with forward-looking legislation illustrates Minnesota’s clear commitment to providing educational opportunity for everyone.
The State of Online Higher Education in Minnesota
The NCES estimates that a sizable 26.2% of students enrolled in Minnesota’s Title IV institutions are in fully online programs. Of those, 38.4% were reported to be undergraduates and 24.9% were found to be living in Minnesota, meaning the state is one of the nation’s leaders in terms of attracting a pool of out-of-state distance students.
The Minnesota Office of Higher Education offers numerous resources to students interested in online education, including links to Minnesota State Colleges and Universities website where students can calculate tuition costs, find financial aid, demo courses and go through the process of admission and enrollment. The Office of Higher Education also offers links to resources designed to help students determine if they are ready for online education.
The Minnesota Online Quality Initiative has its finger on the pulse of online education in-state and continues to work to improve the overall quality of online course offerings in its network of affiliates. Students attending online colleges in MN can explore qualifying courses and schools here, and educators and administrators will find resources for course review, certification and professional development.
The eLearning Consortium, Distance Minnesota, was formed in 2004 and is comprised of 3 2-year colleges and one university. The organization strives to foster and enhance online course work and availability and to serve as auxiliary support to the online education community. The State Authorization Network is another resource for institutions seeking to meet state regulation requirements for online education.
With no lack of highly aware and involved organizations Minnesota has surely proved itself to be forward-looking and concerned with the future and success of its online education network.
Best Online Colleges in Minnesota
Below, you will find our rankings of the best online four-year programs in Minnesota. 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 the best online schools in MN, explore our state resources, like a database of every college and university in Minnesota or our index of popular in-state scholarships.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
|1||University of Minnesota - Twin Cities||Minneapolis||$$$$$||100 Church Street SE|
Minneapolis, MN 55455-0213
Minnesota-Twin Cities, established in 1851, serves the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Satellite campuses are located in Crookston, Duluth, Morris, and Rochester. The university educates more than 30,000 undergraduates and 16,000 graduate and professional students.
Completely online degrees include a bachelor’s of applied health, a bachelor’s of applied science, a bachelor of arts, and a bachelor’s of manufacturing management. Minnesota - Twin Cities also offers several bachelor’s of science degrees with concentrations in accounting, entrepreneurship, international business, and marketing. Students have the opportunity to pursue graduate and doctoral degrees, including graduate certificates. Like many online colleges in Minnesota, programs are offered in either a fully online, primarily online, or hybrid format. Programs that are taught partially online have about 80% of their classes online. Online resources include technology help, online access to the library, and tutorials and workshops.
|2||Concordia University - Saint Paul||Saint Paul||$$$$$||1282 Concordia Ave|
Saint Paul, MN 55104-5494
Concordia is a Christian, liberal arts university affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The university offers 53 majors, and maintains a 16-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio.
The school has many online programs. Students can choose between two associate degrees, 19 bachelor's degrees, and 20 master's degrees. The school also has doctorate programs in physical therapy and education. Undergraduate programs include business, child development, criminal justice, family science, sports management, and more. The sports management program requires students to earn 45 credits, and courses last seven weeks. Graduates are prepared for careers as sports marketers, coaches, and athletic directors. All online programs at Concordia are built for flexibility. Concordia has an easy one-click upload for online assignments. Online students have access to Concordia’s student support services, and professors are available to offer advice and answer questions. Concordia has been designated a military-friendly school.
|3||Minnesota State University - Mankato||Mankato||$$$$$||South Rd and Ellis Ave|
Mankato, MN 56001
Minnesota State - Mankato produces cutting-edge research with a focus on real-world problem solving. The university includes undergraduate programs in research through the Undergraduate Research Center.
