Top 10 Nonprofit Online Colleges in Iowa

Finding the perfect college program for you can seem daunting. With more options than ever before, it’s hard for the average student to find the time to sift through every single school and every single degree program. Fortunately, we’ve created a ranking that includes our top nonprofit online colleges in Iowa to help students narrow down their selections. This list has been ordered based upon each school’s tuition rate per credit.

#1. University of Northern Iowa

Established in 1876, the University of Northern Iowa is a public university. With the motto “Light”, the University of Northern Iowa is located in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Originally known as the Iowa State Normal School, the University of Northern Iowa was founded as part of a push by the Iowa Legislature to create a better public education system within the state. By opening Iowa State Normal School, the State of Iowa was able to create a facility that worked to train students to enter into the public education system as teachers. The school operated as a teacher training facility all the way up until 1909, at which point the school began to offer its students the opportunity to pursue college degrees in education. Renamed to Iowa State Teachers College, the University of Northern Iowa was granting degrees for the first time in its history. The degrees proved to be very popular, and Iowa State Teachers College began working towards adding additional degree programs into its curriculum. After expanding its curriculum to include a variety of different degree programs, Iowa State Teachers College was renamed to the State College of Iowa in 1961. This name was short-lived as the school soon added graduate programs and was renamed to the University of Northern Iowa. Today, the University of Northern Iowa is home to almost 9,600 students.

Home of the Panthers, the University of Northern Iowa offers its students a wide selection of degree programs from which to choose. At this time, students at the University of Northern Iowa can select from over ninety different undergraduate programs as well as over fifty graduate programs. Many of these programs are also offered to students entirely online, helping the University of Northern Iowa to earn its place among the top online universities and colleges in Iowa. University of Northern Iowa is a public institution.

Accreditation: University of Northern Iowa is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Tuition: $320/credit

Click here for a list of University of Northern Iowa’s online programs.

#2. Iowa State University

Officially known as Iowa State University of Science and Technology, Iowa State University is a public research university. The largest university in all of Iowa, Iowa State University was first founded in 1858. Two years prior to its establishment, the Iowa General Assembly called for the creation of a new school that would be known as the Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm. Two years later, the Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm was established and a location for the school was picked one year later. Using money provided through the Morrill Act of 1862, the State of Iowa was able to get Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm off to a running start. Established as a coeducational facility, the Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm began accepting its first class of students in 1869. In 1898, it was decided that the school would be renamed to Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts to better reflect the expanded scope of the school’s curriculum. With a name that better communicated that it was more than an agricultural college, Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts saw a surge in enrollment. Continuing to add more variety to its degree programs, the school was renamed once again to Iowa State University of Science and Technology in 1959. Today, the school has grown to enroll nearly 35,000 students.

Students at Iowa State University are able to select from a large catalog of degree programs offered at the school. At the time of this writing, Iowa State University is offering over 100 bachelor’s programs, over 110 master’s programs, and over eighty doctoral programs. A large portion of these programs is also made available to students entirely online, helping secure Iowa State University’s place among the top online universities and colleges in Iowa. Iowa State University is a public institution.

Accreditation: Iowa State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Tuition: $323/credit

Click here for a list of Iowa State University‘s online programs.

#3. University of Iowa

The flagship of the University of Iowa System, the University of Iowa is a public research university. Established in 1847, the University of Iowa is located in Iowa City, Iowa. Founded just after Iowa had received its statehood, the University of Iowa is the oldest public university in the state. Built into the very fabric of the State of Iowa, the University of Iowa was actually part of the Constitution of the State of Iowa. Within that document, the government of Iowa called for the establishment of a state university in Iowa City, Iowa. Legally known as the State University of Iowa, the school has always been most commonly known as the University of Iowa. Over the course of its many decades of operation, the University of Iowa has grown to become one of the most highly regarded institutions of higher learning in the state. Classified as having the Highest Research Activity by Carnegie Classifications, the University of Iowa has been frequently lauded for the quality of its academic programming. Since its founding, the University of Iowa has strived to offer its students a diverse portfolio of academic programs from which to enroll in. At the time of this writing, the University of Iowa has grown to include almost 33,000 students.

Currently, students at the University of Iowa can enroll in over 200 different programs including undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral pursuits. The school also offers many of its programs to students entirely online. By dedicating resources to online learning, the University of Iowa has ranked among our top online universities and colleges in Iowa. University of Iowa is a public institution.

Accreditation: University of Iowa is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Tuition: $324/credit

Click here for a list of University of Iowa‘s online programs.

