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Guide to Online Colleges in Iowa

COLLEGE FINDER

Article Sources

Sources :

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oessrcst.htm
  • Iowa Department of Education, Iowa.gov, Accessed November 2018, https://educateiowa.gov/
  • Accreditation, St. Ambrose University, Accessed November 2018, https://www.sau.edu/about-sau/at-a-glance/accreditation
  • "C2ER," The Cost of Living Index, http://www.coli.org/
  • Graceland University, http://www.graceland.edu/academics/graduateonline-programs.cfm
  • Graceland University notable alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graceland_University#Alumni
  • Iowa State University, http://www.distance.iastate.edu/programs/colleges
  • IRIDE, University of Iowa, Accessed November 2018, http://www.continuetolearn.uiowa.edu/iride/
  • List of University of Iowa alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_University_of_Iowa_alumni
  • List of Iowa State University people, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Iowa_State_University_people
  • Maureen McCormick, Strategic Communications and Marketing Director for Division of Continuing Education, University of Iowa, interview with the author May, 2015
  • Mercy College Distance Education, http://www.mchs.edu/distance-education.cfm
  • National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
  • Ralph Napolitano, Associate Director for Online Learning, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, Iowa State University, interview with the author May, 2015
  • Regional Accrediting Organizations 2016-2017, Council for Higher Education Accreditation, accessed January 2017, http://www.chea.org/Directories/regional.asp
  • Target Industries," Iowa Area Development Group, Accessed November 2018, http://www.iadg.com/iowa-advantages/target-industries.aspx
  • The University of Iowa, http://www.continuetolearn.uiowa.edu/programs/graduate/index.html
  • Things to do in Des Moines, http://www.catchdesmoines.com/things-to-do/
  • Upper Iowa University, http://www.uiu.edu/distance/online/
  • Upper Iowa University Notable Alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upper_Iowa_University#Notable_alumni
  • University of Northern Iowa Continuing and Distance Education, https://www.uni.edu/continuinged/distance/programs
  • University of Northern Iowa Notable Alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Northern_Iowa#Notable_alumni
  • U.S. Census Bureau: American FactFinder, Iowa, http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml
  • Waldorf College Notable Alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waldorf_College
  • Waldorf College Online Degree Programs, http://www.waldorf.edu/Online/Academics/Programs-of-Study
  • Iowa College Aid - Loan Repayment Programs, Accessed April 2017, https://www.iowacollegeaid.gov/content/loan-repayment-programs
  • Waldorf University: Residential & Online Degree Programs, Accessed April 2018, https://www.waldorf.edu/
  • Upper Iowa University Undergraduate & Graduate Programs, Accessed April 2018, https://uiu.edu/
  • Northwestern College, Accessed April 2018, https://www.nwciowa.edu/
  • St. Ambrose University, Accessed April 2018, https://www.sau.edu/
  • UI tightens rules for out-of-state students seeking in-state tuition, Jeff Charis-Carlson, February 11, 2017, Iowa City Press-Citizen, Accessed November 2018, https://www.press-citizen.com/story/news/education/university-of-iowa/2017/02/11/university-of-iowa-requirements-out-state-in-state-students-resident-tuition/97745120/
  • Frequent Asked Questions, University of Northern Iowa, Accessed November 2018, https://admissions.uni.edu/veterans/frequent-asked-questions
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Whether you're in Des Moines or a more rural part of the state, Iowa's online colleges can provide you with the flexibility to earn an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree around your work schedule or family responsibilities. Having a degree in hand may also help you meet the entry requirements for a job in one of the state's growing industries, like IT and communications, advanced manufacturing, or renewable energy.

Here's a closer look at online colleges in Iowa.

  • Associate degree programs can be found at 32 online schools in Iowa, while bachelor's degree programs are available at 30 schools, and master's degree programs are offered at 26 schools.
  • The public college that has the greatest number of online programs is Iowa State University.
  • The private colleges with the most online degree programs are Kaplan University-Des Moines Campus and Kaplan University-Davenport Campus.
  • While offerings vary from school to school, most schools offer degree programs that focus on topics such as business management, education, psychology, finance, and human resources.

Iowa has provided distance learners with a convenient option thanks to the Iowa Regents Institutions Distance Education initiative. IRIDE, a collaboration between the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa, provides information about programs for all three online universities in one location.

