Online Schools & Colleges In Iowa

Options & Accreditation

Iowa’s agricultural legacy may have earned it a reputation as “America’s Breadbasket,” but its rapidly evolving economy makes it a hotspot of technology and innovation. The state needs professionals trained in areas like finance, green energy and biotechnology, and its high caliber colleges and universities are poised to provide them.

The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education lists 60 different public and private schools in Iowa, including two research schools, 11 specialty campuses and numerous undergraduate institutions, all of which help thousands of students work toward certificates and degrees in a multitude of disciplines each year. Now, thanks to the growing popularity of online learning, these schools can reach more students than ever before.

Online schools in Iowa range in size and scope, but all tend to be flexible. For rural students, parents, full-time workers and others, that flexibility can make all the difference in obtaining a college education. Iowa colleges and universities were quick to climb aboard the online learning trend. Today, even long-standing traditional schools offer Web-based classes and degrees.

The number and diversity of these online programs continues to climb, as do student enrollments. According to the Board of Regents, 30 percent of all students attending public Iowa institutions in 2013 were enrolled in a fully online degree programs. Even so, traditional and online schools in Iowa vary widely. The following guide outlines several higher education options in Iowa.

Education in Iowa

Iowa’s higher education system can only be described as diverse. Students can choose from public and private institutions of all shapes and sizes, including a number of fully online programs. Here is a summary of their options.

Online Schools in Iowa

Online schools in Iowa are growing in number and scope. Private career colleges were among the first to offer these Web-based programs, but these days even the oldest and most traditional programs offer distance learning options. The state’s community college system, for instance, launched the Iowa Community College Consortium, a virtual database linking students from all online courses, certificates and associate degrees throughout the entire multi-campus system. Iowa Central College, Upper Iowa University and Iowa State University all offer extensive online undergraduate and graduate programs. Dozens of private non-profit and for-profit institutions round out this extensive list of online schools in Iowa.

Community Colleges in Iowa

Iowa hosts 15 community colleges, scattered throughout the state for easy access. These programs offer three different types of instruction: adult education, which includes diploma equivalency programs; career-targeted education designed for quick workforce-entry; and college-geared education, for students who intend to transfer to four-year universities. Students can earn professional development credits, certificates and associate degrees in dozens of content areas. Weekend, evening and online programs make this training more accessible for working professionals, families and other busy students. Prospective students can log onto the Iowa Community College Consortium to review all online learning options.

Public Universities in Iowa

Iowa’s two largest public institutions are Iowa State University and the University of Iowa. Each serves more than 25,000 students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in a myriad of disciplines. Many publicly funded schools offer targeted professional schools, such as the University of Iowa and Drake University, which both have accredited law schools. Other specialty schools in Iowa include the Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. Both of these medical schools are accredited with several different programs, including the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the National League of Nursing.

Iowa’s public universities serve students through a statewide network of campuses, but online schools in Iowa expand their reach and convenience.

Private Colleges in Iowa

There are many different private schools in Iowa, including non-profit and for-profit institutions. Each school is distinct in size and focus: some offer a broad liberal arts education, while others provide more targeted career training. Schools with religious affiliations are also common. Private institutions can be more expensive than Iowa’s public universities, but financial aid and other programs can help. They can also fill in the gaps for students seeking programs or learning experiences not provided through the state’s public systems. There are also a number of private online schools in Iowa that may appeal to busy, remote and other students with limited local options.

Compare Universities and Colleges


Allen College

Waterloo, Iowa Private not-for-profit
Super Safe

AIB College of Business

Des Moines, Iowa Private not-for-profit
Super Safe

Briar Cliff University

Sioux City, Iowa Private not-for-profit

Buena Vista University

Storm Lake, Iowa Private not-for-profit
Very Safe

Central College

Pella, Iowa Private not-for-profit
Very Safe

Clarke University

Dubuque, Iowa Private not-for-profit
Super Safe

Coe College

Cedar Rapids, Iowa Private not-for-profit
Very Safe

Cornell College

Mount Vernon, Iowa Private not-for-profit
Very Safe

Des Moines Area Community College

Ankeny, Iowa Public

Divine Word College

Epworth, Iowa Private not-for-profit
Super Safe

Please Select College

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Iowa Online School and Program Spotlights

Online College Spotlight
Upper Iowa University

Online students at Upper Iowa University have a number of learning options to choose from, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. For instance, students might take classes through the university’s online program, which offers asynchronous courses that allow students to view materials and lectures at any time. These courses are offered in six eight-week terms every year. Students who need more flexibility may want to consider UIU’s self-paced online program, which allows them to take courses throughout the year, at their own convenience. Self-paced students can pursue certificates and degrees in several different fields, such as business, financial management, human services and marketing. Those enrolled in the more traditional online program can earn degrees in education, business and public administration.

