To be included in our ranking of the best colleges for online degree programs, all colleges had to meet the following five criteria:
- Be an accredited U.S. institution
- Offer either 2- or 4-year degree programs
- Have at least 1 percent of students taking at least some of their classes via distance education
- Be active in the 2015-16 school year
- Report data for all 15 specific ranking variables included in our methodology
We then ranked the remaining 2,169 colleges and universities and scored each on a 100-point scale on these specific. Our data points include:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- The average amount of federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid awarded to undergraduate students, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Full-time Retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students participating fully or partially in distance education to total enrollment, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- No. of degree programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2013-14
- Open admissions policy for all or most entering first-time undergraduate-level students, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Dual credit
- Credit for life experience
- Advanced Placement credit
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Offers credit for military training
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Institute for Research on Higher Education. (2016). College Affordability Diagnosis: Idaho. Philadelphia, PA: Institute for Research on Higher Education, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania.http://www2.gse.upenn.edu/irhe/affordability-diagnosis
- U.S. Census, "QuickFacts: Iowa," July 1, 2018, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/ia/PST045218
- "10 Questions to Ask Before Selecting an Online University," Military.com, accessed Jan. 30, 2019,https://www.military.com/education/finding-a-school/10-questions-to-ask-before-selecting-an-online-university.html
- Institute for Research on Higher Education, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania, "College Opportunity Risk Assessment: Iowa," accessed Jan. 30, 2019, https://irhe.gse.upenn.edu/sites/default/files/College-Opportunity-Risk-Assessment-2018-IDAHO.pdf
- CollegeNavigator, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed Jan. 30, 2019,https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=IA
- Young, Jeffrey R. "Do Online Courses Really Save Money? A New Study Explores ROI for Colleges and Students," EdSurge, April 12, 2018, https://www.edsurge.com/news/2018-04-12-do-online-courses-really-save-money-a-new-study-explores-roi-for-colleges-and-students
- Iowa College Student Aid Commission, "State Grants & Scholarships," accessed Jan. 30, 2019,https://www.iowacollegeaid.gov/financialaid
- National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, "Iowa," accessed Jan. 30, 2019,https://www.nc-sara.org/states/IA
- Iowa State University, "Online Learning," accessed Jan. 30, 2019,http://www.celt.iastate.edu/teaching/teaching-format/online-learning/#qm
- Idaho State University, "Quality Matters at ISU," accessed Jan. 29, 2019, https://www.isu.edu/itrc/quality-matters-at-isu/
- Iowa Community College Online Consortium, "About the ICCOC," accessed Jan. 30, 2019,http://www.iowacconline.org/about-iccoc
- University of Northern Iowa, "Quality Matters," accessed Jan. 30, 2019, https://continuinged.uni.edu/faculty/operational-procedures-online-courses/quality-matters
Iowa, located right in the middle of the country, known for its cornfields and rural, small-town way of life, may not be immediately known as a destination for higher education Yet it is home to 88 postsecondary institutions and has a rate of higher education attainment that surpasses the national average. Its unemployment rate is low and its economy is growing.
Iowa still has a long way to go, however. Its college attainment rates are relatively high, they're nowhere near where they need to be in order to meet the state's needs. And because of the rural nature of the state, physical proximity to college programs is often a barrier for students.
This is where Iowa colleges that offer online degree programs have the potential to make a difference for students. This guide to online degrees in Iowa can help you to understand the top programs available in Iowa, how they might help you reach your goals and much more.
Why Earn an Online Degree in Iowa?
In July 2017, The Future Ready Iowa Alliance reported that by 2025, 68 percent of all jobs in Iowa may require education beyond high school. The organization set forth a goal of 70 percent of Iowa's workforce ages 25-64 having education beyond high school by 2025. Currently, the state's postsecondary educational attainment is 58 percent — higher than many states, but definitely not high enough to address employers' needs. In fact, 99 percent of U.S. jobs that have been added since 2010 have gone to people with at least some postsecondary education.
Plus, higher education usually correlates to higher salaries. The median annual income for Iowa's full-time workers ages 25-64 with just high school diplomas was $35,000, whereas it jumps to $42,000 with an associate degree and to $60,015 with a bachelor's degree. Meanwhile, unemployment rates drop with each additional level of education.
Why earn a higher education online? In a state that's nearly at the bottom of America's list for its residents' physical proximity to degree-granting institutions, Iowa colleges that offer online degree programs bring the education people seek right to where they live, at times that work with their existing schedules and, frequently, at a lower cost. A study by Arizona State University found that, on average, online classes save students anywhere from $12 to $66 per credit hour.
