Students who need more flexibility with their education might consider online colleges in Iowa. Students seeking community college education can find it online as well. Online enrollment is steadily increasing across Iowa’s colleges and universities, with 41.8% of students enrolled in online courses in 2015.
More colleges now offer students the chance to enroll in online courses, and several universities predominantly offer online classes. Both undergraduate and graduate students have options in Iowa for an online education, allowing them to simultaneously focus on their education and career. This guide reviews everything prospective students should know about attending an online college in Iowa, including information on tuition expenses, key industries, job opportunities, and scholarships.
Featured Online Programs
A Brief Overview of Higher Education in Iowa
During the 2015-16 school year, Iowa was home to 19 public degree-granting institutions, plus 34 nonprofit, four-year institutions, and 11 for-profit institutions. Students living in all regions of the state have access to continued education, with the potential to earn a degree. In 2016, Iowa reported 266,513 students enrolled at degree-granting higher learning institutions, marking the highest enrollment numbers in the nation.
- 19 public
- 34 non-profit
- 11 for-profit
In-state and out-of-state tuition fees vary by school, with some institutions featuring a uniform rate for all students, regardless of their state of residency. In the 2017-18 school year, the average in-state tuition at four-year public institutions was $9,080. The flagship University of Iowa charged $9,276 for in-state students, and $31,233 for out-of-state students. When students consider school in Iowa, they should take residency into consideration, researching tuition rates at each prospective school to make sure they can afford it. According to the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs (NASSGAP) annual survey, students received $65,348,201 in need-based aid, and $4,819,723 in non-need-based aid. When seeking aid opportunities, students should note their tuition cost and subtract their expected financial aid contribution to evaluate which programs they can afford.
Featured Online Programs
The State of Online Higher Education in Iowa
In 2015, 25,277 graduate students took at least one online course, and 89,695 undergraduate students enjoyed the flexibility of at least one online class. In that same year, 17,230 graduate students and 53,414 undergraduate students took exclusively online courses. Out-of-state students compose 49,892 of exclusively online students at Iowa schools, and in-state students account for 19,097. The top university in Iowa with exclusively online students is the Davenport campus of Kaplan University, with 45,268 graduate and undergraduate online students. The University of Iowa experienced the fastest growth in online enrollment, jumping from 4,029 students in 2012 to 12,784 students in 2015.
The Iowa Communications Network (ICN) features 16 online learning regions with video conferencing sites. These sites provide students with phone services, high-speed flexible broadband internet, and data on higher education institutions, K-12 schools, state and federal government, National Guard armories, hospitals and clinics, and libraries.
Online students in Iowa may also find the Iowa Community College Online Consortium useful. The ICCOC provides students with information and resources to assist in their education. The consortium partners with several colleges in Iowa, including Iowa Lakes Community College and Northwest Iowa Community College.
Tuition Breaks for Out-of-State Students
Created to help improve postsecondary education through the Midwest Student Exchange Program (MSEP), the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) provides affordable opportunities for students interested in attending out-of-state colleges. MSEP is the midwest’s biggest multi-state reciprocity program. More than 100 colleges in Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Ohio promote MSEP initiatives by offering cheaper opportunities for out-of-state students.
Public institutions adhering to MSEP agree not to charge students more than 150% of the in-state tuition rate for specific programs, and private institutions feature a 10% tuition reduction. To earn discounts, students must enroll as nonresidents at a participating MSEP campus. Savings amounts differ by institution, but students typically experience discounts between $500 and $5,000 each year. Enrollment decisions take place at the discretion of each campus, meaning campuses can exercise their right to limit participation and set particular MSEP academic requirements.
Best Online Colleges in Iowa
Below, are rankings of the best online four-year programs in Iowa. Our profiles consider how each school approaches online education, and list out each school’s services for distance students and popular, fully online degrees. After reviewing the best online schools in Iowa, explore our state resources, which include a database of every college in Iowa and an 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||Iowa State University||Ames||$$$$$||3410 Beardshear Hall|
Ames, IA 50011-2030
Iowa State University is a research university located in Ames, Iowa and is the largest university in the state. The university is one of many accredited online colleges in Iowa with several online and distance learning offerings, including two undergraduate degrees, two undergraduate certificate programs, a hybrid bachelor's degree, and more than 30 graduate degree and certificate programs. Iowa State is a member of the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (GPIDEA), a multi university partnership that provides access to courses and programs taught across all member universities, allowing students to earn degrees or certificates their home university may not be able to offer alone.
Early Childcare Education and Programming (ECEMS) is one example of a completely online bachelor's degree program made possible by the GPIDEA. Curriculum requirements include 120 credit hours of coursework and three practicum experiences. Other online undergraduate programs offered by Iowa State include a bachelor of liberal studies and a bachelor of science in agricultural studies hybrid degree. The latter degree is a combination of online courses and on-campus study and only requires two semesters of study at the Iowa State campus.
