The concept of distance education in rural North Dakota began in the early 1900s with correspondence courses at the high school level. Online education remains a popular option among North Dakota college students.
According to the Distance Education State Almanac 2017, more than 44% of students take at least one course online, and more than 24% take all their courses online. The growth in distance education at the college level in this sparsely populated state is on par with the national average. The state government supports online learning through its public schools, including North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota. These schools rank highest in the state for distance learning enrollment and growth in online learners and are among the best online colleges in North Dakota.
A Brief Overview of Higher Education in North Dakota
North Dakota is home to 20 degree-granting institutions. Their fourteen public institutions include nine four-year colleges and five two-year schools. Two of the state’s public schools qualify as research universities (the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University), and four serve as regional state universities (Dickenson, Maryville, Minot, and Valley City). North Dakota also offers five nonprofit schools and one for-profit school, all of which are four-year institutions. Out of nearly 20 million students in the U.S., just over 54,000 attend college in North Dakota.
- 14 public
- 6 non-profit
- 1 for-profit
With in-state tuition rates ranging in the U.S. from about $5,000 to $16,000, North Dakota offered an affordable $8,660 in-state tuition rate at its four-year public schools in 2018-2019. Out-of-state students paid tuition and fees of $26,290 on average across the U.S. in 2018-2019. North Dakota’s flagship university, the University of North Dakota, posted an in-state tuition rate of $8,695 and an out-of-state rate of $20,759, which is just above the state’s average tuition rates for public schools.
North Dakota helps college students meet the costs of their education through its state financial aid programs. The state provides more than $11 million in need-based grants and $7.5 million in special purpose programs such as academic scholarships and loan forgiveness.
The State of Online Higher Education in North Dakota
As seen in data from the Distance Education State Almanac 2017, distance education offers educational access to students in this rural state. As a result, 44% of North Dakota students take at least one online course, more than the national average of 30%. This figure represents an increase of almost 11% from 2012-2015, which is about on par with the national average. Undergraduates make up most (86%) of the students taking at least one course. Nearly one-quarter of the state’s students take all of their courses online, which is higher than the national average of 14%. Undergraduates make up most (81%) of these students as well. Nearly 62% of North Dakota’s online students, more than the national average of 55%, come from inside the state. About three-quarters of North Dakota’s students take some classes on campus.
North Dakota’s state schools provide a variety of online programs. North Dakota State University, for example, offers more than 25 online degrees and graduate certificates as well as online courses open to high school students and traditional college students. NDSU’s main campus boasts the most students taking online courses and the most growth in online students in the state. The University of North Dakota offers over 80 degree programs and certificates online and provides 24/7 online tutoring. Many North Dakota students start taking online courses well before college through the North Dakota Center for Distance Education established by the state legislature.
Tuition Breaks for Out-of-State Students
Students from states that border North Dakota often benefit from tuition breaks available through reciprocity agreements. Students from Minnesota, for example, may qualify for tuition rates slightly above resident rates at North Dakota public schools, provided space is available, and the program is approved under the Minnesota-North Dakota Tuition Reciprocity Program. Check with the online schools in North Dakota that interest you to find out if they offer tuition breaks to students from your state.
Undergraduates from South Dakota and all states west of the Dakotas, including Alaska, Hawaii, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam may participate in the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WHU) administered by the Western Interstate Commission For Higher Education. This program enables students to enroll in participating North Dakota public schools and pay a maximum tuition of 1.5 times the in-state rate. Eleven North Dakota public schools participate in WHU, although only three offer online majors. Contact schools that appeal to you to see if they participate in WHU, limit the number of WHU awards, accept transfer students, and offer online programs eligible for WHU tuition.
Best Online Colleges in North Dakota
Below, you will find our rankings of the best online four-year programs in North Dakota. 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 North Dakota, explore our state resources, like a database of every college and university in North Dakota 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||Bismark State College||Bismarck||$$$$$||1603 Edwards Ave.|
Bismarck, ND 58506-5587
At Bismarck State College , you can earn an associate in applied science or a variety of program certificates entirely online. As one of the best online colleges in North Dakota, the school has roughly two thirds of its students taking at least one course online, while 44% of the student body is made up of entirely-online students.
