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Top Iowa Colleges

12 of the Top Colleges in Iowa

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Top Ranked U.S. Colleges: Universities | Public Universities | Liberal Arts Colleges | Engineering | Business | Women's | Most Selective | More Top Picks

For a state with relatively low population, Iowa offers some excellent options for higher education. My top picks for the state range in size from about 1,000 students to close to 30,000, and the admissions standards vary greatly. The list includes private, public, religious, and secular colleges and universities. My selection criteria include retention rates, four- and six-year graduation rates, value, student engagement, and notable curricular strengths. I have listed the schools alphabetically rather than forcing them into any kind of artificial ranking. The colleges have remarkably different missions and personalities, and ranking a small Christian college with a large public university would be dubious at best.

Compare Iowa Colleges: SAT Scores | ACT Scores

Clarke University

Dubuque, Iowa
Dirk / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Dubuque, Iowa
  • Enrollment: 1,255 (993 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: Catholic liberal arts university
  • Distinctions: 11 to 1 student / faculty ratio; good grant aid; strong programs in professional fields such as education, nursing and business; high job and graduate school placement rates
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Clarke University profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT Graph for Clarke Admissions

Coe College

Sculpture at Coe College
srett / Flickr
  • Location: Cedar Rapics, Iowa
  • Enrollment: 1,300 (1,287 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: highly ranked liberal arts college; "Coe Plan" encourages experiential learning; 11 to 1 student / faculty ratio; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Coe College profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT Graph for Coe Admissions

Cornell College

Cornell College Campus
courtesy of Cornell College
  • Location: Mount Vernon, Iowa
  • Enrollment: 1,133 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; attractive campus on the National Register of Historic Places; unusual one-course-at-a-time curriculum
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Cornell College profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT Graph for Cornell College Admissions

Drake University

Drake University
Picture Des Moines / Flickr

Grinnell College

Grinnell Main Hall
Aureliusxv / Wikimedia Commons

Loras College

Loras College
Mike Willis
  • Location: Dubuque, Iowa
  • Enrollment: 1,562 (1,516 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private Catholic liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: 13 to 1 student / faculty ratio; all students receive an IBM laptop; strong experiential learning programs; high level of student engagement with roughly 150 clubs, organizations and activities; 21 NCAA Division III athletic teams
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Loras College profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT Graph for Loras Admissions

Luther College

Luther College
Prizm / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Decorah, Iowa
  • Enrollment: 2,519 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • Distinctions: 12 to 1 student / faculty ratio; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; strong emphasis on service and study abroad; NCAA Division III athletics
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Luther College profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT Graph for Luther Admissions

Northwestern College

Northwestern College in Iowa
Tlandegent / Wikipedia
  • Location: Orange City, Iowa
  • Enrollment: 1,243 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private college affiliated with the Reformed Church in America
  • Distinctions: strong commitment to community service and social mobility; the college's Christian identity is woven into the learning environment; 14 to 1 student / faculty ratio; active student life; good grant aid
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Northwestern College profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT Graph for Northwestern Admissions

Simpson College

College Hall at Simpson College
GrandpaDave / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Indianola, Iowa
  • Enrollment: 2,021 (1,979 undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college affiliated with the United Methodist Church
  • Distinctions: 14 to 1 student / faculty ratio; popular business programs; proximity to Des Moines provides experiential learning opportunities; good grant aid and overall value; active student life including fraternities and sororities; NCAA Division III athletic programs
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Simpson College profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT Graph for Simpson Admissions

University of Iowa

University of Iowa Old Capitol
Cbenning / Wikimedia Commons

University of Northern Iowa

UNI - University of Northern Iowa
MadMaxMarchHare / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Cedar Falls, Iowa
  • Enrollment: 13,303 (11,381 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university
  • Distinctions: robust programs in education and business; curriculum has a global emphasis; strong study abroad programs; member of the NCAA Division I Missouri Valley Conference
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the University of Northern Iowa profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT Graph for UNI Admissions

Wartburg College

Wartburg College
Dorsm365 / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Waverly, Iowa
  • Enrollment: 1,775 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church
  • Distinctions: 12 to 1 student / faculty ratio; strong retention and graduation rates in relation to student profile; high job and graduate school placement rates; many new buildings and campus upgrades; high levels of student participation in music and athletics; NCAA Division III athletic programs
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Wartburg College profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT Graph for Wartburg Admissions

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