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Best Online Colleges in Iowa

By OnlineU Staff | Updated 2/18/2020
2020 Best Online Colleges in Iowa Badge

The schools on this list represent Iowa's best online programs, based on affordable tuition rates and median alumni salaries. At the top of the list is Maharishi International University, offering an online Bachelor’s in Applied Arts & Sciences and Bachelor of Arts in Wellness and Integrative Health. Graduates from MUM boast an impressive mid-career salary of $96,900. For those seeking an online degree in business, #6-ranked Graceland University offers several degrees in business administration and leadership at the affordable annual tuition rate of $10,950.

Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about OnlineU.

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RankSchool Annual Tuition Mid-Career Salary
# 1 #1 Maharishi International University $16,000 $96,900
# 2 #2 Iowa State University $10,080 $89,200
# 3 #3 University of Iowa $30,036 $88,100
# 4 #4 St. Luke's College $17,550 $84,300
# 5 #5 Northwestern College - IA $5,025 $76,300
# 6 #6 Graceland University $10,950 $73,800
# 7 #7 Allen College $16,983 $72,500
# 8 #8 Saint Ambrose University $12,352 $67,800
# 9 #9 Buena Vista University $14,432 $66,800
# 10 #10 Mercy College of Health Sciences $18,150 $67,000
# 11 #11 Clarke University $33,600 $68,100
# 12 #12 Upper Iowa University $14,130 $64,300
# 13 #13 Grand View University $12,462 $62,300
# 14 #14 Iowa Wesleyan University $13,050 $58,100
# 15 #15 Briar Cliff University $6,225 $56,400
Salary data provided by Payscale Logo

Online Colleges in Iowa Ranking Details

For each school, we conducted manual research to provide prospective students with more details about the schools' online programs. Explore online degrees offered and accreditation information below.

#1 Maharishi International University

  • Annual Tuition: $16,000
  • Median Salary: $96,900
  • Locations: Fairfield
  • Accreditation: HLC

Maharishi University of Management offers online bachelor’s degree programs in applied arts and sciences and Ayurveda wellness and integrative health, as well as master’s degree programs in Maharishi Vedic science, Maharishi Ayurveda and integrative medicine, SAP finance, sustainability measurement and reporting, sustainable business, and screenwriting (the latter of which is earned through the renowned David Lynch MFA program). Many noncredit online courses are also available in various subjects such as spirituality, health, cooking, and environment, and many of these courses are available via free videos. The school provides a downloadable and free informational packet to new and prospective students, and FAQs and quick fixes are available online for IT troubleshooting.

#2 Iowa State University

  • Annual Tuition: $10,080
  • Median Salary: $89,200
  • Locations: Ames
  • Accreditation: HLC

Iowa State University offers online undergraduate degrees in early childhood education and programming and liberal studies. Graduate degrees are also available in agricultural education, agronomy, community development, plant breeding, seed technology and business, business analytics, community development, veterinary preventive medicine, and multiple concentrations in engineering, education, philosophy, and family and consumer sciences. Student resources include the ISU library, tutoring and writing centers, additional instructional sessions, an academic success center, and the Iowa State Information Technology Services (ITS) for on-demand technological troubleshooting, web conferencing, and online training. ISU services for online students also include help with admissions, scheduling classes, registration, financial aid, career services, and other student-related issues.

#3 University of Iowa

  • Annual Tuition: $30,036
  • Median Salary: $88,100
  • Locations: Iowa City
  • Accreditation: HLC

The University of Iowa offers a number of degrees that can be completed online, such as bachelor’s degrees in applied studies, enterprise leadership, political science, liberal studies, sport and recreation management, nursing, and radiation sciences, as well as master’s degrees in health administration, business administration, educational leadership, educational measurement, strategic communication, business analytics, nursing, STEM education, social work, and teaching, leadership, and cultural competency. Students can also seek a doctorate in nursing practice. UI offers 617 distance and online courses to date, and multiple student success stories can be found on the university’s website. Resources for online students include technical support, assistance with test proctoring, and scholarships for distance learners.

#4 St. Luke's College

  • Annual Tuition: $17,550
  • Median Salary: $84,300
  • Locations: Sioux City
  • Accreditation: HLC

Students attending St Luke’s College can seek online bachelor’s degrees in nursing (RN-BSN) and health science. Links to resources and other necessary academic information are available throughout the course so online students are not deprived of any of the same benefits their in-person classmates will receive. While students are expected to provide their own technology, all services offered to on-campus students are also extended to online students. Netlearning is the school’s online learning platform, and students can work individually or as a group as their coursework demands. Over 2,800 St Luke’s alumni are currently placed in healthcare jobs all across the United States.