If you're searching for the best online colleges in Iowa, keep reading. We've also listed the most affordable online schools in the state as well as financial aid resources, including Iowa-specific scholarships and loan repayment incentives.

What Makes a Good Online College?

OnlineColleges.com uses carefully selected criteria to create our rankings, displaying the best online colleges in Iowa by multiple metrics. All of the schools included in our rankings are accredited by an official agency such as the Higher Learning Commission. For information on the importance of accreditation, check out our "What is College Accreditation?" page. To learn more about accreditation specific to Iowa, visit the Iowa State Department of Education.

Students can use our rankings to determine the right online college in Iowa for their needs and preferences. Our rankings display various factors of each school, including ratio of students participating in distance education, average in-state tuition and total electronic library collections. Take a look at the "What Makes a Good Online College?" section on our "About Us" page to find out why we believe the factors we use in our rankings can help students make an educated decision.

Best Online Colleges in Iowa for 2018-19

If you're considering earning an online degree from an Iowa college or university, you have a number of options from which to choose. Your decision should be made with research and care, and as such, we put together this ranking of the top online colleges in Iowa, using data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Alternately, you can use our Top Colleges Tool to organize a ranking of online colleges based on your own criteria. The methodology for our rankings can be located at the bottom of the page.

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Methodology
1

Kaplan University-Davenport Campus

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$14,263
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.
100%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
114
School Type
4-year

*NOTE: Kaplan University has merged with Purdue University Global since this list was made. Please contact Purdue Global University-Davenport to learn whether the merged school can still fulfill your needs.

Kaplan University opened in 1937 as the American Institute of Commerce in Davenport, Iowa. Over the years, Kaplan has grown into a nationwide institute dedicated to distance education and small class sizes.

Kaplan's Davenport campus offers dozens of fully online associate, bachelor's and master's degree programs in various business, legal, health and technology fields, as well as a fully online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. The university is transfer-friendly, often accepting credits from prior institutions, military training and eligible work and life experiences.

2

Iowa State University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$8,636
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.
19%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
25
School Type
4-year

Founded in 1858, Iowa State University is a public, land-grant university with several famous alumni, including the inventor George Washington Carver. The university offers a variety of fully online graduate degree programs, as well as a similarly online undergraduate program in liberal studies. Online graduate programs include fields such as education, agriculture and engineering. Nearly all online courses at IA State are delivered through the Canvas learning management system, and may be available in synchronous, asynchronous, or cohort-style formats.

IA State's distance learners can electronically access the ISU Library's materials and services to aid them in their studies. Further assistance may be had from the university's Academic Success Center, Tutoring Center and/or Student Assistance and Career Services.

3

Buena Vista University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$32,854
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.
53%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
18
School Type
4-year

Buena Vista University became the nation's first "wireless community" in 2000 by giving its students and staff laptops connected to the campus-wide wireless network. The university's passion for innovation has continued with its offerings of graduate and undergraduate online degree programs, ranging from psychology and human services, to accounting, management and finance.

The school allows students to choose from six different course start dates throughout the year, helping students to start their eight-week-long classes when it is convenient for them. BVU also accepts 100 percent of associate degree transfer credits from its community college partners -- a major benefit for transfer students interested in the university.

4

Graceland University - Lamoni

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$28,110
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.
64%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
15
School Type
4-year

A university sponsored by the Community of Christ and founded in 1895, Graceland University has been offering 100 percent online programs to its students since 2000. Online options at Graceland include several Master of Education programs, bachelor's programs in areas such as business and criminal justice, and various programs in the fields of nursing and health care.

Online students can connect with their instructors via email, by phone and in the discussion areas of the online course itself. The Frederick Madison Smith Library offers an extensive online catalog of resources to assist online learners in their studies. The university also accepts approved transfer credits from hundreds of other accredited colleges.

5

Briar Cliff University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$29,786
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.
39%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
13
School Type
4-year

Briar Cliff University was founded as a Catholic women's college by Mother Mary Dominica Wieneke and Most Reverend Edmond Heelan as they overlooked a 175-foot hill covered in briar patches, hence the institution's name. Briar Cliff has been growing ever since, nurturing its students with fully online degree completion programs in accounting, nursing, health sciences, social work and more.

In many situations, the university awards credits for prior work if applicable. This may include transfer credits for previous college coursework, or credits for real-life work and volunteer experience. Students may also be able to test out of certain subjects or courses by taking CLEP exams.

