Top 10 Best Online Colleges in Iowa

More than ever before, attending college full time on a traditional campus is not a desired avenue for obtaining a degree for many students. And with rising tuition costs, working full or part time while obtaining a college degree is becoming the norm rather than the exception. For these reasons colleges today are doing their best­­–and succeeding greatly–in meeting the demand for flexible education by providing quality degree programs that can be obtained through distance learning programs fully or partially online. Highly respected and accredited universities and colleges across the nation offer associate through doctorate degrees online and in this Value Colleges Top 10 list you will find the best of the best when it comes to online colleges in the state of Iowa.

Each school listed below offers degrees that students can obtain 100% online, plus a plethora of certificate programs or minors, graduate degrees or continuing education options. Additionally, each institution meets Value Colleges Best Value credentials with a solid ROI and institutional accreditation. Please note that the annual tuition prices that you find below reflect the national IPEDs data since oftentimes online degree costs can vary program to program, course to course. It’s also worth noting that oftentimes online degree programs cost substantially less than on-campus programs, so keep this in mind as you review your costs.


Upper Iowa University

Upper Iowa University, founded in 1857, has a rich history steeped in student-centered learning and global awareness and innovation. The school was a pioneer in offering self-paced, student-based learning before online distance programs were available; their first self-paced student learning program was founded in 1973. This dedication to distance learning is evident in the structure of their accessible, thorough, and challenging online programs. The school is also deeply dedicated to serving Military Personnel and Veterans.

Upper Iowa University online offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees fully and partially online. Students have global access and there are no residency requirements for anyone wishing to enroll. Because of the school’s history in self-paced learning, the programs equally serve traditionally aged college students as well as returning adults or working professionals.

Online Programs: 40

Tuition: $28,890


Iowa State University

Originally founded as a land-grant institution, Iowa State University is a leader in the state in offering top-notch undergraduate research opportunities, internships, and study abroad programs. Founded in 1858, the school today offers over 100 majors, serves over 35,000 students annually, and is the alma mater for George Washington Carver, who attended Iowa State in 1891. He was the colleges first African American student, graduate, and faculty member!

Iowa State University online offers the same quality education online and with over 25 degree programs to choose from, distance learners from across the globe sign in to learn. Some programs offered include degrees in… Liberal Studies, Human Sciences, Engineering, and Agriculture. The online school uses the same hands-on learner-centered approach that is found on Iowa State’s traditional campus.

Online Programs: 29

Tuition: $8,219


University of Northern Iowa

University of Northern Iowa has an interesting, service based history. At its founding, the school was set up as a teacher training institution and as an orphan home which aimed to care for orphans of Iowa’s Civil War veterans. In 1876, when Iowa no longer had a need for a Civil War veteran orphan’s home, the institution became the Iowa State Normal School, which eventually because the thriving university we know today! Additionally, the school offers one of the best Culture and Intensive English Programs (CIEP), serving non-native English speakers, in the nation!

University of Northern Iowa online furthers the university’s commitment to service by offering the same quality based educational opportunities online to students across the nation. Often referred to as UNKI eLearning, the online portal is a great way for students who need flexibility in learning to succeed through user-friendly management of calendars, syllabi, email, chat, course content, and more.

Online Programs: 18

Tuition: $8,309


Buena Vista University

Buena Vista University has always had high ambitions–for its education, reputation, and its students. Past and future matter to Buena Vista, which is why the school is dedicated to becoming a leader in blending strong liberal arts education with professionally oriented career preparation by 2018! The diverse student body, both online and on-campus, benefit from rigorous coursework blended with real-world experiences such as community service, internships, and experiential learning programs. The school was founded in 1891 and today has the main campus plus sixteen remote locations across Iowa, and the online school.

Ease and flexibility of accessing learning at Buena Vista is evident through Buena Vista University online where students can earn their associates and undergraduate degrees fully or partially online. Additionally, the online school offers two Master programs in Education that serve Iowa-based professional educators who want to further their careers through earning a degree while still working. BVU also has an online Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership (MAOL) program for prospective managers in business, government, education, or other settings.

