To identify the Best Colleges in North Dakota for 2017-2018 we averaged the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems with thousands of real student review scores from around the web to produce a unique College Consensus rating for each school. You won’t find a more comprehensive ranking of the top colleges and universities in North Dakota anywhere. Read more about our rankings methodology and sources at our about page.
Colleges & Universities in North Dakota
When considering the best colleges in North Dakota, it’s important to recognize a fact that holds true for North Dakota’s people too: there aren’t that many, but the ones that are there, are there for greatness. For a state with one of the lowest, and least dense, populations, North Dakota has built up an impressive array of public research and regional universities that truly offer something for every resident. The University of North Dakota 53 and North Dakota State University 52 are two of the most respected major public research institutions in the US, internationally recognized for excellence in STEM, medicine, and professional studies. Meanwhile, North Dakota’s original teaching colleges have turned into regional universities that consistently rank among the very best colleges in the Midwest.
At this time, only six institutions in North Dakota have sufficient national rankings and reviews to generate a College Consensus Score. The College Consensus is dynamic and always updating, though, so look for more of North Dakota’s top colleges and universities in the future.
Here are the top colleges and universities of the Peace Garden State.
Valley City State University
Valley City, ND
Ranked as U.S. News & World Report’s #1 regional public university in the Midwest for nearly two decades, Valley City State University is one of the best possible examples of what public higher education can accomplish. Founded in 1890, VCSU was originally a normal school for the Dakota Territory, educating teachers for the frontier schools, and today is on the National Register of Historic Places as a key point in North Dakota’s development. VCSU is part of the North Dakota University system, and in addition to U.S. News’ top honors, the university is known widely as a best value, providing North Dakotans with top-tier education for a reasonable price, resulting in a solid investment.
VCSU offers more than 80 degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate level, primarily in-demand professional and career programs like business, communications, information technology, and education. Due to its roots as a teacher’s college, VCSU is one of the main educators of North Dakota’s public school teachers. VCSU students benefit from an 11:1 student:faculty ratio, closer to a small liberal arts college than a public university, and a small student body means closer connections and community. In the 1990s VCSU was one of the first colleges to adopt a laptop policy, providing all students with technology, and VCSU remains a leader in educational technology as a noted online educator – the better to reach North Dakota’s far-flung rural residents.
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, ND
Founded in 1883, the University of North Dakota is the state’s oldest institution of higher learning, created by the Dakota Territory legislature as part of organizing their civic structure on the road to statehood (which would come six years later). UND came through many struggles in its history – it lost a higher proportion of students to the infamous 1918 flu epidemic than any other college, while the Great Depression and WWII saw free students working off their education with manual labor due to the lack of resources. But through it all, UND grew into one of the top 100 public universities according to U.S. News & World Report, and one of the most respected universities in the Midwest.
With North Dakota’s only law and medical schools, the University of North Dakota may be the most crucial institution in the Northern Plains. North Dakota’s unique geography and climate have made UND one of the nation’s most important institutions for aerospace and aviation research, as well as environmental sustainability, climate change, and energy. Several world-renowned research centers are housed at UND, including the Energy and Environmental Research Center, the National Center for Hydrogen Technology, and the Center for Rural Health. As a comprehensive university, UND offers more than 200 degree programs from bachelor’s to doctorate, in all disciplines. As a leader in the Midwest and nationally, UND defines the Dakotas’ best universities.
Dickinson State University
Like Valley City State, Dickinson State University was originally a normal school, founded in 1918 to close the gap of experienced, educated school teachers for rural North Dakota. Back then, tuition was free, and teachers learned by going straight into the classrooms of Dickinson High School, making the normal school format one of the forerunners of hands-on education. As North Dakota’s population grew, so did the mission of Dickinson State, which is today a four-year university with substantial outreach to the people of southwestern North Dakota. Ranked the #4 public regional university in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report, DSU is out there bringing the best career and pre-professional education to Dakotans.
Dickinson State is a public, four-year institution offering degrees from two-year associate’s to master’s degrees in education. For most students, Dickinson State’s main draw is its career and pre-professional programs, as well as teacher education. DSU’s 10:1 student:faculty ratio gives students a liberal arts college experience, but the full resources of the North Dakota University System means students have all they need to obtain a 21st century education. DSU has also become an enthusiastic online educator, from certificates to a teaching master’s, all providing opportunity for North Dakota’s rural residents. Dickinson State’s care for North Dakota’s people make it a top Dakota college.
Mayville State University
Mayville State University was founded in 1889, the first of North Dakota’s normal schools intended to bring teacher education to the eastern section of the brand-new state. It was not until 1924 that the normal school became a teacher’s college, offering its first bachelor’s degree, and two decades later that Mayville State began offering degrees besides teaching. In the 21st century, though, Mayville State has truly come into its own, adopting a mission and vision dedicated to teaching and service, preparing students for the demands of the contemporary world of work. A small, regional public university, Mayville State is focused on meeting the needs of traditional-aged and working adult students in North Dakota.
Mayville State serves the residents of rural eastern North Dakota, and its degree programs reflect the needs of that area. While it has the size and student support of a small liberal arts college, Mayville State specializes in career and professional education, especially in teacher education, its original mission. Of course, much of Mayville State’s target population is spread out and rural, so MSU has started fully online degrees in business, nursing, and education to reach out to the people who can’t attend classes on campus, but need credentials for their careers. Doing what needs to be done comes naturally to Mayville State – the quality that makes them a top North Dakota university.
North Dakota State University
As North Dakota’s land-grant university, North Dakota State University is at the center of STEM research and learning for the state. The leaders of the Dakota Territory had wanted an agricultural college for quite a while, but it was not until the year after North Dakota entered the union that the legislature was able to take advantage of the Morrill Land Grant to build the North Dakota agricultural college in 1890. Today NDSU has grown far beyond its original agriculture and mechanics mission into a major, comprehensive public research institution, the only R1 university in the state according to the Carnegie Classification.
Though it is recognized as the major research university of the Dakotas, NDSU puts more emphasis on undergraduate education than the average university of its status. Engineering and health sciences dominate, as North Dakota students turn to careers that have a strong job market potential, and Fargo is widely recognized as a prime location for internships, networking, and jobs after graduation. NDSU is also a major contributor to the North Dakota economy, with programs like an entrepreneurship incubator alongside its internationally-known Research and Technology Park. For North Dakota students who want to make their mark, North Dakota State University is one of the smartest choices in the Roughrider State.
University of Mary
Founded in 1959, the University of Mary is a private Catholic institution in the Benedictine tradition. The University of Mary began as a women’s college specializing in nursing and teacher education, led by the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation, a monastic order dedicated to individual improvement through education, and to service to humanity. In less than three decades, the college had grown into a coed university, and today the University of Mary is recognized as one of the most trusted and respected small liberal arts institutions in North Dakota, and in the Midwestern region.
With its history, the University of Mary is understandably excellent in healthcare fields and education, and as a comprehensive institution, UM offers programs at every level, from associate’s to doctoral. The University of Mary has also become well-known in the region for business and pre-professional programs, with a high proportion of students accepted into law school, medical school, and other professional schools after graduation. With acclaimed programs for working adults, and a 98% job or graduate school placement within six months, the University of Mary upholds its reputation as one of the best colleges in North Dakota.