Minnesota ranks among the most educated states in the country, in both average level of educational attainment and the quality of education available. As a major center of education in the Midwest, the state is home to schools of all types and sizes -- from small, elite liberal arts colleges like Carleton and Macalester to massive state schools like the University of Minnesota. To help you select the right Minnesota school for you, we compiled the following ranking, which offers an overview of the top colleges in the state.
Below, you'll find information on 25 of the best colleges in Minnesota, including information related to each school's reputation, selectivity, notable academic offerings or campus features, and online enrollment options. This list attempts to pinpoint unique features of each school, but it should serve as the beginning -- not the end -- of your research.
Top 10 Best Colleges in Minnesota
- St Olaf College - Northfield, MN
- Carleton College - Northfield, MN
- University of Minnesota-Twin Cities - Minneapolis, MN
- Macalester College - Saint Paul, MN
- College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University - Collegeville, MN
- Gustavus Adolphus College - Saint Peter, MN
- Minnesota State University - Mankato, MN
- Winona State University - Winona, MN
- University of Minnesota - Duluth, MN
- University of Minnesota - Morris, MN
In terms of livability for college graduates, Minnesota ranks about average, with an unemployment rate near the national average (3.3% as of November 2019) and a cost of living slightly below the national average. The state hosts a diverse economy that includes one of the country's top bioscience sectors, along with other major industries including data centers and operations, manufacturing, clean and renewable energy (particularly wind power), banking and finance, and agriculture and livestock products.
2020 Best Accredited Colleges in Minnesota
St Olaf College
|Northfield, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 88%||
Located in Northfield about 45 miles south of the Twin Cities, St. Olaf College ranks among the top liberal arts colleges in the country, serving around 3,000 students annually. As a baccalaureate institution, St. Olaf serves undergraduates exclusively, offering bachelor of arts and bachelor of music degrees. Students choose from dozens of majors in the arts and sciences, including Latin American studies, music education, political science, race and ethnic studies, and women's and gender studies.
St. Olaf ranks as one of the top colleges in the country in terms of the number of students who study abroad, with 73% of the 2017 graduating class participating in international programs. The school boasts more than 120 domestic and global study programs, and St. Olaf embeds global issues into much of its undergraduate curriculum. Many students participate in multiple study abroad trips, gaining cross-cultural perspectives in countries such as New Zealand, Cuba, and China.
|Northfield, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 94%||
Another of the country's top liberal arts college, Carleton College also operates in Northfield, exclusively serving more than 2,000 undergraduate students. Carleton boasts one of the highest rates of graduates who go on to pursue doctorates, and the school's alumni include several Rhodes and Fulbright Scholars. Students choose from more than 60 academic majors and minors in the arts and sciences, including astronomy, creative writing, East Asian studies, public policy, studio art, and literary and cultural studies.
Carleton ranks among the most selective colleges in the country, and students benefit from a highly rigorous curriculum. All first-year students complete an introductory argument and inquiry seminar, while all seniors complete a comprehensive project focused on their major; this project requires extensive work under close faculty supervision. These projects may take several forms, depending on a student's interests and aspirations. Past projects have required students to produce major research papers, design mobile apps, and direct short films.
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
|Minneapolis, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 80%||
A major public research university based in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, the University of Minnesota ranks as the largest public school in the state, enrolling more than 50,000 students annually. Home to 19 academic colleges and schools, UMN boasts some of the country's top-rated programs in fields such as clinical psychology, healthcare management, midwifery, public health, and speech-language pathology. UMN also ranks among the country's top research institutions, and the school boasts connections to 30 Nobel laureates.
UMN offers academic and professional degrees at all levels, with over 140 undergraduate majors and more than 200 graduate programs available. As one of the largest universities in the country, UMN also hosts more than 300 centers and institutes for specialized research and education, including the Minnesota Population Center, the Institute for Translational Neuroscience, the Center for Cognitive Sciences, and the Institute on the Environment.
|Saint Paul, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 87%||
Located in Saint Paul, Macalester College ranks among the top liberal arts colleges in the country, providing undergraduate education to a student body of about 2,100 pupils. Though small in enrollment, the school offers more than 60 areas of study, including community and global health, critical theory, German studies, international development, and urban studies. Macalester offers several pre-professional programs, including pre-law and pre-medicine, and students can also design their own interdisciplinary major.
