The College Consensus ranking of the Best Colleges in Iowa combines the results of the most respected college ranking systems with the averaged ratings of thousands of real student reviews from around the web to create a unique college meta-ranking. This approach offers a comprehensive and holistic perspective missing from other college rankings. Visit our about page for information on which rankings and review sites were included in this year’s consensus rankings.
The Best Colleges & Universities in Iowa category is limited to schools in Iowa. Schools that did not qualify for a Consensus Score were ranked by their Student Review score.
If you’re interested in distance-based schools, check out our ranking of the Best Online Colleges in Iowa. You can also find out more about college financial aid with our list of the Top Iowa Scholarships.
Higher Education in Iowa
While most Americans think of agriculture when they think of Iowa – miles and miles of endless corn, especially – in fact, Iowa has a highly diverse economy and a range of industries, many rooted in Iowa’s traditional agriculture. Bioengineering, manufacturing, finance, and energy (especially renewable and sustainable energy in the 21st century) are all bedrocks of Iowa’s economy, and Iowa has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation (tied for 4th).
When it comes to economics and job opportunity, the Hawkeye State has a lot to be grateful for, and some of the best schools in the Midwest are to thank. Iowa was settled by people who knew the value of work, but who also knew the value of education, and education has always been valued. The state’s oldest college, Loras University, was founded long before Iowa became a state, just a few years after the territory was opened to settlers; the University of Iowa was one of the first orders of business for the first state legislature. In fact, Iowa was a pioneer in secondary education, too, as one of the first states to establish public high schools state-wide.
Building the Hawkeye State: The Best Colleges in Iowa
The best colleges in Iowa are built on the qualities that make Iowa’s unique character – deep religious faith, ingenuity and work ethic, and deep ties to the land and community. Iowa’s top consensus ranked schools are diverse and exceptional, but they have one thing in common – they are all preparing Iowa’s leaders, workers, and educators for excellence.
Iowa’s higher education system is designed to meet all of Iowa’s unique employment demands, especially the state’s two leading public research universities. The University of Iowa and Iowa State University are both noted as standing among the best public universities, and the best national research institutions. Iowa State University, in particular, is one of the nation’s STEM leaders and a source for scientists, researchers, and engineers. (They know how to have fun, too; the University of Iowa is ranked for one of the best college rec centers in the US, and Iowa State has an award-winning campus aquatic center.)
A host of Catholic and Protestant liberal arts colleges maintain the classical emphasis on the humanities, arts, and sciences, while also setting standards for professions in the modern age, from law and business to computer science and healthcare. Schools like Northwestern College are named among the best Christian colleges and the best small colleges in the US, while also earning distinction as some of the best regional colleges in the Midwest. Iowa’s small colleges don’t just have a regional impact, though; some, like Luther College rank alongside the top national liberal arts colleges, while Grinnell College and Cornell College, for instance, are both featured in the College Consensus ranking of the Top Underrated Colleges Doing Great Things. We don’t look to Iowa for showing off, and none of them would likely toot their own horn, but the liberal arts colleges of Iowa are teaching the rest of the US what liberal arts education can accomplish.
Iowa’s Best Colleges and the Future of Higher Ed in the Midwest
Iowa isn’t slowing down; in fact, Iowa is strictly on the way up, ready for the changes of the 21st century. The Hawkeye State has turned around the declining population and economic struggles of the late 20th century, and has positioned itself for greatness. As energy becomes more and more critical, Iowa’s investments in sustainable and renewable energy will be a source of jobs and wealth for the state. The best colleges in Iowa are ready, too, committed to educating a population of professionals, technicians, and leaders who can carry Iowa into tomorrow with confidence, whatever tomorrow holds.