Best Colleges in Minnesota

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There are nearly 200 colleges and universities in Minnesota. Thirty-one of those schools are in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System (MnSCU), a group of schools offering inexpensive tuition under the leadership of one governing body. With state schools, research universities, liberal arts colleges and a variety of technical and community colleges, Minnesota is home to schools and programs sure to interest students from all backgrounds.

When evaluating colleges, students should consider several factors across schools, from location to tuition to academic offerings. To help prospective applicants with their research, we have applied our rigorous methodology to the latest education data to rank the best colleges in Minnesota, including the top four-year and two-year schools. In addition to the rankings, you’ll find a short overview of each college, highlighting relevant campus information and their academic strengths.

Minnesota is home to a variety of four-year schools. The University of Minnesota is one of the largest research institutions in the country, and its campus lies less than an hour away from Carleton College and Macalester College, two of the nation’s most prestigious liberal arts schools. Many institutions also make an effort to increase their affordability and appeal to prospective applicants. In one such recent effort, all MnSCU schools waived application fees for one month. The state is also home to a handful of tribal colleges, which are unaffiliated with other school systems.

To help with your research on Minnesota colleges, we’ve profiled the best schools in the state. Additionally, you can learn more about each school’s academic offerings and campus highlights in their profiles below.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 Carleton College 81.19 94% Northfield, MN

Topping the 2017 list of best colleges in Minnesota is Carleton College in Northfield. This historic school, founded in 1866, is the perfect setting for students seeking a small, private college where professors and peers will know their name and learning is individualized. With a population comprised of 2,000 students, classes are taught on trimesters by qualified faculty, 94% of whom hold the highest degree in their field. Carleton places significant effort into ensuring students have opportunities for experiential learning; in addition to internships, hands-on learning, and work study options, 70% of all students study abroad at some point during their studies. Operating from a liberal arts perspective, some of the most interesting programs among the 32 available undergraduate majors include cinema and media studies, French and Francophone studies, linguistics, and Russian.

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2 St Olaf College 75.84 86% Northfield, MN

Founded in the mid-1870s by Norwegian immigrants, St. Olaf College is a private college catering to approximately 3,000 undergraduate students. As one of the colleges in Minnesota providing liberal arts educations, students considering this Northfield institution can select from five overarching areas of study: fine arts, humanities, natural sciences and mathematics, interdisciplinary and general studies, and social sciences. Amongst the 54 bachelor's degrees available, programs students may not easily find at every other institution include film studies, Nordic studies and Norwegian language, biomolecular science, and family studies. Aside from excellent learning opportunities, students at St. Olaf also enjoy knowing the successes of their predecessors. In the latest survey of alumni, a large majority stated they are now earning salaries supporting their desired lifestyles.

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3 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities 75.84 73% Minneapolis, MN

Since its founding in 1851, the Twin Cities location of the University of Minnesota system has grown significantly; the current student population is more than 30,000. Throughout its long and illustrious history, change-makers have walked the halls of this Minnesota college. Famous alumni include Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug, former VP Walter Mondale, NPR host Garrison Keillor, and Super Bowl coach Tony Dungy.

With more than 150 undergraduate degrees to choose from, students with vastly different interests and future career goals can their place on the leafy urban campus. Some of the standout programs currently available include aerospace engineering and mechanics; ecology, evolution, and behavior; interior design; and technical writing and communication. Operating as a research institution, undergraduates may have the opportunity to work with leading teachers and researchers in their fields of study.

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4 Macalester College 73.24 90% Saint Paul, MN

Another of the Minnesota colleges with histories reaching back into the 1800s, Macalester College in Saint Paul, founded in 1874, boasts a student to faculty ratio of 10:1, with 93% of all professors holding the highest degree in their fields. Diversity is a large part of what makes this school exceptional; 88 countries are represented, 25% of students are international, and a further 21% are students of color. No matter where they originate or their area of academic interest, all learners are encouraged to take advantage of the nearly 60 undergraduate degrees the school offers. A quick survey of available options highlights the uniqueness of offerings, which include: Arabic, community and global health, environmental studies, and statistics. Outside of academics, students have opportunities to be involved on campus via 126 student organizations, three publications, a radio station, study abroad programs, and a range of intercollegiate and intramural athletics.

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5 University of Minnesota-Rochester 68.86 55% Rochester, MN

Established in 2006, the University of Minnesota in Rochester stands out among Minnesota colleges for being a preeminent leader in undergraduate health sciences studies. By focusing on such a specific area of academics, the roughly 750 undergraduate and graduate students currently enrolled at the campus enjoy unparalleled personalized studies. The majority of students received some form of financial aid from the school in the previous year, and 96% finish their degrees in four years or less. The school currently offers two bachelor's degrees: a BS in health sciences and a BS in health professions, an educational collaboration with Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences with tracks in radiography, echocardiography, respiratory, and sonography. Although the Rochester campus is significantly smaller than other locations within the university system, prospective students experience small class sizes in the heart of "med city."

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6 College of Saint Benedict & Saint John's University 67.24 77% Collegeville, MN

The unique, 60 year partnership between the College of Saint Benedict (CSB) and Saint John's University (SJU) places these schools near the top of the best colleges in Minnesota. Individually, the schools maintain the environment and personal connections expected from small schools. CSB, established in 1913, admits only women and strives to help them develop and grow on intellectual and emotional levels as leaders. SJU, founded in 1857, is committed to social justice and developing male students on the same levels as their female counterparts.