Top Online Colleges in Iowa
To help you in your search for online degrees in Iowa, we've developed this ranking that looks at important factors such as program availability, tuition and more.
Top Online Degree Programs in Iowa
The National Center for Education Statistics provided valuable data to help us develop this list of the top online degree programs in Iowa.
Quality of Online Education in Iowa
As online colleges in Iowa look to grow and make more programs available to students in order to meet the state's needs, they're keeping a close eye on quality to ensure that students receive relevant, rigorous education. At the state level, Iowa is a member of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), an agreement among states to maintain consistent standards of content and quality of online programs, and to streamline regulations and costs, which benefits out-of-state students wishing to earn their degrees in Iowa. An impressive 45 institutions of higher education in Iowa are subscribers to the standards of SARA.
At the institutional level, many schools have committed internally to maintaining high levels of quality. Schools such as Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa, have adopted the Quality Matters program for quality assurance and continuous improvement of online courses. And Iowa Community College Online Consortium (ICCOC) is a partnership of seven community colleges in Iowa that have come together to establish and maintain high standards of quality, student support services, information delivery and accountability of online programs.
What to Look for in Online Degree Programs in Iowa
Preparing for an online education in Iowa is dependent on your specific needs. Whether you're working full time or have time to take a full load of classes, and whether you are starting as a brand-new college student fresh out of high school or returning to complete a degree you started years ago, you'll have to weigh your own educational interests against a host of other factors. Here are a few things to consider:
- Accreditation: The accreditation process is an important part of assuring a school's rigor and commitment to maintaining and growing quality. It's also critical in receiving federal financial aid, so it's essential that you find it.
- Program offerings: Does the school you're considering offer the area of study you're seeking? Does it offer this education at the degree level you need? If you're pursuing licensure in your field, can it be obtained through this program?
- Student support: For many students, especially those who have been away from school for a while or are unfamiliar with online learning, a high level of interaction, student support services and feedback may be crucial to success, so they should seek colleges that offer online students plenty of help.
- Credits transfer: Students who want to take advantage of online education in Iowa, but are concerned about how well these course credits transfer, can look into articulation agreements in place throughout the state. "Iowa made it very easy for Iowa students to take a class throughout the community college system, and know those credits can apply at any of the other colleges, as well as 4-year institutions with articulation agreements," says Mark Brodsky, CEO of Adapt Courseware, an online curriculum resource. The "Transfer In Iowa" program can help students learn more.
Top Occupations in Iowa
Many online colleges in Iowa develop programs in line with the state's employment needs. Following is a list of the top occupations in Iowa, drawn from Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Number of Workers
|Office and Administrative Support Occupations||217,850||$37,520|
|Sales and Related Occupations||154,650||$36,040|
|Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations||132,460||$23,020|
|Transportation and Material Moving Occupations||119,970||$38,320|
|Education, Training, and Library Occupations||106,430||$52,360|
|Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations||87,560||$73,450|
|Business and Financial Operations Occupations||70,240||$65,810|
|Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations||67,290||$47,200|
|Construction and Extraction Occupations||66,840||$46,670|
|Personal Care and Service Occupations||52,570||$26,430|
|Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations||47,000||$28,610|
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Iowa
Currently, students who need help affording online colleges in Iowa should make it their first priority to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is essential for receiving federal grants and scholarships and which most grant and private scholarship administrators require.
The state's financial aid offerings include the following programs:
- All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship: This state-funded scholarship is for high school seniors who reside in Iowa, plan to attend eligible Iowa colleges or universities (including through online programs), are first-time college freshmen, complete the FAFSA and enroll for at least three semester hours, among other requirements.
- Iowa Tuition Grant: This grant is for Iowa residents enrolled at Iowa's private colleges and universities who demonstrate financial need.
- Iowa Vocational-Technical Grant: Like the Tuition Grant, this program is for Iowa students entering the state's community colleges in career or technical education programs.
- Kibbie Grant (Iowa Skilled Workforce Shortage Tuition Grant): This award is for Iowa residents entering career or technical education programs at the state's community colleges, in specified eligible fields that have high workforce demands.
Other need-based and merit-based programs exist for students in specific circumstances. Students should consult with the Iowa College Student Aid Commission to learn more.
Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-19 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.
Tests You May Need To Take
Iowa does not at this time require that incoming college students complete one required college entrance exam in order to apply for online colleges. Depending on the school in which a student is interested, students may be asked to submit SAT and/or ACT scores, additional placement test scores or even no tests at all. Consult your prospective school for details.