The Best Online Colleges in Iowa

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Updated September 7, 2023

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Iowa has set an ambitious goal of ensuring that 70% of its workforce has some postsecondary education by 2025.

An online degree can help Iowans stand out in the job market. Iowa is home to prestigious public institutions like the University of Iowa, along with private schools such as Drake University, Grinnell College, and Cornell College. The extensive community and technical college system in Iowa includes 15 institutions, serving learners throughout the state.

Online colleges in Iowa offer opportunities to earn bachelor's degrees from anywhere in the state, often on an accelerated timeline. Many of the online programs offered through community and technical colleges in Iowa allow for direct transfer to four-year institutions. Community colleges in Iowa also participate in the Iowa Community College Online Consortium (ICCOC), which further expands online education opportunities.

Online students in Iowa can also enroll in graduate programs, including degrees aligning with some of the state's top industries. Iowa State's online master's degrees include programs in agriculture, engineering, and business.

The following ranked list of online colleges in Iowa offers insight into which colleges and universities might meet your educational and professional needs.

Featured Online Schools

The Best Online Colleges in Iowa

#1 The Best Online Colleges in Iowa

Upper Iowa University

  • Fayette, IA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Upper Iowa University is one of the best options available to online degree-seekers. The private institution's 57 online degree options include offerings at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. The school's experience with online education and strong academic reputation make it a great choice for distance learners.

Online learners benefit from support from academic and career services offices at the school's Fayette campus. Online offerings from academic advisors and career-planning events like virtual job fairs help degree-seekers plan for success. Many degree programs include an internship, helping students gain experience in their field. Upon completion of all program requirements, graduates are awarded an accredited degree.

Additional information about how to apply and what programs are available can be obtained by contacting the school directly.

Upper Iowa University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 2,916

Online Bachelor's Programs: 21

Online Master's Programs: 14

Percent of Programs Offered Online: 64%

Admission Rate: 51%

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$30,810
Out-of-state
$30,810
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$21,060
Out-of-state
$21,060
Retention Rate
64%
Admission Rate
51%
Students Enrolled
4,279
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
68% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#2 The Best Online Colleges in Iowa

Iowa State University

  • Ames, IA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

A quality online college education is available at Iowa State University. Those who choose to enroll at this public college can choose from 35 different programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The school has a strong reputation for its academics and substantial experience in online education.

The school's main campus in Ames hosts academic and career services offices available to online learners. Academic advisors and virtual job fairs help set degree-seekers up for long-term success. Internships are available to help students gain hands-on experience. The programs grant graduates an accredited degree upon completion.

Ask the school directly for more information about online degree options and how to apply.

Iowa State University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 7,802

Online Bachelor's Programs: 2

Online Master's Programs: 17

Percent of Programs Offered Online: 10%

Admission Rate: 92%

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$8,042
Out-of-state
$23,230
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$9,758
Out-of-state
$24,720
Retention Rate
87%
Admission Rate
92%
Students Enrolled
33,372
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
23% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#3 The Best Online Colleges in Iowa

Buena Vista University

  • Storm Lake, IA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Buena Vista University's online degree offerings rank highly among similar programs. Remote programs at both the graduate and undergraduate levels are available at this private institution. These remote programs benefit from the school's reputation for strong academics and track record in online course offerings.

Career and academic service associates located at the Storm Lake, Iowa, campus also assist online learners. These advisors facilitate career-planning events like virtual job fairs for interested degree-seekers. Internships are available to help students gain hands-on experience. An accredited degree is awarded to graduates upon completing their program.

More information about which programs are available online and how to apply is available by contacting the school.

Buena Vista University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 997

Online Bachelor's Programs: 10

Online Master's Programs: 6

Percent of Programs Offered Online: 18%

Admission Rate: 57%

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$35,194
Out-of-state
$35,194
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$9,594
Out-of-state
$9,594
Retention Rate
70%
Admission Rate
57%
Students Enrolled
1,815
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
55% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#4 The Best Online Colleges in Iowa

Graceland University

  • Lamoni, IA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Those looking for an online college program should consider Graceland University. The nine online programs offered by this private institution consist of both undergraduate and graduate offerings. Distance learners appreciate the way the school brings its reputation for academic success to its online programming.

From its Lamoni, Iowa, campus, the school supports online learners with academic and career services. Programs like academic advising and virtual job fairs help degree-seekers plan for their academic and professional futures. Students also gain firsthand experience in their field through internship programs. Completing all requirements results in graduates receiving an accredited degree.

Further information about the application process and specifics of online programs are available by contacting the school.

Graceland University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 839

Online Bachelor's Programs: 3

Online Master's Programs: 3

Percent of Programs Offered Online: 17%

Admission Rate: 58%

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$29,750
Out-of-state
$29,750
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$17,430
Out-of-state
$17,430
Retention Rate
76%
Admission Rate
58%
Students Enrolled
1,733
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
48% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#5 The Best Online Colleges in Iowa

University of Northern Iowa

  • Cedar Falls, IA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

For many online degree-seekers, the University of Northern Iowa is an attractive choice. The 16 online programs offered by this public institution consist of both undergraduate and graduate offerings. The school has a strong reputation for its academics and substantial experience in online education.

