Choosing which college to earn an online degree from is no simple task. But for budget-minded students, looking at Iowa’s colleges and universities with online programs may be a good place to start. At the University of Iowa, 45 percent of students are able to graduate debt-free, and many programs offer the same tuition rate for online students whether they are current residents or out-of-state students. This page will help you learn more about the best online education options at colleges in Iowa, and answer important questions on transfer credits, paying for your online degree and getting on the path to college.
For this year’s college rankings, our analysts carefully reviewed statistical data from multiple sources for more than 7,500 postsecondary institutions so that you could easily evaluate schools based on what matters most to you. For each school, we applied the eligibility criteria outlined below, then ranked schools and programs based on four ranking factors.
Eligibility Criteria for All Postsecondary Institutions:
Must be a not-for-profit institution
Must be regionally or nationally accredited
Must offer at least one online program1
Must be located in a state (schools in US territories and Washington DC were not considered)
Dozens of data points were used to calculate a weighted score for four ranking factors: quality, affordability, flexibility and program (in order of significance). To determine quality, which was the most important consideration for all AS Online rankings, the most impactful data points were acceptance and graduation rates; for affordability, tuition2 and grants; for flexibility, part-time enrollment offerings; and for program, degrees conferred in that program area.
Some of our nursing program rankings used exam pass rates from NCLEX
How to Read Our Rankings Tool:
A dash indicates IPEDS data was not available
Annual in-state tuition is displayed unless stated otherwise
1 Our Best Vocational Programs rankings included data for both online and campus programs.
2 Both annual in-state and out-of-state tuition rates were used in our methodology; however, our Rankings Tool currently only displays annual in-state rates.
While price is often a determining factor in choosing an online college, the value, flexibility, and quality of the curriculum also play critical roles in the decision-making process. Iowa has more than 60 public and private schools to explore, and according to research from Learning House, 52 percent of students pursuing an online degree request information from three or more schools to help them make a more informed decision. If you’re curious about which colleges and universities in Iowa offer the best combination of quality and online student support and success, we’ve made a list of leading schools below.
How can I find which online colleges offer the degree I’m looking for in Iowa?
A college or university’s website can provide students a lot of background information on the online degree program and class offerings a school provides. For example, Iowa State University offers the most online programs in the state, and you can browse through the online schedule of classes on their website.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for on a school’s website, try our search option to the right, or reach out to the school’s you’re interested in directly. The admissions office at any of Iowa’s colleges will be able to point you in the right direction.
Which online schools in Iowa will accept my transfer credits or work/life experience?
Many online students are coming into school with prior academic, work and life experience, which could translate into college credits. Before you commit to an online program in Iowa, research transfer and credit evaluation policies at your schools of interest—rules and restrictions differ by institution. Here are some examples of transfer credit policies in Iowa:
Military service credits are offered at many colleges in Iowa, such as the University of Dubuque, which honors veteran credit through both the CLEP and the Veteran’s Joint Service Transcript (JST) assessments.
Truly understanding how much more money a college graduate makes versus peers without a higher education takes a good understanding of your local job market. But on average, Iowa’s residents working in careers that require a college education are making up to nearly four times as much money as those without any formal education. Take a look below:
Average Earnings for All Occupations in Iowa, by Minimum Degree Level Required:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with a bachelor’s degree earn, on average, $1,173 a week, compared to $712 per week for people with only a high school diploma. In Iowa that discrepancy is even greater; jobs that require a bachelor’s degree pay, on average, more than $1,300 per week, compared to approximately $580 per week for positions requiring a high school diploma.
College Education & Career Trends in Iowa
A 2018 report from the Iowa Department of Labor shows the unemployment rate in the state has recently fallen to its lowest level in 18 years. While many people associate Iowa with agriculture, employment trends in the state are shifting toward manufacturing, trade, transportation, education and health. If you comb through the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which outlines occupations by average wage, you’ll see that the highest paying jobs in Iowa are for those highly educated in medicine, posting average salaries between $180,000 and $264,000.
