Online Colleges in Iowa

Scroll down to see the top not-for-profit colleges and universities in Iowa offering online degree programs.

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Iowa is the state of hidden opportunity! Community colleges are opening up their online courses to students in the system. Iowa’s Regent universities are developing 2+2 programs and out-of-state partnerships like Great Plains IDEA. And even small private schools are offering a ton of financial incentives and transfer options to distance learners. In our quick guide to choosing an online program in Iowa, you’ll find details and links to all of these initiatives, as well as practical advice on avoiding unaccredited schools.

Online Degrees in Iowa: What to Know

1. How to Find Online Programs in Iowa Community Colleges

Iowa Community College Online Consortium (ICCOC) was created to provide educational opportunities to online students at Iowa’s community colleges (e.g. Eastern Iowa, Iowa Lakes, etc.). You can use the ICCOC’s Online Courses & Programs page to search for a single online course or an entire online program.

In your search, you’ll see that ICCOC offers a number of “shared” online courses—the instructor may be from any college and students from all partner colleges can participate. The Online Courses & Programs section also has info on transferring course credits and a Course Equivalency Guide for anyone considering transferring to a Regent university (see below).

2. How to Find Online Courses & Degrees in Iowa Regent Universities

There are three public universities governed by the Board of Regents, State of Iowa: Iowa State University (ISU), the University of Iowa (UI), and the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). You’ll find links to all of their online degree programs and courses on Iowa Regents Institutions Distance Education (IRIDE).

Through the Iowa Regents Course Sharing Initiative, you’re allowed to take certain online courses at any of the three Regent institutions. However, you will still register and pay for course tuition through your home institution.

3. How to Find Online Graduate Programs in Iowa Universities

The GradCenter (Quad-Cities Graduate Center) is devoted to helping working professionals and adult learners get access to top-quality graduate education. You can use its Program Search to look for online or hybrid programs offered by GradCenter member institutions in Illinois or Iowa. In addition to master’s degrees, the GradCenter catalog includes endorsements, certificates, doctorates, and individual courses.

Want to talk to someone—in-person—about your options? Staff at the GradCenter at Western Iowa University in Moline can also assist with graduate exams (e.g. GRE), professional development opportunities, and more.

Affordable Online Schools in Iowa

It’s pretty tough to earn the title of an Affordable Online School in Iowa! To make it onto our list, the following universities and colleges had to meet stringent criteria for quality, flexibility, price, and use of financial aid money. (You’ll see a CAG score next to their profile in our ranking). If you’re debating between two or three schools, we also recommend you check out the useful statistics on College Scorecard.

  • Iowa State University

    ISU’s Online and Distance Learning website has a full list of its online courses and degrees, including (but not limited to) degree completion programs, non-credit professional development options, and courses in the Iowa Regents Course Sharing Initiative. This site also has a clear breakdown of tuition & fees, as well as links to each School’s distance education arm (e.g. Engineering-LAS Online Learning) and the Office of Student Financial Aid.

    Thinking about human sciences or agriculture? ISU is a member of the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (IDEA), a partnership of 20 regionally accredited public universities across the country. These schools have come together to develop and deliver high-quality online academic programs in those two areas. Students choose a “home” institution, where they apply, enroll in courses, and graduate. But regardless of their location, students only pay the Great Plains IDEA Common Price per credit hour.

  • Mount Mercy University

    Mount Mercy Online has the scoop on all of its online programs, as well as details about its flat tuition rates (there are no additional fees beyond tuition and books). What’s more, the university accepts tuition reimbursement from employers and offers a 10% tuition discount to employees in local organizations (e.g. University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics). Online students are not eligible for institutional scholarships, but they can apply for federal and state financial aid. As a private school, MMU participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program and offers Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to veterans.

    Looking at transfer options? Online undergraduates at MMU can transfer up to 63 credit hours from a two-year institution and up to 93 credit hours from a four-year institution. (Iowa community college students who have earned an associate degree in an approved major may transfer up to 75 credit hours.) MMU also accepts credit from the College Level Examination Program (CLEP), the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES), and Assessment of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) portfolio documentation. Qualifying students may transfer up to 60 CLEP credits and 30 APEL credits.

  • University of Northern Iowa

    UNI at a Distance is the central spot for UNI’s online degree programs and its courses & workshops. Tuition rates vary depending on the program, but most online students are eligible for financial aid. The Admissions section has additional info on how to transfer credits, including details on UNI’s Admissions Partnership Program (APP), which ensures a smooth transition from an Iowa community college.

