Best Colleges in North Dakota

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North Dakota is home to 21 colleges and universities, each offering various two-year or four-year programs in a range of disciplines. Historically, large, public universities are research-driven, however, North Dakota postsecondary schools also encompass technology, science and nursing programs. Additionally, North Dakota is one of few states nationwide to host several tribal colleges. With so many options, it may seem difficult, at first, to choose between these renowned higher learning institutions.

As part of the selection process, prospective North Dakota college students compare location, affordability and the length of programs at local postsecondary schools. Fortunately, we have applied our rigorous methodology to the latest education data to rank the best colleges in North Dakota, including the top four-year and two-year schools. To help us rank the best schools with accuracy, our internal algorithm identifies each of the above criteria, along with several other key elements. Standard methodologies include acceptance rate, student retention, graduation rate and enrollment rates. Below, our lists profile the top two-year and four-year colleges in North Dakota.

The North Dakota University System comprises numerous public and private four-year institutions. The University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University have the largest student enrollment in the state, respectively, alongside other four-year institutions with specialties in nursing and Bible studies, among other subjects. With a wide variety of available concentrations, many programs related to education or medicine, for example, are accredited by multiple agencies to meet the highest national standards in their respective fields.

To further explore the potential career benefits of four-year programs in the state, browse our list below of the top colleges in North Dakota.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Location Description
1University of North Dakota 2/5N/AGrand Forks, ND

UND offers over 225 programs of study while maintaining small class sizes and an intimate campus atmosphere. As the state’s premier research institution, students can learn from and lend their skills to groundbreaking research in subjects like aerospace, energy and the environment, and health sciences. Famous alumni include Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Maxwell Anderson and Rhodes Scholar and influential poet Thomas McGrath.

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2Minot State University 2/5N/AMinot, ND

Minot State University is one of the most affordable colleges in North Dakota, and the school offers a wealth of on-campus and online programs. With over 60 degree options, students can explore their interests while also receiving the type of individualized attention inherent with small class sizes. Freshman can cultivate a rich sense of community with fellow classmates by participating in first-year learning communities created to unite students exploring similar interests, and to connect freshman with supportive faculty and peer mentors.

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3North Dakota State University 2/5N/AFargo, ND

A premier land grant institution and a major research university, North Dakota State is one of the largest colleges in North Dakota. The campus is comprised of students from all over the world, which fosters a culturally rich and diverse environment that enhances both the classroom and the surrounding community.

The school’s research and technology park supports the entrepreneurial efforts of students through its technology incubator, a state of the art space that supports new ideas by providing mentorship and fostering partnerships between students and local businesses.

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4Bismarck State College 1/5N/ABismarck, ND

Bismarck State College offers the only bachelor’s program in energy management among all colleges in North Dakota. This nationally recognized online program, designed for professionals already working in the energy industry, is taught by knowledgeable faculty, and supports the hectic schedules of those balancing professional and academic obligations.

Supported by the National Energy Center for Excellence, which is housed on BSC’s campus, students receive high-quality instruction and opportunities to connect with industry leaders. Classes begin every eight weeks, which affords students plenty of flexibility as they choose their courses and plan their degree path.

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5University of Mary 3/5N/ABismarck, ND

A unique private university founded by the Benedictine Sisters of the Annunciation, the University of Mary educates students of all faiths. One of the smallest colleges in North Dakota, students can pursue a quality education in over 50 undergraduate programs and 14 graduate degrees. Class sizes are small, and all courses are taught from an ethical perspective grounded in Christian teachings.

Classes are offered both online and in-person, and tuition is less expensive at the University of Mary than at most other private schools.

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6Valley City State University 3/5N/AValley City, ND

Originally founded as teacher’s college, Valley City State remains one of the best options for prospective educators. Those interested in other fields will find programs across nearly a dozen departments. VCSU’s picturesque campus is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is bordered by forest to the south and the Sheyenne River to the north. The campus affords students plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation and study.

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7Dickinson State University 2/5N/ADickinson, ND

Offering three campuses within the state, along with online classes, Dickinson State is one of the most accessible colleges in North Dakota. Students can explore majors housed within a variety of departments, including teacher education, business and management, natural sciences, and performing and fine arts.

Beyond the classroom, students can enhance their educational experiences through their involvement at innovative campus facilities like the Strom Center. This student support center offers entrepreneurs the opportunity to develop new business ideas and partner with regional companies to develop their plans and fuel the local economy.

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8University of Jamestown 3/5N/AJamestown, ND

Jamestown offers a unique approach to education. Called the Journey of Success, students engage in self-assessment, along with career and academic advising throughout their years on campus. All freshmen partake in learning communities designed to provide mentorship through meaningful contact with instructors and upperclassman. As upperclassmen, students can partake in internships as part of their professional development.

