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Online Colleges in Minnesota

Most Affordable Online Colleges
Top Minnesota Cities
School Interviews
Lynn Johnson
- Interim Director of Distance Learning, Bemijdi State University
"Bemidji State University currently has 11 undergraduate completion programs, 3 grad programs and 2 grad certificates that are offered entirely online."
See entire interview

Introduction

Minnesota is an economic powerhouse. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state supported more than 2.5 million workers in 2013 across diverse industries. The mean annual wage for all workers that year was $47,370, well above the national average. As of July, 2014, its statewide unemployment rate of 4.5 percent was one of the lowest in the nation.

What's Minnesota's secret? At least part of its economic success can be credited to its highly educated workforce. According to data from both the U.S. Census and the nonprofit Lumina Foundation, an impressive 47.7 percent of working-age Minnesotans held college degrees in 2012, including associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees. Not only did this figure represent faster-than-average growth over the previous year's rate, but also eclipsed the national average of 39.4 percent. Still, Lumina warns even these impressive trends may not be enough.

Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce projects that by 2025, a full 60 percent of U.S. jobs will require a college degree. If Minnesota's higher education attainment continues to climb at the current rate, it will fall just short of meeting this demand. In other words, the state needs still more college educated workers. Online education, which makes higher education more convenient and accessible for many students, can be a key part of the state's solution.

Minnesota is a pioneer in online education, and it has the record to prove it: Minnesota scored an "A" for innovation in online learning from the 2012 "Leaders & Laggards" report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce due to its efforts in promoting online options at postsecondary schools. The Minnesota Office of Higher Education counts nearly 200 public and private institutions statewide, and many of these now offer online courses or full online degrees. The University of Minnesota, which launched its first online course in 1996, hosts over 30 fully online programs through its Digital Campus.

As one of dozens of schools partnering with the popular massive open online course (MOOC) platform Coursera, the University of Minnesota extended higher educational access to students from all across the globe, and at no charge. Students enrolled in MOOCs do not traditionally earn college credit for their work, but the platform cultivates both professional and personal enrichment among students who would otherwise be unable to attend college.

Many national online colleges also offer degree programs to students in Minnesota. Some even have physical locations in the state, which may offer hands-on training or blended learning opportunities. ITT Technical Institute is one of the national colleges that have campuses in Minnesota.

For students who want a broad overview of online options in the state, Minnesota Online is a comprehensive directory of online programs from schools within the Minnesota State College and Universities system. The site offers course listings, financial aid advice, demo courses and much more.

Most Affordable Colleges in Minnesota

The following list ranks schools in Minnesota that offer online degrees at the lowest tuition costs. This ranking is based on a number of factors that are important to prospective students such as the actual degree programs that are taught online, and information on tuition fees, accreditation and notable alumni. Tuition figures are sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics (2013-2014) 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

St Cloud Technical and Community College

Tuition/Year
$5,301
Graduation Rate
28%
# of Online Degrees
8
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

St. Cloud State University is a public university and one of the largest in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. According to its official website, SCSU's online courses are just as high-quality and rigorous as those offered on campus. Another unique program: SCSU's off-campus programs, which allow students to complete most coursework online and the remainder (mostly hands-on labs) at centers all across the state.
School Website: 
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2

Metropolitan State University

Tuition/Year
$6,642
Graduation Rate
34%
# of Online Degrees
12
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

Founded in 1971, Metropolitan State University is younger than many schools featured on this list, but it aims high, with a goal to serve 20,000 students a year by the year 2020. One of the ways it hopes to accommodate students is through flexible course options, which includes several online degree programs. Even campus-based students can take advantage of online courses, both through MSU specifically and through Minnesota Online, which is a collaboration of online courses managed by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System.
School Website: 
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3

Minnesota State University-Mankato

Tuition/Year
$7,557
Graduation Rate
49%
# of Online Degrees
14
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

Minnesota State University in Mankato is a large public university based in Mankato, which is located about 75 miles from the Twin Cities. It strives to serve students from all across the state, both through various satellite campuses and an ever-growing catalog of online degree programs.
School Website: 
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4

Bemidji State University

Tuition/Year
$8,124
Graduation Rate
48%
# of Online Degrees
12
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

Bemidji State University is a public university located near the shores of Minnesota's Lake Bemidji. Part of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, BSU was founded in 1919 as a teaching school. It has since grown considerably both in terms of its program offerings and the size of its student body, which include enrollees from all across the globe. The college continues to invest more in its already thriving online course catalog. Students can earn degrees in areas like business, engineering, nursing, education and criminal justice from the comfort of home while still having access to many of the same student support services afforded campus-based students.
School Website: 
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5

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

Tuition/Year
$13,555
Graduation Rate
75%
# of Online Degrees
21
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