Bismarck State offers a range of online programs, including business administration, criminal justice, and web design. Online students can also earn their bachelor of applied science in energy management. Online courses still follow a rigorous course schedule with strict deadlines, assigned discussion times, and weekly assignments. Despite its status as the third largest school within the North Dakota University School System, Bismarck State proudly offers relatively small class sizes, averaging around 16 students. Bismarck is also one of the most affordable online schools in North Dakota, with tuition under $4000 annually for in-state students, and offering roughly $500,000 in scholarships to incoming students every year.
|2||North Dakota State University||Fargo||$$$$$||1301 12th Avenue North|
Fargo, ND 58108-6050
North Dakota State University offers more than 35 accredited online programs. While many of the university’s online offerings can be completed entirely off campus, students are invited to take blended programs mixing on and off-campus courses. For students enrolled on campus at NDSU or another university, the school’s online offerings include many core general education requirements which can be completed in tandem with your degree. High school students may also elect to take one or two online classes to get a jump start on their college coursework.
NDSU’s online bachelor’s programs include human development and family science, sociology, and university studies. The university also offers a range of online graduate programs, including construction management, software engineering, and transportation & urban systems. The main campus is located in Fargo. Students enjoy a low tuition of just over $3,000 annually for in-state students, placing NDSU among the most affordable online colleges in North Dakota.
|3||University of North Dakota||Grand Forks||$$$$$||264 Centennial Drive, Stop 8193|
Grand Forks, ND 58202-8193
The University of North Dakota is located in Grand Forks. The university is home to 1,500 students. UND is the state’s oldest and largest University. The school is also one of the top 100 public schools in the nation according to U.S. News & World Report. With almost 40 degree programs offered online, UND is also one of the most accessible online schools in North Dakota .
Online students at North Dakota can choose from more than 200 different courses, which they can enroll in any time. The flexible classes are designed for students to take on their own time, and are modeled as self-paced courses that students treat like an independent study. For full-time online students, semester-based courses follow a more rigid schedule. Students can choose from courses in the arts, business, education, engineering, nursing, math & science, social and human sciences, and technology.
|4||Minot State University||Minot||$$$$$||500 University Ave W|
Minot, ND 58707
Minot State University enrolls more than 3,000 students on their “Magic City” campus and online. The university offers nine undergraduate degrees, three undergraduate certificates, three graduate degrees, and one graduate certificate entirely online. Minot State has offered distance education programs for 18 years.
MSU’s online coursework is designed to allow students to work from any location or timezone. MSU’s online campus is open 24/7, allowing students to complete their coursework when it’s convenient for them. Online undergraduate degrees include management, marketing, and international business. The school is among online colleges in North Dakota to offer master’s programs, including management and special education. Tuition is charged on a per-credit basis to ensure students never pay for more than what they’re getting. As one of the most affordable online schools in North Dakota, that rate is set at $273.67 per credit for undergraduate courses and $343.37 per credit for graduate courses.
|5||Dickinson State University||Dickinson||$$$$$||291 Campus Drive|
Dickinson, ND 58601-4896
Dickinson State University is part of the North Dakota University system. The campus overlooks the city of Dickinson. DSU also represents one of the the most robust online colleges in North Dakota, offering online bachelor’s degrees in accounting, finance, business administration, human resource management, nursing, applied science, and university studies.
The university also offers online associate degrees in agriculture. Online students are offered a range of tools to help them in their academic experience, including Moodle, Atomic Learning, and Blackboard Collaborate. Ranked as the fourth best regional public college in the midwest by U.S. News & World Report, DSU is also affordable, with tuition just over $6000 per year. The school recommends that students set aside 3-5 hours per credit each week for classes. They also recommend to log into Moodle every 2-3 days.
|6||Valley City State University||Valley City||$$$$$||101 College St SW|
Valley City, ND 58072
U.S. News & World Report has recognized Valley City State University as the number one regional public college in the midwest for 18 consecutive years. The main campus is located in Southeastern Valley City. The school offers more than 80 undergraduate degrees, including tracks in art, business, communications, software engineering, education, and more. Many can been completed entirely online, including programs in business education, career and technical education, english education, history education, music, professional communication, and technology education. The university also offers an online master of education and minor and non-credit programs. Students in VCSU’s online programs have access to the university’s most popular student services, including the learning center, the Allen Memorial Library, and counseling. Online courses are taught through Blackboard. The school also has interactive video network (IVN) courses. These courses require students to travel to specified locations that have an IVN equipped room; there are many locations throughout the state.