Beyond the classroom, students can experience other cultures, both through the diverse representation of cultures on campus as well as global opportunities offered through mission trips and the International Student Exchange Program.

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9Mayville State University 2/5N/AMayville, ND

Mayville State provides both in-person and online programs in a variety of subjects. Popular offerings include business, computer information systems, sports management, and special education. Mayville also offers one of the most affordable tuition rates among all North Dakota colleges, along with a number of scholarships to help degree seekers pay for school without landing in debt. With a 99% satisfactory employment placement rate, students are provided with the type of education and career assistance necessary to earn desirable positions in their chosen fields.

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North Dakota’s two-year colleges provide career training in business, healthcare, manufacturing and technology. Governed by the North Dakota University system, Bismarck State College and North Dakota State College of Science house the largest student populations among community colleges in the state. Programs offered at two-year institutions incorporate a variety of disciplines, though most facilities are focused on producing highly skilled professionals who can pursue gainful employment in the local industrial economy. Whatever the concentration, two-year schools in North Dakota can provide accelerated options for career-driven students.

North Dakotans who are community college graduates tend to earn a higher salary than those with only a high school diploma. Agriculture, tourism and energy are among the top industries in the state, with a variety of two-year college programs aimed at developing relevant career training and work experience. To learn more about two-year programs, browse our list of the top schools in North Dakota.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Location Description
1Lake Region State College 1/5N/ADevils Lake, ND

Located near Devil’s Lake, North Dakota’s largest natural body of water, Lake Region State College provides a community of learning for students pursuing an associate degree or training for trades and technical professions. Lake Region State is one of five two-year colleges in North Dakota that belong to the North Dakota University system. The school’s simulator maintenance technician program is one of the only fields of its kind in the nation.

Aside from its original Devil’s Lake location, LRSC also offers classes at its Grand Forks Air Force Base branch. This campus offers classes to both civilian and military students.

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2Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College 1/5N/ANew Town, ND

Created to foster an educational curriculum for members of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara tribes, Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College offers both bachelor’s and associate degrees, along with vocational certificates. Program offerings range from professional training in construction technology and welding technology to bachelor’s degrees in Native American studies and elementary education.

The school’s focus on global citizenship, leadership, and diversity is interwoven throughout the curriculum. It is the only college in North Dakota on the Fort Berthold Reservation.

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3Dakota College at Bottineau 1/5N/ABottineau, ND

Originally founded as a forestry school, Dakota College offers certificates and associate degrees in over 30 areas of study. These programs prepare students for both office and environmental careers. Working closely with a number of four-year colleges across North Dakota, DCB has made it easy for students to continue their education after earning an associate degree.

Located in Bottineau, the college lies near the Turtle Mountains, which offers outdoor recreation for students year round. The International Peace Garden and Bottineau Winter Park also affords students opportunities to take a break from their books and appreciate the natural beauty surrounding the campus.

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4Turtle Mountain Community College 1/5N/ABelcourt, ND

Located in the Turtle Mountain Band of the Chippewa Indian Reservation, TMCC awards professional certificates, along with two-year and four-year degrees. Innovative programs include the environmentally-focused associate degrees in environmental public health and pre-wildlife management.

With a focus on honoring the culture and traditions of the Chippewa tribe, the curriculum provides both educational and spiritual development to its students. The school works with tribal-owned businesses to provide career opportunities to graduates while also helping fuel the local economy.

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5North Dakota State College of Science 1/5N/AWahpeton, ND

Offering over 35 academic programs, NDSCS offers a variety of certificates and associate degrees across subjects. While traditional programs in business, humanities, and science are available, students can also enjoy specialized training, including instruction in how to maintain John Deere products. As a member of the North Dakota STEM Network, the school focuses on helping students develop skills that will allow them to pursue a STEM career.

Outside of class, enrollees can participate in over 30 student-run organizations, or watch the Wildcats compete against other North Dakota colleges.

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6United Tribes Technical College 2/5N/ABismarck, ND

Educating students from over 75 different tribal nations, United Tribes Technical College stands out among North Dakota colleges for its connection to the region’s rich history. The school’s focus on empowering American Indian students through self-sufficiency and cultural preservation encourages students to benefit their local community through their education.

UTTC offers certificate, associate, and bachelor's programs. One innovative field is the school’s tribal environmental science program, which prepares students for positions as lab techs, surveyors, field techs, and tribal resource managers.

