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Colleges in Minnesota

Why go to College in Minnesota?

Minnesota offers an array of educational opportunities for students living in rural or urban areas, and whether they’re interested in a large university or a small college. The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system has a reputation for academic excellence, and is comprised of seven state institutions and 31 state community and technical colleges. The system has made affordability one of its hallmarks, as well, so students can receive a high-quality education at an affordable price.


Minnesota has a population of approximately 5,519,952, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It is one of the most educated populaces in the nation with 92.4% over 25 with a high school diploma, and 33.7% over 25 with a bachelor’s degree or higher.


Minnesota’s climate is continental with very cold winters and hot summers. The state usually begins to experience wintery conditions in November, long before the official start of winter in December. In the northern part of the state, the summers are less humid, whereas southern Minnesota receives more heat and humidity.

Number of Higher Learning Institutions

The state has 169 colleges and universities, and its state system is comprised of seven state institutions and 31 state community and technical colleges.

Sporting Events

The state has a professional team in each of the four major sports: football, basketball, baseball, and hockey. College sports are also well-represented; the University of Minnesota is a member of the Big Ten, the oldest college conference in the nation. Most other colleges in the state also field teams at various competitive levels.


Across the state are hubs of entertainment where students can attend concerts, listen to speakers, see films or exhibits, and sample any number of restaurants and cafes. Notably, the state has a thriving music and arts scene that has spawned many local legends.

What Options are Available for Colleges in Minnesota?


Attending classes on campus is still the most common way of learning in Minnesota. This method engages students in multi-sensory learning that blends real-time instructor-led lectures, class discussions, and peer interaction. While these features are also found in many distance learning programs in Minnesota, some students may prefer a traditional classroom setting in order to remain focused and/or manage their time effectively.

One advantage to attending college on campus is the access to numerous extracurricular activities and living experiences, such as state-of-the-art fitness centers, intramural sports, and close proximity to peers. Studying on campus may be more expensive because of fees, rent, and other costs, but many students consider it a worthwhile investment because of these experiences.

Online Programs

An increasing number of students are choosing to learn from a distance via online learning, as it provides them the affordability and flexibility an on-campus education may not. Schools one of the many learning management systems, such as Blackboard or Canvas, to deliver the coursework synchronously or asynchronously. With synchronous learning, students log on at established times to attend classes and complete assignments. Asynchronous learning offers the most freedom: students log onto classes at their own convenience, but meet established guidelines for homework and other assignments. There is also a hybrid learning model that blends the two.

Online learning requires students possess good time-management skills, and self-motivation is essential to succeed in an online learning format. To determine a student’s suitability for online learning, they should participate in a demo offered by many institutions that provides hands-on experience with the school’s online model of delivery. Students who can thrive in an online environment benefit from added flexibility without compromising educational quality, which leaves time to manage family, career, and other personal obligations.

Hybrid Programs

Online programs that blend face-to-face and web-based learning are called hybrids. Online colleges in Minnesota offer hybrid programming that may vary, with between 25% to 85% of courses delivered online and the rest completed on campus. The online portion of hybrid courses may also be delivered asynchronously or synchronously.

Students who want the would like the flexibility of online learning, and the social and instructional benefits of on-campus learning, will benefit from hybrid models. Some degree programs may even require a hybrid format since there are requirements that necessitate time on campus. For instance, a biology major may complete textbook learning online, but head to campus for lab exercises and research.

Popular Degree Programs in Minnesota

Minnesota is consistently ranked as one of most livable states in the country, in part because it hosts leading medical, manufacturing, and bioscience firms. These companies set the pace for the development of medical devices, create cutting-edge solutions to complex health problems, and buoy the state’s economy through manufacturing. The most popular majors among students in the state reflect the needs of these industries.

  • Social Sciences

    Social science degrees are tops in Minnesota, which includes degrees in law, education, healthcare, and communications. The state’s significant base of companies in manufacturing, biosciences, and other sectors require a range of employees to support these businesses. A thriving business hub also needs professionals to address the needs of workers themselves, such as teachers to educate children and professionals to address healthcare.

  • Business management and administration

    A degree in business management and administration provides businesses in the state with professionals versed in the knowledge and skills to staff administrative support and managerial positions. These businesses require qualified people in accounting, marketing, and human resources, key areas of study covered in this degree program.


An increasing number of students are turning to online education as an affordable way to attend college while juggling competing work or family obligations. Online schools in Minnesota are among the best in the world, and offers a thriving economy that is one of the strongest in the nation. This section uses a rigorous methodology to determine the ranking of the best online schools in Minnesota. Students will find it an invaluable resource in decision-making about which online college in Minnesota is most suitable.