#4. Northwestern College

With the motto “God is Light”, Northwestern College is a private Christian college. Located in Orange City, Iowa, Northwestern College was first founded in 1882 by Reverend Seine Bolks. After settling in northwest Iowa, Reverend Seine Bolks began plans to establish a new school in the area. Having already helped to establish Hope College in Holland, Michigan, Reverend Seine Bolks had experience in the founding and running of institutions of higher education. Part of the Reformed Church in America, Reverend Seine Bolks partnered with Henry Hospers to form the Northwestern Classical Academy. Using land donated by Hospers, the Northwestern Classical Academy was able to enroll its first class of students in 1894. The Northwestern Classical Academy proved to be very popular among the people of Orange City, Iowa as enrollment at the school tripled in its first year. With the addition of more and more students, the Northwestern Classical Academy began to expand its academic offerings to meet their needs. In 1928, Northwestern Classical Academy added junior college level programs, which then led to the addition of other college programs as time went on. Now known as Northwestern College, the school now is home to a student body of over 1,200 students.

Students at Northwestern College are afforded the ability to select from a sizable catalog of academic programs offered at the school. At the time of this writing, students at Northwestern College can choose from dozens of different undergraduate and graduate programs. Northwestern College also operates a robust online education program. Because of their inclusion of online education into their academic offerings, Northwestern College has ranked among the top online colleges in Iowa. Northwestern College is a private institution.

Accreditation: Northwestern College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Tuition: $325/credit

Click here for a list of Northwestern College‘s online programs.

#5. Saint Ambrose University

A private university, Saint Ambrose University was first established in 1882. Located in Davenport, Iowa, St. Ambrose University began its history as a seminary as well as a commerce school geared towards the youth of Davenport. The brainchild of The Most Reverend John McMullen, DD, Ambrose University was first founded as St. Ambrose Academy. Providing the local members of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Davenport with the opportunity for a higher education, Saint Ambrose Academy soon set its sights on expanding their curriculum. Incorporated in 1885, Saint Ambrose Academy was designated as a “literary, scientific and religious institution”. As the school entered into the 1900s, it was becoming clear that Saint Ambrose Academy’s high school division was beginning to take a back seat to the newly-formed collegiate division. To better communicate this to potential students, Saint Ambrose Academy was renamed to Saint Ambrose College in 1908. Following this change, Saint Ambrose College soon added night school and summer school to their programming. Officially becoming coeducational in 1968, Saint Ambrose College was renamed to Saint Ambrose University in 1987. Now, Saint Ambrose University enrolls over 3,600 students.

With the motto “Faith Learning Justice”, Saint Ambrose University offers its students a wide selection of academic programs from which to select. Currently, students at Saint Ambrose University can choose from over sixty different academic programs offered at the school. Many of these programs are also offered to students entirely online. By dedicating resources to online learning, Saint Ambrose University has ranked among the top Iowa online colleges. Saint Ambrose University is a private institution.

Accreditation: Saint Ambrose University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Tuition: $340/credit

Click here for a list of Saint Ambrose University‘s online programs.

#6. Briar Cliff University

Established in 1930, Briar Cliff University is a private university located in Sioux Falls, Iowa. Briar Cliff University was originally founded as Briar Cliff College by several members of the Sioux City Diocese. Led by Major Superior of the Sisters of Saint Francis of Dubuque, Mother Mary Dominica Wieneke, and Bishop of the Sioux City Diocese, Most Reverend Edmond Heelan, members of the Sioux City Diocese began fundraising for the establishment of a college for Catholic women. After a year of fundraising, the Sioux City Diocese had raised enough money for the establishment of the school. In September of 1930, Mother Mary Dominica Wieneke officially established Briar Cliff College. Named after the hillside at which the school was located, Briar Cliff College admitted its first class of students that same year. Seven years after opening, Briar Cliff College expanded its curriculum from two-year degree programs to four-year degree programs. In 1965, Briar Cliff College began accepting male students into its programs and went coeducational one year later. Briar Cliff College continued to grow throughout the years. By 2001, Briar Cliff College had added graduate-level programming to its course offerings. This resulted in the school being renamed to Briar Cliff University.

Enrolling over 1,300 students, Briar Cliff University offers its student body the opportunity to select from a large catalog of academic programs offered at the school. At the time of this writing, students at Briar Cliff University can choose from over forty different degree programs. A large selection of these programs is also offered to students entirely online, helping earn Briar Cliff University its place among our top online colleges in Iowa. Briar Cliff University is a private institution.

Accreditation: Briar Cliff University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Tuition: $415/credit

Click here for a list of Briar Cliff University‘s online programs.

#7. William Penn University

Located in Oskaloosa, Iowa, William Penn University is a private university. Established in 1873, William Penn University was originally known as Penn College. Founded by the Religious Society of Friends, Penn College was established in order to provide Quakers living in Oskaloosa or nearby the opportunity to gain an education with a Quaker perspective. Penn College was named after William Penn, a notable figure in the Quaker community. Two years after opening, Penn College had graduated its first class. Having a woman as the school’s first graduate, Penn College had established early on its dedication to acceptance and openness to students of all types. After a fire struck the campus in 1916, Penn College was forced to rebuild a brand new campus. Moving to a new location just nearby, Penn College was reopened and classes continued. In 1933, it was decided that the school would be renamed to William Penn College. Over the course of the coming years, William Penn College would continue to grow its academic offerings. Adding more and more degrees for students to select from, William Penn College’s student body grew. Eventually offering graduate programming, William Penn College was renamed to William Penn University in 2000. Today, William Penn University enrolls over 1,000 students.

