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, students enroll in BSC Online to earn an associate degree or certificate. With 19 associate degree paths, Bismarck State is one of the best online colleges in North Dakota. In fact, 44% of its students earn their associate entirely online. The college offers a single bachelor's program: applied science in energy management. All programs include a general education core curriculum that stresses the humanities, social sciences, math, and science. Students who want to start their educations immediately can do so; the college offers multiple start dates each year. Bismarck State's online programs use the Blackboard virtual learning system. Students enrolled in online courses use both digital and physical textbooks.
BSC accepts transfer credit through both previous college coursework and exams such as the College Level Examination Program (CLEP). The college also uses prior learning assessment (PLA) to judge whether students' personal and professional experiences satisfy course requirements. Students who select PLA take a course in portfolio development before creating portfolios that professors judge for course competency. Students without transfer credit, CLEP, or PLA can use ACT or SAT scores to determine initial English and math course placements; students without prior standardized test scores take the Accuplacer exam.
BSC awards academic scholarships to students who maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA each semester. North Dakota residents may qualify for need-based grants. Students interested in scholarships and grants must submit additional applications. Active military personnel and veterans receive an automatic application fee waiver; they also qualify for in-state tuition. In-state students pay substantially less per credit hour than out-of-state or international students. The college charges higher tuition to students taking technical courses. Online students also pay a distance education fee for each course.
Bismarck State holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
|2||North Dakota State University||Fargo||$$$$$||1301 12th Avenue North|
Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Although NDSU offers a limited selection of online undergraduate degrees, this North Dakota online college includes two blended learning programs: licenced practical nurse to bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and registered nurse to BSN. Blended learning resembles hybrid learning, but in a blended learning program, students take very few courses on campus. NDSU students can choose from bachelor's degrees in human development or sociology. Students can also select from four minors: gerontology, human development, psychology, or sociology. To ensure online student success, NDSU undergraduates can take only 15 credits per semester. No such credit cap restriction applies to graduate students.
The online graduate school offers over a dozen degree options such as managerial logistics, software engineering, and dietetics. Instead of a degree, graduate students can select from 12 graduate certificates. Certificate programs include transportation and urban systems, youth program management, and youth development. Like NDSU's undergraduate and graduate degrees, many certificate programs offer optional concentrations.
Prospective students can apply for the fall or spring semester. For undergraduate applicants, NDSU recommends a minimum 2.75 high school GPA and a minimum 22 on the ACT. Applicants 19 and older can submit GED scores. Graduate applicants must submit college transcripts, three recommendation letters, and a statement of purpose. Some graduate programs require GRE or GMAT scores. International and non-degree-seeking applicants need to complete modified application requirements. The university uses transfer course equivalencies to determine transfer credit; the equivalency list includes hundreds of colleges and universities throughout the U.S.
Out-of-state students spend substantially more for their degrees compared to in-state students. A reciprocity agreement with Minnesota allows Minnesota residents to save money on tuition at the school. International students pay a premium on top of standard out-of-state tuition. Freshmen, transfer, and online students may qualify for one or more university or departmental scholarships. NDSU proudly participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program to reduce veterans' tuition.
|3||University of North Dakota||Grand Forks||$$$$$||264 Centennial Drive, Stop 8193|
Grand Forks, ND 58202-8193
At UND, online students benefit from the university's 100-year history of educating students through distance education programs. Degree-seeking students can select from 70 bachelor's and master's programs, while non-degree-seeking students can complete one of 20 certificate programs. Programs unique to UND include a doctoral program in aerospace sciences and a bachelor's in cybersecurity.
Practicing teachers can complete a certificate in autism spectrum disorders, instructional design, or English language learner education without pausing their careers. Finally, UND stands apart from other online colleges in North Dakota with its enroll anytime courses. These courses give students 3-9 months to complete requirements. In addition to boasting flexibility, this option also allows students to experience online education before committing to a program.
Unlike other online colleges in North Dakota, UND uses online proctoring so students do not need to travel to take exams. Students can receive tutoring online, as well. Aside from enroll-anytime classes, all courses last 16 weeks. Most courses do not require set meeting times, meaning students can view lectures and complete assignments on their schedules. However, professors still enforce due dates for papers, tests, and other assignments. Students interact with professors and peers through discussion boards, in-person video chat, and other methods that enhance the online learning experience.