|7||University of Mary||Bismarck||$$$$$||7500 University Dr|
Bismarck, ND 58504
The University of Mary is a Catholic, Benedictine private university. The university enrolls over 3,000 students across its main and satellite campuses, including online. The school offers a wide range of academic programs, including many programs that can be completed entirely online. Programs for on-campus and online students are supplemented by service opportunities, internships, and faculty mentoring. The University of Mary is also one of the most affordable online colleges in North Dakota, boasting tuition that falls just under half the average cost of private universities in the nation. Ninety-nine percent of the university’s students are granted scholarships or some form of financial aid.
Among the university’s 26 online degrees are programs in accounting, addiction counseling, biology, business administration, nursing, public policy, public relations, and social work. Master’s programs are also available in bioethics, addiction counseling, and business.
|8||Mayville State University||Mayville||$$$$$||330 Third Street NE|
Mayville, ND 58257-1299
Mayville State University offers a range of distance and extended learning programs to make continuing or pursuing education flexible and easy. Online courses can be taken piecemeal or as complete programs. Degrees can be completed entirely online, blended, and on campus at any of the university’s satellite locations; making Mayville one of the most flexible online schools in North Dakota.
The university’s online undergraduate programs cover a wide range of subjects, including business administration, mathematics, nursing, special education, university studies, library science, and physics. The school also offers one associate in business management and a master’s degree in teaching. The university also offers all required general education courses online. Student resources include the academic success center, online tutoring, the Byrnes-Quanbeck library, internships, career services, and the writing center. The school also offers off-campus distance educations.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in North Dakota
Below, you’ll find a second ranking of the top online colleges in ND, sorted by their tuition rates.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||School Link||Cost|
|1||Dickinson State University||Dickinson||School profile||$$$$$|
|2||Minot State University||Minot||School profile||$$$$$|
|3||Mayville State University||Mayville||School profile||$$$$$|
|4||Valley City State University||Valley City||School profile||$$$$$|
|5||University of North Dakota||Grand Forks||School profile||$$$$$|
|6||North Dakota State University||Fargo||School profile||$$$$$|
|7||University of Mary||Bismarck||School profile||$$$$$|
Job Outlook for College Graduates in North Dakota
North Dakota residents benefit from an economy that features low unemployment (2.6% in August 2018) and a mean annual wage for all occupations of $48,130 (as of May 2017). Recently, mining and logging, as well as the construction industry, experienced the most growth. North Dakota mines produce petroleum, coal, and natural gas. As an agricultural state, North Dakota produces large amounts of wheat, soybeans, corn, and sugar beets. Livestock, including beef cattle, dairy cows, and hogs, also generate revenue for the state’s farmers. Regarding manufacturing, having a solid agricultural base means food processing and machinery production rate at the top of the state’s key industries. North Dakota is also home to several large medical centers and corporate operations centers.
Scholarships and Financial Aid in North Dakota
North Dakota Academic Scholarships
Open to North Dakota high school seniors with a 3.0 GPA and ACT score of 24 or above. They must plan to attend a state-approved college full time to apply.
North Dakota Indian Scholars Program
North Dakota residents enrolled as members of a federally recognized Indian tribe with demonstrated need and/or merit may qualify.
North Dakota Association of Counties Scholarship
Children and grandchildren of North Dakota county employees may apply.
North Dakota Department of Transportation Educational Grant Program
Students in fields related to the mission of the DOT (such as engineering) may apply, provided they agree to work for the NDDOT after graduation or repay the grant.
North Dakota Scholars Program
Students scoring in the 95th percentile on the ACT receive priority for this merit-based award.
North Dakota State Student Incentive Program
North Dakota residents who graduated from a high school in North Dakota or a bordering state may apply.
STEM Occupations Loan Forgiveness Program
Graduates working in approved STEM occupations in North Dakota earning less than $60,000 annually may qualify.
Teacher Shortage Loan Forgiveness Program
Teachers working in North Dakota schools in areas of critical need may apply.
Edward Nesheim Memorial Scholarship
North Dakota descendants of a veteran with a GPA of 2.75 who intend to pursue a degree in agriculture, nutrition, or medicine may apply.
Hattie Tedrow Scholarship
Direct descendants of a U.S. military veteran may apply in their senior year of high school.
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