Situated only six miles apart, and accessible by car or the Link, CSB and SJU provide a coeducational liberal arts curriculum, and students can enroll in any of the undergraduate programs offered on the two campuses. Creating an environment where all students feel valued is a core tenet of the schools' mission, and it shows in the retention rates. During the latest survey, 90% of first-year students returned for their second year, while 80% completed their degree within six years. The low student to faculty ratio of 12:1 makes it possible for students to receive the personal attention they need to succeed.

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7 Concordia College at Moorhead 63.57 68% Moorhead, MN

Celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, Concordia College has risen to become one of the best colleges in Minnesota since its humble beginnings in 1891. Founded in the Red River Valley, the school that started with 12 students now has a student population of more than 2,100 hailing from throughout the world. Once enrolled, students enjoy learning in small classes and being led by notable faculty, including: scientists from NASA and the National Science foundation, award-winning artists, and national experts in many different subject areas. With more than 50 undergraduate majors, including 15 within the Honors College, students can select from programs such as agribusiness, European studies, neurochemistry, or world languages and culture. Hands-on learning is also a big part of a Concordia education; internships, cooperative learning experiences, and practicums are undertaken by more than 500 students each year.

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8 Gustavus Adolphus College 62.92 83% Saint Peter, MN

With 72 undergraduate majors spread among 25 academic departments, Gustavus Adolphus College is regularly mentioned when discussing the best colleges in Minnesota. Aside from standard degree paths in areas such as accounting, health fitness, psychology, or theatre, more adventurous students may elect to complete one of the 12 interdisciplinary programs or one of the 17 honors majors available. Current students and alumni can be found amongst the ranks of Fulbright, Marshall, and Rhodes scholars, and the Nobel Conference is held at the school annually. Outside of classwork, students can chose from 120 clubs and organizations to join, take part in one of the 12 religious groups, undertake one of the myriad service projects available, or attend one of the countless campus-based entertainment options. Students at this school seem to be happy with their choice; as of 2016, 89% of all first-year students elected to return for a second year, while 79% graduated within four years of matriculation.

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9 Martin Luther College 62.54 73% New Ulm, MN

With just over 700 undergraduate students, Martin Luther College in New Ulm may be one of the smallest colleges in Minnesota on our list. Operated by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, this college has been offering degree programs since 1995. The school is deeply rooted in the Christian faith and offers a range of religious degree programs in addition to more mainstream and traditional options. Outside of four religious programs, the school currently has undergraduate degrees in early childhood, elementary education, middle and secondary education, and educational studies. The school's sports teams, the Knights, are well known in NCAA Division III and the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference, with seven options for male students and eight for female students. Some of the other co-curricular activities available include contributing to the literary magazine, serving on the student senate, lending skills to the photography team, or acting in the annual winter play.

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10 University of Minnesota-Morris 59.73 60% Morris, MN

The University of Minnesota at Morris is counted among the best colleges in Minnesota and maintains its unique identity by providing liberal arts educations at a public institution. In addition to several dozen undergraduate majors and pre-professional degrees, the school allows students to design their own majors. Some of the sample majors created by students in recent years include actuarial science, animal behavior, peace studies, and biostatistics. The campus, which originally housed a Native American Boarding School, was repurposed for the 1910 opening of the current 125-acre site. Although it is a public institution, enrollment is kept low; as of 2017, just under 2,000 students call the campus home.

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11 University of Northwestern-St Paul 59.19 66% Saint Paul, MN

The University of Northwestern in Saint Paul is currently celebrating its 115th year of providing Christ-centered, academically rigorous education. With more than 70 areas of undergraduate study divided between traditional and adult programs, students at this Christian liberal arts college enjoy a 14:1 student to faculty ratio and an average class size of 22. As one of the best colleges in Minnesota, the school is selective in matriculating students; as of 2017, just over 3,000 learners are enrolled in undergraduate programs. Outside of traditional bachelor's studies, some of the exciting programs available include animation and illustration, children and family ministry, and visual arts education. Options for adult undergraduates include general studies, accounting, business, communication, health psychology, ministries, and psychology. Although all students are encouraged to take advantage of the beautiful 107-acre campus set on Lake Johanna, online and blended programs are also available.

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12 Winona State University 58.97 53% Winona, MN

When a student arrives at Winona State University, a quick glance at their surroundings and the general contentment of both professors and future peers reassures them they've chosen one of the best colleges in Minnesota. Students can enroll in one of the 71 bachelor's programs offered through the colleges of business, education, liberal arts, nursing and health sciences, and science and engineering. The school roster currently includes 8,140 students, 7,770 of which are undergraduates. Although the majority of students are based at the Winona campus, approximately 1,000 also attend from the Rochester location. Athletes are often drawn to the 13 NCAA Division II teams available, but those who enjoy sports recreationally can take advantage of a range of intramural teams. In addition to traditional undergraduate programs, numerous programs catering to undergraduate adult students are available. For literary students, Currents Magazine is a thriving publication produced by the university that relies on both student and professional submissions.

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13 Minnesota State University-Mankato 57.46 52% Mankato, MN

The first of the Minnesota colleges to appear in this ranking that operates as a member of the Minnesota State University system, the Mankato campus has been in operation for nearly 150 years. The school is devoted to involving students and faculty in research projects working to change the world, including solving America's dependence on foreign oil and improving construction method sustainability. With 101 undergraduate degrees currently offered, students with vastly ranging interests can find a program to suit their needs. They may even find a few programs that didn't pop up on other university websites, such as astronomy, earth science, food science technology, or law enforcement. Aside from their interactions with professors, students also have the opportunity to pair with a faculty mentor to enhance their learning pursuits.