#5 Northwestern College - IA

  • Annual Tuition: $5,025
  • Median Salary: $76,300
  • Locations: Orange City
  • Accreditation: HLC

Northwestern College - Iowa offers several fully online degrees, including bachelor’s degrees in nursing (RN-BSN) and early childhood, and master’s degrees in education in the following concentrations: early childhood, educational administration, master teacher, special education, and teacher leadership. They also offer two fully online certifications (coaching authorization and teacher leadership graduate) and several education endorsements. Online student resources include an online bookstore, a school blog, a school podcast, and enrollment counselors, as well as an interactive and virtual tour of the campus. NWC is a Christian school, affiliated with the Reformed Church in America. Nearly 90% of NWC students earn their degrees in four years or fewer, and the college’s job placement rate is 98%.

#6 Graceland University

  • Annual Tuition: $10,950
  • Median Salary: $73,800
  • Locations: Lamoni
  • Accreditation: HLC

Graceland University offers a number of undergraduate degrees that can be completed online, including bachelor’s degrees in business administration, organizational leadership, and nursing (RN to BSN). Students can also seek an online dual major in business administration and organizational leadership. Master’s degrees in the fields of nursing (RN to MSN and FNP & AGACNP concentrations), religion (or seminary), and education (with concentrations in literacy instruction, special education, and instructional leadership), and a doctorate in organizational leadership are also available online. Undergraduate students do not need to attend on-campus classes, but graduate students pursuing nursing and seminary programs are required to attend on-campus classes at certain times. Graceland, which uses the Brightspace learning platform, offers 24/7 technical assistance to students.

#7 Allen College

  • Annual Tuition: $16,983
  • Median Salary: $72,500
  • Locations: Waterloo
  • Accreditation: HLC

Students attending Allen College can seek online degrees in medical imaging, medical laboratory science (blended), public health (health care leadership), and nursing. A master’s degree in nursing and a doctorate in education are also available. Distance students may need special approval to take online courses and attend practicums or clinicals if they live outside of Iowa. Allen College utilizes Blackboard as its online learning platform. Through Blackboard, students can receive help with time management, study skills, test-taking strategies, and more. Students also have access to the library, which offers a wide variety of online journals and other electronic offerings. Individualized consideration, which is important to the reputation of the college, keeps its student enrollment number hovering around 500.

#8 Saint Ambrose University

  • Annual Tuition: $12,352
  • Median Salary: $67,800
  • Locations: Davenport
  • Accreditation: HLC

Saint Ambrose University, a private Catholic institution, offers many online undergraduate and graduate programs. Bachelor’s degrees are available in applied management studies, business administration (general and accounting), and nursing (RN-BSN). Graduate degrees are available in criminal justice, business administration, and public health. Among Saint Ambrose’s benefits are 12 to 1 class sizes, flexible online programs, competitive rates for tuition, and a collaborative online environment that has the feel of attending in-person classes. Blackboard is the school’s online learning platform and students have access to the school library, which has its own online database. Also, the online IT department is available to students and faculty alike. The university boasts that 90% of their 2016-2017 undergraduates were either employed, attending a graduate program, or providing service to their communities six months after graduation.

#9 Buena Vista University

  • Annual Tuition: $14,432
  • Median Salary: $66,800
  • Locations: Storm Lake
  • Accreditation: HLC

Buena Vista University offers the online opportunity to major in accounting, applied studies, BASc applied management, business (with a concentration in financial decision making, marketing, or sport business), criminology and criminal justice, general – distributive major, health services leadership, human services, and organizational leadership. Students can also seek an online master’s degree in organizational leadership, education (with a concentration in special education or teacher leadership, curriculum, and instruction). Classes begin six times a year to allow for flexibility and are only eight weeks in length to provide students with a quicker path to degree completion. Those who attended community college at one of BVU’s partner institutions can transfer over all of their credits.