Applicants to online programs submit the standard UND application. The university does not accept the GED. Transfer students must possess at least 24 transferable college credits; the university requires a minimum 2.0 GPA for credits to transfer. Graduate degree application requirements vary by program.
In-state and out-of-state students pay the same for tuition; online, out-of-state students save money on their degrees compared to on-campus, out-of-state students. Freshmen and transfer students with excellent academic histories may qualify for automatic merit-based scholarships. UND also awards tuition waivers to students with disabilities and national merit scholars, among other groups.
|4||Minot State University||Minot||$$$$$||500 University Ave W|
Minot, ND 58707
An online college in North Dakota, Minot State attracts prospective students through its 11 undergraduate programs, five graduate programs, and multiple certificates, concentrations, and minors. Undergraduate degree options include nursing, human services, and marketing. The graduate program boasts three education-related master's degrees, while graduate certificates include cybersecurity and early childhood special education. New courses start in the fall, spring, and summer semesters. Courses last 8-16 weeks, allowing students to customize their schedules.
Before applying, prospective students take a free tutorial to understand how online learning works at MSU. The tutorial introduces users to online learning skills, technology requirements, and Blackboard. The university website also includes a detailed state authorizations page for out-of-state residents. With the exception of active-duty military personnel, all applicants pay an admission fee. Undergraduate and graduate application requirements vary, but they typically include transcripts and standardized test scores.
Before starting classes, new students receive access to a resource center that includes IT troubleshooting help, online career services, and access to the university writing center. Prospective students can preview these resources for free.
Both in-state and out-of-state online students pay the same credit-based tuition; this rate also applies to students taking on-campus or hybrid programs. MSU charges graduate students more in tuition than undergraduate students. The university awards financial aid to online students; new undergraduate students with excellent high school GPAs and test scores may qualify for up to $12,000 -- $3,000 per year -- in merit-based scholarships. Graduate students may qualify for similar awards based on their undergraduate academic performance. Each scholarship uses a separate application.
MSU holds Higher Learning Commission regional accreditation and multiple field-specific accreditations, such as those from the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education and the North Dakota Board of Nursing.
|5||Dickinson State University||Dickinson||$$$$$||291 Campus Drive|
Dickinson, ND 58601-4896
The 13 online programs at Dickinson State include associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees, as well as certificates. The associate and certificate programs focus on agricultural topics such as sales and horse production. However, first-time students can earn an associate of arts and then transfer their degree to a bachelor's program in business administration, applied science, or university studies. This online college in North Dakota also appeals to students interested in a registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing program. Finally, practicing teachers can earn a master's in teaching while continuing to work full time. Due to state authorizations, students in some states cannot enroll in specific programs.
Online courses at DSU use five online learning programs: Moodle, Hoonuit, Blackboard, NetTutor, and Tegrity. The university's technology research and education center helps students familiarize themselves with online learning. Online students living near campus can use on-campus resources such as the tutoring and career centers at no extra charge. Some exams require students to travel to a proctoring center. All undergraduate and graduate students must take an exit exam.
Before applying to the fall, spring, or summer semester, applicants first create an online account. Undergraduate program applicants submit high school transcripts and standardized test scores; DSU waives the test score requirement for applicants 25 and older and accepts the GED. The master's in teaching requires a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and MAT scores. Prospective transfer students can review transfer course equivalencies on the university website.
At DSU, all online students pay the same tuition rate. Unlike other North Dakota colleges, online graduate students pay less than online undergraduate students. All online students pay a distance education fee for each course. DSU awards merit-based scholarships to online undergraduate and graduate students. These scholarships require an additional application.
|6||Valley City State University||Valley City||$$$$$||101 College St SW|
Valley City, ND 58072
Teachers hoping to advance their careers should look to VCSU for their master's in education. Students can personalize their degrees by selecting one of six concentrations, such as technology education, teaching English language learners, or elementary education. Undergraduates can earn a bachelor's in business, English, history, or technology.