The Impact of Accreditation for Online Colleges and Universities in Iowa
Your online learning experience should offer the same cutting-edge technology, quality curriculum and classroom support that on-campus students receive. To assure these high educational standards are being met, look for online schools that are accredited. Accreditation means that your program has been assessed and scrutinized by a reputable regulating committee, known as an accrediting body.
How to Determine Regional and National Accreditation
To best way to determine the accreditation of a prospective school is through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, which allows you to search by program or institution to ensure it is recognized by a reputable U.S. organization. In Iowa, online colleges and universities are regionally accredited by the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, which is committed to evaluating college curriculums across the state against selected performance indicators, such as affordability, equity and participation.
Many of Iowa’s online colleges also go a step further to provide subject-specific specialized accreditations. This ensures specific degree programs are not only providing a quality education, but also meeting industry standards in terms of career preparedness and training. For example, the University of Iowa’s College of Nursing, and their online RN to BSN program, is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nurses Education.
Paying for Online College in Iowa: Tuition & Financial Aid
Tuition rates for online colleges in Iowa vary by institution, and when thinking about your college budget it’s important to consider the impact of extra incidentals like books, lab or technology fees, as well as the length of time it takes to earn your degree and any differences in cost for in-state versus out-of-state students.
Many institutions in Iowa also offer accelerated programs, allowing you to save money and graduate faster. On average, Iowa’s colleges and universities tuition rates are below the national average. Here are some additional answers to frequently asked questions regarding tuition costs for online colleges in Iowa to help you on your search:
What are Iowa’s requirements to qualify for in-state university tuition?
According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, in-state tuition for a public, four-year college in Iowa is nearly half of what out-of-state students pay. However, this isn’t always true for online students—some schools allow distance learners to pay the same rate per credit as in-state residents. Here are some additional options:
Reciprocity Programs: If the school you are considering does offer major incentives for residents versus non-residents, check to see if you live in a state that is part of Iowa’s reciprocity, or tuition discount, program. In 2015, Iowa became a part of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact. If you live in one of the 12 states listed, you qualify for a tuition break and have an easier time using transfer credits.
Claim Residency: Recently, the University of Iowa tightened its classification for in-state tuition. To receive in-state tuition, students must live in Iowa for at least one year, prove that they moved there for reasons besides school, and work an average of 30 hours per week.
Are Online Credits More Affordable in Iowa Than Other Places?
As mentioned earlier, online schools in Iowa are affordable compared to national averages, however each institution’s price per online credit varies. Here are how some Iowa colleges and universities stack up against one another in terms of undergraduate tuition rates for online students for the 2018-2019 fall and spring semesters.
The rates above are for online tuition only—be sure to make carful calculations and factor in additional fees in order to come up with the true price tag for earning your online degree in Iowa.
How Can I Get Help Paying for Online College in Iowa?
Iowa offers many options to make online learning more affordable, such as federal aid, scholarships, and state-supported grants. Most colleges in Iowa offer funding support; Buena Vista University offers a scholarship and net price calculators to help you determine the affordability of programs. Here are some other helpful funding sources for online students in Iowa:
This graph outlines the average cost of Iowa colleges and universities to help you estimate how much you’ll pay for online learning in Iowa. You can apply for federal aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You can also navigate this map of Iowa featuring grant and scholarship opportunities that are specific to programs and demographics.
Many students exploring online education in Iowa have been out of the classroom focusing on other lifestyle commitments, work or family obligations. But no one should be discouraged or intimidated by the thought of going back to school—Iowa offers adult education programs to help prepare non-traditional students for attending college well after their high school years. Here are some examples of classes and resources for both academic and technical preparation for college in Iowa:
Some examples of adult education programs helping Iowa residents move on to college:
Adult Basic Education – Preparing for college classroom learning includes brushing up on writing, English, math and computer skills, which are the focus of Iowa’s ABE programs.
English Language Learners – Classes for English language and literacy proficiency are available for those preparing for college by learning English as a second language.
High School Equivalency Diploma – Iowa students who have not completed their high school education can be one step closer to college after completing the state’s HSED program.