    But that’s not all! Like a number of public universities, UNI has also developed a 2+2 program for working professionals or parents who want to earn a bachelor’s degree (e.g. 2+2 Elementary Education BA). Without leaving their hometown, 2+2 students can take two years of classes at their local community college and two years of UNI courses (taught by UNI faculty) at either the community college or online.

Online Schools in Iowa with Accreditation & Quality Concerns

Whether you’re considering an online program or an on-campus degree, make sure your Iowa school is fully accredited by an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. National accreditation may apply to distance learning institutions (including for-profits), but regional accreditation is the best choice—especially if you’re trying to transfer credits or seek financial aid.

Fortunately, Iowa doesn’t have as many problems with unaccredited schools & diploma mills as some other states. But here are a few programs that we have flagged for major quality concerns.

  • American World University

    AWU is an unaccredited online school that holds no national or regional accreditations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. It does not appear in the CHEA Database or College Scorecard, and has frequently been called a diploma mill. Its founder was Maxine Asher, a controversial figure who also created the World Association of Universities and Colleges (WAUC) in order to accredit AWU.

  • Ashford University

    Ashford University is a for-profit school based in San Diego and run by Bridgepoint Education. It is regionally accredited by WASC, but it voluntarily resigned its HLC accreditation in December 2013. The Clinton, Iowa campus closed in 2016. We mention Ashford University because it has been the subject of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) investigation, a whistleblower lawsuit, and a U.S. Department of Education audit. In 2016, the CFPB ordered Bridgepoint Education to refund $23.5 million in student loans and pay CFPB an $8 million fine.

  • Kingsway University and Theological Seminary

    Kingsway is a religious university that holds no national or regional accreditations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. It does not appear in the CHEA Database or College Scorecard. On its website, it states that it is a member of the International Association of Bible Colleges and Seminaries. However, this is not an accreditation organization recognized by the DOE.

Iowa Online Education Resources

Accreditation

Distance Learning Resources

  • Iowa College Access Network (ICAN): According to its website, ICAN supports nearly 800,000 students, parents, and education professionals who are preparing for college each year. It also provides one-on-one personal advising sessions in centers around Iowa. If you’re unsure about distance learning, ICAN may be able to help.
  • Iowa College Aid (ICA): ICA’s section on Distance Education/Flexible Learning has a helpful chart of all Iowa institutions (public, private & community colleges) that offer online degree programs and online courses.
  • Iowa Distance Learning Association (IDLA): IDLA is a non-profit association that promotes the development & application of distance learning to education in Iowa. It hosts a symposium, grants distance awards to educators, and provides mini-grants for online initiatives.
  • Iowa Learning Online (ILO): The Iowa Department of Education developed ILO to give Iowa high school students access to high quality online courses. All course teachers are licensed in the State of Iowa with an appropriate endorsement level for the content area being taught. Students can enroll through their local school or district.
  • Transfer In Iowa: Run by the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, this website has some useful advice on how to transfer credits between Iowa community colleges and Regent universities, including details on reverse credit transfers & online degree completion options.

Online Degree & Course Catalogs

School Rankings

1

University of Iowa

The University of Iowa offers undergraduate and graduate degrees that can be completed entirely online. Online bachelor's degrees include a Bachelor of Applied Studies, a Bachelor of Liberal Studies, a Bachelor of Business Administration, a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work, a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, an R.N. to B.S.N. program and an R.T. to B.S. in Radiation Sciences. Online graduate degrees include a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership, an Ed.S. in Educational Leadership (with or without Superintendent Endorsement), a Master of Science in Nursing and a Master of Arts in Strategic Communication. Additionally, the University offers six undergraduate certificates, three graduate certificates and one endorsement program online. Some programs include on-campus requirements. The Master of Science in Nursing, for example, requires a one and half day on-campus session for orientation before beginning the program and a one and half day on-campus session for a capstone project presentation at the end of the program. Online students are eligible for financial aid, including undergraduate scholarships such as the $1,000 B.A.S. and B.L.S. Iowa Community College Transfer Scholarship and the $750 Division of Continuing Education Scholarships.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