The online undergraduate program at VCSU includes four potential minors: business, library media, marketing, and psychology. Each online program's website indicates which states recognize the degree and whether the program includes hybrid or practicum components. Non-degree-seeking students can earn a certificate in one of six subjects.
In addition to degrees and certificates, VCSU boasts Ed2Go, a non-credit program that covers traditional academic subjects and professional development courses. Students who complete an Ed2Go course can pay a fee to receive professional development credit. For teachers that want to both take individual courses and earn graduate credit, the Credits Online program boasts dozens of continuing education courses. Students can begin a Credits Online course at any time. Taking Ed2Go or Credits Online courses does not require admission to VCSU.
Prospective online undergraduate and graduate students use the same application as on-campus applicants. VCSU considers undergraduate transfer credit requests on a case-by-case basis. The university does not allow graduate students to transfer credit or use the College Level Examination Program or Prior Learning Assessment options. Degree-seeking students apply for one of three start dates: the fall, spring, or summer semester.
All online students pay the same tuition rate, and they pay less than out-of-state, on-campus students. In-state students pay more to earn their degrees online than in-state on-campus students. VCSU does not award university-funded scholarships or grants to online students.
|7||University of Mary||Bismarck||$$$$$||7500 University Dr|
Bismarck, ND 58504
he 31 online programs at the University of Mary make it an excellent choice for working professionals; many earn their degrees in just 15 months. Undergraduate program highlights include criminal justice, healthcare administration, and the registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing program. Undergraduates can also complete a minor in one of six subjects, such as accounting or business administration. Master's programs attract practicing nurses and teachers; degree options include early childhood education, nurse education, and nursing informatics. Courses last 5-15 weeks.
Prospective students must apply to the university and then apply to a specific program. Admission to Mary does not guarantee admission to any program. The university accepts the GED and requires ACT or SAT scores from all applicants regardless of age. Most graduate programs require a minimum 2.75 undergraduate GPA, two reference letters, and a goal statement. Prospective transfer students receive a free transcript evaluation. Mary also uses Prior Learning Assessments to award transfer credit for students' professional experience.
Mary charges the same tuition to in-state and out-of-state students. Full-time undergraduate students save money on tuition compared to part-time students, who pay a per-credit rate. Graduate program tuition rates vary; full-time and part-time graduate students pay the same tuition. Extra fees apply for specific undergraduate and graduate majors. Online students may qualify for university merit scholarships. Mary participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program to help active military personnel and veterans reduce their tuition burdens.
Although Mary possesses strong ties with the Catholic Church's Order of Saint Benedict, its online undergraduate and graduate programs do not involve religious instruction. The university holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission and boasts multiple subject-specific accreditations, as well.
|8||Mayville State University||Mayville||$$$$$||330 Third Street NE|
Mayville, ND 58257-1299
Mayville State's 19 online degrees and certificates include associate, bachelor's, and master's-level programs. Courses last 5-15 weeks and follow a traditional semester schedule. Courses may require online or in-person proctoring; students take in-person proctored exams at a local proctoring center. Online students benefit from an optional orientation that provides tutorials and discusses resources students use throughout their educations. Mayville State uses both Moodle and Blackboard to deliver course content.
New students receive Office 365 at no additional cost. Also, the university's interactive video network allows students to collaborate in real time. All courses use TURNITIN to check students' work for plagiarism.
Applicants to undergraduate programs may possess either a high school diploma or GED. Those younger than 24 must also submit ACT or SAT scores. Graduate admission requirements vary; the master's in teaching program requires a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and three recommendation letters.
At MSU, transfer credits do not expire. Transfer students must possess at least 24 transferable credits and a minimum 2.0 undergraduate GPA. Transfer students who do not meet these requirements may still receive credit if they provide extra information, such as standardized test scores or an essay explaining their unsatisfactory academic performance. Non-degree-seeking students must still apply before taking courses.
All online students pay the same tuition; graduate students pay approximately more per credit than undergraduate students. Mayville State awards merit scholarships to students regardless of residency. Active military personnel and veterans can transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill® benefits to spouses or dependents. Mayville State further reduces veterans' college costs through university grant programs.
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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