Learn more about UIU’s distance learning options at the Center for Distance Education.

Online College Spotlight
Iowa State University

Iowa State University’s distance learning options include primarily master’s degrees, but they also offer an online bachelor’s degree program in liberal studies and two online PhD programs. Students can pursue more than two dozen online master’s degrees in areas such as engineering management, family and consumer science, and statistics. ISU also offers undergraduate certificates in occupational safety and swine science, and online graduate certificates in areas like advanced manufacturing, environmental systems, food and safety defense, literacy coaching and software systems. A number of short-term, non-degree courses are also available online for those interested in professional or personal development.

Iowa State University is a member of the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (GPIDEA), a collaboration between 20 public universities. GPIDEA offers fully online courses, degrees and certificates in high demand professional fields through the colleges of agriculture and life sciences, design and human sciences.

Students access ISU’s online courses through the Blackboard learning management system, but some courses may require additional software for streaming media delivery.

For a full list of online programs and additional information, visit

Online College Spotlight
University of Iowa

The University of Iowa’s Department of Continuing Education grants five bachelor’s degrees, including business administration, liberal studies and social work, as well as four master’s degrees in such academic disciplines as educational leadership, strategic communication and nursing. Each program has its own particular admission requirements. For example, the Bachelor of Business Administration program requires a minimum of 60 semester hours, completion of six prerequisite courses, a GPA of 2.75, and a C or better average in all prerequisite courses.

Online courses are either instructor- or self-paced. Some may have a virtual classroom or conference component. The university also offers Guided Independent Study (GIS) courses, where students utilize Iowa Courses Online (ICON), the university’s course management system.

For more information about the University of Iowa’s online programs, visit

Online College Spotlight
University of Northern Iowa

The University of Northern Iowa offers one of the state’s widest selections of online learning options. Online learners have access to three bachelor’s degree programs in the areas of elementary education, liberal studies and technology management. Students can pursue nearly 20 online master’s programs, mostly within the discipline of education. Each program is designed to prepare certified education professionals for specialized classroom instruction.

These online schools in Iowa typically deliver materials via the university’s course management system and an interactive videoconferencing component.

To learn more about the University of Northern Iowa’s distance learning programs, visit


Best Online Schools in Iowa for Military Servicemembers

Iowa has a rich military history, and many of its colleges and universities pay tribute to this tradition through special programs. Online schools in Iowa are no exception. Web-based learning is often a natural fit for military personnel and their families, as they allow students to continue studies that would have otherwise been interrupted by deployments or relocations. Many programs also offer additional services to help active service members and veterans get the most from their education benefits, earn credit for military experience through CLEP and other exams, or even transition into the civilian workforce. The following online schools in Iowa offer high quality services and programs to the men and women of the Armed Forces.

College Name Tuition City ROTC - Army ROTC - Navy ROTC - Air Force
Iowa State University $6,648 Ames Yes Yes Yes
University of Iowa $6,678 Iowa City Yes No Yes

Best Online Schools in Iowa for Personal Attention

Students attending online schools in Iowa don’t have to sacrifice a blue-ribbon college experience for the convenience of Web-based learning. Many schools go above and beyond to help students feel connected, despite their distance. In addition to discussion boards, chat rooms and email, they may integrate carefully planned collaborative technologies, like Skype, virtual conferencing or live streaming lectures. Some online programs also limit class sizes and carve out virtual office hours so professors have more time to answer questions and provide personal feedback. The following online schools in Iowa earn top marks for personalizing distance learning.