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14 University of Minnesota-Duluth 56.76 54% Duluth, MN

Operating since 1895, this Minnesota college started as a comprehensive teacher's' college has grown into a university offering 84 undergraduate majors and serving more than 9,000 undergraduates. In 2015, just over 2,000 students earned their bachelor's degrees from the University of Minnesota in Duluth, with the highest number of graduates seen in the school of business and economics and the college of education and human service. Outside of traditional plans of study, ambitious students with a track-record of performing exceptionally in academic pursuits may consider applying for University Honors. When they're not in the classroom, students can participate in a number of activities and organizations, including: athletics, Program Board, KUMD radio station, and the Kirby Leadership Institute.

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15 The College of Saint Scholastica 53.51 65% Duluth, MN

With 10 different locations throughout the state – not to mention two additional campuses in Arizona – The College of Saint Scholastica is one of the Minnesota colleges on this list truly dedicated to reaching as many students as possible. Founded in 1912, the school celebrates its Catholic Benedictine heritage while simultaneously challenging itself to remain on the cutting edge of education. A large number of bachelor's programs are available alongside additional minor programs. Some of the most innovative options offered include programs in global, cultural, and language studies; organizational behavior; exercise physiology; and the option to complete a self-designed degree. Students spend their first few days settling into campus, meeting roommates and new friends, and attending activity and volunteer fairs. Student life engagement continues as they get to know their school, with options ranging from dormitory events, clubs and organizations, intercollegiate sports, student government, or contributing to The Cable, the student-run newspaper.

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16 Saint Mary's University of Minnesota 53.08 62% Winona, MN

While many different types of Minnesota colleges are represented in this ranking, online Saint Mary's University of Minnesota can claim it provides a Lasallian education. Building on the work of Saint John Baptist de La Salle, this university is part of a network of 1,000 institutions throughout the world who look to the Patron Saint of Teachers for inspiration and guidance. Founded in 1912, Saint Mary's started as a teacher preparation program but has expanded to serve nearly 6,000 students of all educational levels today. Students can choose from 23 bachelor's degrees, ranging from history and English to physics and theology. An interdisciplinary studies program is available to students who want to customize their learning plans, while "4+1" programs are available to those who want to complete an MBA or an MA in instruction with an extra year of study after finishing their bachelor's degree.

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17 University of Minnesota-Crookston 51.03 47% Crookston, MN

The fifth and final of the Minnesota colleges operating as a member of the University of Minnesota system, Crookston exclusively offers bachelor's degrees from its campus in the northwestern part of the state. Catering to approximately 2,000 undergraduates, half of whom complete their degrees online, the school has been in operation for just over 50 years. Both campus-based and online students are able to select from 34 different bachelor's programs, many of which have a range of concentrations that are also available. For instance, the environmental sciences program offers specializations in agricultural environmental stewardship, environmental ecology, environmental health, toxicology and chemistry, water quality, or the opportunity to create an individualized concentration. Other degrees of interest include agricultural business, animal science, golf and turf management, and software engineering.

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18 University of St Thomas 50.11 74% Saint Paul, MN

Having found the balance between preparing students for the job market and providing academically rigorous plans of study, students leave the University of St. Thomas as well-rounded individuals who are just as comfortable discussing complex topics within their fields as they are having intellectual discussions in everyday life. More than half of the 10,000+ students currently enrolled are working toward their bachelor's degrees. In addition to a significant range of programs, students can select a major not offered at the school through the Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities Consortium. This allows students enrolled at St. Thomas to take classes at one of four other colleges in the state without transferring to a different school. This Minnesota college boasts an alumni job placement rate of 95% within six months after graduation.

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19 Southwest Minnesota State University 48.59 41% Marshall, MN

Providing both liberal arts and professional undergraduate degrees, Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall appeals to students of all stripes while still providing a personalized experience. Operating primarily as a regional institution among Minnesota colleges, a review of academic programs quickly highlights an awareness of the local culture and economy. In addition to studies in Native American history and language, there are many programs devoted to agriculture, agribusiness, and the sciences surrounding these industries. When they aren't learning from award-winning professors, students enjoy standard extracurricular activities while also benefiting from unique campus attractions, including lots of gardens and greenhouses, the art museum, environmental learning area, and planetarium.

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20 Hamline University 47.03 63% Saint Paul, MN

Saint Paul's Hamline University distinguishes itself as one of the best colleges in Minnesota not only by its illustrious history, but by offering cutting edge degree programs across a range of discipline areas. Formed in 1854, Hamline has the distinction of being the state's first university and one of the first coeducational institutions in America. With undergraduate majors and minors offered in more than 50 areas of study, students can select from programs running the gamut of liberal arts, business, education, science, law, and health professions. Just over half of Hamline's student population of 4,500 is currently working toward bachelor's degrees, making the beautiful campus an intimate setting for fostering academic growth and lifelong bonds. With a focus on student leadership and community service, more than half of all learners engage in some form of volunteerism each year, contributing to more than 150,000 volunteer hours annually.

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21 Saint Cloud State University 46.76 49% Saint Cloud, MN

As one of the largest colleges in Minnesota -- with more than 15,00 undergraduate and graduate students – St. Cloud State University employs some of the best faculty in the field. Students also enjoy the benefits of a beautiful 100-acre campus set between the downtown area of St. Cloud and the Beaver Islands. Undergraduate majors, minors, and pre-professional offerings comprise more than 200 areas of study, including degrees specific to the region like geographic information systems, meteorology, land survey and mapping science, and manufacturing engineering. Prospective freshmen worried about enrolling at such a large school need not fret; St. Cloud was awarded both the Innovation in Global Education Award and the Student Affairs Program Award for enhancing perspectives and global competencies while providing a caring community for every learner.

