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Online Colleges in Iowa

Most Affordable Online Colleges
School Interviews
Maureen McCormick
- Strategic Communications and Marketing Director for Division of Continuing Education, University of Iowa
"At the University of Iowa, we feel what distinguishes us is that when we offer courses online, they are the same quality as when those courses are offered on campus."
See entire interview

Introduction

According to the Lumina Foundation, 62 percent of Iowa jobs will require a college degree by 2018, yet only about 45 percent of working-age adults (25-64) are projected to have one by that time.

According to the 2012 Leaders & Laggards report issued by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Iowa Board of Regents has set forth a goal of increasing enrollment in distance education by 15 percent by 2016. This could be aided by a proposed tuition freeze for in-state undergraduates at Iowa's three state universities in 2014, according to a report by The Daily Iowan. Many of these state universities and others now offer online courses or full online degree programs.

Many national online colleges make their home in Iowa as well. These schools offer online degrees and, oftentimes, hybrid educational opportunities. Those who need a hands-on component to complete their degree may be able to take some courses at a campus location and the rest online. Ashford University and Kaplan University are just two examples of national online colleges that have physical locations in the state of Iowa.

Iowa is home to just over three million people. Of those who are 18-­24, nearly 53 percent have some college or an associate degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Ten percent have earned a bachelor's degree. Among those over 25, 10 percent have an associate degree, 17.5 percent have a bachelor's degree and 7.8 percent have a graduate degree. More than 90 percent have graduated from high school.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 1.5 million workers in the state, and they earn an average of $19.35 per hour, or about $40,240 annually. There are 49 colleges and universities in Iowa where students can earn a bachelor's degree. Only three of them are public universities, and 35 of them are private nonprofit schools.

Most Affordable Colleges in Iowa

The following list ranks schools in Iowa that offer online degrees at the lowest tuition costs. This ranking is based on a number of factors that are important to prospective students: degree programs that are taught online, and information on tuition fees and accreditation. Tuition figures are sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics and reflect in-state tuition (when in-state tuition is available) for all students, including online students. See our Methodology section for more details on the ranking methodology.

1

University of Northern Iowa

Tuition/Year
$7,685
Graduation Rate
66%
# of Online Degrees
13
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

University of Northern Iowa offers a wide variety of online degree programs using videoconferencing and through online instructions such as eLearning. Its online Bachelor's degree programs include Liberal Studies and Technology Management, and its online Master's degree programs include Early Childhood Education; Elementary Education; Instructional Technology; Literacy Education; Education; Technology; Music Education; Philanthropy and Nonprofit Development; Physical Education; Teaching/Coaching; Professional Development for Teachers; and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.
School Website: 
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2

Iowa State University

Tuition/Year
$7,726
Graduation Rate
68%
# of Online Degrees
28
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

Although it offers just one Bachelor's degree online - Liberal Studies - Iowa State offers a long list of Master's degrees available online from various colleges within the university. The colleges at Iowa State offering online Master's degrees include Agriculture & Life Sciences; Business; Design; Engineering; Human Sciences; and Veterinary Medicine.
School Website: 
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3

University of Iowa

Tuition/Year
$8,061
Graduation Rate
70%
# of Online Degrees
7
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

The University of Iowa offers five online Bachelor's degree programs in Applied Science; Social Work; Business Administration; Liberal Studies; and Nursing. Its online graduate degree programs are in Educational Leadership and Strategic Communication, although its Master's in Nursing is offered primarily online with some face-to-face meetings required.
School Website: 
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4

Ashford University

Tuition/Year
$10,312
Graduation Rate
21%
# of Online Degrees
15
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

Ashford, a national university with a campus in Clinton, Iowa, offers online undergraduate programs through its academic colleges and the Forbes School of Business. It offers Associate's degrees in Education and Military Studies and Master's degrees in Business; Education; Health Care; and Public Administration. It's online Bachelor's degrees are: Behavior Science; Business; Communications; Criminal Justice; Education; Health Care; Information Technology; Liberal Arts; Military Studies; Public Administration; and Science.
School Website: 
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5

