dcsimg

Online Colleges in Iowa

Most Affordable Online Colleges
Article Sources

Sources:

  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oessrcst.htm
  2. "C2ER," The Cost of Living Index, http://www.coli.org/
  3. Graceland University, http://www.graceland.edu/academics/graduateonline-programs.cfm
  4. Graceland University notable alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graceland_University#Alumni
  5. Iowa State University, http://www.distance.iastate.edu/programs/colleges
  6. List of University of Iowa alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_University_of_Iowa_alumni
  7. List of Iowa State University people, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Iowa_State_University_people
  8. Maureen McCormick, Strategic Communications and Marketing Director for Division of Continuing Education, University of Iowa, interview with the author May, 2015
  9. Mercy College Distance Education, http://www.mchs.edu/distance-education.cfm
  10. National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
  11. Ralph Napolitano, Associate Director for Online Learning, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, Iowa State University, interview with the author May, 2015
  12. Regional Accrediting Organizations 2016-2017, Council for Higher Education Accreditation, accessed January 2017, http://www.chea.org/Directories/regional.asp
  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
  22. Iowa College Aid - Loan Repayment Programs, Accessed April 2017, https://www.iowacollegeaid.gov/content/loan-repayment-programs
X

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.

Affordable Online Colleges in Iowa

The following list presents schools in Iowa that offer online degrees at low tuition costs. 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.

Affordable Four-Year Online Colleges in Iowa

1

University of Northern Iowa

Accredited
 
Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$6,648
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
21.40%
Institution Type
Public

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: 
GO
2

Iowa State University

Accredited
 
Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$6,648
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
15.94%
Institution Type
Public

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: 
GO
3

University of Iowa

Accredited
 
Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$6,678
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
41.45%
Institution Type
Public

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: 
GO
4

Mercy College of Health Sciences

Accredited
 
Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$16,268
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
65.53%
Institution Type
Private

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: 
GO
5

Waldorf College

Accredited
 
Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$19,804
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
67.57%
Institution Type
Private

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 degree in Liberal Arts, in which students can choose from 14 different concentrations, including Communications; Diversity and Inclusion; Emergency Management; Fire Science; Global Leadership; Health Care Management; Homeland Security; Human Resource 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: 
GO
6

Graceland University-Lamoni

Accredited
 
Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$25,420
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
99.48%
Institution Type
Private

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: 
GO
7

Upper Iowa University

Accredited
 
Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$27,323
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
75.51%
Institution Type
Private

About

Upper Iowa has been offering distance-learning opportunities for nearly 40 years, and its list of online degree programs is extensive. Their 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 degrees in General Business and Liberal Arts.

School Website: 
GO
8

Northwestern College

Accredited
 
Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$28,750
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
24.79%
Institution Type
Private

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: 
GO

College Accreditation in Iowa

As students review their college choices in Iowa, they should also check into whether those colleges are properly accredited. A number of accrediting organizations exist to ensure the quality of educational programs and institutions. Among these, regional accrediting bodies offer what is often considered the gold standard within academia.

Each state has least one regional accrediting body approved by the Department of Education. In Iowa, regional accreditation is provided by the following organization:

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

Colleges in Iowa may also have accreditation from other organizations for specific degree programs. However, if a college or university isn't accredited by the HLC, students should double-check the institution's credentials. In particular, check to make sure other accreditations listed by a school are also recognized by the government.

School Interviews

Maureen McCormick
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.

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
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.

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 non-conventional 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.

Financial Aid in Iowa

Iowa Loans

Students seeking financial aid assistance in Iowa are encouraged to first apply for scholarships and grants to help cover their cost of tuition, as these awards do not need to be paid back. Iowa does not offer any state-based loans to students, though they do provide some loan repayment incentives for those in particular fields, such as Nursing and Education. If you are still in need of financial assistance, you may apply for federal and private loans to help defer your tuition costs. To qualify for federal loans, you will need to provide information about your family's financial situation by filling out the FAFSA. Learn more about student loans in the Ultimate Guide to Student Loans.

Additional Resources for Financial Aid in Iowa

Featured Cities in Iowa

The 2015 American Community Survey (census.gov) provides the data on the following metropolitan areas.

Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA Metro Area

Total Population

601,187

Median salary for high school grads

$30,348

Median salary with a bachelor's degree

$52,187

% of the population enrolled in college or grad school

23.7%

Median rent

$802

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, IA Metro Area

Total Population

263,003

Median salary for high school grads

$30,356

Median salary with a bachelor's degree

$51,429

% of the population enrolled in college or grad school

26.3%

Median rent

$682

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-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL Metro Area

Total Population

383,145

Median salary for high school grads

$28,002

Median salary with a bachelor's degree

$47,119

% of the population enrolled in college or grad school

25%

Median rent

$686

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.

 
Article Sources