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22 Concordia University-Saint Paul 46.70 47% Saint Paul, MN

For students trying to narrow down Minnesota colleges that won't break the bank, Concordia University in Saint Paul should be added to their list. During the 2014-2015 academic year alone, nearly $14 million in gift aid (funds that don't have to be paid back) was awarded to Concordia students. Paired with reasonable tuition and fees, students who attend Concordia don't have to worry about being saddled with debt just to gain a higher education. They also don't have to worry about choice; the school currently has 53 undergraduate majors available. Aside from standard programs of study found at most schools, the university differentiates itself by offering a range of accelerated programs for learners who want to complete their degrees more quickly, as well as truncated options allowing them to complete a bachelor's and a master's degree in five years.

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23 Bethel University 46.70 71% Saint Paul, MN

Although many colleges in Minnesota commit to excellence, the notion goes deeper at Bethel University given its roots in the Christian faith. While top-tier academics, an engaging student life, and experiential learning opportunities are all encapsulated in a BU degree, students have the opportunity to gain them through a religious lens. It's a formula that works well for the institution. With 6,000 learners, it's the largest member of the Christian College Consortium. Originally founded as a seminary in 1871, the university offers more than 60 undergraduate degrees in areas that include independent filmmaking, sociocultural studies, biblical/theological studies, and missional ministries. Outside of traditional undergraduate programs, the college of adult and professional studies provides additional studies in business management, communication, nursing, and organizational leadership.

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24 Minneapolis College of Art and Design 44.65 61% Minneapolis, MN

As the only institution devoted exclusively to art and design in this ranking of the best colleges in Minnesota, Minneapolis College of Art and Design is uniquely positioned to provide educations to recent high school graduates and adult students who wish to be trained in a creative subject. Since 1886, this school has provided four-year degrees to future artists and designers, with the addition of offering entrepreneurial studies to graduates with aspirations of owning their own creative endeavor. An intimate student body of 700 allows every learner the opportunity to dig into their chosen area, build lifelong mentorships and friendships, and gain the skills and experiences necessary to translate their creativity and passion into a career. Undergraduates are currently enrolled in 13 different bachelor's programs, ranging from comic art and filmmaking to furniture design and sculpture. For those with specific ideas of how they'll want to use their degree in the future, minors are available in art history, creative writing, and teaching artists.

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25 Bethany Lutheran College 43.08 51% Mankato, MN

Bethany Lutheran College offers 24 majors that culminate in bachelor's degrees, including programs in broad field social studies, communication disorders, and studio art. This Minnesota college is a private, Christian school that centers its liberal arts curriculum on the Gospel of Christ. Underclassmen are required to take one religion course per semester, while upperclassmen take one per year, in order to ground themselves in the Christian vocation. Education is student-centered, and all students are encouraged to work closely with each other and their instructors to embrace and use their God-given talents. Bethany admits students of any and no religious background. They provide daily chapel services and a number of student activities, clubs, and organizations that any can participate in.

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Of the nearly 250,000 students attending public college in Minnesota in 2011, 55% attended two-year schools. These institutions are categorized as either community colleges or technical colleges and Minnesota offers several of both.

Students attending two-year schools come from a variety of backgrounds; some plan to continue on to a four-year school, though many are just pursuing an associate degree. Two-year schools in the state have an open admission policy, which allows anyone with a high school diploma or GED to enroll. These schools also come with lower tuition than you’ll find at four-year colleges. If you’re interested in attending a two-year school in Minnesota, be sure to check out our list of the top programs in the state.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 Minnesota West Community and Technical College 81.63 59% Granite Falls, MN

Minnesota West, one of best community colleges in Minnesota, has more than 80 different disciplines to choose from. Programs include computer information science, mechatronics, nursing, radiology technology, wind energy, carpentry, precision machining, agriculture, and law enforcement. Degree programs are divided into associate of arts and associate of science paths for students planning to transfer to a four-year institution, while associates of applied science graduates are prepared to move directly into technical and semi-professional employment. To ensure learners in the western part of the state have access to quality educations, Minnesota West operates five campuses and two educational centers. The college has been recognized as a military friendly school for the last five-years. Famous alumni of the school includes Jim Brandenburg, a nature photographer and filmmaker. Minnesota West offers many courses online. The Canby campus is the right option for those seeking student housing.

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2 Alexandria Technical & Community College 77.75 67% Alexandria, MN

Alexandria Tech has high retention, graduation, and career placement rates amongst community colleges in Minnesota. The college, which operates as a member of the Minnesota State system, has been in existence since 1961 and is focused on providing technical educations while maintaining its status as a college. Alexandria was the first community college in the state to gain accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission. The school offers 10 associate degree programs, including business management, computer science, law enforcement, and manufacturing/construction/industrial technology. Approved transfer pathways at Alexandria include biology, business, and psychology. These programs ensure that students won’t have to take extra credits when transferring to a Minnesota university. For quick entry into the workforce, the school provides diploma and certificate programs, this includes administrative assistant, early childhood education, and welding technology. The college offers online courses.

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3 Vermilion Community College 75.75 70% Ely, MN

Founded in 1922, Vermillion is one the oldest community colleges in Minnesota. Located in the northeastern part of the state, students take classes while enjoying the rural setting of Ely. A unique feature of Vermillion is its membership in the Northeast Higher Education District – a coalition of five, two-year schools sharing the same President. The school offers 20 different associate degrees, which are divided into six categories: natural resources, protection, business, liberal arts and science, outdoor recreation and preservation, and animal science. Standout programs include natural resource technology, seasonal park law enforcement ranger training, and fisheries and wildlife. Students hoping to combine academics and athletics can join one of the numerous Ironmen/Ironwomen teams which are overseen by the National Junior College Athletic Association and the Minnesota College Athletic Conference. The Minnesota Transfer Curriculum ensures general education classes taken at the college will transfer towards any higher education degree in-state.