Online learners benefit from support from academic and career services offices at the school's Cedar Falls campus. Advisors facilitate career-planning events like virtual job fairs for interested degree-seekers. Many students also gain hands-on field experience through the school's internship programs. The degrees that graduates are awarded reflect the school's full accreditation.

Potential applicants can get in touch with the school for additional details about program availability and the application process.

University of Northern Iowa at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 2,732

Online Bachelor's Programs: 2

Online Master's Programs: 14

Percent of Programs Offered Online: 10%

Admission Rate: 79%

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$7,665
Out-of-state
$19,949
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$9,159
Out-of-state
$21,375
Retention Rate
83%
Admission Rate
79%
Students Enrolled
10,477
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
26% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#6 The Best Online Colleges in Iowa

University of Iowa

  • Iowa City, IA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of Iowa is one of the best options available to online degree-seekers. The public institution's 25 online degree options include offerings at both graduate and undergraduate levels. These remote programs benefit from the school's reputation for strong academics and track record in online course offerings.

Career and academic service associates located at the Iowa City campus also assist online learners. Degree-seekers benefit from virtual job fairs and other career-planning services, as well as academic advising. The school also facilitates internship opportunities that help students gain real-world experience. The degrees that graduates are awarded reflect the school's full accreditation.

Reach out to the school with any questions about what programs are available online and how to apply to them.

University of Iowa at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 15,672

Online Bachelor's Programs: 4

Online Master's Programs: 7

Percent of Programs Offered Online: 6%

Admission Rate: 83%

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$8,073
Out-of-state
$30,036
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$10,079
Out-of-state
$29,026
Retention Rate
86%
Admission Rate
83%
Students Enrolled
31,240
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#7 The Best Online Colleges in Iowa

Briar Cliff University

  • Sioux City, IA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Briar Cliff University is one of the best options available to online degree-seekers. Both undergraduate and graduate programs are available through this private institution, which hosts a total of 15 online degree programs. Distance learners often choose this school because it has a proven track record in online education and a reputation for academic strength.

Career and academic service associates located at the Sioux City, Iowa, campus also assist online learners. Programs like academic advising and virtual job fairs help degree-seekers plan for their academic and professional futures. The school also facilitates internship opportunities that help students gain real-world experience. Program graduates are awarded a bachelor's degree with full accreditation upon completing all requirements.

Further information about the application process and specifics of online programs are available by contacting the school.

Briar Cliff University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 465

Online Bachelor's Programs: 7

Online Master's Programs: 6

Percent of Programs Offered Online: 24%

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$30,988
Out-of-state
$30,988
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$9,450
Out-of-state
$9,450
Retention Rate
66%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
1,129
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
41% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#8 The Best Online Colleges in Iowa

Iowa Wesleyan University

  • Mount Pleasant, IA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Online degree-seekers should consider Iowa Wesleyan University. The seven online programs offered by this private institution consist of both undergraduate and graduate offerings. Many distance learners enroll here because the school has a strong academic reputation and experience in online education.

Online learners can receive assistance from career and academic service associates located at the school's physical campus in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. These advisors facilitate career-planning events like virtual job fairs for interested degree-seekers. Internships are available to help students gain hands-on experience. An accredited degree is awarded to graduates upon completing their program.

More information about which programs are available online and how to apply is available by contacting the school.

Iowa Wesleyan University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 185

Online Bachelor's Programs: 5

Online Master's Programs: 2

Percent of Programs Offered Online: 35%

Admission Rate: 58%

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$24,424
Out-of-state
$30,530
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$5,940
Out-of-state
$5,940
Retention Rate
55%
Admission Rate
58%
Students Enrolled
622
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#9 The Best Online Colleges in Iowa

William Penn University

  • Oskaloosa, IA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Online degree-seekers should consider William Penn University. Students who wish to study remotely at this private school can choose from seven online programs at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Distance learners often choose to study at this school because of its experience with online education and reputation for academic quality.

All learners, including those studying online, can take advantage of the academic and career services professionals hosted at the school's Oskaloosa, Iowa, campus. Degree-seekers who choose to connect with academic advisors can participate in virtual job fairs and other career-planning events. The school also facilitates internships to help students gain hands-on experience. Upon program completion, the college gives graduates an accredited degree.

Further information about the application process and specifics of online programs are available by contacting the school.

William Penn University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 403

Online Bachelor's Programs: 6

Online Master's Programs: 1

Percent of Programs Offered Online: 14%

Admission Rate: 58%

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$26,100
Out-of-state
$26,100
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$9,398
Out-of-state
$9,398
Retention Rate
56%
Admission Rate
58%
Students Enrolled
1,258
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
32% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#10 The Best Online Colleges in Iowa

Mount Mercy University

  • Cedar Rapids, IA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

A quality online college education is available at Mount Mercy University. Students who enroll at the private institution can choose from 10 online offerings at undergraduate and graduate levels. Distance learners often choose this school because it has a proven track record in online education and a reputation for academic strength.