6

University of Northern Iowa

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$8,699
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.
22%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
16
School Type
4-year

The University of Northern Iowa offers several online bachelor's and master's degree programs, as well as a handful of programs with hybrid delivery. Fully online bachelor's degree offerings include criminal justice, technology management and tactical emergency services with vulnerable populations. The university's online master's degree programs are also available in a range of education fields, such as public policy and philanthropy.

UNI's dedicated Office of Continuing and Distance Education exists to support distance learners. The office maintains a team of support specialists to help with technical issues, and a series of tutorials and guides to assist with students' eLearning needs.

7

Waldorf University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$21,664
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.
78%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
37
School Type
4-year

Waldorf University was founded in 1903 after "The Great Hotel War of Forest City" heated up between two first-class hotels. When one of the businesses lost the battle and shut down, the Norwegian Lutheran founders of this university jumped at the chance to move into the vacant location.

In addition to the school's unique history, Waldorf U offers its students the opportunity to pursue online degree programs at the associate, bachelor's and master's degree levels, as well as 15-credit hour certificate programs. Coursework is delivered through the Blackboard learning management system and the myWaldorf student portal, and is presented alongside the Lutheran principles the school was founded on.

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools

Location:

106 S. Sixth St.,
Forest City, IA 50436
 
8

Upper Iowa University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$29,600
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.
51%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
44
School Type
4-year

Delivering course content in a way that busy nontraditional learners can take advantage of is nothing new for Upper Iowa University. In 1973, the school established its Self-Paced Degree Program -- one of the first self-paced distance degree programs in the United States -- which allowed students to complete their studies on their own time, through written assignments that were conducted by mail.

In the years since, the process has evolved, and UIU's online students are able to enroll in self-paced undergraduate degree programs that are either paper- or web-based. The school offers five eight-week class sessions throughout the year -- as well as six-week sessions during the summer months -- so students can begin their coursework at a time that works with their schedule.

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission

Location:

605 Washington St.,
Fayette, IA 52142
 
9

Northwestern College

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$30,200
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.
35%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
4
School Type
4-year

Founded in 1872, Northwestern College was originally designed to prepare students for ministry in the Reformed Church in America. While the school has evolved to offer a range of other degree programs, several of them available online -- such as early childhood education, special education, nursing and educational administration -- its instruction is still based on its Christian roots.

Online courses at Northwestern are offered in eight-week sessions with multiple start dates throughout the year. Coursework is delivered through the learning management system Blackboard. Furthermore, various continuing education events are available at Northwestern throughout the year, presenting opportunities for students to earn CEUs, graduate credit or teaching licensure renewal credit.

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools

Location:

101 Seventh St SW,
Orange City, IA 51041
 
10

Saint Ambrose University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$30,016
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.
20%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
4
School Type
4-year

Affiliated with the Diocese of Davenport, Saint Ambrose University was founded in 1882 and is based in Catholic tradition. That tradition is still present in the school's academic programs, which encourage students to use their education to pursue their life's purpose -- whether they are traditional students on campus or adult learners earning their degrees online.

Through programs on the bachelor's and master's level, SAU allows students to take coursework in a completely online or in a hybrid format, depending on the program. In addition, online students can access multiple services to help them succeed in their programs, such as tutoring, study groups and supplemental instruction.

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission

Location:

518 W. Locust St.,
Davenport, IA 52803
 

Affordable Online Colleges in Iowa for 2018

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.

If there is a different way you'd like to see Iowa's online colleges ranked, you can make it happen by using our Top Colleges Tool.

  • School Type - 2 Years
  • School Type - 4 Years
  • COLLEGE NAMETUITION & FEES/YEAR
    Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
    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.
    NUMBER OF ONLINE PROGRAMS OFFERED
    Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics..
    SCHOOL WEBSITE
    Indian Hills Community College$4,08044%6indianhills.edu
    Western Iowa Tech Community College$4,20043%16witcc.edu
    Des Moines Area Community College$4,53029%13dmacc.edu
    Kirkwood Community College$4,58634%3kirkwood.edu
    Ellsworth Community College$4,65650%1ecc.iavalley.edu
  • COLLEGE NAMETUITION & FEES/YEAR
    Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
    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.
    NUMBER OF ONLINE PROGRAMS OFFERED
    Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics..
    SCHOOL WEBSITE
    Shiloh University$4,510100%15shilohuniversity.edu
    Iowa State University$8,63619%25iastate.edu
    University of Northern Iowa$8,69922%16uni.edu
    University of Iowa$8,96529%12uiowa.edu
    Kaplan University-Davenport Campus$14,263100%114kaplanuniversity.edu