As one of the country's most exclusive liberal arts colleges, Macalester offers many opportunities for learning outside the classroom, including internships, independent study projects, off-campus courses, and study abroad programs. Students can earn up to 10 credits each year through independent study and internships, completing approved programs during the winter and summer terms. Macalester also emphasizes international study, and many majors require study abroad experiences as part of their curriculum.
College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University
|Collegeville, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 74%||
Formed in 1961 through a partnership between two liberal arts schools, the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University offers students the resources and academic diversity of two complete institutions. Originally functioning as two separate schools -- Saint John's University for men and the College of Saint Benedict for women -- these schools now operate in tandem, with students taking courses and using facilities on both campuses. The colleges maintain gender separation only in housing; all other facilities are coeducational.
CSBSJU functions primarily as an undergraduate institution, enrolling around 3,600 students in bachelor's programs. The school offers dozens of majors and minors in the liberal arts and sciences, including biochemistry, book arts, classical languages, Hispanic studies, and sociology. Undergraduates can also select from several pre-professional programs in fields including dentistry, veterinary, and optometry. The school offers a small selection of graduate programs that all focus on religious subjects, such as ministry and theology.
Gustavus Adolphus College
|Saint Peter, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 80%||
A private liberal arts college affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Gustavus Adolphus College serves around 2,400 students from its campus in St. Peter, which is located about 10 miles north of Mankato. The college enrolls undergraduate students exclusively, offering bachelor of arts programs in more than 70 major areas, including African studies, comparative literature, computer science, gender and sexuality studies, and physical therapy. Gustavus also offers several pre-professional programs, including pre-law, pre-medicine, and pre-engineering.
The school's small size allows for personalized support for its students. All incoming first-year learners enroll in a first-term seminar that builds foundational skills in critical thinking and academic writing; this seminar is conducted under the guidance of a professional advisor. The college emphasizes writing skills throughout the undergraduate curriculum, and all students receive free tutoring from the school's writing center. Students also benefit from strong internship and career development programs focused on academic and professional growth.
Minnesota State University-Mankato
|Mankato, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 48%||
Enrolling more than 15,000 students annually, Minnesota State University, Mankato ranks among the largest schools in the state. Minnesota State Mankato hosts a comprehensive selection of degrees, including more than 130 undergraduate programs and more than 90 graduate programs. The school also offers several fully online bachelor's and master's programs in subjects including applied leadership, dental hygiene, technical communication, business administration, and special education.
Minnesota State Mankato emphasizes cross-cultural exchange and global education, ranking among the top schools in the nation for international student enrollment. The university's student body represents more than 90 countries and includes over 1,300 international students who receive comprehensive support from the Kearney Center for International Students and the Center for English Language Programs. Minnesota State Mankato also hosts a large study abroad program through its Center for Education Abroad and Away.
Winona State University
|Winona, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 61%||
A public school serving undergraduate and graduate students, Winona State University enrolls around 9,000 students annually. Based in the city of Winona -- about an hour west of Rochester -- the school broadly groups its academic offerings under five distinct colleges, including business, education, liberal arts, nursing and health sciences, and science and engineering. WSU hosts more than 80 undergraduate programs and more than 40 graduate programs, with a selection of hybrid and online degrees also available.
WSU students of all levels receive support from the Warrior Success Center, which offers tutoring, access services, and academic advising. All enrolled students can use WSU's tutoring services for assistance with coursework and assignments, including generalized assistance with math and writing as well as help in specialized subjects such as economics, accounting, and statistics. Access services provide accommodations for students with physical and mental disabilities, while college advisors offer career and degree planning.
University of Minnesota-Duluth
|Duluth, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 59%||
One of the University of Minnesota System's major regional outposts, the University of Minnesota Duluth enrolls around 11,000 students annually, offering more than 90 degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Undergraduates can pursue more than 150 majors and minors, including cultural entrepreneurship, deaf studies, jazz studies, marketing and graphic design, and professional writing. The school's graduate offerings include two options in tribal administration and governance and tribal resources and environmental stewardship.