Online options include undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, many of which are offered completely online. A doctorate is offered in nursing sciences. Minnesota State - Mankato, one of the best online colleges in Minnesota, offers several programs designed to help students complete a bachelor's degree. Degree completion programs include applied organizational studies, international business, technical communication, dental hygiene, and RN to BSN. The school offers an Online Course Demo for new online students. Minnesota State also has licensure preparation for reading K–12 and library media education K–12. Distance learners have access to the Career Development Center, library services, the counseling center, and others. Online programs are taught through the Desire 2 Learn platform.
|4||Crown College||Saint Bonifacius||$$$$$||8700 College View Drive|
Saint Bonifacius, MN 55375-9001
Crown offers a Christ-centered education. The College has been operating for more than 100 years and provides on-campus students the chance to participate in bible study, fellowship groups, worship nights, and more. Crown consistently ranks as an affordable choice for distance learning among online colleges in MN.
Crown offers online pre-college, associate, bachelor’s, graduate, minors, and certificate programs. Graduate programs include business administration, Christian studies, counseling, and global leadership. The college’s online programs instill students with the core principles needed to apply a Christian perspective to problems in the real world. All online degrees are self-paced and allow for collaboration with other students, professors, and academic advisors. The College offers several programs, including ten bachelor's of science programs in disciplines such as alcohol and drug counseling, criminal justice, global and cultural studies, and more. The online library provides access to journals, books, articles, and more.
|5||The College of Saint Scholastica||Duluth||$$$$$||1200 Kenwood Ave|
Duluth, MN 55811-4199
With more than 4,000 students and over 100 years of experience delivering higher education, Saint Scholastica ranks among the top online schools in MN. As a Catholic college with Benedictine roots, students can pursue online or on-campus courses at several locations, from Austin, Texas, to Phoenix, Arizona.
Distance learners can choose between several online bachelor's programs, including accounting, computer information systems, management, and organizational behavior. Certificate, licensure, graduate, and doctorate programs are also available online. Saint Scholastica has two learning formats: online courses and virtual classrooms. Online courses are dynamic, and filled with tools, presentations, and interactive discussions. Virtual classrooms are synchronous and allow students and professors to come together live, with video and audio conferencing technology. Student services include counseling, tutoring, and personal advising services, where students can get assistance designing an individual course plan to reach academic goals.
|6||University of Northwestern - St Paul||Saint Paul||$$$$$||3003 Snelling Ave N|
Saint Paul, MN 55113-1598
Northwestern-St. Paul provides students with a Christ-centered, liberal arts education. The school has operated since 1902. The university maintains 15 radio stations across six states, reaching nearly one million listeners weekly.
At Northwestern, one of the best online colleges in Minnesota, distance learners don't need to sacrifice flexibility for quality. The bachelor of arts in biblical studies online program is for students seeking a career in ministry; coursework includes spiritual formation, christianity & culture, and theological philosophy. The university also offers early college, dual enrollment programs, and master’s programs. Graduate programs include education, human services, business administration, and organizational leadership. The school’s post-secondary enrollment option allows high school students to earn a free college education while completing their diploma. To enroll, high school students must have a GPA of at least 2.75 and meet standardized testing and computer requirements.
|7||University of Minnesota - Crookston||Crookston||$$$$$||2900 University Ave|
Crookston, MN 56716-5001
Minnesota - Crookston offers classes completely online. The university also provides access to primarily online courses, which require short periods of face-to-face work, and hybrid courses, where about half of the coursework is completed in a web-based format.
Students can pursue online bachelor's degrees in manufacturing operations management, tribal administration and governance, multidisciplinary studies, and more. Online undergraduate certificate, graduate certificate, graduate, and doctorate programs are also available. Master’s programs include health care administration, public health administration and policy, applied child and adolescent development, and business administration. Online students pay in-state tuition, and have access to financial aid, making it a standout among online colleges in Minnesota. The school accepts transfer credits. Students receive free Microsoft Office training courseware, training courses, and technology help. The training course is designed to teach students good study habits.
|8||Bethel University - Minnesota||Saint Paul||$$$$$||3900 Bethel Dr|
Saint Paul, MN 55112
Bethel, a leader in Christian higher education since 1871, is committed to merging the tenets of evangelical faith with educational programs. Online programs at the university are designed to provide students with the foundational skills, experience, and knowledge needed to build a strong career and live a life with purpose.