Mercy College of Health Sciences

Tuition/Year
$15,040
Graduation Rate
37%
# of Online Degrees
1
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

Mercy College of Health Sciences in Des Moines aims to help students get into the healthcare field. Mercy's online Bachelor's degree program in Health Care Administration is a 122-credit program that prepares students to be a specialist in charge of a clinical department or a manager of an entire facility.
School Website: 
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6

Waldorf College

Tuition/Year
$20,316
Graduation Rate
43%
# of Online Degrees
24
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

Waldorf College is located in Forest City, Iowa, but its extensive online degree programs allow its reach to extend much farther. Waldorf prides itself on offering flexible, affordable online programs, and no ACT or SAT test results are required for enrollment in the online programs. In addition to its Master's online degree program in Organizational Leadership, Waldorf offers an Associate's degree in Liberal Arts, in which students can choose from 14 different concentrations, including Communications; Criminal Justice; Diversity and Inclusion; Emergency Management; Fire Science; Global Leadership; Health Care Management; Homeland Security; Human Resource Management; Leadership Communication; Management; Occupational Safety and Health; Psychology; and Sport Management. Its online Bachelor's degree programs range from Communications and Psychology to Fire Science Administration and Organizational Leadership.
School Website: 
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7

Graceland University-Lamoni

Tuition/Year
$23,530
Graduation Rate
47%
# of Online Degrees
7
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

Graceland University, founded in 1895 and sponsored by the Community of Christ, is steeped in history and has a strong alumni network, but it has embraced the needs of 21st century learners by offering a number of online degree programs. In addition to its online Bachelor's degree program offering a dual major in Business Administration and Organizational Leadership, Graceland offers an online Bachelor's degree program in Nursing and Health Care Management. Its Master's degree programs include Religion; Education; and Nursing. It also offers a doctorate in Nursing Practice.
School Website: 
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8

Upper Iowa University

Tuition/Year
$24,400
Graduation Rate
40%
# of Online Degrees
34
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

Upper Iowa has been offering distance-learning opportunities for its students for nearly 40 years, so it's no surprise that its list of online degree programs is extensive. Upper Iowa University's online Bachelor's degree programs include 24 majors drawn from its colleges of Business; Education; Arts; and Science and Mathematics. It also offers online Master's degree programs in Business Administration, Education; Higher Education Administration; and Public Administration. It's postgraduate online degree programs are in Accounting; Corporate Financial Management; Human Resources Management; and Organizational Development. It also offers Associate's degrees in General Business and Liberal Arts.
School Website: 
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9

Northwestern College

Tuition/Year
$26,764
Graduation Rate
63%
# of Online Degrees
1
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

Northwestern College began offering an online Bachelor's degree completion program in Nursing for nurses who are licensed in Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and Nebraska in 2013. Northwestern also offers a handful of online certificate programs.
School Website: 
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School Interviews

Maureen McCormick

Maureen McCormick, Strategic Communications and Marketing Director for Division of Continuing Education, University of Iowa

Q. Can you tell us a little about the online programs offered at your school?

At the University of Iowa, we feel what distinguishes us is that when we offer courses online, they are the same quality as when those courses are offered on campus. It's the same faculty teaching both courses, so students can be assured they are getting a quality education from a Big 10 university. We have had a distance or continuing education program since the 1920s, and we've grown tremendously in the last 10 years. We work a lot with community colleges in Iowa to transfer in associate degree holders into the University of Iowa. You can transfer in from a community college and have a junior standing. We are also working on adding more online graduate degrees.

Q. What advice would you give to students interested in an online degree program?

People need discipline for an online course, particularly guided online study. They need to keep working toward their goals and have milestones. Some are more effective at that than others. A lot of students in the online degree program are older, and they are working the studies into a very busy schedule, so they need to plan carefully. Our faculty plan an entire course ahead of time, and that allows students to work their schedule around the course.