College Name Student-Teacher-Ratio Undergraduate Students Tuition Type City
AIB College of Business 18 to 1 1,090 $13,800 Private not-for-profit Des Moines
Iowa State University 18 to 1 26,523 $6,648 Public Ames
University of Northern Iowa 16 to 1 12,935 $6,648 Public Cedar Falls
University of Iowa 16 to 1 23,157 $6,678 Public Iowa City
Dordt College 15 to 1 1,412 $25,100 Private not-for-profit Sioux Center
University of Dubuque 15 to 1 1,758 $23,540 Private not-for-profit Dubuque
Graceland University-Lamoni 15 to 1 1,889 $22,330 Private not-for-profit Lamoni
Briar Cliff University 14 to 1 1,169 $24,520 Private not-for-profit Sioux City
Grand View University 14 to 1 2,210 $21,436 Private not-for-profit Des Moines
Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary 13 to 1 318 $14,560 Private not-for-profit Ankeny
Cornell College 13 to 1 1,209 $34,480 Private not-for-profit Mount Vernon
Northwestern College 13 to 1 1,290 $25,590 Private not-for-profit Orange City
Morningside College 13 to 1 1,402 $23,780 Private not-for-profit Sioux City
Central College 13 to 1 1,713 $29,060 Private not-for-profit Pella
Buena Vista University 13 to 1 3,659 $28,314 Private not-for-profit Storm Lake
Maharishi University of Management 12 to 1 435 $26,000 Private not-for-profit Fairfield
Iowa Wesleyan College 12 to 1 880 $24,300 Private not-for-profit Mount Pleasant
Loras College 12 to 1 1,575 $26,813 Private not-for-profit Dubuque
Wartburg College 12 to 1 1,898 $31,890 Private not-for-profit Waverly
Simpson College 12 to 1 2,062 $28,974 Private not-for-profit Indianola
Luther College 12 to 1 2,528 $35,950 Private not-for-profit Decorah
Drake University 12 to 1 3,862 $29,410 Private not-for-profit Des Moines
Coe College 11 to 1 1,508 $33,900 Private not-for-profit Cedar Rapids
Mount Mercy University 11 to 1 1,787 $25,400 Private not-for-profit Cedar Rapids
Saint Ambrose University 11 to 1 2,944 $25,730 Private not-for-profit Davenport
Emmaus Bible College 10 to 1 260 $13,750 Private not-for-profit Dubuque
Allen College 10 to 1 530 $16,236 Private not-for-profit Waterloo
Grinnell College 9 to 1 1,744 $40,628 Private not-for-profit Grinnell
Clarke University 8 to 1 1,098 $26,100 Private not-for-profit Dubuque
Mercy College of Health Sciences 7 to 1 1,097 $14,460 Private not-for-profit Des Moines
Palmer College of Chiropractic-Davenport 3 to 1 78 $8,040 Private not-for-profit Davenport
Divine Word College 3 to 1 143 $12,000 Private not-for-profit Epworth

Best Online Schools in Iowa for Women in Tech

Research shows women tend to be underrepresented in tech degree programs, and even more so in the field. Many online schools in Iowa can help women break these gender barriers and feel more supported, in and out of school. Approaches include ensuring students have plenty of female instructors to mentor and guide them, as well as female-only residences, student organization and tech networking events. The following online schools in Iowa are known for offering stellar degree and certificate programs, higher-than-average shares of female instructors and graduates, and other targeted support programs for women students.

College Name Tuition + Fees City Women in Tech Degrees Awarded Total Enrollment Institution Type
Iowa State University $7,726 Ames 208 26,194 Public
University of Iowa $8,057 Iowa City 128 24,369 Public
University of Northern Iowa $7,635 Cedar Falls 19 10,951 Public
Briar Cliff University $25,642 Sioux City 11 857 Private Not for Profit
Allen College $18,103 Waterloo 10 292 Private Not for Profit
Simpson College $29,529 Indianola 5 1,398 Private Not for Profit

Best Online Schools in Iowa Fighting for Families

For students looking to make a big impact on the lives of others, a degree in social work is a good first step. Online schools in Iowa have worked hard to create top-notch programs that will ensure success in school and beyond. Whether you’re looking to work for a government agency, with children in schools, or in a clinical setting, these colleges have exceptional staff and resources to provide a high quality education for tomorrow’s social workers, with little to no classroom work required. We’ve researched the reputation, academics and internship opportunities available through online schools in Iowa to provide you with this list of exceptional programs.

College Name City Social Degrees Awarded Women Men Tuition & Fees Total Enrollment
University of Iowa Iowa City 171 131 40 $8,057 24,369
University of Northern Iowa Cedar Falls 124 105 19 $7,635 10,951
Iowa State University Ames 78 46 32 $7,726 26,194
Saint Ambrose University Davenport 43 37 6 $25,970 2,718
Luther College Decorah 38 30 8 $36,100 2,434
Grinnell College Grinnell 35 30 5 $41,004 1,646
Wartburg College Waverly 32 31 1 $32,740 1,735
Buena Vista University Storm Lake 21 17 4 $28,314 2,112
Central College Pella 21 18 3 $29,540 1,567
Mount Mercy University Cedar Rapids 20 19 1 $25,400 1,020
University of Dubuque Dubuque 19 12 7 $24,530 1,705
Loras College Dubuque 19 15 4 $28,141 1,471
Northwestern College Orange City 17 13 4 $25,740 1,163
Simpson College Indianola 16 14 2 $29,529 1,398
Dordt College Sioux Center 12 11 1 $25,520 1,363
Drake University Des Moines 12 7 5 $29,556 4,242
Briar Cliff University Sioux City 11 10 1 $25,642 857
Coe College Cedar Rapids 9 9 $34,220 1,312
William Penn University Oskaloosa 9 7 2 $23,210 1,788
Cornell College Mount Vernon 8 7 1 $34,705 1,185