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4 Mesabi Range College 72.75 63% Virginia, MN

Mesabi Range, founded in 1919, has provided employment-ready and transfer programs for over nine decades. As one of the two-year colleges in Minnesota with numerous locations, students in the region can select from either the Virginia or Eveleth campus. For students looking to move directly into a career upon graduation, eleven programs in areas such as electrical controls and maintenance, paramedic, and business are available. Learners seeking a higher education are offered 19 associate of art programs. AA programs include criminal justice, chemistry, health education, and pre-law. About 1,700 students call Mesabi Range home, with approximately 80% receiving financial aid. The average amount of aid received is $3,600 annually. The school offers a variety of intramural sports and is a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association.

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5 Ridgewater College 67.88 60% Willmar, MN

With more than 100 associate degrees offered as technical and transfer education programs, Ridgewater is ranked amongst the best two-year colleges in Minnesota. The school has two campuses in Willmar and Hutchinson. Learners benefit from small class sizes, qualified faculty and administrators, leading technology, and a range of student activities and campus services. Ridgewater uses the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum to ensure all classes taken at the school are accepted by other higher education institutions. According to the standardized testing company ACT, Ridgewater is the best community college in the state in terms of career preparedness. The college reports that more than 96% of alumni from the previous five years moved into a job or higher education within one year of graduation. Famous alumni includes Minnesota House Representative Chris Swedzinski and Minnesota Senator Bruce Anderson. The school has many athletic programs and is part of the National Junior College Athletic Association.

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6 Riverland Community College 66.63 46% Austin, MN

With a mission of inspiring personal success through education, Riverland maintains its place as one of the best two-year colleges in Minnesota. The school’s three campuses offer students the chance to further their learning. With 14 associate of arts and associate of science degrees offered, students have the opportunity to work towards a career or build credits for transfer to a college or university. Available programs include criminal justice, food science technology, human services, and supervisory management. The school maintains transfer pathway agreements with a number of schools in the region, including MSU Mankato, where five different business transfers are available. Popular student activities include student senate and student ambassadors. Athletic programs include baseball, women’s basketball, and soccer. Among Riverland alumni is the Mayor of Rochester, Ardell Brede.

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7 Itasca Community College 66.25 60% Grand Rapids, MN

Fifteen two-year degrees are offered at Itasca, including geographic info systems, forest resources, pharmacy technician, and education. Nine of these programs are easily transferred to other higher education institutions, while the remaining programs are developed for students looking to receive the training they need to be qualified for a semi-professional or technical role upon graduation. As one of the Minnesota community colleges that maintains strong bonds with local colleges and universities, learners who opt for an AS or AA can take advantage of numerous transfer guides designed to help students map out their future education. Nearly 1,000 students are currently enrolled at the school, with approximately 60% studying full time. Most learners are in their early twenties, but the school caters to adult students who have busy schedules and need more flexible options. Itasca alumni includes Minnesota politicians Justin Eichorn, Matt Grossell, and John T. Davies.

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8 Rainy River Community College 65.63 52% International Falls, MN

Rainy River, located in International Falls, has been providing degrees, diplomas, and certificates for more than 50 years. As one of the Minnesota community colleges operating as a member of the Minnesota State system, the school has large-campus provisions while maintaining a small-campus feel. The college offers 10 different degrees in AS, AA, and AAS programs. Popular options include executive office management, chemical dependency specialist, nursing, and science education. The Voyageur athletic teams are a popular option for activities and entertainment. As a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association, men and women can take part in sports like hockey, basketball, and volleyball. Rainy River has a 12-hole disc golf course spread around its campus. Student housing is available; a one-year contract is required. Diploma and certificate programs provide a more direct route to employment.

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9 Dakota County Technical College 64.25 58% Rosemount, MN

Dakota County’s tuition rates are approximately one-third the cost of other Minnesota community colleges operating as private schools. The school offers options in more than 50 academic programs at its central campus in Rosemont and the information technology campus in Eagan. With a focus on their student’s employability, 94% of graduates went on to find a job in their field within one year of graduation. Programs are taught from 10 different subject areas, including business management, marketing and sales, administrative support, hospitality, IT, health and human services, industry, transportation, and general education. Students can participate in employability training at Dakota County. The calendar shows upcoming events related to business etiquette, veteran’s support, and mental health awareness. Services offered at the school include academic advising, a mobile pantry, and an auto repair service. Many clubs are available to students.

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10 White Earth Tribal and Community College 64.13 12% Mahnomen, MN

White Earth Tribal, located in in Mahnomen, is one of the few Minnesota community colleges dedicated to serving Native American communities, specifically the Anishinaabe. The community college provides one associate of arts degree with six areas of emphasis: humanities, arts, and social sciences; human services, business, environmental science, Native American studies, and education. Each program requires students to earn 60 credits. Student Senate is a popular program for learners to take part in. Veterans and active-duty members can take advantage of veteran’s services. The school offers academic advising, an on-campus bookstore, and financial aid. Scholarships are offered through the White Earth Scholarship Program and the American Indian College Fund. The school has hosted storytelling intensives and workshop programs.