The University of Minnesota's Digital Campus launched its first online course 1996. As of 2013, the school offered online courses to more than 36,000 students. Options included enrollment in 30 fully online degree and certificate programs and another 20 blended programs with what the school calls a "significant" online component. The school offers a number of additional web-based tools that support online learners, including digital "active learning classrooms" and eTextbooks.
School Website: 
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6

Concordia University-Saint Paul

Tuition/Year
$19,700
Graduation Rate
46%
# of Online Degrees
17
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

This St. Paul-based Lutheran liberal arts university was founded in 1893, and, thanks in part to its emphasis on adaptability through technology, continues to serve nearly 3,000 students each year. Students can earn undergraduate and graduate degrees in a number of subjects entirely from home, all while still having access to many of the same support services available to campus-based students, including academic and career counseling. Key disciplines include business, communications, nursing, education, criminal justice and more.
School Website: 
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7

Crown College

Tuition/Year
$22,430
Graduation Rate
56%
# of Online Degrees
15
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

Crown College is a private Christian college located in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. According to its official website, it also happens to consistently rank among the nation's "Top Online Programs" and "Top 10 Online Christian Colleges," as ranked by U.S. News & World Report and other publications. Students can earn entire Associate and Bachelor degrees entirely online, or combine online and campus-based courses.
School Website: 
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8

University of Northwestern-St Paul

Tuition/Year
$28,020
Graduation Rate
68%
# of Online Degrees
NA
Accredited
 
School Type
4-Year

About

The University of Northwestern in St Paul is another small, private Christian college that extends its reach considerably through online education. Students can complete three online undergraduate degrees in Biblical Studies, and six online master's degrees in a diversity of disciplines, including Education, Human Services and Business. Bonus: High school students can enroll in the school's "Early College" program, which allows them to earn college credit online while attending school.
School Website: 
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School Interviews

Lynn Johnson

Lynn Johnson, Interim Director of Distance Learning, Bemijdi State University

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

Bemidji State University currently has 11 undergraduate completion programs, 3 grad programs and 2 grad certificates that are offered entirely online.

BSU typically offers nearly 500 online courses each academic year. This spring, 260 courses were offered online, and 239 are scheduled to be offered online this fall.

Bachelor's degree completion programs are offered in accounting; applied engineering; biology; business administration; criminal justice; elementary education; marketing communication; nursing; psychology; social work and technology management. BSU refers to these programs as a 2+2 option; the first two years of an undergraduate program can be completed on campus at BSU or by transferring in with an Associate of Arts degree from a two-year college, and the final two years of the program can be completed entirely online or through a combination of online and on-campus courses.

BSU offers online graduate programs in business administration (MBA); a Master of Arts in teaching, which begins this fall; a Master Of Science in education; and a Master Of Special Education. It offers online licensures in FasTrack post-baccalaureate secondary teaching; health; special education: emotional behavioral disorders; and special education: specific learning disabilities. BSU also offers online certificates in camp nursing (and is one of the only programs in the nation offering camp nursing at the graduate level) and in online teaching.

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

I try to help students understand that online courses can take more discipline than on-campus courses, because it will be up to the student to make the time to log in each day and complete assignments, etc. There is not as much accountability to "go to class," so it does become a matter of scheduling time to be online.

Also, it's harder to "hide" in an online course. Discussions are posted so the instructor is able to see who is participating and who hasn't logged in for a few days. Online courses require active participation; this can surprise some students who think it might be an "easy" way to take course.

Q. How do you anticipate online learning might evolve in the coming years?

I expect online programs will continue to evolve into blended programs when possible, where students and faculty have the chance to interact in person or via video/live chat/streaming media at least a couple of times during each class. Students indicate this interaction, even a couple of times each course, helps them connect to their faculty and other students. They do appreciate the opportunity to meet occasionally, even while they need the flexibility to complete most of their work online and asynchronously.

Top Cities For Students In Minnesota

Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington Metropolitan Area, Minnesota

Mean Wage

$51,050

Average Cost of a House

$342,280

# of Employed People

1.8 million

Total Population

3,175,000

Avg Salary with a Bachelor's Degree

$53,085

Economics

Together Minneapolis and St. Paul make up Minnesota's famous Twin Cities, and are part of the state's largest metropolitan area. It is also a thriving economic center: The BLS reports that as of 2013, the district supported nearly 1.8 million workers in a plethora of industries, including Trade, Transportation and Utilities; Education and Health Services; and Professional and Business Services. The BLS reports that the mean annual wage for workers in the region was $51,050 in May, 2013, which is well above both the statewide and national averages that same year. The Cost of Living Index is 108.2, with home prices averaging $342,280.

Demographics

The Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metro was home to an estimated 3,175,000 people in 2013, and according to the BLS, supported a full 4.7 percent of the state's total workforce as of July, 2014. This share only grows when one accounts for commuters from surrounding communities, like St. Cloud, Red Wing and Northfield.