Bethel’s distance learning programs are offered in several formats: online-only, hybrid, and online-only with a required two-week annual on-campus intensive. Program format depends on the degree and concentration. Bachelor's degrees include business management, Christian ministries, finance, human services, RN to BSN, and more. Seminary and graduate programs are also available. Staff members help students design their degree, get enrollment advising, and transfer credits. Bethel is among online schools in MN to offer credit for prior professional or military experience.
|9||Minnesota State University-Moorhead||Moorhead||$$$$$||1104 Seventh Avenue South|
Moorhead, MN 56563
Minnesota State - Moorhead is one of the best online colleges in MN for engaging, flexible distance learning programs. Nontraditional students can access online-only or hybrid degree programs. Both course delivery options employ the same materials, and encourage interaction between professors and students.
Undergraduate programs include business administration, RN to BSN, operations management, and project management. Students pursuing the project management degree take a range of classes to establish a strong business background, ensuring students leave the program well-equipped to design, execute, and monitor complex projects. For students that graduate with a “B” average or better in core project management classes, the university will pay for each student's national certification. Graduate and graduate certificate programs are also available. Master’s programs include health administration, business administration, special education, and more.
|10||Bemidji State University||Bemidji||$$$$$||1500 Birchmont Dr|
Bemidji, MN 56601
Bemidji State is known for its nationally recognized programs in Industrial model-making and exhibit design. The school offers a range of programs online and at the bucolic lakeside campus in Bemidji, Minnesota. The university has more than 65 undergraduate majors, 16 graduate programs, and nearly 100 student groups.
Bemidji offers degree completion programs, including accounting, applied management, criminal justice, marketing communication, and psychology. The university also offers several graduate degree and certificate programs. To qualify for these programs, students must have completed their first two years of college. Minors are available in business administration, criminal justice, fraud examination, and more. Hybrid programs are also available. Distance learners receive access to the Advising Success Center, careers services, tutoring, the Writing Resource Center, and more. Online courses are taught through Desire 2 Learn Brightspace.
|11||Metropolitan State University - Minnesota||Saint Paul||$$$$$||700 East Seventh Street|
Saint Paul, MN 55106-5000
Metropolitan State offers diverse degree programs from its main campuses in Saint Paul and Minneapolis. Serving more than 11,000 students, the university offers flexible and affordable degrees online and on-campus. Several online programs have on-campus requirements.
Online programs are taught through The Center for Online Learning (COL). The COL, which has been operating for more than a decade, works closely with faculty and staff to design distance courses. Online programs include business administration, finance, human resource management, management, marketing, and law enforcement. Bachelor of applied science degrees are available in industrial management and organizational administration, and one bachelor of arts degree is available in individualized studies. Online courses are taught through D2L Brightspace. Metropolitan State is among online colleges in Minnesota to also offer graduate degrees and certificates completely online.
|12||Saint Cloud State University||Saint Cloud||$$$$$||720 Fourth Ave. South|
Saint Cloud, MN 56301-4498
St. Cloud is located on a 100-acre campus between downtown St. Cloud and the Beaver Islands. The school offers 200 academic programs, 60 graduate degrees, and study abroad opportunities on six continents.