The Iowa State colleges with the most online graduate degree offerings include the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Engineering, and the College of Human Sciences. Curriculum length and requirements vary depending on the specific degree. For instance, the online master's degree in computer engineering program requires a minimum of 30 credit hours with a typical schedule of one course per semester. The program can be completed in five years. The online master's of education with a concentration in instructional technology, on the other hand, requires 30 credit hours and can be completed in three years.
Tuition and fees can vary depending on the particular program and semester of course offering. Standard tuition for an online course at Iowa State is $323 per credit for undergraduate students and $517 for graduate students. Many programs, like the online master's of education, allow all students to receive in-state tuition regardless of residency. All GPIDEA degree programs are offered at a common price per credit rate that is slightly higher than Iowa State per credit rates.
|2||Graceland University - Lamoni||Lamoni||$$$$$||1 University Place|
Lamoni, IA 50140
Graceland University is a private liberal arts college with two physical campuses in Lamoni, Iowa and Independence, Missouri along with a variety of online programs. Another one of the accredited online colleges in Iowa, their online degree offerings include five bachelor's degrees, six master's degrees, and one doctorate program. All Graceland University online programs are cohort-based, allowing students to listen to lectures and complete homework assignments from anywhere while also interacting with other students.
Curriculum length and requirements vary depending on the particular degree program. The online bachelor's of arts in business administration or organizational leadership program requires students to complete 120 semester hours and maintain a 2.0 GPA or higher. The university even offers a dual-major program that combines both business administration and organizational leadership. There are six start dates per year and each class is eight weeks long, allowing most students to finish their degree in two years. The online master's of education program, on the other hand, requires 30 semester hours of coursework and a 3.0 GPA or higher throughout the program. This program has three different specializations: literacy instruction, special education, and instructional leadership. There are multiple start dates per year, and an accelerated format available for students who wish to graduate early. Students should always check details of their program of interest for details.
Tuition and fees at Graceland University for online courses depend on the type of course, course level, and where the course is based. For instance, general education online courses are $460 per credit hour, online undergraduate business and criminal justice courses are $365 per credit hour, and online master's of education courses are $545 per credit hour.
Graceland University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. They also participate in the >National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), an organization of member states dedicated to ensuring a quality standard for education.
|3||University of Iowa||Iowa City||$$$$$||101 Jessup Hall|
Iowa City, IA 52242-1316
Located in Iowa City, the University of Iowa is the oldest university in the state and is widely considered Iowa's flagship public research university. It offers over 200 areas of study and through its distance education programs, the school provides students outside of Iowa the opportunity to obtain 40 different degrees or certifications and choose from over 600 online courses. All of the University of Iowa's online programs start during the fall, spring, or summer semesters and have application deadlines accordingly. Some courses are taught at the Des Moines or Cedar Rapids satellite campuses for those who may want to take part in an onsite classroom experience.
Program length and requirements vary depending on the degree or certificate, course level, and the individual's scheduling availability. The online bachelor of liberal studies degree requires 120 credit hours of coursework and a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher. The online bachelor's of science in sport and recreation management, on the other hand, requires 48 credit hours, including nine hours of field experience. Students should look into the degree program they are interested in to verify specific requirements and how long the program takes to complete. Students may also take online courses from the University of Iowa without enrolling in a program as a nondegree student.
Tuition costs depend on a student's program and the number of credit hours a student is taking. Most of the University of Iowa's distance education programs charge the same rate for undergraduate residents and nonresidents at $324 per credit hour. Online graduate programs charge $544 per credit hour for both residents and nonresidents, though some programs have higher tuition rates.
The University of Iowa is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning commission.
|4||Buena Vista University||Storm Lake||$$$$$||610 W 4th St|
Storm Lake, IA 50588
Located in Storm Lake, Iowa, Buena Vista University is a private, Presbyterian-affiliated, four-year college that offers 42 undergraduate majors of study. They also provide a selection of online and distance education programs at the bachelor's, master's, and graduate endorsement levels. Some of their undergraduate programs are geared toward incoming freshmen who have never taken college-level courses, while others are designed specifically for those who have already obtained an associate degree or taken a number of college-level courses and want to complete a bachelor's. All online degree and endorsement programs follow an eight-week course schedule and have start dates throughout the year.
Most of Buena Vista University's online undergraduate degree programs require 40 to 60 hours of major-specific coursework in addition to general education requirements. Their human services program requires 42 credit hours, their business program requires 55 credit hours, and their criminology and criminal justice program requires 48 credit hours. Some programs have optional or required internship components. For instance, their health services leadership program advises students to undertake an internship in the field even though it is not required. Their master's degree programs, on the other hand, typically require 30 to 51 credits and typically takes up to two years to complete. Some of these, like the master's of arts in organizational leadership, also require a capstone experience.