William Penn University offers dozens of academic programs. A large number of these programs are also offered to students entirely online. By offering these programs online, William Penn University has ranked among the top online universities and colleges in Iowa. William Penn University is a private institution.

Accreditation: William Penn University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Tuition: $425/credit

Click here for a list of William Penn University‘s online programs.

#8. Buena Vista University

Founded in 1891, Buena Vista University is a private college. Located in Storm Lake, Iowa, Buena Vista University was founded as Buena Vista College. Established by the Presbyterian Church, Buena Vista College began as a modest school operating out of a series of buildings along the shores of Storm Lake. Originally located in Storm Lake Opera House, construction soon began on a campus for Buena Vista College. Slowly, Buena Vista College’s campus began to grow along the lakeside. As the campus’ footprint grew, so did the number of students enrolled at the school. Attracting more and more students each passing year, Buena Vista College was able to also expand its curriculum to offer students the different degree programs they desired. Buena Vista College experienced a tragic fire in 1956 which resulted in the loss of the school’s first building, Old Main. However, this loss was followed by a period of great growth after the school received an anonymous donation of $18 million. Using this money to reinvest in the school’s campus, Buena Vista College was able to grow rapidly. By 1995, Buena Vista College had begun to offer graduate programs and was renamed to Buena Vista University. Today, Buena Vista University enrolls over 1,800 students.

Students at Buena Vista University are able to select from a wide variety of academic programs being offered at the school. At this time, Buena Vista University is offering its students over forty different degree programs to choose from. A portion of these programs is made available to students entirely online. This dedication to online learning has helped Buena Vista University to rank among the top online colleges in Iowa.

Accreditation: Buena Vista University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Tuition: $436/credit

Click here for a list of Buena Vista University‘s online programs.

#9. Iowa Wesleyan University

Located in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, Iowa Wesleyan University is a private university. Established in 1842, Iowa Wesleyan University was established by a group of Methodist settlers. After settling in Mount Pleasant, the members of the United Methodist Church began discussions that called for the creation of a school to serve their community. Requesting help from the Iowa Territory Legislature, the group of Methodists was able to persuade the government, and the Mount Pleasant Literary Institute was established. In need of more resources for the school, the Methodists continued to fundraise and seek out donations for the school. Receiving a donation of land from a handful of residents of Mount Pleasant, the Mount Pleasant Literary Institute was starting to take shape. Soon renamed the Mount Pleasant Collegiate Institute, the school started to enroll its first group of students. By 1855, it was decided that Mount Pleasant Collegiate Institute was to be renamed to Iowa Wesleyan University. This name was selected in order to honor John Wesley. John Wesley was the founder of Methodism and was therefore very important to the Mount Pleasant community. Over the coming decades, Iowa Wesleyan University would continue to grow to become one of Iowa’s most highly regarded institutions of higher learning. Now, Iowa Wesleyan University enrolls over 600 students.

With the motto “Learning in Community: An Academic Vision”, Iowa Wesleyan University maintains a large catalog of academic programs for its students to choose from. At the time of this writing, students at Iowa Wesleyan University can choose from dozens of degree programs, many of which are also available online. By offering these programs online, Iowa Wesleyan University has placed among our top online colleges in Iowa. Iowa Wesleyan University is a private institution.

Accreditation: Iowa Wesleyan University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Tuition: $450/credit

Click here for a list of Iowa Wesleyan University‘s online programs.

#10. Upper Iowa University

Established in 1857, Upper Iowa University is a private university. Located in Fayette, Iowa, Upper Iowa University was founded by Elizabeth Alexander. After speaking to her husband about partnering to start an institution of higher learning in their community, Elizabeth Alexander received a donation from their son-in-law and used that money to found a school. Partnering with the United Methodist Church, the school was later opened to its first class of students in 1857 operating under the name of the Fayette Seminary of the Upper Iowa Conference. This name was soon simplified to the school’s current name of Upper Iowa University in 1858. In 1862, Upper Iowa University started offering its students the opportunity to enroll in bachelor’s degree programs. Three years later, Upper Iowa University graduated its first female students. Upper Iowa University then enrolled its first African American student in 1879. Over the coming decades, Upper Iowa University would continue to grow its campus as well as its student body. Adding more and more programs to its curriculum, Upper Iowa University was soon regarded as one of the top institutions of higher learning in the state. Now, Upper Iowa University is home to a student body of over 6,100 students.

With the motto “With God For A Leader”, Upper Iowa University has grown to offer its students many different academic programs from which to enroll. At this time, students can select from over forty different degree programs, many of which are also offered online. Through their dedication to online learning, Upper Iowa University has ranked among the top online colleges in Iowa. Upper Iowa University is a private institution.

Accreditation: Upper Iowa University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Tuition: $454/credit

Click here for a list of Upper Iowa University‘s online programs.

NPCO Staff
February 2019

This has been a ranking of the top nonprofit online colleges in Iowa.