The College of Saint ScholasticaDuluth, MN

Admissions Rate 61%
Default Rate 5%
Retention Rate 84%
Graduation Rate 70%
Online Enrollment 31%

Founded in 1912 in Duluth, the College of Saint Scholastica is a private institution of around 4,000 students. Regarded as one of the top online colleges in Minnesota, the school is home to a robust distance education program that offers degrees in the areas of business and technology, education, health sciences, and nursing. Some of CSC's unique degree programs include physical therapy, organizational behavior, and an MBA in rural healthcare. Many courses are taught in a synchronous format, which allows students to interact with peers and teachers through live virtual meetings. CSC's learning platform offers tools that make it easy to collaborate and perform group work, giving online learners a virtual space that mimics the engagement of classroom learning. The school also provides substantial resources for online degree candidates, including personal academic advisors, counseling, and tutoring services.


University of Northwestern-St PaulSaint Paul, MN

Admissions Rate 87%
Default Rate 4%
Retention Rate 82%
Graduation Rate 66%
Online Enrollment 34%

Based in Roseville, UNWSP is an evangelical school that is known as one of the best online colleges in Minnesota. Online students can pursue an associate degree in Bible studies or a bachelor's degree in biblical studies. Several master's degrees are also available in subjects such as education, human services, theological studies, and organizational leadership. UNWSP conducts its online programs in an asynchronous format, with no required class meetings. Most degrees are also available entirely online, making it possible for students to complete their degree without ever visiting campus. Many graduate programs do hold information sessions on campus to help applicants understand what to expect from classes, but these sessions are optional. Prospective online students can talk to admissions counselors to receive information about the online learning experience.


Bethel UniversitySaint Paul, MN

Admissions Rate 95%
Default Rate 3%
Retention Rate 84%
Graduation Rate 74%
Online Enrollment 13%

An evangelical, nondenominational Christian college that serves around 6,000 students, Bethel operates a main campus in Arden Hills, a suburb of St. Paul. One of the top online schools in Minnesota, Bethel offers dozens of online programs at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and certificate levels. Some of the school's unique programs include nurse-midwifery, higher education leadership, and global business. Bethel is also home to an online seminary program that offers several religious degrees in areas such as Christian thought and theological studies. For students who can attend some on-campus intensives, the school offers three hybrid programs: children's and family ministry, doctor of ministry, and transformational leadership. Intensive sessions last one or two weeks and take place once or twice each academic year.


University of Minnesota-Twin CitiesMinneapolis, MN

Admissions Rate 45%
Default Rate 3%
Retention Rate 93%
Graduation Rate 77%
Online Enrollment 1%

One of the largest online colleges in Minnesota, UMN delivers many of its distance education programs fully online. UMN offers undergraduate degrees in areas such as applied health, psychology, and international business. Among its unique program offerings is a bachelor's degree in tribal administration and governance. Master's degrees are also available in public health administration, computer science, and integrative health and well-being. Though some courses include practicum experiences that require students to work in a professional setting, these experiences can typically be arranged locally within a student's own community. Other courses use a primarily online format, with at least 80% of course material conducted through distance education. Online students pay the same tuition as in-state residents.


Crown CollegeSaint Bonifacius, MN

Admissions Rate 53%
Default Rate 6%
Retention Rate 68%
Graduation Rate 56%
Online Enrollment 44%

Based in St. Bonifacius, Crown is a private Christian college that offers online degrees in both religious and secular subjects. Among the school's undergraduate options are degrees in alcohol and drug counseling, Christian ministry, disaster and emergency management, global and cultural studies, and pastoral leadership. At the graduate level, degrees are available in areas such as business administration, global leadership, organizational leadership, and ministry leadership. Many online courses are taught in an accelerated, seven-week format that allows students to earn credits quickly. Several programs also provide internship and practicum opportunities so that students can apply their learning in professional environments. While the school maintains connections with many different businesses and organizations, online learners can also arrange their own internship experiences closer to home.


Concordia University-Saint PaulSaint Paul, MN

Admissions Rate 55%
Default Rate 6%
Retention Rate 70%
Graduation Rate 46%
Online Enrollment 57%

A Christian liberal arts college associated with the Lutheran Church, Concordia University-St. Paul enrolls around 4,500 students annually. Though the school is private, CSP's reasonable tuition and deep discounts for distance education students make it one of the most affordable online colleges in Minnesota. Online learners can choose from dozens of undergraduate and graduate degrees in subjects such as radiologic science leadership, exercise science, creative writing, and sports management. CSP is focused on professional preparation for all online degree candidates, with career resources that help graduates find work quickly. The school's resources and training pay off for most students, with 92% of graduates securing employment soon after completing their education.


