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/
- ACT Scores, Minnesota Office of Higher Education (MOHE), accessed Feb. 27, 2019, http://www.ohe.state.mn.us/dPg.cfm?pageID=792
- APM Research Lab, Differences and Common Ground: Urban and Rural Minnesota, Ground Level, American Public Media, January 2018, www.americanpublicmedia.org/wp…/01/gl-survey-urban-rural-brief-1-22-18R.pdf
- College Navigator: Minnesota, Institute for Education Studies, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed Feb. 27, 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=MN
- Distance Minnesota, accessed Feb. 27, 2019, https://distanceminnesota.org/app/home
- Educational Attainment Goal 2025, MOHE, accessed Feb. 27, 2019, https://www.ohe.state.mn.us/mPg.cfm?pageID=2187
- Fiorella Gallia, "New Initiative to Help Adult Learners Get Back in the Classroom and Complete Their College Degree," press release from MOHE, Oct. 10, 2018, http://www.ohe.state.mn.us/mPg.cfm?pageID=2324
- Jeffrey R. Young, "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
- Minnesota Online Quality Initiative, accessed Feb. 27, 2019, https://minnesota.qualitymatters.org/about-us/
- MOHE, Educating for the Future 2018 Annual Report, December 2018, https://www.ohe.state.mn.us/pdf/EducatingfortheFuture2018_final.pdf
- Office of Governor Walz & Lt. Governor Flanagan, Budget for One Minnesota, accessed Feb. 27, 2019, https://www.ohe.state.mn.us/pdf/Education_Budget_Fact_Sheet.pdf
- Paul Cerkvenik, "Call for improving education outcomes for more Minnesotans," Minnesota Private Colleges, January 2019, https://www.mnprivatecolleges.org/newsletter/january-2019-newsletter/call-improving-education-outcomes-more-minnesotans
- Paying for College, MOHE, accessed Feb. 27, 2019, https://www.ohe.state.mn.us/mPg.cfm?pageID=888
- "Questions You Should Ask When Choosing an Online Program," NC-SARA, accessed Feb. 26, 2019, https://www.nc-sara.org/studentquestions
- Sandy Connolly, "Modest Gains but Gaps Persist in Annual Attainment Report," press release from MOHE, Jan. 22, 2019, http://www.ohe.state.mn.us/mPg.cfm?pageID=2342
- Sandy Connolly, "$1 Million in Scholarships Available for Adult Students Returning to College," press release from MOHE, April 24, 2018, http://www.ohe.state.mn.us/mPg.cfm?pageID=2304
- State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), MOHE, accessed Feb. 27, 2019, https://www.ohe.state.mn.us/mPg.cfm?pageID=2149
- The Importance of Accreditation, Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, accessed Feb. 27, 2019, http://www.acics.org/students/content.aspx?id=4320
Minnesota, is the second most highly educated state in the nation with 124 postsecondary institutions inside its boundaries, and 54 percent of Minnesotans having obtained a postsecondary credential. Numerous measures are enacted to broaden access to college and increase student retention.
But there's still plenty of work to do. The state's workforce growth has slowed significantly in recent years, and in many areas of the state there are serious worker shortfalls that can only be filled by more highly educated workers.
Meanwhile, a large percentage of the state's population is rapidly aging out of the workforce. And more than one-third of its residents live in rural areas, though only 10 of the state's colleges and institutions are rurally located, meaning that a great many residents don't have physical access to college education.
Online education in Minnesota is increasingly helping to solve these problems, meeting the needs of more students while addressing workforce gaps. Keep reading to find out why online degrees in Minnesota make great sense.
Why Earn an Online Degree in Minnesota?
Minnesota is consistently ranked among the best states for business, but as industries grow and jobs are added, there's growing concern over who may fill them. It's predicted that by 2020, Minnesota may need 74 percent of its workforce to have at least some college education. Though the current rate of 54 percent is high, it's certainly not high enough to fill what experts are predicting could be an unprecedented shortfall of adequately educated workers, which is why the state has set forth a goal of having 70 percent of its adults ages 25-44 possess postsecondary credentials by 2025.
There's never been a better time to explore online degree programs in Minnesota. Lawmakers have recently made huge investments in education, boosting funding for public colleges and universities to expand their offerings, online and on campus; boost technology infrastructure; and increase grant funding. Currently, 101 of Minnesota's colleges and universities offer online courses.
Online degrees in Minnesota open up options to prospective students juggling work and family obligations or living in underserved rural areas by enabling students to complete their studies from anywhere with an internet connection, at times that work with any schedule.