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11 Lake Superior College 60.25 51% Duluth, MN

Lake Superior, one of the best community colleges in Minnesota, has more than 80 technical degrees and degrees designed for transfer. Some of the AAS degrees for employment-ready students include advanced machine production technology, aviation management, civil engineer technician, and medical administration. Learners who plan on continuing their higher education at a four-year university take general programs in associate of arts, associate of science, and associate of fine arts. Students can complete the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum, a 40-credit bundle of courses that are accepted by all Minnesota state universities and many private colleges. Lake Superior is committed to ensuring that education isn’t complicated; the college provides on-site childcare for children aged three to nine. Lake Superior offers online courses. The school has an NJCAA ranked men’s and women’s soccer team. On-campus learners are represented through the student senate. Many clubs and organizations are available, including Art Club, Choir Club, and Photo Club.

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12 St Cloud Technical and Community College 60.13 54% Saint Cloud, MN

Since 1948, St. Cloud Technical has worked diligently for its place amongst the best community colleges in Minnesota. As a public institution, learners take advantage of low tuition rates and financial aid: during the previous academic year, 80% of all enrolled learners received some form of financial aid, including the SCTCC foundation scholarship. Associate degrees available at SCTCC include cardiovascular technology, sonography, energy renewal, and nursing mobility. The top programs by enrollment are liberal arts, health sciences, business management, and child/adult care and education. 97% of graduates obtain a job one year after graduation. Online courses are available. Student services include academic advising, counseling, and veteran’s services. The Cyclones are the school’s NJCAA ranked athletics team. The Cyclone Card, available to all students, offers on and off-campus discounts like free, unlimited access to the metro buses.

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13 Normandale Community College 59.75 47% Bloomington, MN

Normandale, located in Bloomington, will celebrate its 50th year of providing quality education in 2018, and the school is set to continue as one of the best Minnesota community colleges. The college’s tuition is 2.5 times less than UM-Twin cities and six times less than the average cost of a private college in the state. The Minnesota Transfer Curriculum offered at NCC offers a cheaper alternative to paying for four-years at a private institution, and enables easy transfer of credits to other in-state universities. Normandale has 46 associate degrees and numerous certificates and diplomas – including traditional options like business, exercise science, hospitality management, and biology. Standout programs include community health education, engineering archaeology, and theatre production and design.

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14 Central Lakes College-Brainerd 58.13 48% Brainerd, MN

Did you know that a student who completes an associate of arts through the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum are guaranteed admission to any of the member institutions of Minnesota State? As one of the two-year colleges in Minnesota offering this curriculum, Central Lakes-Brainerd is a popular option for learners who want to cut costs without sacrificing quality. The school has an additional campus in Staples. Central Lakes has approximately 70 associate-level degrees available. Associate of applied science programs are popular for career-minded learners. NJCAA athletic programs are available at the college. The Central Lakes Community Performing Arts Center provides guest and student performances. Students can participate in the Student Senate and clubs.

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15 Anoka-Ramsey Community College 56.88 45% Coon Rapids, MN

Anoka-Ramsey prides itself on four main goals: affordable tuition, easy transfer options, flexible schedules, and small class sizes. As one of the best community colleges in Minnesota the school provides rigorous academic programs. The Cambridge and Coon Rapids campuses offer four different types of associate degrees. The school has begun offering a select number of bachelor’s degrees. Once a learner finishes their time at ARCC, they join the more than 150,000 alumni who have taken courses during the school’s 52 years of existence. Student resources include academic advising, adult learning resources, and transfer resources. NJCAA athletic programs are available at the college. Student life includes many club and organizations, like Astronomy Club, Chamber Singers, and Guitar Ensemble. Aspiring journalists can participate in the school newspaper.

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16 Minnesota State Community and Technical College 56.25 48% Fergus Falls, MN

MSCTC, founded in 2003, is one of the younger two-year colleges in Minnesota to make this ranking. With more than 70 degrees currently offered as technical training and liberal arts preparation, the college has a range of academic courses designed to meet many needs. Learners hoping to secure a scholarship should apply to MSCTC: the college is ranked amongst the top programs for providing funding, averaging $200,000 in gift aid each academic year. The school offers a range of learning options from its five campuses in Baudette, Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls, Moorhead, and Wadena, and 25 programs offered completely online. Minnesota State offers many clubs, organizations, volunteer activities, and athletic teams for its students. The school’s Spartan Center provides transfer resources, resume writing services, and tutoring services. MSCTC is a Tri-College University, allowing students to take classes at other participating institutions while paying their home-college tuition.

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17 Northland Community and Technical College 55.63 49% Thief River Falls, MN

With four different locations in East Grand Forks, Thief River Falls, Roseau, and a whole campus devoted to aerospace studies, Northland has positioned itself as one of the preeminent two-year colleges in Minnesota. Career and technical studies comprise 36 associate degrees in areas of aerospace, agriculture, business, and health services. An additional five associate degrees are available as liberal arts and transfer programs, degrees include communications and humanities, STEM, social and behavioral sciences, health sciences, and business. The school currently has four men’s and three women’s teams competing in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference. Northland has community housing available. Student clubs at the school include Vex Robotics, Inkwell, and EPIC Pride. Northland offers scholarships for different fields of education.

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18 Hibbing Community College 53.25 54% Hibbing, MN

Formed by the consolidation of two Minnesota community colleges in 1996, Hibbing is overseen by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System and enjoys a transfer partnership with other schools in the system. Two-year degrees are offered as associate in arts, associate in science, and associate in applied science programs and include career technical training and liberal arts educations. More than 30 degrees are available in areas of business, medical, computer, trade, industry, culinary, law enforcement, and liberal arts. To help foster a sense of community amongst students, Hibbing provides a range of on-campus apartments; the school will help learners find off-campus options in the area if needed. Student clubs include the Multicultural Club, Pharmacy Tech CLub, and Philosophy Club. The campus includes dining services, with food prepared by students, and a fitness center.