Fun Facts

The City of St. Paul calls its city the "Most Livable City in America," thanks to its local economy and cultural vitality. It is also home to several Fortune 500 company headquarters, not to mention a number of historical and cultural landmarks. In 2013, The Huffington Post published an article applauding the Twin Cities for their healthy residents, naming the region the "most active metropolitan area" in the nation.

Duluth, Minnesota

Mean Wage

$40,700

Average Cost of a House

NA

# of Employed People

123,000

Total Population

274,000

Avg Salary with a Bachelor's Degree

$41,927

Economics

The BLS considers Duluth Minnesota's second largest metropolitan region, though it remains significantly smaller than the Twin Cities metro. As of May, 2013, the BLS estimated that Duluth supported more than 123,000 workers. Mean regional earnings that year were $40,700, or a bit under the statewide average. The region's largest industries by employment, as of July 2014: Education and Health Services; Trade, Transportation and Utilities; and the Government.

Demographics

An estimated 274,000 people called Duluth home in 2013, though its economy draws commuters from across St. Louis, Douglas and Carlton counties.

Fun Facts

Duluth is situated on Lake Superior, which is the largest freshwater lake in the world, and according to the website "Visit Duluth", was once home to more millionaires (per capita) than any other city in the world. It was also once named one of the top four Midwestern small cities in the nation by Money Magazine, based on sheer livability. Many of its restaurants, parks and museums are accessible by an extensive, climate-controlled skywalk downtown.

Rochester, Minnesota

Mean Wage

$

Average Cost of a House

NA

# of Employed People

100,000

Total Population

110,742

Avg Salary with a Bachelor's Degree

$51,528

Economics

Rochester is Minnesota's third-largest economic center. It is just a touch smaller than Duluth, statistically speaking, but according to the BLS, still supported more than 100,000 workers in 2013. The region's largest industries, as of July, 2014: Education and Health Services; Trade, Transportation and Utilities; Manufacturing; and the Government.

Demographics

The U.S. Census estimates that as of 2013, 110,742 lived in Rochester proper. Of residents age 25 and over, 42.7 percent held at least a Bachelor's degree that year.

Fun Facts

Rochester is a Midwestern mecca of arts and culture thanks to its Rochester Art Center, the Rochester Symphony, Chateau Theater and more. Perhaps Rochester's best known legacy, however, is its world-famous Mayo Clinic, which not only trains and supports surgeons and physicians from all across the world, but contributes thousands of dollars each year to medical research.

 
Other Minnesota Resources

There are a number of resources prospective students researching online colleges in Minnesota may find helpful. Minnesota Online is an online directory of web-based courses and degree programs offered through the large, public Minnesota State Colleges & Universities system. The Minnesota Office of Higher Education offers additional resources to now-and-future college students, including key information on college readiness and financial aid. While all the colleges featured in our list provide plenty of information about their programs on their websites, it is important to remember that tuition, program options and accreditation status can change. We suggest contacting schools directly to learn more.


  1. About Saint Paul, City of Saint Paul, http://www.stpaul.gov/index.aspx?NID=2219
  2. American FactFinder, United States Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce, 2012, http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/community_facts.xhtml
  3. A Stronger Minnesota through Higher Education, Lumina Foundation, 2014, http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/downloads/pdfs/minnesota-brief-2014.pdf
  4. Bemidji State University, http://www.bemidjistate.edu/academics/distance/
  5. Concordia University St. Paul, http://online.csp.edu/
  6. Crown College, http://www.crown.edu/online/
  7. Duluth Facts, Visit Duluth, http://www.visitduluth.com/about/duluth_facts.php
  8. Economy at a Glance: Minnesota, Bureau of Labor Statistics, July, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.mn.htm
  9. Lynn Johnson, Interim Director of Distance Learning, Bemijdi State University, interview with the author May, 2015
  10. May 2013 Metropolitan Area and Wage Estimates: Duluth, MN-WI, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_20260.htm
  11. May 2013 Metropolitan Area and Wage Estimates: Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_33460.htm
  12. May 2013 Metropolitan Area and Wage Estimates: Rochester, MN, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_40340.htm
  13. May 2013 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: Minnesota, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_mn.htm
  14. Metropolitan State University, http://www.metrostate.edu/msweb/explore/col/courses_programs.html
  15. Minnesota State University in Mankato, http://www.mnsu.edu/ext/online/
  16. Online Learning, Minnesota Department of Education, http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/StuSuc/EnrollChoice/Online/
  17. State & County QuickFacts: Minnesota, U.S. Census Bureau, 2013, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/27000.html
  18. St. Cloud State University, http://www.stcloudstate.edu/continuingstudies/distance/
  19. "What The Twin Cities Can Teach Us About Living Well," Huffington Post, November, 18, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/18/minneapolis-health-happin_n_4213678.html
  20. The University of Minnesota, http://digitalcampus.umn.edu/programs/
  21. University of Northwestern, https://www.unwsp.edu/web/online-programs/online-programs