UMD provides comprehensive support for students through its Academic Writing and Learning Center, such as academic tutoring and supplemental instruction. This includes the UMD Seminar -- a one- or two-credit course that helps new students transition into higher education. The school's tutoring center offers tutoring for all undergraduate subjects and majors, with individual and group sessions available. The school's writer's workshop provides in-depth writing assistance for students of all levels and all writing assignments.
University of Minnesota-Morris
|Morris, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 59%||
One of the only public liberal arts schools in the state, the University of Minnesota Morris serves around 1,900 students annually from its campus in western Minnesota. The school offers undergraduate education exclusively, with nearly 70 majors and minors available in a variety of fields, including African and black American studies, data science, English and creative writing, jazz studies, and sustainability leadership. Students can also design their own interdisciplinary major by completing courses in multiple fields of study.
Morris students benefit from an active academic community with many opportunities for research and other creative activity. Students can conduct original research under close faculty supervision, pursuing an approved area of interest. Morris hosts an annual undergraduate research symposium, in which students present their academic research, creative works, and art performances. Students can also participate in professional internships and field experiences, as well as a variety of study abroad programs.
Concordia College at Moorhead
|Moorhead, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 70%||
A private Christian college affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Concordia College offers liberal arts education to a student body of approximately 2,300 individuals. The school offers more than 50 undergraduate majors in the arts and sciences, including agribusiness, art and design, web design and development, and women's and gender studies. Concordia also offers a small selection of graduate degrees and post-baccalaureate programs, including nutrition, world language instruction, pre-medicine, and nursing.
Concordia centers Christian education in a global context, and all undergraduates complete required courses in culture, religion, and communications. The school's global focus translates to a wide selection of study abroad opportunities in countries such as Greece, Spain, and South Africa. Students have many other opportunities for experiential learning, including research and professional internships. Students commonly assist faculty with research and other types of scholarship, sometimes receiving co-author credit for publications.
|Saint Paul, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 71%||
A Baptist-affiliated liberal arts school located in Arden Hills, Bethel University serves around 6,500 students annually through undergraduate, graduate, and seminary programs. Students can pursue bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in numerous fields, including biblical studies, English and journalism, applied health science, music and theater, and social work. Bethel frames its educational philosophy and campus policies with a strong Christian perspective, and all students must sign a community covenant.
Bethel arranges its undergraduate curriculum around the REAL Experience, which represents relevant, experiential, applied learning. Preparing students to apply their learning to future careers, graduate study, and informed citizenship, the REAL Experience encompasses widely applicable, relevant training in skills such as communication, creativity, critical thinking, teamwork, and technological literacy. Students also gain a strong, experience-based perspective through activities such as internships, study abroad, and faculty-led research.
University of St Thomas
|Saint Paul, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 77%||
A Roman Catholic liberal arts school based in the Twin Cities, the University of St. Thomas serves more than 10,000 students annually, making it the largest private school in Minnesota. Named for philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas, the university embodies values of both faith and reason, stressing academic excellence and inquiry in a Christian moral framework. UST offers programs at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels in fields including arts and sciences, business, education, social work, and law.
UST hosts a variety of continuing, professional, and online education programs that serve the needs of working adults. Distance learners can select from several fully online and blended degrees and certificates, available primarily at the graduate level. The school offers a variety of business master's degrees, along with select programs in social work, education, and Catholic studies. Working professionals can also pursue several noncredit professional development courses, such as cultural competency for educators.
Minnesota State University Moorhead
|Moorhead, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 46%||
Based in the northwestern portion of the state, Minnesota State University Moorhead enrolls around 5,800 students annually. A prominent regional university, MSU Moorhead offers nearly 250 academic programs, including undergraduate majors, graduate degrees, and professional certificates. Some of the school's most popular undergraduate programs include elementary inclusive education, biology, social work, and nursing.
As a mid-sized member of the Minnesota State University System, MSU Moorhead combines the resources of a major state school with the intimacy of a smaller private college. Service learning plays a large role in many of the school's academic programs, with experiences often integrated directly into curriculum requirements. Students can also participate in research activities through the school's campus centers, such as the Marcil Center for Innovative Journalism and the Center for Geospatial Studies.