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19 Hennepin Technical College 47.88 41% Brooklyn Park, MN

The Brooklyn Park and Eden Prairie campuses of Hennepin were designed with students in mind. They provide disability services, innovative degree programs, experiential learning opportunities, and state-of-the-art facilities to ensure every learner gets a quality education. As one of the best two-year colleges in Minnesota, HTC has been providing hands-on degree programs since 1972 and continues to offer quality education for its 9,500 students. Many associate degrees are offered through nine departments, including building, business, emergency and public service, general education, health, manufacturing and engineering technology, media communications, education, and transportation. The school prepares students for technical careers and advancement to a four-year college. Upon graduation, 98% of learners find jobs within the network of business partners maintained by the college. Student services include advising and counseling, disability services, and library access.

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20 Rochester Community and Technical College 46.38 48% Rochester, MN

More than 13,000 students are currently enrolled at Rochester, making it one of the largest community colleges in Minnesota. And with an annual tuition rate of $5,760, it’s also one of the best values. The top areas of study includes liberal arts, nursing, business, law enforcement, and health information technology; there are 52 programs altogether. The most innovative programs available are studies in horticulture technology, supervisory leadership, histology technology, and equine science riding/training. The majority of learners are recent high school graduates or students in their early twenties. The school has a senior program for older individuals looking to restart their learning after a significant time away from school. The school hosts regular campus visits throughout the academic year. Off-campus housing options are available. The school provides its faculty and students with a meditation room.

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21 Northwest Technical College 45.75 41% Bemidji, MN

Northwest, operating from the town of Bemidji, is a comprehensive institution offering a range of degrees, diplomas, and certificates. Every student is given the tools and the confidence to personalize their learning through a self-paced approach and options for individualized studies. NTT stands out from other Minnesota community colleges with its partnership with Bemidji State University, located 10 minutes away. While other colleges offer transfer agreements, NTT students can access BSU housing, meal plans, and other services – even if they don’t plan on enrolling at the university after graduating from NTT. Six different areas of study comprise the associate degree offerings, including automotive motorsports, building trades, business, child care, health care, and manufacturing/engineering technologies. Student clubs and organizations include student senate, Phi Theta Kappa, and Student Nurses Association. Student housing is on the BSU campus.

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22 Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College 44.88 44% Cloquet, MN

Fond du Lac Tribal in Cloquet, one of only two Minnesota community colleges in this ranking that provides two-year educations to Native American populations, is uniquely positioned to serve the population. The college, which first opened its doors in 1987, has expanded over the years to provide a range of technical and transfer degrees. Fond du Lac maintains partnerships with three universities in a 25-mile radius of its campus, giving students the opportunities to complete their degrees without leaving their home. The school serves about 11,000 students and offers campus housing options. Current students can choose from 14 associate degrees, including a unique program in American Indian studies. Other innovative offerings include electric utility technology, geospatial technologies, and human services. The school offers a variety of athletic programs and clubs and organizations.

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23 Century College 44.25 36% White Bear Lake, MN

As one of the largest community colleges in Minnesota, Century serves more than 21,000 students from its campus in White Bear Lake. Placing an emphasis on the idea of being a community college, CC works diligently in the local area and to ensure students have professional and service learning opportunities. Century offers a range of associate degree programs designed to prepare learners for careers, including 3D animation, cosmetology, facilities maintenance engineering, and sports management. Learners have the opportunity to take part in the honors program, participate in volunteer trips, or take their learning globally by participating in study abroad programs. The school’s Wood Ducks have athletics programs in baseball, softball, and soccer, and are part of the National Junior College Athletic Association. Student clubs and organizations include the African American Student Association, Alpha to Omega, and Anime Club.

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24 Inver Hills Community College 44.00 40% Inver Grove Heights, MN

Set on a rural, 90-acre campus, Inver Hills serves more than 5,700 learners and offers 39 associate degree paths. IHCC is one of the most popular two-year colleges in Minnesota. In 2015, the top programs for degree-seeking students were the general associate of arts, nursing, contemporary business, human service worker, and paralegal. IHCC offers a range of leadership programs to build the skills graduates will need in future professional settings. Popular options include student senate, the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and the student ambassadors program. Staff is on hand to provide career assistance, counseling, advising, disability services, veteran’s support, and technology assistance. Student clubs and organizations includes Art Club, Biology Club, and Gaming Community.

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25 North Hennepin Community College 44.00 47% Brooklyn Park, MN

Rounding out our ranking of the best community colleges in Minnesota is North Hennepin, a comprehensive institution that has been providing educations for more than 50 years. More than 10,000 students currently call NHCC home, including 4,600 first-year learners. The First Year Experience program is designed to help students feel comfortable, cared for, and engaged on-campus. Nearly 50 associate degrees are taught from 14 different areas of study and prepare students for future careers and further study. The associate of arts is the easiest way to transfer programs; it offers nine different areas of study for concentrated learning. NHCC is a pioneering institution when it comes to offering research opportunities to community college students, a program started at the North Brooklyn Park campus in 2008.

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If you’re thinking about applying to one of the best colleges in Minnesota, continuing reading to learn more about living in the North Star State.

Known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota is the perfect state for water enthusiasts. Boating and beaching are popular summer pastimes, and the locals love to go ice fishing and take polar bear plunges in the winter. The Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, are the hub of the state, providing a center of economic, social and cultural activity. Sixty percent of the state’s population lives in the Twin Cities metropolitan statistical area.

Tourists and residents alike are drawn to Minnesota’s tax-free shopping. With no taxes on clothing, food or medicine, shoppers travel to Minnesota for significant savings. This helps make The Mall of America one of the state’s biggest attractions.

