Best Colleges in Nebraska

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The “Cornhusker State” is home to 31 institutions of higher education, including 16 private universities, 7 public colleges and 8 community colleges. Ranging from private liberal arts institutions like Creighton University to large public schools like the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, students have a range of options to choose from to match their unique needs. The state currently enrolls nearly 140,000 students, though Nebraska’s Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education is currently working aggressively to increase that number. Regardless of the type of school or degree level students are seeking, we have applied our rigorous methodology to the latest education data to rank the best colleges in Nebraska, including the top four-year and two-year schools.

Four-year institutions in Nebraska enjoy a long and prestigious history; Peru State College, the oldest institution, was founded in 1867 and is still an active public liberal arts college. Recognized as one of the top 10 states in the nation for the percentage of public and private high school graduates attending college, the state is constantly working to expand and better its educational offerings.

Fees and tuitions vary according to institution type: the University of Nebraska at Lincoln offers the lowest in-state tuition at $6,840. Creighton University, a private institution, topped the list of fees at $33.796. Though the national average for student debt upon graduation sits at $33,000, graduates of Nebraska institutions average only $26,490, a significantly lower amount.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Location Description
1University of Nebraska – Lincoln 2/5N/ALincoln, NE

UNL founded in 1869, and stands out among Nebraska colleges for being one of the first institutions west of the Mississippi River to award doctoral degrees as well as the world’s first university to implement an undergraduate psychology laboratory.

An example of UNL’s forward thinking is its adoption of LEED certification for all new construction projects as well as its Sustainable Food Project, which is designed to serve locally produced foods on campus. UNL’s motor pool includes vehicles fueled by soy biodiesel and gasohol, and its cafeterias have stopped providing trays for students in an effort to reduce waste and save money.

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2Creighton University 5/5N/AOmaha, NE

Creighton is one of 28 US school that provides a community committed to Jesuit Catholic values and encourages students to lead by serving others. Its schools focus on arts and sciences, medicine, nursing, public health and emergency medical services, health sciences, law, business, pharmacy, and occupational/physical therapy.

Creighton is the alma mater of well-known alumni, including Marcia Anderson, the second African-American woman to become a major general in the US Army Reserve; Michael P. Anderson, an astronaut killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia; and Donald Keough, the former president and COO of Coca Cola.

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3Union College – Nebraska 4/5N/ALincoln, NE

Union College in Lincoln is owned and operated by the Mid-American Union Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and is part of the world’s second largest Christian school system, the Seventh-day Adventist education system. Its student-led ministries provide spiritual involvement opportunities and discipleship training, and 90% of the students who attend join in the school’s weekly worship. In addition, Union is noted for being in the top 3% of universities and colleges nationwide for service learning.

Among Nebraska colleges, Union is academically strong, and has appeared in U.S. News and World Report as a top-tier school in its regional category from 2006-present. The school offers 27 fields of study with over 50 major, minor, and emphases, including a leadership minor that involves weekly cohort meetings, field trips, and an internship.

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4Concordia University – Nebraska 4/5N/ASeward, NE

Founded in 1894 by The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Concordia University features a Christ-centered community that prepares students for lifelong learning, service, and leadership.

As far as financial aid goes among Nebraska colleges, Concordia ranks high; 100% of full-time undergraduate students receive some kind of aid. Concordia’s thriving Theatre Department also provides talent-based scholarships to students. Students at Concordia can choose from a unique set of graduate and undergraduate majors, including church music, exercise science, studio art, and TESOL.

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5Nebraska Wesleyan University 4/5N/ALincoln, NE

Wesleyan University stands out among colleges in Nebraska for its liberal arts school, wherein students can pursue gender studies, health and human performance, music, theater arts, and more. Students at the main campus live in Lincoln, where low crime and unemployment rates combine with a low living cost to make it a great city in which to study.

The school offers thriving study-abroad and service learning programs, and small classes that average 19 students in size. In 2015, the school gave out $15 million in financial aid, and it also offers a four-year graduation guarantee.