University of Northwestern-St Paul
|Saint Paul, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 62%||
Based in the suburb of Roseville, the University of Northwestern St. Paul provides Christian-centered education to about 2,000 students annually. UNW offers programs at the bachelor's and master's levels, including more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors, such as children and family ministry, media production, marketing, and philosophy. The school offers a smaller selection of graduate degrees and certificates in fields including divinity, education, human services, ministry leadership, and theological studies.
UNW maintains no specific denominational affiliation, and the school enrolls students of all Christian backgrounds. However, all students must abide by a strict covenant that dictates campus standards. The school maintains an active, Christian-centered community that includes mandatory weekly chapel services for undergraduates. Students can also participate in a variety of community and experiential learning activities -- both on and off campus -- including internships, service learning and volunteer work, and study abroad programs.
|Saint Paul, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 67%||
Founded in 1854, Hamline University ranks as the oldest higher learning institution in Minnesota. Today, this private college serves around 3,800 students from its campus in Saint Paul, offering liberal arts education at the undergraduate and graduate levels. HU maintains four academic schools and colleges: liberal arts, business, education, and law. Students can also pursue two online bachelor's completion programs in business and psychology, enabling distance learners to complete upper-division credits fully online.
HU holds a reputation for service learning and social justice, and students have many opportunities to learn outside of the classroom. Undergraduate and graduate students can participate in the school's study abroad programs, which last anywhere from a week to an entire year. Most study abroad programs include credit-based internships or volunteer opportunities, enabling students to build professional experience while also broadening their cultural perspectives in countries such as Jordan, Greece, New Zealand, and Spain.
Bethany Lutheran College
|Mankato, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 52%||
Affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, Bethany Lutheran College serves a small student body of about 750 learners from its campus in Mankato. Offering undergraduate education exclusively, BLC emphasizes the liberal arts from a Christian perspective, with 27 majors available, including American studies, exercise science, legal studies, media arts, and special education. Students can also pursue seven pre-professional programs that prepare graduates for advanced study in fields such as law, medicine, dentistry, seminary, and pharmacy.
BLC offers comprehensive support to all of its students, including academic advising and student mentoring. The school pairs each student with a faculty advisor, who assists with course selections and degree planning. Students also receive support within their own major from experienced faculty members. BLC offers free academic tutoring in math and writing through its academic resource center, and academic coordinators can also connect students to subject-specific tutors.
The College of Saint Scholastica
|Duluth, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 67%||
A private college based in Duluth, The College of St. Scholastica also maintains education sites in Brainerd, Rochester, St. Cloud, and St. Paul. Serving around 4,000 students annually, CSS offers undergraduate and graduate programs through six schools and colleges, including arts and letters, business and technology, education, health sciences, nursing, and sciences. The school's smaller size provides learners with a highly personal, student-focused experience. CSS boasts a student-to-faculty ratio of 14-to-1.
CSS emphasizes educational accessibility, with several satellite campuses and a large distance education program. Students can pursue online degrees at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels, with options including nursing, applied data analytics, physical therapy, education, and a unique MBA program in rural healthcare. Designed with working students in mind, the school's distance programs typically offer accelerated courses in an eight-week format, with a fully online delivery mode that includes no campus visits.
|Saint Bonifacius, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 67%||
A private college affiliated with the evangelical Protestant Christian and Missionary Alliance, Crown College serves about 1,300 students from its campus in St. Bonifacius, which is located about 30 miles west of the Twin Cities. At the undergraduate level, the school offers more than 40 associate and bachelor's degrees in fields including biblical studies, business and sport management, humanities and social sciences, nursing, and teacher education. Crown frames all majors in a Christian context, and all students complete required Bible study courses.
Crown offers several online programs -- at the undergraduate and graduate levels -- with a flexible, mainly asynchronous format geared toward working adults. All of the college's graduate programs are delivered entirely online, and students can pursue degrees such as Christian studies, alcohol and drug counseling, business administration, and ministry leadership. Crown also offers a small selection of online graduate certificates in areas including disaster and emergency management, community development, and urban ministry.
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota
|Winona, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 58%||
A Roman Catholic university affiliated with the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, Saint Mary's University of Minnesota enrolls around 5,900 students annually. The school operates a main campus in Winona, which primarily serves undergraduates, along with professional and graduate campuses in Rochester and the Twin Cities. Saint Mary's academic programs encompass most major academic and professional fields, including art and design, criminal justice, human services, political science, and theology.