Minnesota State University-MankatoMankato, MN

Admissions Rate 67%
Default Rate 6%
Retention Rate 74%
Graduation Rate 49%
Online Enrollment 7%

With more than 15,000 students, Minnesota State University-Mankato is the second-largest college in Minnesota, and the school offers more than a dozen fully online degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. MSU's bachelor's degrees are completion programs that require students to earn their lower-division credits at another institution or through campus courses at MSU. Focused mainly on professional education, the school offers programs in applied organizational studies, international business, technical communications, dental hygiene, and nursing. Undergraduate students can also pursue unique minors in subjects such as aging studies, ethnic studies, nonprofit leadership, and urban studies. Graduate options focus mainly on education and human services in areas such as educational technology, school library studies, and autism spectrum disorders.


University of Minnesota-CrookstonCrookston, MN

Admissions Rate 77%
Default Rate 8%
Retention Rate 65%
Graduation Rate 45%
Online Enrollment 35%

With around 1,800 enrolled students, University of Minnesota-Crookston is one of the smallest colleges in the UM system, but its size does not detract from its status as one of the best online schools in Minnesota. Undergraduate students can earn several unique online degrees in areas such as sports and recreation management, international business, manufacturing management, and applied health. UMC's undergraduate minors are business-oriented, with options including marketing, finance, accounting, and management. For graduate students, the university offers a fully online MBA in partnership with the University of North Dakota. Combining academic resources and faculty, the two schools' online MBA program features live virtual class sessions that allow students to engage with faculty and collaborate on group work.


Minnesota State University MoorheadMoorhead, MN

Admissions Rate 77%
Default Rate 6%
Retention Rate 74%
Graduation Rate 43%
Online Enrollment 11%

One of the top online schools in Minnesota, MSUM offers dozens of online undergraduate and graduate degrees that focus primarily on business and education. Students can select from several programs in curriculum and instruction, educational leadership, special education, and school administration. Business students can study global supply chain management, operations management, and business administration with several concentration options. MSU offers most of its distance programs in an "online plus" format, which provides face-to-face options for some or all parts of the program curriculum. While no campus visits are required for these degrees, students able to travel can take advantage of classroom meetings when it suits their schedules.


Bemidji State UniversityBemidji, MN

Admissions Rate 94%
Default Rate 9%
Retention Rate 66%
Graduation Rate 46%
Online Enrollment 20%

Situated on the shores of Minnesota's Lake Bemidji, Bemidji State University offers seven fully online degree programs in areas such as accounting, applied engineering, marketing communication, and psychology. Undergraduates can also choose from several unique minors, such as fraud examination and geography. All BSU's online degrees are completion programs, and applicants must have earned at least two years worth of college credit. Aside from its fully online degree programs, the university offers three hybrid degree programs in elementary education, nursing, and social work. Unlike many online schools in Minnesota, BSU does not charge extra tuition for out-of-state online students, making it affordable an affordable option for distance learners.


Oak Hills Christian CollegeBemidji, MN

Admissions Rate 29%
Default Rate 11%
Retention Rate 57%
Graduation Rate 43%
Online Enrollment 10%

A nondenominational Christian school located near Bemidji, Oak Hills offers four fully online programs: an associate degree in business administration, an associate degree in Bible studies and ministry, a bachelor's in business administration, and a bachelor's in leadership and ministry. Oak Hill's online courses are geared mainly toward working professionals, and the school offers a generous Credit for Prior Learning program that allows students to earn academic credit for relevant work experience. Staff and faculty work with online learners to help determine which previous experiences translate into course credit, including workshops, training seminars, self-study, and military service. Oak Hills places no limit on the number of credits students can earn from prior experience, making it an excellent option for working professionals.


Metropolitan State UniversitySaint Paul, MN

Admissions Rate 100%
Default Rate 8%
Retention Rate 72%
Graduation Rate 30%
Online Enrollment 18%

Based in the Twin Cities, Metro State is regarded as one of the best online colleges in Minnesota for its comprehensive student support services and range of online programs. The school's undergraduate degrees focus primarily on business, with options including human resources management, finance, marketing, and supply chain and operations management. Students can also enroll in three business-oriented graduate programs: public and nonprofit administration, management information systems, and business administration. As a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, Metro State allows students to access the Minnesota Online portal, which aggregates the various online courses and degree programs available across different member colleges. Online learners can select from 6,500 courses, giving them a wide variety of class options to complete their degree.