Saint cloud offers an online bachelor’s completion program in elective studies with a major in liberal studies. The BES degree can be completed with several majors and minors, including biology, music, and women's studies. Other degree completion programs include an associate of arts or science and RN to BSN. Saint Cloud is among online colleges in Minnesota to offer graduate degree and certificate programs online. Master’s programs include applied behavior analysis, electrical engineering, business administration, and more. Online courses are taught through D2L Brightspace. Online resources include tutoring and library services.
|13||Oak Hills Christian College||Bemidji||$$$$$||1600 Oak Hills Rd SW|
Bemidji, MN 56601-8834
Three words sum up the online education experience at Oak Hills: convenient, flexible, and affordable. As a leader among online colleges in MN, Oak Hills provides access to associate and bachelor's programs in an online-only format. The school specializes in Bible-based educations. Online programs have specific start and end dates, and can be completed one unit at a time. The college offers credit for prior learning from a number of sources, including professional workshops, seminars, self-study, and non-credit classes.
Online bachelor's degrees at Oak Hills include programs in business administration and leadership and ministry. The leadership major is designed for students seeking a career in a church or ministry setting. Ministry courses include advanced biblical studies courses. Transfer credits must have been obtained with a grade of “C” or higher. A one-year certificate program in Bible studies is also available.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in Minnesota
Below you’ll find another list of the top online colleges in Minnesota, this time sorted by their tuition rate.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||School Link||Cost|
|1||Metropolitan State University - Minnesota||Saint Paul||School profile||$$$$$|
|2||Saint Cloud State University||Saint Cloud||School profile||$$$$$|
|3||Minnesota State University-Moorhead||Moorhead||School profile||$$$$$|
|4||Bemidji State University||Bemidji||School profile||$$$$$|
|5||The College of Saint Scholastica||Duluth||School profile||$$$$$|
|6||Crown College||Saint Bonifacius||School profile||$$$$$|
|7||University of Minnesota - Crookston||Crookston||School profile||$$$$$|
|8||Concordia University - Saint Paul||Saint Paul||School profile||$$$$$|
|9||University of Minnesota - Twin Cities||Minneapolis||School profile||$$$$$|
|10||Bethel University - Minnesota||Saint Paul||School profile||$$$$$|
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Minnesota
Anderson Niskanen Scholarship
Available to high school seniors at Duluth public high schools who will attend the University of Minnesota (Duluth or Twin Cities) next fall. Applicants must demonstrate financial need, and must be in the top 25% of their graduating class.
Cultural Diversity Scholarships
Provided by St. Cloud State University to incoming students who contribute to the cultural diversity of the student body. To be eligible, students must demonstrate academic merit through their high school curriculum, GPA, and ACT/SAT scores. Maximum award amount is $5,000 per year for 4 years.
Jeanne H. Hemmingway Scholarship
This scholarship is available to high school seniors in St. Louis, Lake, or Cook county who will attend the University of Minnesota – Duluth next fall. Selection is based on academic merit and financial need. Applicants must be in the top 15% of their graduating class.
Minnesota Gold Scholarship
In-state freshmen entering the University of Minnesota are automatically considered for the Gold Scholar Award. Primary selection factors are high school GPA, class rank, and SAT or ACT scores. Outstanding talent, community service and leadership, or other proofs of character are also considered.
Minnesota State Grant
For in-state students attending a Minnesota public university or community college. The award is based on financial need. The maximum amount is $6,927 for students at two-year schools, or $10,745 for students at four-year schools. Funding is provided by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education.
National Merit Finalist Scholarship
This scholarship is for incoming freshmen at St. Thomas University who have been selected as National Merit finalists. To be eligible, students must have indicated St. Thomas as their first-choice school to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. Award is $6,000, and is in addition to other aid.
For freshmen entering Minnesota State University. The university will select the recipient based on high school GPA, class rank, ACT scores, leadership, and personal essay. Applicants must rank in the top 10% of their graduating class with a GPA of 3.8+ and an ACT score of 26+.
Freshmen entering Hamline University are automatically considered for the Presidential Scholarship. Selection is competitive, based on high school GPA, class rank, and SAT or ACT scores. No separate application is required.
Available to transfer students entering Bemidji State University who completed an associate’s degree at a Minnesota community college. A GPA of 3.5+ is required. Applicants must be Minnesota residents. Award amount is $1,000.
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