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7Sitting Bull College 1/5N/AFort Yates, ND

Inspired by the culture and values of the Lakota and Dakota tribes, Sitting Bull College is one of many two-year colleges in North Dakota founded to help provide higher education opportunities to Native Americans. Offering programs ranging from certificates to master’s degrees, the school helps students nurture their career and academic interests. All students complete a core subject area to build a strong academic foundation, before moving into their primary program. One unique field is the school’s Lakhotiyapi/Dakhotiyapi program, which studies the Lakota and Dakota languages.

The campus is situated on Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota; the school also has two sites in Northern South Dakota.

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8Bismarck State College 1/5N/ABismarck, ND

Bismarck State is the largest associates college in North Dakota. BSC offers over 80 programs of study, as well as transfer options and support for those matriculating in the liberal arts. Students can choose to take classes online or on the 120-acre campus that overlooks the beautiful Missouri River.

BSC provides 12 areas of study within its energy department. Students can focus on a variety of subfields, including electric power technology, process plant technology, and petroleum production technology. It also offers an online BAS in Energy Management, the only degree of its kind in the nation.

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9Cankdeska Cikana Community College 1/5N/AFort Totten, ND

With just over 200 students, CCCC is one of the smallest colleges in North Dakota. Cankdeska provides opportunities for both academic and cultural enrichment to its students. Promoting the values and tradition of the Spirit Lake Dakota Nation, the school’s academic programs are infused with the culture and language of the local tribe.

Students can pursue over 20 degrees, as well as certificate programs in carpentry, finish carpentry, and medical assistance. Other popular offerings, such as the AAS in Tribal Administration and AA in Indian Studies, reflect the rich local heritage that the school strives to preserve in its curriculum.

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10Williston State College 1/5N/AWilliston, ND

Offering a variety of associate degrees in the arts and sciences, Williston State provides students a strong academic foundation as they prepare to join the workforce or attend a four-year school. The college’s Western Star Career and Technology Center houses the school’s two-year trade and technical programs. These programs offers students opportunities to gain practical experience, allowing them to apply their newly-developed skills in agriculture, welding, transportation technician technology, and petroleum production technology.

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

North Dakota is the 19th largest state in the nation, and the state with the 4th smallest population. Located in the Great Plains region of the U.S., North Dakota is ideal mining territory, producing an abundance of natural gas, crude oil, coal and other fossil fuels. In fact, North Dakota’s numerous natural resources helped its economy endure the recent recession, during which an oil boom in the state brought jobs to the area and grew the populations of several major cities. A rich Native American history and strong religious ties make North Dakota unique among the 50 states; North Dakota has the most churches per capita, as well as the largest church-going population in the U.S.

North Dakota’s per-capita income was the 20th highest in the U.S. in 2009, with residents earning an average income of $39,870 per year. As of 2013, 27.2% of North Dakotans 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree or higher, slightly below the national average of 28.8%. 90.9% of residents age 25 and older had at least a high school diploma, which is well above the national average of 86%.

Below, we’ve profiled two of the major academic regions of North Dakota:

Regional Spotlight: Central North Dakota

  • Major Cities: Bismarck, Minot
  • Attractions: Former Governors’ Mansion, Dakota Zoo, Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park
  • Cost of Living: Bismarck’s Numbeo Cost of Living
  • Popular Schools: Bismarck State College, Minot State University, University of Mary–Bismarck

Regional Spotlight: Eastern North Dakota

  • Major Cities: Fargo, Grand Forks, Wahpeton
  • Attractions: The Roger Maris Museum, Plains Art Museum, Red River Zoo
  • Cost of Living: Fargo’s Numbeo Cost of Living
  • Popular Schools: North Dakota State University, University of North Dakota, North Dakota State College of Science


North Dakotans interested in receiving in-state tuition must prove residency at state colleges. Students 18 or older must provide proof of state residency; minors must live in North Dakota with either a parent or legal guardian to qualify for reduced tuition.

For Minors:

A student still classified as a minor at the time of enrollment must prove that their guardians live permanently in North Dakota to claim personal residency. To establish residency in North Dakota, a minor must live within state borders in a household with a parent or guardian. If the parents are divorced or separated, the minor must reside with a parent living in North Dakota. Minors must prove residency with their parent in North Dakota before turning 18 and prove their intention to continue living with that parent until the school year starts.

For Adults:

Individuals age 18 and older who plan to claim residence must meet specific criteria, including:

  • Physically residing in North Dakota for at least one year prior to declaring residence.
  • Proving intent to make North Dakota your home.
  • The ability to prove financial independence; adults under age 23 may have to formally claim emancipation from their guardian.

Additional Resources for North Dakota College Students

College Savings

Education Nonprofits

Midwestern Higher Education Compact

Higher Education News

Official State Links