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6University of Nebraska at Omaha 2/5N/AOmaha, NE

UNO serves as a public research university. It was founded in 1908 by Omaha Presbyterian Theological Seminary faculty, who designed it to provide a Christian education without control from the church.

Located in Omaha, students take advantage of the city to complete internships, applied research, hands-on opportunities, and service learning, all of which enrich the community. Well-known alumni from the school includes Grammy Award-winning American jazz vocalist Karrin Allyson, poet Erin Belieu, Nebraska politician Abbie Cornett, and Cleveland Indians pitcher Tyler Cloyd.

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7University of Nebraska at Kearney 2/5N/AKearney, NE

UNK features four colleges, 170 major options, and 20 pre-professional programs. The school’s undergraduate research program serves as a national model, and students work one-on-one with professors to conduct original research and present at academic conferences. UNK is also the only college in Nebraska to participate in the National Student Exchange, allowing students to attend one of 175 participating universities or colleges around the world for a semester or year.

The school has invested over $100 million renovating and expanding every academic building on campus, including a new planetarium, a wellness center, and a health sciences complex. UNK is an NCAA Division II school, and offers more than 170 students organizations, including a thriving Greek life. UNK prides itself on its expert faculty and intimate class sizes, and it boasts a near 100% job placement rate for graduates.

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8Doane College – Crete 4/5N/ACrete, NE

Doane College, the first liberal arts and sciences college in the state, has turned out 61 Fulbright Scholars. Students here can choose from a diverse set of of undergraduate, pre-professional, graduate, and advanced degrees at the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Graduate and Professional Studies.

Doane stands out among Nebraska colleges for its unique three-year graduation program that lets students pursue biology, chemistry, computer science, math, history, and other select degrees at an accelerated pace. The school also offers an A to B program that allows a seamless transfer from the nearby Central Community College.

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9College of Saint Mary 4/5N/AOmaha, NE

This Catholic women's university launched a campaign in in 2004 to provide resources for campus improvements, annual scholarship fund growth, and endowment building. By 2009, the campaign had brought in more than $25 million, which went into transforming a number of buildings on campus for students to pursue degrees in arts & sciences, business, education, health & human services, and law.

Among colleges in Nebraska, athletics are a huge draw at Saint Mary, and the program has a long history of excellence. The teams, called the Flames, include cross-country, soccer, softball, basketball, golf, swimming, volleyball, and tennis. The Flames are part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and compete in the Great Plains Athletic Conference.

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10Hastings College 4/5N/AHastings, NE

Six months graduation, an estimated 98% of Hasting College graduates are either employed or continuing their education. Many Hastings graduates land jobs in well-known organizations including Prudential, John Deere, Mary Lanning Healthcare, and Ameritas.

The school offers a number of alternative learning opportunities including a January term, an expansive study abroad program, and a personalized program that allows students to design their own course of study. Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music, Hasting College’s music department is particularly well regarded and includes a music theatre ensemble, concert band ensemble, college choir, and more.

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11Midland University 4/5N/AFremont, NE

This private university’s campus has a college-town feel, but is one of the fastest growing among colleges in Nebraska. One of Midland’s standout perks is its four-year graduation guarantee; if a student does not graduate within that timeframe, the school will pay 100% of tuition until he or she does.

Midland boasts Nebraska’s largest athletic department, with 12 varsity sports for men, 13 for women (including wrestling), and cheer and dance for men and women. The teams, called the Warriors, are serious about sports—more than 500 students participate—as the school believes that they help the students build good character.

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12Wayne State College 2/5N/AWayne, NE

Wayne State offers more than 380 degree and certificate programs in its 13 colleges and schools. In 2014, the school awarded students a whopping $340+ million in financial aid, making it a very popular choice among Nebraska colleges.

The College of Engineering is a leader in green technology and was the first in the country to launch an electric-drive vehicle-engineering program and also offer an alternative energy technology master’s program. For four years in a row, Wayne State’s diving and swimming teams have swept the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Swimming and Diving Championships.

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13Peru State College 2/5N/APeru, NE

Boasting some of the most beautiful scenery among Nebraska colleges, Peru State’s has been dubbed the “Campus of a Thousand Oaks”. The school is also Nebraska’s first college; it began as a teacher training school in 1867, but now offers dozens of degree paths at its school of arts and sciences, school of education, and its school of professional studies.

