2023 Best Colleges in Iowa
Published: September 1, 2022
By: Colleges of Distinction Staff
Colleges of Distinction has hand-picked a selection of top schools that are well equipped to provide a personalized education catered to students’ interests. Through a rigorous vetting and interview process for the 2022-2023 academic year, we have refreshed and reaffirmed that these institutions strive for excellence in line with the four overarching distinctions—Student Engagement, Teaching, Community, and Outcomes.
These schools vary in size, cost, location, academic offerings, and more, but they are all distinguished by their commitment to the undergraduate experience. The diversity of the college list is intentional, giving students and parents a variety of public and private universities to consider. No matter what, they all exhibit the foundational qualities of a fulfilling undergraduate education.
Mount Vernon, IA ‧ Private ‧ 4-year
Perched above the splendid Cedar River Valley in Eastern Iowa, Cornell College graduates students with strong backgrounds in the liberal arts—students who can write, think, and communicate effectively. With its One-Course-At-A-Time calendar, Cornell offers a unique opportunity for students to learn through in-depth and focused study, which minimizes distractions, increases flexibility, and helps students better retain their knowledge.
Located in Mount Vernon, Iowa, a rural town of four thousand in eastern Iowa, Cornell is twenty miles southwest of Cedar Rapids and twenty miles north of Iowa City. The Cedar Rapids metro area has urban amenities typical for its size, including Eastern Iowa Airport, and calls itself the City of Five Seasons. Iowa City has a metro population of one hundred and twenty thousand, and the combined eastern Iowa corridor of Cedar Rapids and Iowa City offers numerous entertainment and cultural options for students.
Mount Vernon, Iowa—30 minutes from Iowa City, 20 minutes from Cedar Rapids, 2 hours from Des Moines, and 3-4 hours from Chicago.
Acceptance rate 82% • Net price $25,028 • SAT Range 1068-1280 • Students submitting SAT scores 36%
Total Undergrad Population 999 • Setting Town • Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 67% • Retention rate 74% • Student-to-faculty ratio 12:1
Des Moines, IA ‧ Private ‧ 4-year
At Drake, students are actively involved in their educations. They interact with their subjects and draw conclusions that they can apply to the bigger picture—one that extends far beyond the academic environment of the campus. Students are given the opportunity to work with their professors, meet with visiting ambassadors, and participate in service-learning initiatives, all within the liberal arts-based framework that Drake gives all its students.
Drake is located near the city of Des Moines, affording students a number of social and professional opportunities that extend beyond the campus. Students are encouraged to venture into the city and enjoy the food, shopping, and cultural events that make the city thrive.
CLUBS AND ORGANIZATIONS
Drake offers its students plenty of opportunities to get involved outside of the classroom. The University encourages all of its students to get take part in extracurriculars, recognizing the social and academic benefits that active involvement can bring them. There are over 160 clubs and organizations to choose from, the interests of which span from media clubs to governing organizations. Students can immerse themselves in the arts by seeing a play or going to an exhibit, or, for those interested in athletics, they may join one of several intramural and club sports teams. Students can also get involved in service-learning projects or participate in the Leadership Development Program.
Acceptance rate 68% • Net price $30,321 • SAT Range 1110-1340 • Students submitting SAT scores 26%
Total Undergrad Population 2,848 • Setting City: Midsize • Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 77% • Retention rate 86% • Student-to-faculty ratio 10:1
Grinnell, IA ‧ Private ‧ 4-year
Find unparalleled opportunities for learning at the Grinnell College. Grinnell is a private institution with 42 areas of study.
Acceptance rate 19% • Net price $32,091 • SAT Range 1353-1538 • Students submitting SAT scores 49%
Total Undergrad Population 1,493 • Setting Town • Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 87% • Retention rate 81% • Student-to-faculty ratio 8:1
Dubuque, IA ‧ Catholic ‧ 4-year
Relating the rich liberal arts tradition to a changing world, Loras College’s rich liberal arts tradition inspires tomorrow’s leaders to be thoughtful, ethical actors in whatever field they pursue. Across their social, professional, and religious roles, Loras students are prepared to enact meaningful change in their community.
Acceptance rate 58% • Net price $22,418
Total Undergrad Population 1,314 • Setting City: Small • Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 70% • Retention rate 79% • Student-to-faculty ratio 12:1
Dubuque, IA ‧ Private ‧ 4-year
The University of Dubuque is a private University affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It was founded in 1852 by Dutch immigrant Adrian Van Vliet to educate German-speaking ministers who could communicate with incoming immigrants. In 1902, new programs emerged to form what is now the University of Dubuque.
The University of Dubuque’s First-Year Experience eases students’ transitions into collegiate academics and expectations. The first-year curriculum orients students to the rigor of upper-level coursework, all while building a community of new friends by way of the experiences they share with their peers. With the support of an enthusiastic community, new UD students are challenged to further build upon their gifts through academic inquiry, their social interactions, and spiritual exploration as they discover their place within a diverse campus community.
Through the University’s Academic Support and Success Center, students can work with an Academic Success Coach to help identify and conquer any barriers that may be affecting their academic performance. The Center also provides peer and professional tutors in business, economics, science, math, aviation regulations, and technology through its “Be Smart” tutor program. Additionally, the UD Writing Center is open to equip students at all skill levels with strategies to engage in the most efficient writing processes possible.
Acceptance rate 79% • Net price $27,043 • SAT Range 828-1070 • Students submitting SAT scores 38%
Total Undergrad Population 1,778 • Setting City: Small • Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 46% • Retention rate 66% • Student-to-faculty ratio 15:1
Iowa City, IA ‧ Public ‧ 4-year
Succeed in your personal and professional life with an education from The University of Iowa. Iowa is a Public school in Iowa City, Iowa with many undergraduate degrees to choose from.
Acceptance rate 84% • Net price $17,452 • SAT Range 1110-1310 • Students submitting SAT scores 27%
Total Undergrad Population 22,304 • Setting City: Small • Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 72% • Retention rate 88% • Student-to-faculty ratio 16:1
What it’s like to attend schools in Iowa and other FAQ:
The average undergraduate tuition & fees for colleges in Iowa is $6,280 for in-state students at public institutions, $21,515 for out-of-state students at public institutions, and $25,407 for students at private institutions.
University of Iowa has an average net price of $17,452, making it the least expensive institution in Iowa that made our list.
University of Iowa has an acceptance rate of 84%, with an SAT range of 1110-1310, making it the least exclusive college in Iowa on our list.
Grinnell College has a median total debt after graduation of $17,000. This is the typical debt for a student who completed their undergraduate degree.
Best Iowa Colleges by Award
2023 Best Business Schools in Iowa
Best Colleges by State
California | Texas | Florida | New York | Pennsylvania | Illinois | Georgia | Ohio | Alabama | Colorado | Connecticut | Massachusetts | Indiana | Kansas | Kentucky | Louisiana | Maryland | Michigan | Minnesota | Missouri | New Jersey | North Carolina | Oklahoma |Oregon | Tennessee | Virginia | Washington | Wisconsin