Online Programs: 18

Tuition: $32,210


University of Iowa

University of Iowa has a strong history of pursuing teaching, research, and service in a way that all three purposes intertwine to offer students with extensive opportunities that extend beyond the classroom. With cutting-edge research emerging from the university annually in areas such as health care and education, students from around the globe come to discover at University of Iowa. The school is nationally known for offering a balanced commitment to the arts, sciences and the humanities and is home to the nation’s largest medical center, the highly acclaimed

The university is also home to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where authors-to-be come from around the world to polish their craft. The online school, University of Iowa online, offers no less when it comes to quality learning and student based opportunities. Traditional college aged students and adult learners all enroll in the online program and the university offers some of the first-ever fully online lab programs.

Online Programs: 15

Tuition: $8,575


Northwestern College

A Christian liberal arts college in the Reformed tradition, Northwestern College aims to engage students in courageous and faithful learning to prepare them to be servant-hearted leaders in their careers and communities after graduation. The college was founded in 1882 and has grown from a Christian academy to an institution that offers more than 80 programs of student for undergraduates as well as graduate degrees and programs for adult students.

The academically excellent, Christ-centered education Northwestern offers extends to the Graduate School & Adult Learning online programs, which have received national recognition for value and affordability. Northwestern’s programs for adult students are characterized by convenience, cost-competitiveness, and a high degree of personal attention from expert educators. Courses are 100% online; options for students include a transfer-friendly RN to BSN degree program as well as graduate-level education endorsements and 5 specialized Master of Education degrees.

Online Programs: 6

Tuition: $325 per credit hour


Briar Cliff University

Briar Cliff University is known across the state of Iowa as the Catholic, Franciscan learning place and in the Franciscan tradition, the school proudly boasts a powerful sense of community within it’s student body, both on campus and online. The private, liberal arts college is located outside Sioux City, Iowa and was founded in 1929 along the same hilltop. The school was founded by Mother Dominica and Bishop Heelan, who met with the Sioux City business community to seek support for their vision: a Catholic college for women on the hill.

Briar Cliff University online furthers the mission of offering small, intimate classes and learning opportunities with professional, global results. Hands-on experiences are equally offered to distance learners and they may partake in as many opportunities they choose while flexibility earning their degree from Briar Cliff. Some fully online programs offered include undergraduate and graduate degrees in Accounting, Business Administration, or a Nursing RN to BSN program.

Online Programs: 6

Tuition: $28,788


Southwestern Community College

Southwestern Community College, located in Creston, Iowa, offers some of the best industrial, career, and technical education available in Iowa at a two-year institution. The school equally serves adult and continuing education students as well as college aged individuals seeking an affordable base program before entering a four-year institution, or the chance to earn a desirable vocational degree.

Online students at Southwestern Community College online can choose from 400 online courses each semester, and many credits that students earn can be transferred to four-year institutions of their choosing. Knowing that accessibility is key for students who seek online learning due to busy work schedules or other commitments, the online platform can be accessed 24/7 and student support services such as advisement or tutoring are available. Some programs offered include degrees in Accounting or Agricultural Business.

Online Programs: 5

Tuition: $5,490


Saint Ambrose University

Saint Ambrose University is an independent, diocesan, Catholic institution, and was originally founded in 1882 as a college for men. Since its founding, the school now serves a diverse, co-educational student body with attendees from around the globe. The university offers unique opportunities for students, as well as alumni, faculty, and staff, to become involved in the Quad Cities community. Each year the students alone volunteer more than 80,000 service hours in local projects and organizations. Some of the opportunities include involvement in St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, March of Dimes, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America, and the Scott County Special Olympics.

Saint Ambrose University online offers online master degree programs to students around the world. Enrollees can expect to receive the same rigorous education and prestigious degree online as students find on campus. Some fully online master degree programs are offered in areas such as Criminal Justice, Education Administration, or Early Childhood Education.

Online Programs: 4

Tuition: $29,150


Morningside College

Founded in 1894, Morningside College  is known for having a strong focus on cultivating a love of lifelong learning in its students. Additionally, the college is dedicated to engaging students in civic programs, instilling a desire for civic responsibility that extends well past the college years, and in the Midwest, the college is dubbed one of the best liberal arts colleges around. The school is private and affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Students who are concerned about paying for college should note that 100% of undergraduate students at Morningside College receive some form of financial aid annually!

The fully accredited Morningside College online offers two fully online graduate programs to students nationwide in teaching (MAT) and nursing (MSN). Additionally, the school offers a number of undergraduate degrees, including one in Organization Management––an area of study that is gaining more and more attention these days as corporations, businesses, and government agencies around the globe are realizing they need qualified individuals to manage their internal and external global relations.

Online Programs: 3

Tuition: $29,094