Minnesota’s overall cost of living is 2-3% higher than the national average, though the median household income is also higher than in most states. As is the case in many Midwestern states, Minnesota has lost residents each year since 2002, with young adults particularly leaving in droves. With fewer people in the state, degree-holders are more in demand than ever, and there are plenty of professional opportunities for people with an associate or bachelor’s degree.

Minnesota is composed of two regions: the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota. Below, we’ve broken down both.

Regional Spotlight

Twin Cities
  • Major Cities: Minneapolis, St. Paul
  • Attractions: Mall of America, Minnehaha Falls Park, State Capitol, Mill City Museum, Como Park Zoo & Conservatory
  • Cost of Living: Minneapolis
  • Popular Schools: University of Minnesota, Hamline University, University of St. Thomas
Greater Minnesota
  • Major Cities: Duluth, Rochester, St. Cloud, Moorhead
  • Attractions: Mayo Clinic, Mississippi River Headwaters, Lake Superior
  • Cost of Living: Rochester
  • Popular Schools: University of Minnesota – Duluth, Rochester; St. Cloud Technical and Community College, Mayo Medical School


In-state tuition is significantly less expensive than out-of-state tuition at public schools, and students attending school in Minnesota should try to qualify for in-state tuition if possible. To qualify, students must establish or prove their residency in the state. Statehood requirements differ from school to school, so be sure to check with your school for their rules. There are, however, a few guidelines all students should be cognizant of.

For Minors:

Residency status is granted for dependents whose parent or legal guardian resides in Minnesota when the student applies for school. Some exceptions are considered. If a minor is the child of a U.S. military member, migrant farm worker or refugee who has not established residency, an exception is typically granted.

For Adults:

Minnesota has established the following conditions for adult residency status. At least one must be met for classification as a resident of Minnesota.

  • Reside in Minnesota for at least one calendar year immediately prior to admission application. This residency cannot be solely for college attendance.
  • If you are a previous resident and were only temporarily absent from the state, demonstrate that you did not establish residency elsewhere.
  • Move to Minnesota to accept a full-time job. Must have accepted before moving and applying for school admission.
  • Be married to someone who meets criteria #3.

Minnesota will grant residential tuition rates to non-residents in certain situations. One or more of the following statuses must be held:

  • Member of the U.S. military or their family member – current and former members
  • Migrant farm worker – for at least two years immediately before admission
  • Minnesota high school graduate
  • Refugee or asylee


  • Residents of Minnesota can take advantage of the Midwest Student Exchange Program. This allows Minnesota residents to attend select public colleges and universities in eight states, including Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, and pay no more than 150 percent of the in-state tuition rate.
  • Minnesota has reciprocity agreements with Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and the Canadian province of Manitoba, meaning residents of these locations can receive in-state tuition at Minnesota schools.

Additional Resources for Minnesota College Students

Financial Resources

Higher Education News

Education Nonprofits

State Links and Resources

Rankings Archive

Best Colleges in Minnesota of 2016
Rank School Location
1 Carleton College Northfield, MN
2 Macalester College Saint Paul, MN
3 St Olaf College Northfield, MN
4 University of Minnesota - Twin Cities Minneapolis, MN
5 Saint Johns University Collegeville, MN
6 University of Minnesoat - Rochester Rochester, MN
7 Gustavus Adolphus College Saint Peter, MN
8 College of Saint Benedict Saint Joseph, MN
9 University of Minnesota - Morris Morris, MN
10 Concordia College at Moorhead Moorhead, MN
11 Winona State University Winona, MN
12 University of Minnesota - Duluth Duluth, MN
13 Augsburg College Minneapolis, MN
14 Minnesota State University - Mankato Mankato, MN
15 Concordia University - Saint Paul Saint Paul, MN
16 Hamline University Saint Paul, MN
17 University of St. Thomas - Minnesota Saint Paul, MN
18 University of Northwestern - St. Paul Saint Paul, MN
19 Saint Mary's University of Minnesota Winona, MN
20 St. Catherine University Saint Paul, MN
21 University of Minnesota - Crookston Crookston, MN
22 Bemidji State University Bemidji, MN
23 Saint Cloud State University Saint Cloud, MN
24 Southwest Minnesota State University Marshall, MN
25 North Central University Minneapolis, MN
Best Community Colleges
1 Hibbinh Community College Hibbing, MN
2 Rochester Community and Technical College Rochester, MN
3 Alexandria Technical & Community College Alexandria, MN
4 Dakota County Technical College Rosemount, MN
5 Minneapolis Community and Technical College Minneapolis, MN
6 Dunwoody College of Technology Minneapolis, MN
7 Century College White Bear Lake, MN
8 Central Lake College - Brainerd Brainerd, MN
9 Pine Technical College Pine City, MN
10 Hennepin Technical College Brooklyn Park, MN
11 Inver Hills Community College Inver Grove Heights, MN
12 Northland Community and Technical College Thief River Falls, MN
13 Leech Lake Tribal College Cass Lake, MN
14 Itasca Community College Itasca, MN
15 Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College Cloquet, MN
16 Normandale Community College Bloomington, MN
17 Riverland Community College Austin, MN
18 White Earth Tribal and Community College Mahnomen, MN
19 Saint Paul College Saint Paul, MN
20 Mesabi Range Community and Technical College Virginia, MN
21 St Cloud Technical and Community College Saint Cloud, MN
22 Ridgewater College Willmar, MN
23 Anoka Technical College Anoka, MN
24 Vermillion Community College Ely, MN
25 Lake Superior College Duluth, MN