Q. How do you anticipate online learning changing in the future?

Technology is changing at a fast pace. Virtual technology has changed how online learning is delivered. We will continue to look at the program need areas and interests in a particular discipline and work with the colleges to fill those needs. People are looking for ways to enhance their position in the workplace. As a result, decision making in the nonprofit university arena has become more strategic and focused; we are being much more strategic about what we are offering. People used to take courses for fun, but now degrees are becoming more important. Using mobile apps to reach these prospective students is also becoming more important; about 40 percent of the people coming into our website are coming in from a phone or an iPad. In the future, more people will be learning on mobile devices.


Ralph Napolitano

Ralph Napolitano, Associate Director for Online Learning, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, Iowa State University

Q. How prevalent are online programs at your school?

We have a lot of master's and certificate programs. That's where our demand is right now, but we are looking into expanding our bachelor's degree programs as well. Certificate programs and nonconventional degree programs are in high demand, and we feel that's a good area of focus for us because we can accommodate those needs within our existing structure. By putting together a number of courses and packaging them as certificate programs, and then coupling some certificate programs into a degree program, we can create some stepping stones for our students that lead to a degree. The popularity of these certificate programs is a reflection of the job market today. The market requires that you be a specialist as well as a jack of many trades.

Q. How should students prepare for online programs?

If someone were to call me out of blue and say they were interested in getting an online degree, I would ask how long it's been since they were a student. That's because technology has really changed. If their expected mode of learning is to read a book, listen to a lecture, and take a test, then there will be an adjustment period for them. So I might suggest that they take a free online course or a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) and see how comfortable they are with discussion forums and other online learning features. Test the waters in a low-risk situation to see how comfortable they are with the technology. If they were recently a student and are thinking of going back, then I'd ask about what their needs are: career advancement, lifelong learning, degree completion? There are a lot of different options depending on what your goals are.

Q. What changes do you expect to see in online programs?

Online learning will continue to be integrated and pervasive. I like to say "learning in the online world" because now most classes, even face-to-face classes, have some kind of online component to them. Almost all our courses rely on an online learning management system; it's become a chalkboard from 50 years ago.

What we are seeing is a trend with more and more residential students participating in some level of online enrollment. They may want to work off campus for a semester but need to take a couple of courses so they don't fall behind. Or they may be on campus and they take an online class for the scheduling convenience or because they just prefer an online class. There are a lot of reasons why so many students are selecting at least some online courses to complement their face-to-face classes.

We're also seeing an increase in blended courses, combining face-to-face with online elements. In a flipped classroom, traditional classroom activities like lectures may be delivered online so that class time can be used for discussions or for homework or for other activities that use the time spent with the faculty the most effectively.

Top Cities For Students In Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa

Mean Wage

$45,310

Average Cost of a House

$278,138

# of Employed People

330,500

Total Population

600,000

Avg Salary with a Bachelor's Degree

$50,798

Economics

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 330,500 employed people in the Des Moines metropolitan area, and they earn an average hourly wage of $21.78, which equates to an annual salary of $45,310. Des Moines in the capital of Iowa, and also is a major insurance and financial center. Its top employer is Wells Fargo & Co. The Des Moines area has a Cost of Living Index of 91.8, with home prices averaging $278,138.

Demographics

There are 599,780 residents in the metropolitan area that includes Des Moines, West Des Moines and the neighboring cities of Ankeny and Urbandale. The 350,000 workers living in this area provide about 23 percent of the entire state's workforce.