The school's main campus in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, hosts academic and career services offices available to online learners. Academic advising, virtual job fairs, and other career preparation services set degree-seekers up for long-term success. Many students also prepare for future careers by gaining hands-on experience in internships. The degrees that graduates receive are fully accredited.

Prospective applicants can contact the school to learn more about online program options and admission requirements.

Mount Mercy University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 523

Online Bachelor's Programs: 8

Online Master's Programs: 2

Percent of Programs Offered Online: 13%

Admission Rate: 66%

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$32,862
Out-of-state
$32,862
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$10,296
Out-of-state
$10,296
Retention Rate
75%
Admission Rate
66%
Students Enrolled
1,807
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
29% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
Best Online Colleges

Online Colleges in Iowa Ranking Guidelines

We selected the online schools in Iowa based on the quality of their programs, types of courses and degrees offered, and faculty strengths, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation, including a strong reputation for online degree programs.

Employment in Iowa

Manufacturing, trade, and healthcare topped the list of Iowa's top industries in 2018. Because Iowa exports so many vehicles, tractors, and parts; agricultural products; and electrical machinery, it also employs large numbers of machine operators and farmworkers. The state is also seeing projected growth in employment for healthcare workers, indicating a need for physical therapists and nurses.

The unemployment rate in Iowa as of December 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), was 3.1%. This is a significant drop from 6.8% in July of the same year. Iowa also had a much lower unemployment rate than the 6.5% national average in December.

Iowa also has a significantly lower cost of living than the average nationwide. With a cost of living index of just under 84%, Iowa offers more affordable housing and transportation expenses than other states. The median cost of a home in Iowa is nearly $100,000 lower than the national figure.

The data below covers some of the highest-paying roles employing more than 2,000 individuals in Iowa that do not require a first-professional degree, like a doctor of medicine or juris doctor. Salary information applies specifically to Iowa, while job growth data reflects the United States as a whole.

Highest-Paying Careers in Iowa
Career Annual Mean Salary (2019) Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) Education Required
Chief Executives $155,180 5% Bachelor's
Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary $130,830 21% Master's
Architectural and Engineering Managers $123,750 3% Bachelor's
Computer and Information Systems Managers $123,570 10% Bachelor's
Sales Managers $119,390 4% Bachelor's
Financial Managers $116,590 15% Bachelor's
Marketing Managers $115,960 7% Bachelor's
Source: BLS

The following data reflects some of the highest-paying roles employing more than 5,000 professionals in Iowa. Salary figures apply specifically to Iowa, while job growth data reflects the United States as a whole.

Common Careers in Iowa
Career Annual Mean Salary (2019) Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) Education Required
General and Operations Managers $99,740 6% Bachelor's
Software Developers, Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers $95,370 22% Bachelor's
Medical and Health Services Managers $87,940 32% Bachelor's
Computer Systems Analysts $85,040 7% Bachelor's
Management Analysts $81,440 11% Bachelor's

Online Associate and Graduate Degrees

The COVID-19 pandemic has led many colleges and universities to expand their online offerings. This benefits students who may not have local options for earning degrees, but can now enroll remotely. Unlike their on-campus counterparts, online degrees may allow learners to study asynchronously and earn degrees on a more flexible schedule.

Online colleges in Iowa, many of which participate in the ICCOC, offer associate degrees in high-demand fields like agriculture. Community and technical colleges in Iowa also offer online associate degrees for students looking to transfer to four-year programs.

For instance, Western Iowa Technical Community College features online associate degrees in agriculture agronomy, business, and management. Schools outside of the ICCOC also provide online associate degrees, such as Iowa Central Community College, which offers criminal justice, computer networking, and healthcare administration degrees.

Iowa students can also earn graduate degrees online. At Iowa State, online students can earn master of science degrees in agricultural education, plant breeding, or seed technology and business. Drake University offers online graduate degrees, too, including a master of science in health informatics and analytics — ideal for students with previous degrees in healthcare.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Online College Cheaper in Iowa?

Tuition at online colleges in Iowa varies by institution. Online learners may find tuition cheaper as a result of avoiding fees, lodging expenses, and other costs incurred by their on-campus colleagues, though not in all cases.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Degree in Iowa?

The length of time it takes to get an online degree in Iowa depends on type of degree, field of study, and student schedule. Learners can often earn associate degrees in fewer than two years online, while part-time graduate students may take three years or more to complete an online program.

What Is the Most Popular Degree in Iowa?

The most popular degrees in Iowa coincide with the state's top industries. According to 2018 data, engineering, health and kinesiology, and animal science all ranked among the top majors for undergraduates at Iowa State.

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