Saint Mary's offers undergraduates a blend of professional and academic preparation through its cooperative education program. Along with a comprehensive liberal arts curriculum, the co-op program gives students the opportunity to complete a significant internship during their junior or senior year. The school maintains co-op partnerships with many businesses and other organizations throughout Minnesota, enabling students to intern in fields such as finance, manufacturing, and social services.
Metropolitan State University
|Saint Paul, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 27%||
A major public university based in the Twin Cities, Metropolitan State University enrolls more than 11,000 students annually. The school focuses primarily on education for working professionals and other nontraditional students, emphasizing affordability, accessibility, and flexibility. Metropolitan State offers degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels in fields including business, healthcare, arts and communication, human services, and public administration. Students can also design their own major based on their professional goals.
Given its focus on accessible education, Metropolitan State provides comprehensive support for new and returning students, including extensive enrollment counseling and transfer services. Academic advisors assist students with course selections and strategies for transitioning to higher education, while the school's career center offers coaching, resume building, internship help, and networking opportunities. Students receive free tutoring and library services, and the school also hosts many workshops focused on academic success and study tips.
Concordia University-Saint Paul
|Saint Paul, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 55%||
A private liberal arts college affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Concordia University St. Paul serves around 5,000 students annually. The school offers more than 100 academic programs, including 76 undergraduate majors and 25 graduate degrees. CSP also ranks among the top providers of distance education in Minnesota, and the school hosts nearly 50 fully online programs, including early childhood education, family science, exercise science, business administration, and web design and development.
CSP ranks among the most affordable private schools in Minnesota, and the university offers a variety of scholarships. Incoming first-year and transfer students are eligible for automatic scholarships awarded based on GPA, and CSP offers special scholarships for applicants who are employed in church professions. The school also maintains a Partnership Advantage program, which offers reduced tuition and priority admission to employees of several local and national companies, such as 3M, AT&T, and Target.
|Minneapolis, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 62%||
Based in Minneapolis, Augsburg University serves around 3,500 students annually, offering Christian-centered liberal arts education at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Associated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Augsburg maintains a progressive reputation, frequently ranking among the country's top schools for public service and support of LGBTQ+ students. Undergraduates choose from 50 majors in fields including American Indian studies, film and new media, political science, psychology, and urban studies.
Known for its focus on experiential learning, Augsburg requires all undergraduates to complete at least one "Augsburg Experience" -- a first-hand learning activity outside of the classroom, such as an internship, study abroad program, field experience, or service-learning project. These experiences build professional skills and cultural competence, offering insights into the connection between academic theory and real-world practice. While travel is often necessary, students can also complete many experiences close to campus.
Bemidji State University
|Bemidji, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 47%||
A mid-sized public university and a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, Bemidji State University enrolls around 5,400 students annually. The school primarily serves undergraduates and offers 65 majors, including applied public policy, creative and professional writing, earth science, music education, and wildlife biology. BMU also hosts a small selection of graduate programs, including three fully online tracks in business administration, education and online instruction, and special education.
BMU sits adjacent to several Indian reservations, including Red Lake, White Earth, and Leech Lake. Accordingly, BSU offers several undergraduate programs that reflect the region's Native heritage, including indigenous studies, indigenous nations marketing, and indigenous sustainability studies. The school also boasts the country's first collegiate-level Ojibwe language program, which was established in 1969. Focusing on Ojibwe culture, language, oral literature, and educational instruction, the program confers either an undergraduate minor or certificate.
Southwest Minnesota State University
|Marshall, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 45%||
Based in Marshall, the public Southwest Minnesota State University enrolls about 6,800 students annually, offering liberal arts and professional education primarily at the undergraduate level. The school offers dozens of bachelor's and associate degrees in the arts, sciences, and professional studies, including early childhood education, agriculture studies, indigenous nations and Dakota studies, public administration, and political science. SMSU also hosts multiple graduate programs in business administration and education.
Students at all levels receive support from SMSU's student success and advising center, which offers academic counseling, degree planning, career connections, tutoring, and a variety of other services. Academic advisors support new students in their transition to college and assist with course and major selections. The school's advising center also hosts the Blue to Brown Connection Program, which supports transfer students from Minnesota West Community and Technical College on their path to a four-year degree.