Best Online Colleges in Iowa

The higher education experts at BestColleges have reviewed top online colleges in Iowa. Start planning your future at BestColleges.
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Jennifer Lee
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Jennifer is an editor with a master’s in journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor’s in history from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. She spent nearly 8 years working in South Korea, teaching students English conversation and ...
Updated on June 28, 2023
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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Iowa enjoys a low 2.5% unemployment rate as of September 2019. This rate is below what economists consider full employment, and signifies a time when the number of open positions outpace those looking for work. As a result, employers must offer higher salaries and competitive benefit packages to attract talented professionals. Additionally, employers open up more opportunities to recent college graduates.

Some of the largest employment sectors in the state -- such as education, healthcare, and management -- provide salaries between $52,360 and $100,560 per year. In addition to low unemployment, Iowa residents enjoy a low cost of living. Even in Iowa's largest city, Des Moines, residents pay 10% less for housing, food, and services than the national average. However, to obtain a well-paying career, you typically need some education beyond a high school diploma. Earning a certificate or degree at one of the best online colleges in Iowa can help you turn your career goals into reality.

Top 10 Online Colleges in Iowa

  1. University of Iowa - Iowa City, IA
  2. Iowa State University - Ames, IA
  3. University of Northern Iowa - Cedar Falls, IA
  4. St Luke's College - Sioux City, IA
  5. Buena Vista University - Storm Lake, IA
  6. Maharishi International University - Fairfield, IA
  7. Northwestern College - Orange City, IA
  8. Mount Mercy University - Cedar Rapids, IA
  9. Graceland University - Lamoni, IA
  10. Saint Ambrose University - Davenport, IA

Related Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Online colleges and universities feature many advantages, especially for busy individuals who cannot attend courses on campus. Programs often use an asynchronous curriculum with courses that do not have specific meeting times. Students can view pre-recorded lectures and study when convenient.

Online learners can also save significant money compared to their on-campus counterparts. For instance, they avoid paying for on-campus housing, parking, or childcare, and most online learners pay in-state tuition prices regardless of their state of residency.

This guide highlights the 20 best online colleges and universities in Iowa to help you make an informed decision. The following institutions boast multiple online programs, outstanding student support services, and other important benefits. Additionally, embedded links take you to each school's website, where you can learn more about each program and find contact information for academic and admissions counselors.

2020 Best Online Colleges in Iowa

Best Online Colleges in Iowa

  1. University of Iowa

    Iowa City, IA



    Iowa's premier public university, the University of Iowa offers 39 online degrees and certificates. Bachelor's programs that lead to in-demand careers include RN-to-BSN, social work, and enterprise leadership. The university also offers one online endorsement in education leadership -- an attractive option for in-state public school teachers. Additionally, many master's and certificate programs allow learners to study in a hybrid format.

    UI offers extensive resources that help learners familiarize themselves with learning online. Prospective students can take a sample course to see if online learning at UI is right for them. The university provides 24/7 technical support services. Each semester, advisors work closely with students to select from more than 600 online courses.

    UI admits new students in the fall and spring semesters. Application requirements for undergraduate programs include high school transcripts -- UI also accepts GED scores -- and SAT or ACT scores. Scholarship opportunities open to online learners award $1,000. UI typically sets scholarship application deadlines around July 1 and December 1.

  2. Iowa State University

    Ames, IA



    Iowa State University offers an online bachelor's in liberal studies that allows learners to create a personalized, 36-credit concentration in areas such as English literature, mathematics, and military studies. This flexibility attracts degree-seekers undecided about a major and career path. Additionally, all courses use an asynchronous curriculum, and the school offers online courses in the spring, summer, and fall semesters.

    With dozens of online courses to choose from, degree-seekers work one-one-one with an advisor to explore different topics and choose a concentration. Prospective students can also speak to an advisor to discuss academic and career goals.

    Applicants should possess an associate degree or at least 60 undergraduate credits from an accredited school. Iowa State may admit applicants who do not meet this requirement. All learners pay the same per-credit tuition rate and fees regardless of residency. Additionally, prospective students submit only one scholarship application to apply to all Iowa State scholarship opportunities.

  3. University of Northern Iowa

    Cedar Falls, IA



    The University of Northern Iowa offers continuing and distance education in the form of four bachelor's degrees and over two dozen master's degrees and certificates. Learners who already possess an associate degree can earn a bachelor's in elementary education in just two years. Master's programs at UNI lead to in-demand careers in instructional technology, principalship, and public policy. Additionally, some programs feature a hybrid learning option.

    UNI provides valuable resources to both students and faculty. Learners can access IT support during office hours, as well as support guides that discuss online learning best practices and how to use the online student portal. Each program also boasts a highly trained and knowledgeable advisor who works with learners one-on-one.

    New programs start in the spring, summer, and fall semesters. In-state and out-of-state students pay the same per-credit tuition rate plus a small technology fee for each course. Additionally, learners at this top online college in Iowa who take at least six credits per semester may qualify for a merit-based scholarship or need-based grant.

  4. St Luke's College

    Sioux City, IA



    St. Luke's College offers two online programs -- a bachelor's in nursing and a bachelor's in health science -- to prepare learners for in-demand healthcare careers. The nursing major builds on associate-level knowledge and emphasizes coursework in proactive nursing and course assessment. The health science program allows students to personalize their degree by taking electives such as pathophysiology or culture and diversity in healthcare.

    St. Luke's offers both full-time and part-time graduation tracks, a boon for learners already employed in the healthcare field. All online learners complete an in-depth student orientation before registering for courses. This top online college in Iowa also employs tutors and resume coaches.