Since Buena Vista is a private university, residency does not affect tuition rates. Undergraduate programs cost $436 per credit hour across all majors, while tuition for master's programs are more variable. The tuition rate for the master's of arts in organizational leadership program is $533 per credit hour, while the master of education rate is $250 per credit hour.
Buena Vista University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
|5||University of Northern Iowa||Cedar Falls||$$$$$||1227 W 27th St|
Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0005
The University of Northern Iowa (UNI) is a public four-year university located in Cedar Falls, Iowa that offers a selection of over 90 majors across their various disciplinary colleges. In addition to these on-campus offerings, they have several online undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs. Some of these are completely online degree programs that can be completed entirely at a distance while others are blended programs with minimal onsite attendance required.
Most of these online programs have start dates corresponding to fall, spring, and summer semesters. However, the bachelor of liberal studies program, the career and technical education professional development certificate program, and the Iowa secondary school health education teaching endorsement have the option of open enrollment, meaning students may enroll at any time during the year. These guided independent study courses allow students to work at their own pace, permitting up to nine months for course completion. Tuition for guided independent study courses is the same regardless of course level or residency, at $253 per credit hour.
Standard tuition rates for continuing and distance education courses at UNI are $320 per credit hour for undergraduates and $509 per credit hour for graduates. There is also a $38 technology fee per course. Tuition for nonresident online students may be more costly and should be discussed with program advisers.
Program length and requirements depend largely on the specific degree and course level. Course format may also vary depending on the specific program. Some are cohort-based and meet at a specific time each week through online interactive conferencing, and others are completely asynchronous and self-paced.
UNI is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
|6||Mount Mercy University||Cedar Rapids||$$$$$||1330 Elmhurst Dr NE|
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402-4797
Located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Mount Mercy University is a private Catholic four-year institution with a liberal arts focus that offers more than 45 undergraduate degree programs and six graduate programs. Students who require a flexible schedule or live far from Cedar Rapids may be interested in their selection of ten online degrees, spanning both bachelor's and master's degrees. Mount Mercy's online courses are delivered asynchronously through text-based lectures and readings, recorded video lectures, discussion forums, project-based assignments, and virtual office hours that can be accessed at any time. They offer nine start dates per year and courses are 5-10 weeks long.
Degree requirements and coursework vary by program. The online bachelor of business administration in business requires coursework in accounting, administration, economics, English, management, and marketing. Some major courses include principles of accounting, principles of law, business statistics, and financial management. The online bachelor of applied science in applied management can be completed in as little as two years and requires courses like technology and communication in business, principles of marketing, and human resource management. Students should check with program advisers about their program of preference in order to verify admissions and curriculum requirements and other degree details.
Tuition costs $500 per credit hour with no fees beyond tuition and books. Mount Mercy partners with local business to offer a 10% employer discount to students who are employed by select organizations. Federal and state level financial aid can also be applied.
Mount Mercy University accepts transfer credits of up to 93 credits from regionally accredited four-year institutions and up to 63 credits from two-year institutions. Some courses, such as those taken at nationally accredited or unaccredited universities, may be accepted on a case-by-case basis.
Mount Mercy University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
|7||Briar Cliff University||Sioux City||$$$$$||3303 Rebecca Street|
Sioux City, IA 51104
Located in Sioux City, Iowa, Briar Cliff University is a private Franciscan university with a focus in liberal arts. They boast an offering of 30 undergraduate majors and degree programs and nine graduate degree and certificate programs. In addition to on-campus courses, they also provide online bachelor's degree completion programs.
Most of these programs require at least an associate degree or a specific number of previous college credits as a prerequisite. They accept up to 90 hours of coursework in transfer credits from previous colleges and universities. Students who already have an associate degree are allowed to transfer 62 credit hours toward the completion of their online bachelor's degree. Start dates correspond to a semester system, many beginning only in the fall.
Programs vary in length and requirements. For instance, both the online bachelor of arts in business administration program and the online accounting program require the completion of 39 credit hours. The online RN-to-BSN program, on the other hand, requires the completion of 30 to 34 credit hours and can typically be finished in two years.
Tuition costs are $415 per credit hour with $38 per credit in fees. Briar Cliff has a partnership with certain healthcare facilities where employees receive a discounted rate for the RN-to-BSN degree completion program.
Briar Cliff University participates in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), an organization dedicated to facilitating student education across state lines, and awards degrees to students in all NC-SARA member states. Check out the interactive state authorization map to see if you qualify for in-state tuition.
Briar Cliff University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
|8||Upper Iowa University||Fayette||$$$$$||605 Washington St|
Fayette, IA 52142-1857
Upper Iowa University is a private university that offers undergraduate and graduate programs in more than 40 fields of study. Their main campus is located in Fayette, a rural community, but they also have distance education and online programs with students from across the globe. Their online offerings include associate degrees, bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, and graduate certificates. For students who want to attend an Iowa college online, Upper Iowa is a great option.