Saint Cloud State UniversitySaint Cloud, MN

Admissions Rate 86%
Default Rate 7%
Retention Rate 72%
Graduation Rate 42%
Online Enrollment 4%

Serving over 15,000 students, SCSU is one of the largest members of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and one of the top online colleges in Minnesota. The school offers two bachelor's degree completion programs in elective studies and nursing, allowing students to complete their undergraduate education at SCSU after earning credits at another institution. Nursing applicants must hold current licensure, while elective studies students must hold the credit equivalent of an associate degree. The college also offers 17 fully online graduate degrees and certificates, including notable programs in applied behavior analysis, electrical engineering, information media, and public safety executive leadership. Online degree candidates receive a wide variety of support services from the college, including library resources, student disability services, technical support and training, proctored testing services, and free online tutoring.

How We Ranked the Schools

To determine the best programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school’s commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the best online master’s in management information systems programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school’s ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category’s ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.

Education Trends in Minnesota

Minnesota has a very educated populace, with 10.7% of adults over the age of 25 holding associate degrees; nearly 34% of adults age 25 and older hold at least a bachelor’s degree, which is above the national average of 29.7%. Although the state spends less money on postsecondary education than the national average, it remains a hub of rigorous educational programming, excelling in fields such as advanced manufacturing and biosciences.

  Minnesota United States
Source: SHEEO and U.S. Census
Postsecondary Education Spending per Full-Time Student $5,695 $6,954
Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education 4.3% 5.8%
Percentage of adults over 25 with associate degree 10.7% 8.1%
Percentage of adults over 25 with bachelor’s degree 22.5% 18.5%
Percentage of adults over 25 with graduate degree or higher 11.2% 11.2%

Paying for College in Minnesota

College tuition is a significant investment for students and their families, and should be carefully considered in the decision-making process. While tuition at colleges in Minnesota is higher than the national average, online students save money on fees, room and board, transportation, and other expenses that most on-campus students incur. They also receive an education in one of the top collegiate systems in the nation.

Tuition Prices

Tuition at two-year and four-year colleges in Minnesota is $5,377 and $10,952, respectively, both above the national average, according to the College Board. Note that these numbers do not include other costs such as rent and transportation, which students avoid when attending college online.

Financial Aid

While a college education is an investment in one’s future, many students and their families need assistance paying for college. Financial aid comes in different forms — scholarships, grants, and loans — and most every school offers some combination of the three. This is determined by the specific program’s requirements, and can also be based on a student’s needs or merit.

  • Scholarships may be federally-funded, institutional (awarded by the school), or offered by private organizations or businesses based on merit or special abilities. They do not have to be repaid.
  • Grants are usually awarded based on need. They also do not need to be repaid.
  • Loans must be repaid and are federally or privately issued.

Financial aid that does not need to be repaid is obviously preferable, as it mitigates a student’s debt burden. The first step in the financial aid process is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines one’s eligibility for financial aid.

Cost for Online Programs in Minnesota

Online learning saves money because students avoid paying the additional fees, rent, transportation, childcare, and other expenses common for on-campus students. Though tuition may be the same, these fees and extra living costs can add up.

Cost of Living by Region

The cost of a student’s living expenses are impacted by where a student chooses to attend college. Rent and other expenses are more costly in areas like Minneapolis-St. Paul and the surrounding suburbs, compared to more rural areas. The cost of living will also impact a student’s debt upon graduation. The table below provides a sample of housing costs across the upper Midwest.

Scholarships for Minnesota College Students

Minnesota Academic Excellence Scholarship

The amount varies, but may pay full tuition and fees for one year; high school students who demonstrate academic excellence in disciplines such as English, math, or social sciences are eligible, and must plan to attend a university in Minnesota.
View Scholarship

Minnesota Masonic Charities Heritage Scholarship

$10,000; Minnesota high school seniors with a GPA 3.0-3.59 qualify. Must be a Minnesota resident and plan to attend a four-year college. Other scholarships are also available from this charity.
View Scholarship

University of Minnesota Diversity Scholarships

varies; there are a number of scholarships available based on need and merit.
View Scholarship

University of Minnesota Crookston

$500-$2000; new incoming high school graduates who have a 3.25 GPA and ACT score of 21 or higher are eligible for these renewable academic scholarships.
View Scholarship