Plus, online programs are more affordable, on average, than traditional programs (with savings ranging from $12 to $66 per credit hour), and they tend to lead to higher incomes. The Minnesota Office of Higher Education (MOHE) reported that in 2015, among Minnesotans ages 25 and older, the median income with only a high school diploma was $31,311 per year. That increased to $36,845 with some college or an associate degree; and increased to $51,601 with a bachelor's degree.
Top Online Colleges in Minnesota
Whether you're a graduating high school senior or an adult in the workforce looking to complete a degree or enhance your skills, you'll have a unique set of requirements that online degree programs in Minnesota may need to meet. To assist in your search, we've put together this list of the top 10 Minnesota colleges that offer online degree programs, factoring in criteria such as number of online programs, level of student support, tuition and more.
Top Online Degree Programs in Minnesota
The quantity and popularity of online degree programs can often indicate where the greatest job growth and employer demand is in the state. The following are currently the top online degree programs in Minnesota, according to National Center for Education Statistics data.
Quality of Online Education in Minnesota
Students considering online degrees in Minnesota should know that the state has a strong commitment to online course quality. It has a statewide subscription to Quality Matters, which provides professional development, a set of rubrics and a course peer review process to ensure quality and continuous improvement in its online and blended courses. This subscription extends to the entire Minnesota State College and University System, the University of Minnesota and the Department of Education.
The state also participates in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), a compact among states that establishes national standards for the interstate offering of postsecondary distance education courses and programs.
Additionally, some schools within the state have stepped up to ensure a greater level of quality and engagement in the online student experience. Distance Minnesota is an online higher education consortium of four member schools — Alexandria Technical and Community College, Northland Community and Technical College, Northwest Technical College and Bemidji State University — whose mission is to provide a satisfying, effective, affordable online college experience. As part of fulfilling this mission, members can provide a deep level of support with registration, books and materials, career exploration, technical assistance, enhancement of learner success, improved connections between programs and career goals, and much more.
What to Look for in Online Degree Programs in Minnesota
Of course quality is essential in any program you consider, but your unique needs and goals must also be taken into consideration. Where do you start?
Begin by determining whether any school of interest is accredited. Accreditation is a voluntary process that requires rigorous self-examination and an independent, objective peer review of its educational quality. Plus, the federal government, states, and institutions require it for financial aid awards and recognition of degrees.
Next, look at your prospective schools and ask yourself these questions, suggested by the National Council for SARA:
- What are your academic and professional goals, and will this program meet them?
- What does the program expect of you, with regard to your commitment of time and activities, and can you fulfill those expectations?
- What is it like being a student in this program, and does that fit with your style of learning and the constraints of your schedule?
- Does the school provide the student support services you expect and need?
- What does the program cost?
- What are your financial aid options?
- What technology is required of you?
- How does the school help to ensure positive outcomes for graduates?
Top Occupations in Minnesota
What occupations are experiencing the greatest demand and job growth? Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the following are the top occupations in Minnesota.
Number of Workers
|Office and Administrative Support Occupations||405,970||$41,110|
|Sales and Related Occupations||277,070||$43,830|
|Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations||242,170||$26,770|
|Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations||190,720||$89,360|
|Transportation and Material Moving Occupations||177,580||$40,930|
|Education, Training, and Library Occupations||166,300||$56,410|
|Business and Financial Operations Occupations||164,510||$73,740|
|Personal Care and Service Occupations||144,070||$28,530|
|Construction and Extraction Occupations||100,510||$59,550|
|Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations||100,030||$50,010|
|Computer and Mathematical Occupations||96,020||$87,350|
|Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations||85,820||$32,970|
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Minnesota
The commitment by state leaders to encourage adults to return to, and complete, college has led to the creation of several scholarship and grant programs. In 2018, $1 million in scholarships were made available to help adult students who started, but never finished, their college educations. It was part of a four-year pilot program by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and Minnesota State called MN Reconnect. An estimated 500 students completing certificate, diploma or associate degree programs would each receive a scholarship of up to $3,000 over the four years.
Additionally, students may have access to other sources of educational funding. Here's a small sample:
Minnesota State Grant: helps cover educational expenses (up to $11,812, depending on need and tuition) for students from low- to moderate-income families attending eligible Minnesota institutions.
Minnesota Teacher Shortage Loan Repayment Program: As a result of a severe teacher shortage in Minnesota, this program was designed to encourage teachers to teach in the state. Licensed teachers employed in local school districts who meet eligibility requirements may receive up to $5,000 in total loan repayment assistance.
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
Minnesota doesn't typically have a statewide requirement for entrance exams in order to apply to its colleges and universities. The MOHE says that the most commonly taken college entrance exam is the ACT, which was taken by 61,253 students in 2018. You should consult your individual school and program to determine whether you need to submit ACT, SAT or other test scores as part of your admissions package.