Financial Aid Resources in Iowa

1.Iowa Scholars Award
Type : Scholarship
Criteria:
Applicant must be an Iowa resident with rank in top 15% of secondary school class.
Award Amount
$500
Application Deadline
March 1 (Priority)
Renewable
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 2.7 GPA and full-time enrollment, and does not receive any other scholarship of equal or greater value.
Yes
Repay Required?
No
School Specific Scholarship?
Yes
Application URL
2.Masonic Scholarship Program
Type : Scholarship
Criteria:
Applicants must be pursuing a post-secondary education in any state at an institution which provides a two-year or four-year college program or vocational training. They do not need to have a Masonic connection. Selection is based on academic record, communication skills and financial need, but the most important is service to school and community with an emphasis on leadership roles. Finalists will be asked to appear before the committee for personal interviews.
Award Amount
$2,000
Application Deadline
February 1
Renewable
No
Repay Required?
No
School Specific Scholarship?
No
Application URL
3.Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior ...
Type : Scholarship
Criteria:
Applicant must be a high school senior in Iowa who plans to attend college next fall. To qualify, applicant must complete two online financial literacy tutorials and an online financial literacy assessment. The applicants who score the highest on the assessment test will receive a scholarship sent directly to their college or university.
Award Amount
$2,000
Application Deadline
February 16
Renewable
No
Repay Required?
No
School Specific Scholarship?
No
Application URL
4.Keeler Scholarship
Type : Scholarship
Criteria:
Applicant must be an Iowa resident who satisfies two of the following criteria: ranks at least in the top ten percent of their high school class; is a member of the National Honor Society; or has a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher.
Award Amount
$10,000
Application Deadline
February 1
Renewable
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 2.0 GPA.
Yes
Repay Required?
No
School Specific Scholarship?
Yes
Application URL

Student Loans in Iowa

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

Costs for Out-of-State Student in Iowa

Iowa attracts plenty of out-of-state students from across the country to its nationally recognized institutions like Iowa State University and The University of Iowa. Even smaller, regional schools can be popular with non-resident students from neighboring Illinois and other states.

However, non-residents will need to budget extra for out-of-state tuition. Iowa is one of the few states in the nation that doesn't participate in a regional tuition exchange program. That means there are limited options for non-residents to reduce their tuition costs.

You could qualify for in-state tuition by:

  • Moving to Iowa 12 months prior to the start of classes
  • Taking fewer than six credit hours per semester while working at least 30 hours a week until achieving residency status
  • Enrolling in the Iowa National Guard

As part of proving your Iowa residency, schools will look for indications that your move to the state was for more than merely higher education purposes. They will want to see if you registered to vote, pay taxes and have your vehicle licensed in Iowa.

If you decide to attend full-time as a non-resident, look for scholarships that can offset the cost of out-of-state tuition. Your college admissions officer might be able to help.

Below are some links outlining the classification of out-of-state students in Iowa.

 
Article Sources
Methodology

Using the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), we generated a list of colleges and universities that met the following criteria:

  • Level of institution is either "Four or more years" or "At least 2 but less than 4 years"
  • Data is reported for all 11 ranking variables listed in the Methodology section
  • At least 1 percent of students are taking at least some of the classes via distance education
  • "Number of programs offered via distance education" was an integer greater than 0

We ranked the resulting 1,813 colleges on 11 criteria, using provisional 2016-17 data from IPEDS:

  1. Number of programs offered via distance education
  2. Ratio of students participating fully or partially in DE to Total Enrollment
  3. Average in-state tuition for undergraduates
  4. Total electronic library collections, including digital books, databases, and media
  5. Graduation rate
  6. Retention rate
  7. The availability of any tuition plans (Payment, Guaranteed, Other)
  8. Services (Academic/Career, Placement for Completers)
  9. Credit offerings (Dual, Life, AP, Military)
  10. Percent of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid
  11. Average amount of federal, state, local, institutional, or other sources of grant aid awarded to undergraduate students

All schools were scored on a 10-point scale for each of the points listed above. Individual data point scores were then multiplied by their respective weights, and the scores were added together, for a maximum possible score of 10 points.

NOTE: Schools' tuition amounts are based on 2016-17 undergraduate and graduate data reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.

Methodology Sources

  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
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