Special programs at Peru State include a rural health opportunities program (RHOP), which recruits and educates students from rural communities so that they can return there to practice; and a public health early admission student track (PHEAST), which give three eligible sophomore or junior students provisional acceptance into the UNMC CoPH masters of public health program.

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14Bellevue University 2/5N/ABellevue, NE

Bellevue University opened in 1966, and today is one of the few Nebraska colleges that focuses on adult education and educational outreach. As of 2011, 80% of Bellevue undergraduates were older than 25. The school’s business programs, which include a BS in accounting and business administration and a master of business administration, have received special accreditation from the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education.

Bellevue University’s athletics teams are part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), competing in the North Star Athletic Association. Women’s sports include golf, soccer, softball and volleyball, while men compete in baseball, basketball, golf and soccer.

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As of 2014, over 39,000 students were enrolled in the state’s public community colleges, the largest being Metropolitan Community College with 14,675 students. Overall, students working toward their associate degree represent 32.8% of all degree-seeking students. With an average annual fee of $3,185, it’s no wonder so many students are electing to take advantage of the opportunity to save money before transferring to a four-year institution.

Many students who are working while completing their educations also choose to follow the community college route; as of 2014, 59.2% of all students at two-year institutions were attending on a part-time basis.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Location Description
1Mid-Plains Community College 1/5N/ANorth Platte, NE

With seven campuses and online learning options, Mid-Plains Community College provides a variety of academic programs to meet student needs. It’s wide offering of associate, transferable and technical degrees make Mid-Plains Community College a good choice for students.

The school has seven associate degrees: Nursing (RN), Arts, Fine Arts, General Studies, Applied Science, Occupational Studies, and Science. Through the Nebraska Transfer Initiative, Mid-Plains Community College’s Academic Transfer Degree Program coursework transfers to four-year degree programs. The two-year college also has technical program training for a diversity of occupations such as car restoration, accounting, and dental assisting.

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2Northeast Community College 1/5N/ANorfolk, NE

Northeast Community College’s tuition is among the lowest across two-year colleges in Nebraska. What makes this college of even greater appeal is their post-college student success: 98% of graduates from Northeast Community College continue their education or find jobs after graduation.

There are a slew of academic programs offered on campus and/or online that lead to a degree, diploma, certificate, or training at this two-year college. For students looking for unique and applicable courses, Northeast Community College has a variety of options. They offer courses such as “Smartphone Applications,” “Container Gardening,” and “Home Decorating: Design on a Budget.”

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3Summit Christian College 2/5N/AGering, NE

Summit Christian College provides academic programs to prepare individuals for leadership and ministry roles in the church. This makes it appealing for those hoping to study ministry-related coursework, as it offers degrees and certificates in Bible (B.A. and B.S. options), Ministries (B.S.), Associate of Arts in Bible, and a Certificate in Christian Foundations.

Summit Christian College has a 44% 4-year graduation rate, and consistently sees small graduating classes of seven or less. School-wide activities play a large role at this school, and students often participate in annual events including a golf tournament, school dance, and community run.

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4Central Community College 1/5N/AGrand Island, NE

Central Community College offers 33 career and technical programs, and is particularly suitable for students seeking a well-rounded college experience. The school has a thriving academic transfer program that allows students to complete the first two years of a bachelor’s degree before transferring to a 4-year college.

The college’s three main campuses are located in Columbus, Grand Island, and Hastings. On-campus housing is offered at Columbus and Hastings locations. The school has dining halls, student organizations, and well-established athletics, making it one of the best community colleges in Nebraska to immerse in college life. For remote students, Central Community College has an online learning program.

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5Western Nebraska Community College 1/5N/AScottsbluff, NE

Students from Nebraska, Colorado, South Dakota, and Wyoming benefit from Western Nebraska Community College’s in-state tuition rates. The school has 864 full-time and 111 part-time students across its three campuses. Students can choose from 117 different degrees, diplomas, and certificates. The large number of program choices makes Western Nebraska Community college stand out among two-year colleges in Nebraska.