The school offers these programs in two overarching delivery formats: online classroom or web-based self-paced courses. They also over a paper- or email-based self-paced format for those interested in distance education or correspondence programs that do not require an internet connection. Their online classroom programs take place through an interactive online environment with weekly deadlines where students are expected to participate four days each week. Courses are eight weeks long with six start dates per year.
Upper Iowa's web-based self-paced program provides a one-on-one environment and allows students to work at their own pace. Students may take up to six months to finish a course and may enroll at any time during the year. This format is delivered completely asynchronously with flexible deadlines and no minimal weekly participation requirement. Depending on what kind of learning environment works best for each individual learner, either of these could be great options for online learning.
Upper Iowa University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. However, in 2017, they were placed "on hold" by the HLC for instances of improper conduct at one of their distance learning centers. They are still accredited and have now been placed "on notice", which means they may be at risk of not meeting accreditation criteria in certain areas. Keep an eye out for updates on their accreditation status.
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.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||School Link||Cost|
|1||University of Northern Iowa||Cedar Falls||School profile||$$$$$|
|2||Iowa State University||Ames||School profile||$$$$$|
|3||University of Iowa||Iowa City||School profile||$$$$$|
|4||Upper Iowa University||Fayette||School profile||$$$$$|
|5||AIB College of Business||School profile||$$$$$|
|6||Mercy College of Health Sciences||Des Moines||School profile||$$$$$|
|7||Graceland University - Lamoni||Lamoni||School profile||$$$$$|
|8||Buena Vista University||Storm Lake||School profile||$$$$$|
|9||William Penn University||Oskaloosa||School profile||$$$$$|
Job Outlook for College Graduates in Iowa
Graduates of online colleges in Iowa can explore a variety of promising career opportunities in the state, and specifically in Iowa’s key industries. These industries include value-added agriculture and food production, advanced manufacturing, distribution and warehousing, renewable energy and fuels, and information and communications technology.
Iowa is the largest producer of soybeans, corn, pork, and eggs in the United States, and the second-highest producer of red meat, which opens up jobs in the agriculture and food production industry. Iowa is also the premier leader in renewable energy in the United States, but the state’s largest industry is advanced manufacturing, which contributes $31.2 billion to the economy each year.
Graduates enjoy a variety of salary wages across different fields, including management occupations, healthcare support occupations, production occupations, and personal care and service occupations. Depending on the career, Iowa professionals can have annual mean salaries of more than $200,000. For example, OB/GYN doctors make $260,010 each year, on average. In September 2018, the unemployment rate in Iowa stood at 2.5%.
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Iowa
Brian Pearson Memorial Scholarship
The Brian Pearson Memorial Scholarship goes to one female and one male student in Iowa. Eligible applicants must compete in Iowa Games events as juniors or seniors in high school.
Herbert Hoover Uncommon Student Award
The Herbert Hoover Uncommon Student Award scholarship caters to high school juniors in Iowa. Applicants must design, propose, and complete a project.
Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship
The Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge scholarship serves high school seniors in the state of Iowa. The 30 top-scoring students earn the award.
Robert D. Blue Scholarship
Open to Iowa residents and students who plan to attend an Iowa college or university, the Robert D. Blue scholarship is available to graduating high school students and students currently enrolled in an undergraduate program.
Iowa UMF Westmar Trust Scholarship
The Iowa UMF Westmar Trust Scholarship is open to students who plan to, or already, attend a United Methodist college in Iowa. Applicants must have a minimum high school GPA of 3.0, or college GPA of 2.5.
Iowa Funeral Directors Association Scholarship
Open to legal residents of Iowa who plan to practice funeral service in Iowa after graduation, the Iowa Funeral Directors Association requires students to accumulate 60 undergraduate credits in a mortuary science program.
Iowa Scholarships for the Arts
The Iowa Scholarships for the Arts aid full-time undergraduate students at Iowa colleges. Applicants must have a background in the arts, including visual, music, dance, literature, or theatre.
PMI Eastern Iowa Chapter Scholarship
The PMI Eastern Iowa Chapter Scholarship is available to students enrolling in project management programs who are children of PMI Eastern Iowa Chapter members.
Telegraph Herald Scholastic Journalist Award
To earn the Telegraph Herald Scholastic Journalist award, applicants must be high school seniors studying within 50 miles of Dubuque, Iowa, in the Telegraph Herald circulation area. They must be active in editorial aspects.
Upper Midwest Emmy Chapter/Foundation Scholarships
Awarded to students living in Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, the Upper Midwest Emmy Chapter scholarships require students to submit a DVD of their best scholastic work.
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