    Both first-time and transfer students can apply. Freshmen applicants should submit a high school diploma or GED scores, and transfer credit should reflect a minimum 2.0 undergraduate GPA. Learners who maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA may qualify for one of many endowed scholarship opportunities.

  5. Buena Vista University

    Storm Lake, IA



    With more than 30 online programs, Buena Vista University attracts students with a broad variety of academic interests. Notable undergraduate programs include sports business, health services leadership, and criminal justice. Additionally, BVU provides seven graduate endorsement programs for primary and secondary school educators in areas such as special education and significant support needs.

    This top online Iowa university provides students with online learning software that features a grade portal, a payment portal, tutor access, and virtual office hours. The university's community college partners -- the Iowa Community College Online Consortium -- ensure that degree-seekers can also transfer credits seamlessly.

    BVU offers a start date every eight weeks, making the university an excellent option for prospective students who want to start a program as soon as possible. Applicants without at least 24 transferable credits submit transcripts or GED scores. BVU prefers applicants with a minimum 3.0 high school or undergraduate GPA. Phi Theta Kappa members may qualify for an institutional scholarship.

  6. Maharishi International University

    Fairfield, IA



    Formerly known as Maharishi University of Management, Maharishi International University offers two online bachelor's and six online master's programs in areas such as sustainable business and integrative medicine. The university's MFA in screenwriting program features multiple residencies -- both on campus and in Los Angeles -- and a unique mentorship program that pairs students with an industry leader. Learners in this program also receive an in-depth education in business and marketing.

    To help learners succeed academically, MUM developed a block system where students complete one course per month. Although each course uses an accelerated format, learners receive a three-day holiday to rejuvenate before starting the next block. Student support services at this top online Iowa university include 24/7 IT help and a mental health wellness program.

    Undergraduate applicants should possess a high school diploma. For learners with prior college-level education, MUM accepts more than 60 transfer credits. The university requires graduate school applicants to have a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA.

  7. Northwestern College

    Orange City, IA



    The College of Graduate and Adult Studies at Northwestern College offers 18 online programs to help busy professionals earn a degree, certificate, or teaching license endorsement. Bachelor's programs boast generous transfer credit policies that save eligible learners thousands of dollars on a degree. All online programs use Blackboard virtual learning software.

    This top online Iowa college offers monthly seminars on topics such as how to teach the Holocaust to secondary school students, as well as how to help children in the aftermath of traumatic events. Students can also access an informational blog that features articles detailing career trends and best practices applicable to learners' future careers.

    NWC hosts virtual informational sessions each month. Application requirements vary, but typically include a GPA cutoff. Master's in education and nursing programs require applicants to possess a relevant license. Incoming graduate students who earned an undergraduate degree at NWC may qualify for the Education Alumni Grant.

  8. Mount Mercy University

    Cedar Rapids, IA



    Mount Mercy University offers distance learners 10 online bachelor's degrees, including business, management, and an RN-to-BSN. All programs at this top online Iowa University allow degree-seekers to continue working full time. Courses feature both an asynchronous and accelerated format, while dedicated professors respond to student questions and concerns within one business day.

    MMU has created an online campus culture to help learners succeed and provide a unique educational experience. The Mercy App connects learners to MMU 24/7, and students who live in and around Cedar Rapids can take advantage of on-campus resources. Services available to all online degree-seekers include scheduled conversations with academic and career advisors, as well as one-on-one tutoring.

    Application requirements include a high school diploma and ACT or SAT scores. The RN-to-BSN program requires a valid nursing license and a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Although MMU does not award institutional or departmental scholarships, the university provides a 10% tuition discount to learners who work for one of 24 partner companies.

  9. Graceland University-Lamoni

    Lamoni, IA



    With campuses in Iowa and Missouri, Graceland University - Lamoni offers online bachelor's and master's degrees for a broad range of learners. For instance, practicing teachers can earn a master's in instructional leadership, literacy instruction, or special education. Business learners have three bachelor's programs from which to choose, including a track in organizational leadership. Additionally, online nursing programs boast both RN-to-BSN and RN-to-MSN options.

    GU understands that students have responsibilities outside the classroom, and as a result, all courses are delivered in an asynchronous format. In addition to career and academic counselors, this top Iowa university employs professional personal counselors who help learners with depression, marital issues, and other problems.

    Admission requirements vary by program, but often include a GPA and standardized test score cutoff. Transfer applicants must have a minimum 2.0 undergraduate GPA. GU also considers each applicant's class rank.

  10. Saint Ambrose University

    Davenport, IA



    Students at St. Ambrose University can choose from three online bachelor's completion programs and three online master's programs. Two bachelor's degrees -- applied management and business administration -- offer both fully online and hybrid options. RN-to-BSN students, however, take courses entirely online and must earn a minimum C grade to remain in good academic standing.

    Graduate students can choose from three online options. The master's in criminal justice program offers a 4+1 pathway where online degree-seekers can earn a bachelor's and master's in just five years.

    This top online Iowa university offers valuable academic resources such as supplemental instruction from upperclassmen. Online learners can also meet with advisors to learn study and time management skills. Students can submit papers online to receive writing feedback and assistance.

    Undergraduate transfer applicants can submit up to 90 outside credits and may qualify for $13,000 per year in merit-based scholarships. SAU also accepts transfer credit from incoming graduate students. Graduate learners may also receive financial aid. Each department sponsors unique scholarship opportunities, all of which require a separate application.

Click here to see the best campus colleges in Iowa. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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