2

University of Northern Iowa

University of Northern Iowa offers several degree programs that can be completed entirely at a distance, including bachelor's degree programs in liberal studies and technology management and master's degree programs in art education, early childhood education, elementary education, instructional technology, literacy education, technology, music education, philanthropy and nonprofit development, physical education, professional development for teachers, special education, and teaching English to speakers of other languages. Numerous other degree programs can be completed almost entirely at a distance, although some on-campus visits are required. These programs are available in subjects such as elementary education, educational leadership, social work, public policy, school library studies and science education. Distance education programs at the University use both online learning and a desktop video conferencing system called Adobe Connect. Most online programs are completed in eight-week modules that are offered in the fall and spring. Online students are eligible for financial aid as long as they are enrolled in a degree program and fulfill minimum credit requirements.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

CAG Score 95.5

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

11,928 Students

3

Morningside College

Morningside College offers all of the degrees in its graduate program in education 100 percent online. This includes Master of Arts in Teaching degrees with professional educator, reading specialist and special education concentrations. The College also offers various endorsements online, including English as a second language, middle school, reading, music education, talented and gifted, Instructional Strategist I: K-8, Instructional Strategist I: 5-12, Instructional Strategist II: BD/LD and Instructional Strategist II: ID (MD) endorsements. Additionally, several educational strands, or series of courses in a specific academic topic, are offered online. Strands do not result in endorsement but allow students to gain specialized knowledge in areas outside of their major. Online strands include an athletic directors strand, an autism strand, a music education strand and a teacher leadership strand. Online courses at Morningside College are synchronous and do not require proctored exams. Some programs do, however, require in-person internships which can be completed in a student's local area. Online students enrolled in the College's graduate program in education are eligible for financial aid.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

4

Iowa State University

Iowa State University offers online undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs. Online undergraduate degree options include a Bachelor of Liberal Studies and undergraduate certificates in swine science and occupational safety. Online graduate degree programs include M.S. degrees in agronomy, agricultural education, seed technology and business and plant breeding, M.Ed. degrees in curriculum and instructional technology, community college leadership and educational administration, and Master of Engineering degrees in aerospace engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, engineering management, human computer interaction, industrial engineering, information assurance, civil engineering, mechanical engineering and systems engineering. Other online graduate degrees include a Master of Business Analytics, a Master of School Mathematics, a Master of Science in Statistics, a Doctor of Philosophy in Apparel, Merchandising, and Design, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Hospitality Management. Both doctoral degrees are hybrid programs that include some on-campus requirements. The apparel, merchandising, and design degree, for example, requires one or two on-campus coursework sessions over the summer, and the hospitality management degree requires two on-campus summer sessions that last three weeks each.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

CAG Score 96.3

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

34,435 Students

5

Graceland University-Lamoni

Graceland University has online undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the fields of business, education, health care, and religion. Bachelor of Arts degrees are offered in business administration, organizational leadership, and health care management. Online students who have earned an associate degree can also opt for a dual major in business administration and organizational leadership. Nurses can earn a Master of Science in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice. Nurses with an associate degree or diploma can enroll in the RN to BSN program to complete their Bachelor of Science in Nursing or go from an RN to an MSN. Students seeking a Master of Education can major in curriculum and instruction, differentiated instruction, literacy instruction, management of the quality classroom, special education, technology integration, or instructional leadership. A Master of Arts in Religion is also available. Undergraduate classes are offered in a 100 percent online format and students are never required to come to campus. Graduate students in the School of Nursing are required to attend a two-day focus session held on campus, and seminary students must attend a weeklong program on campus.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

6

Allen College

Allen College offers a Bachelor of Health Science in Dental Hygiene degree that can be pursued online. Students who follow a full-time course of study can expect to earn the degree after two years of continuous enrollment. Part-time students typically graduate from the program within one year. General education credits can be earned from any regionally accredited institution and later transferred towards the dental hygiene degree. A traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is available online, as well as an accelerated RN to BSN program. Allen College also offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program that can be completed partially online. All the required courses for the MSN degree are available in an online format. However, the different tracks have varying residency requirements. The Nurse Practitioner Track, for example, requires students accepted to the program to attend a three-day residency session each year. Since the college cannot guarantee clinical or practicum placements for non-Iowa residents, applicants to any of the online nursing programs who are not residents of the State of Iowa should consult with an academic advisor before enrolling in any course or program.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