Fun Facts

Iowa is the only state in the country to be bordered on both east and west by rivers. To the east is the mighty Mississippi and to the west is the Missouri River. Visitors to Des Moines enjoy taking in the gilded domes of the state capital, as well as the State of Iowa Historical Museum and the historic Terrace Hill. Two other popular attractions are the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden and the Science Center of Iowa.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Mean Wage

$44,460

Average Cost of a House

$269

# of Employed People

138,580

Total Population

262,431

Avg Salary with a Bachelor's Degree

$50,855

Economics

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 138,580 workers in the Cedar Rapids metropolitan area, and they earn an average of $21.38 per hour for an average annual wage of $44,460. Cedar Rapids is a major grain processing center, an industry that pays an average of $85,000 annually and employs 4,000 people in the Cedar Rapids area. Home prices average $269, 515 and the Cost of Living Index is 93.3.

Demographics

The metropolitan area of Cedar Rapids provides roughly 10 percent of the state's workforce. In addition to the city's population of 126,326 residents, the surrounding towns of Marion, Hiawatha, Robins, Vinton and Anamosa combine into a metropolitan area of 262,431 residents.

Fun Facts

Cedar Rapids has a thriving arts and culture scene. It is the home of Orchestra Iowa, the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, and the National Czech & Slovack Museum & Library. Many residents and visitors enjoy taking in the baseball games of the minor league Cedar Rapids Kernels, a Class-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.

Davenport, Iowa

Mean Wage

$40,800

Average Cost of a House

$308,369

# of Employed People

180,000

Total Population

383,681

Avg Salary with a Bachelor's Degree

$46,346

Economics

Davenport is part of a vibrant metropolitan region known as the Quad Cities, which is located along the Illinois border and includes the Illinois cities of Rock Island and Moline. There are 180,000 workers living in the area, and they earn on average of $19.61 per hour for an average annual wage of $40,800. The Cost of Living Index is 95.9, and the average cost of a home is $308,369

Demographics

The Quad Cities is actually a group of five cities, including Cedar Rapids and Bettendorf in Iowa and Rock Island, Moline and East Moline in Illinois. The metropolitan area straddles the Mississippi River and has a combined population of 383,361. The U.S. Army's Rock Island Arsenal, and Deere and Company are major employers in the area.

Fun Facts

John Deere has a powerful impact on the economy and culture of the Quad Cities, with the museum at the John Deere Pavilion and the John Deere Harvester Works factory that offers tours. Arsenal Island also offers tours, and the Black Hawk State Historical Site on Rock Island is a must-see for history buffs.

 
Other Iowa Resources

  1. Ashford University, http://www.ashford.edu/degrees.htm
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oessrcst.htm
  3. "C2ER," The Cost of Living Index, http://www.coli.org/
  4. Graceland University, http://www.graceland.edu/academics/graduateonline-programs.cfm
  5. Graceland University notable alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graceland_University#Alumni
  6. Iowa State University, http://www.distance.iastate.edu/programs/colleges
  7. List of University of Iowa alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_University_of_Iowa_alumni
  8. List of Iowa State University people, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Iowa_State_University_people
  9. Maureen McCormick, Strategic Communications and Marketing Director for Division of Continuing Education, University of Iowa, interview with the author May, 2015
  10. Mercy College Distance Education, http://www.mchs.edu/distance-education.cfm
  11. National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
  12. Ralph Napolitano, Associate Director for Online Learning, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, Iowa State University, interview with the author May, 2015
  13. The University of Iowa, http://www.continuetolearn.uiowa.edu/programs/graduate/index.html
  14. Things to do in Des Moines, http://www.catchdesmoines.com/things-to-do/
  15. Upper Iowa University, http://www.uiu.edu/distance/online/
  16. Upper Iowa University Notable Alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upper_Iowa_University#Notable_alumni
  17. University of Northern Iowa Continuing and Distance Education, https://www.uni.edu/continuinged/distance/programs
  18. University of Northern Iowa Notable Alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Northern_Iowa#Notable_alumni
  19. U.S. Census Bureau: American FactFinder, Iowa, http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml
  20. Waldorf College Notable Alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waldorf_College
  21. Waldorf College Online Degree Programs, http://www.waldorf.edu/Online/Academics/Programs-of-Study