Some programs of study include, but are not limited to: computer science, ecology, and dietetics. This community college hosts 28 student organizations and a well-developed athletics department for students living on and off campus to join and support.

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6Southeast Community College 1/5N/ALincoln, NE

Southeast Community College’s 50 degree, diploma, and certificate programs are offered in a variety of formats: in-person, online, hybrid, and through the college’s Internship Education program. Through this program, students partner with employers, gain industry-related experience, and earn college credit. This internship program is one of the most established among community colleges in Nebraska.

Southeast Community College stands out financially in comparison to other colleges in Nebraska, as the school offers financial aid to more than 80% of the student body. Students receive financial assistance through scholarships, grants, loans, and/or part-time employment, providing more opportunities for students to continue their education.

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7Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture 1/5N/ACurtis, NE

The Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture prepares students for careers in agriculture, veterinary technology, and food industries. Their unique fields of study result in associate degrees, certificates, and diplomas.

Many of their programs offer concentrations for students to focus their coursework—for example, students can choose to focus on “Beef Production,” “Crop Production,” or Diversified Agriculture” as they achieve their certificate in Agricultural Production Systems. Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture offers degree programs in special agriculture programs such as the Heifer Link Program, which helps young people get started in ranching.

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8Little Priest Tribal College 1/5N/AWinnebago, NE

Little Priest Tribal College was chartered by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska in May 1996, and strives to enrich students through cultural courses. The two-year college offers seven associate degrees and enrolls 150 students per semester.

Little Priest Tribal College’s Associate of Arts Degree in Native American Studies aims to increase students’ understanding of Winnebago, HoChunk and other indigenous cultures. The school’s Indigenous Science degree programs also provide coursework unique to Little Priest Tribal College. These highly specialized programs of study make it easy to learn about local, indigenous cultures.

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9Metropolitan Community College 1/5N/AOmaha, NE

This large community college offers more than 100 career programs in business administration, computer technologies, culinary arts, and nursing, among others. Metropolitan Community College provides one and two-year education tracks for a large student body.

In the 2014-15 academic year the school enrolled 26,388 credit students and 18,186 noncredit students, making it one of the larger community colleges in Nebraska. It is equipped with a highly developed and specialized assortment of student services such as math, writing, and tutoring centers. This expansive two-year college is projected to soon cater to more students, and plans to expand.

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10Nebraska Indian Community College 1/5N/AMacy, NE

Nebraska Indian Community College aims to provide culturally relevant educational experiences geared toward Umonhon (Omaha) and Isanti (Santee Dakota) students, but all are welcome to attend this community college at any of the school’s three campuses. Their seven different associate degree programs include Native American Studies, Early Childhood Education, and Carpentry.

The school’s carpentry program is particularly regarded among community colleges in Nebraska. Nebraska Indian Community College offers both a certificate and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Carpentry. The coursework combines classroom and hands-on experience to equip students with expertise needed to thrive in the field of carpentry.

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

Although Nebraska is largely rural, there are a number of larger cities peppered throughout the state, including Lincoln and Omaha. The state is a favorable option for both resident and out-of-state students, given a cost of living index that is 11.5% below the national average. Housing in particular is considered very affordable: students in Omaha pay an average of $515 per month for a one-bedroom apartment, while a similar property in Boston costs an average of $2,224 per month. To give prospective students a better sense of life in Nebraska, we’ve compiled information about two regions in the state:

Regional Spotlight: SE/Omaha-Metro Region

  • Major Cities: Omaha
  • Attractions: Heartland of America Park, Joslyn Art Museum, Durham Museum
  • Cost of Living: Omaha
  • Popular Schools: University of Nebraska – Omaha, Creighton University, Metropolitan Community College

Regional Spotlight: SE/Lincoln-Metro Region

  • Major Cities: Lincoln
  • Attractions: Sunken Gardens, Nebraska State Capitol, Memorial Stadium
  • Cost of Living: Lincoln
  • Popular Schools: University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Union College, Nebraska Wesleyan University