7

Northwestern College

Northwestern College offers online programs geared to adult students, especially educators. Online programs include education master's programs and education endorsements, along with a few programs in the field of health care. The college offers Master of Education degrees online in three tracks: early childhood, master teacher, and teacher leadership. Applicants to the M.Ed. program should have an undergraduate degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and a valid teaching license. Students can enter the program at the beginning of any term, so they can start in August, January, or May. Students take one eight-week course at a time, completing two courses per semester. Coursework is delivered in an asynchronous format, so that students can complete the work when it suits them, as long as they meet deadlines. Educators can also earn endorsements in coaching or Endorsement 100: early childhood integrated setting, and a graduate certificate in teacher leadership. Northwestern also has a one-year online graduate certificate in genetics and genomics, which is designed for health care professionals such as therapists, pharmacists and nurses. Nurses with a diploma or associate degree can earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing through the online RN to BSN program.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

8

Dordt College

Dordt College, which was named among the Top 10 schools in the 2017 "Best in the Midwest" rankings compiled by U.S. News and World Report, offers an online option for students interested in earning a Master of Education Leadership degree. The M.Ed. program offers students two options: a 30-credit program with a concentration in teacher leadership and a 36-credit program in school leadership. Both of the concentrations have a small residency requirement - all students must spend a week in July on the campus in Sioux Center, Iowa, when they take a required course covering issues in education. Other classes are offered online in the spring, summer, or fall semester. Students can complete the program in two to three years. The programs are open to certified teachers, although special admission may be granted to applicants who do not want to earn the degree. Candidates in the school leadership program must complete field experiences and are eligible for principal licensure in Iowa after completing work toward the degree.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

9

Saint Ambrose University

There are currently four graduate programs available online from Saint Ambrose University: Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Criminal Justice (MCJ), Master of Education in Education Administration (MEA), and Master of Early Childhood Education (MECE). Courses for these programs are delivered synchronously. Students accepted to the MBA program can expect to earn the degree in just 18 months following a part-time plan of study. Up to nine credit hours (three classes) of master's-level coursework from an accredited program or institution can be transferred towards the degree. The MCJ degree consists of 30 credits and can be completed in one academic year and an intervening summer session. A majority of students however, take two years to earn the degree. The completion of a brief thesis is required for graduation. Although designed as a two-year program, the MEA can be completed within a longer time frame to accommodate the varying schedules of students. The program has three start dates throughout the year. The university's MECE program consists of 33 credits and follows a cohort model of education. The degree can be earned in two years. Students are required to complete a capstone project in order to graduate from the program.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

10

Mount Mercy University

Mount Mercy University offers bachelor's degree-completion programs and a master's degree through online programming. Online classes are delivered in a five-week or ten-week format, and all classes are presented asynchronously so that students never have to log in at a specific time to attend class. Mount Mercy offers an online Master of Arts in Criminal Justice, which is a 33-credit, 18-month program that allows students to customize the curriculum through 18 credits in electives. Undergrads who have completed basic studies requirements can earn a Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A) in Business or a B.B.A. in Human Resource Management online. The college also has an online RN to BSN program for nurses with an associate degree or diploma. Undergrads may be able to gain academic credit by passing certain standardized exams or through an assessment of a prior learning portfolio. Undergrads may transfer up to 93 credit hours, and graduate students may transfer up to nine credits. Undergrads can enter their program of study at the start of any five-week term. Grad students can enter the criminal justice program in August or February.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

CAG Score 94.9

  • Advanced Placement Credit
  • DSST Credit
  • CLEP Credit
  • ROTC Program

1,762 Students

11

University of Dubuque

The programs offered by the Learning Institute for Fulfillment and Engagement (LIFE) at the University of Dubuque are specifically designed for adult learners and follow a blended delivery system. Applicants must be at least 23 years of age and have three or more years of work experience. Students can earn up to 15 credits a year with online courses and can graduate with a bachelor's degree in just three years. With the guidance of the LIFE director, students can develop an individually-designed major that supports and meets their academic and professional goals. The business administration major offers the following concentrations: accounting, human resource management, marketing, and general business. The Bachelor of Science degree in health care administration offered at LIFE is a degree completion program designed for students who already have an associate's degree or an accredited certificate in a related field. Several courses for the Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program are also available online. The university offers a Master of Arts in Christian Leadership degree comprised of 30 graduate-level credits that can be completed entirely online. Students who pursue this program on a full-time basis (nine credits per semester) can graduate with the degree in just one year.

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

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