Century College Scholarships

varies; each year the institution offers a number of scholarships based on merit and need. The requirements vary based on the individual scholarship program.
View Scholarship

Saint Cloud State University Scholarships

varies; this program is open to transfer students with at least a cumulative 3.5/4.0 GPA at the college level and transferrable credits. There are also Phi Theta Kappa and Alumni Scholarships available with different eligibility criteria.
View Scholarship

Barbara J. Penny Community Service Scholarship

$1,500; awarded to college and university students in Minnesota who have demonstrated a commitment to community service and leadership.
View Scholarship

NIADA/Manheim Regional Scholarships

$3,500; the scholarship is meant for students with outstanding academic ability to help pay for tuition at the university of student’s choice in the Midwest, including Minnesota.
View Scholarship

Presbyterian Student Opportunity Scholarship

up to $2,500; eighty needs-based scholarships are available for full-time sophomores, juniors, and seniors who are attending college, including residents of Minnesota. Must belong to the Presbyterian Church.
View Scholarship

Can all Scholarships be Used for Online Programs?

Most scholarships can be applied to schools in Minnesota, whether a student is planning to attend on-campus or online. However, there may be instances in which scholarships have additional requirements that may preclude applicability for online colleges in Minnesota. Students should contact the specific scholarship sponsor to ensure that it can be used for online study.

Employment Outlook in Minnesota

The unemployment rate in Minnesota is among the lowest in the nation at 3.8%, below the national rate of 4.3%. The state’s thriving economy is due to the various industries — such as manufacturing, healthcare, and biosciences — that make up its economic backbone. The annual mean wage for the state is $51,330, above the national average of $49,630. Educated professionals with degrees in the social sciences and business administration can expect a job market with far more job opportunities than many other places in the nation.

  Minnesota United States
Source: BLS and BLS
Unemployment Rate, May 2017 3.8% 4.3%
Annual Mean Wage, May 2016 $51,330 $49,630

Top Employers and Industries in Minnesota

Top Industries in Minnesota

  • Education and Health Services: This industry includes jobs at all levels of education, such as teachers and teachers assistants; it also includes doctors, nurses, and administrators who staff doctor’s offices, hospitals, diagnostic laboratories, and nursing homes, and those involved in providing social assistance.
  • Trade, Transportation, and Utilities: This industry is part of a supersector that includes wholesale and retail trade, transportation and warehousing, and utilities. It includes manufacturing and construction, and the jobs affiliated with those industries which may be technical or non-technical.
  • Professional and Business Services: This is one of the fastest growing industries and includes administrative jobs and managerial positions. Employees have professional and technical expertise in areas such as accounting, computer services, architecture, law, and engineering.


Top Employers in Minnesota

  • Office and Administrative Support Occupations: 404,120 employees
  • Sales and Related Occupations: 275,740 employees
  • Food Preparation and Serving-Related Occupations : 236,820 employees

Source: careerinfonet.org

Accreditation for Colleges in Minnesota

A school’s accreditation status is an important factor in one’s decision. Accreditation by a regional or national accrediting agency ensures the school and its programs meet high standards. In order to secure accreditation, schools complete a rigorous accreditation process every three or four years. Once the school meets the established criteria, it can earn accreditation.

Regional accreditation is the most prestigious and popular form of accreditation.

Regional accreditation is the most prestigious and popular form of accreditation. The NCA (North Central Association of Colleges and Schools) is one of the six regional accrediting bodies in the U.S., and its Higher Learning Commission accredits schools in Minnesota. Most online schools in Minnesota are part boast accreditation from this body.

Schools may also be nationally accredited by one of three of the most popular national accrediting agencies: the Distance Education and Training Council, the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, and Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.

Resources for Students in Minnesota

  • Career and Education Explorer: The repository provides students with an easy-to-use online tool with information about jobs in Minnesota, and the level of postsecondary education and skills needed to secure them.
  • Minnesota State Career Wise Education: A Minnesota State University career and education resource that allows students to assess their skills, set educational and career goals, and explore more than 800 careers completely online.
  • Ready, Set, Go MN: This site is sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Education and provides high school students with information about concurrent enrollment in high school and college, college enrollment options, Advanced Placement, and other ways to get a jumpstart on a college education, including distance learning.
  • Minnesota Transfer: The state has streamlined the transfer process from college to college. This site provides students with all the information they need, from the application process to financial aid and resources available.
  • Minnesota Office of Higher Education: Military students can access information about benefits that are specific to Minnesota, such as financial aid and scholarships.
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