#10 Mercy College of Health Sciences

  • Annual Tuition: $18,150
  • Median Salary: $67,000
  • Locations: Des Moines
  • Accreditation: HLC

At Mercy College of Health Sciences, students can choose between nursing (RN to BSN) or healthcare administration degrees, both of which can be obtained through fully online classes. Desire2Learn (D2L) is MCHS’s online learning management system. Students are encouraged to work at their own pace, as teachers can make all course materials available at once or create weekly assignments. D2L offers a Learning Object Repository that includes an extended bank of resources for students. While students may need to participate in a preceptorship, including face-to-face meetings with and shadowing of a professional healthcare worker, this is usually arranged to take place at a location near the student’s home.

#11 Clarke University

  • Annual Tuition: $33,600
  • Median Salary: $68,100
  • Locations: Dubuque
  • Accreditation: HLC

Clarke University offers students the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing as well as a master’s degree in education, through fully online classes. Their Grow Your Own Leadership Design (GOLD) Pathways program, which leads to a Master of Arts in education with an instructional leadership emphasis, is designed for local K-12 teachers and includes a combination of classes that are taught by the local school district and CU. Several of the available degrees also offer hybrid programs for students, which allow for in-person classes in addition to online homework. Clarke is a Catholic-based institution named for Mary Frances Clarke who founded the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. According to the school, Clarke was listed among 36 of the nation’s Catholic colleges where students earned the highest starting salaries post-graduation.

#12 Upper Iowa University

  • Annual Tuition: $14,130
  • Median Salary: $64,300
  • Locations: Fayette
  • Accreditation: HLC

Upper Iowa University offers a plethora of online degree programs. Students can receive associate degrees in criminal justice, general business, liberal arts, or psychology; bachelor’s degrees in graphic design, liberal arts, sociology, accounting, business administration (with multiple concentrations) communication (with multiple concentrations), criminal justice, emergency and disaster management, financial management, health services administration, human resources management, human services, information systems, information technology, management, marketing, psychology, public administration (with multiple concentrations), nursing (RN to BSN), social science, or software engineering; or master’s degrees in business administration, education, public administration, or sports administration (all of which allow for multiple concentrations). Academic support services include online library resources, tutoring through Zoom and NetTutor, online reading and writing help, and counseling services.

#13 Grand View University

  • Annual Tuition: $12,462
  • Median Salary: $62,300
  • Locations: Des Moines
  • Accreditation: HLC

Grand View University offers multiple degree concentrations, allowing its students to tailor their degrees to their specific interests and career goals. Their online degree program includes bachelor’s degrees in business (business administration, human resource management, management, and marketing), criminal justice, liberal arts, marketing (business administration – marketing), nursing (RN-BSN), organizational studies, paralegal studies (paralegal studies, public administration, and business & human resource management), political studies, psychology, theology, and undecided. Students can also receive a master’s degree in organizational leadership. Services for online students include math placement testing, tutoring services in math and writing, academic advising, and book buybacks at the campus bookstore. Grand View also has multiple social media pages for alumni and current students to connect with the school and with each other.

#14 Iowa Wesleyan University

  • Annual Tuition: $13,050
  • Median Salary: $58,100
  • Locations: Mount Pleasant
  • Accreditation: HLC

Iowa Wesleyan University's online degree program includes bachelor’s degrees in business administration (accounting, applied science, criminal justice, health care management, human resource management, human services, logistics and supply chain management, and management), criminal justice (general, cybersecurity, and homeland security), human services, and nursing (RN-BSN). Students can also seek master’s degrees in management leadership or curriculum instruction. The school offers six terms a year lasting eight weeks each, so students can always find a convenient time to begin. Courses are taught by individuals with practitioner experience. Employees of partner institutions as well as military personnel are given discounts on tuition. Services include online academic advising, technical support, and writing assistance from the online tutoring center. Canvas is the school’s online learning platform.

#15 Briar Cliff University

  • Annual Tuition: $6,225
  • Median Salary: $56,400
  • Locations: Sioux City
  • Accreditation: HLC

At Briar Cliff University, online degree completion programs are available in six different disciplines: accounting, business administration, health sciences, nursing (RN-BSN), operations management, and social work. The school is known as the Catholic Franciscan Learning Place and its Franciscan Life Online course, which offers a history of the school and its foundations, is available to help students learn more about the school’s traditions. Briar Cliff University also offers a slew of online and mobile resources for students, including counseling services, career development, and a writing center. The school’s staff works with students to apply previous knowledge and coursework toward their degrees, resulting in lower tuition cost and quicker time to completion.


This website offers school details to prospective students as an informational resource. The appearance of a school listing on this website should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the school by this site.

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