Best Liberal Arts Colleges in Iowa 2023

Best Liberal Arts Colleges in Iowa 2023

Liberal arts colleges are a great option for students seeking a well-rounded education in an intimate campus setting. The best liberal arts colleges in Iowa offer a diverse selection of degree programs with opportunities for a highly individualized educational experience.

10 Best Liberal Arts Colleges in Iowa

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Colleges and Universities in Iowa

With a large number of both brick-and-mortar and online colleges in Iowa, students have plenty of great schools to choose from.

Iowa’s largest public university, Iowa State University, serves over 30,000 students and offers extra flexibility for both undergraduate and graduate students through a selection of online degree programs in more than 50 academic fields including business administration, psychology, computer science, and more.

The University of Iowa-home of the Hawkeyes-is also home to some of the nation’s top programs in literature, philosophy, and law. The University of Iowa has also been at the forefront of higher education, starting the nation’s first co-educational medical school, as well as being the first public school to grant a law degree to a woman, Mary B. Hickey Wilkinson, in 1873.

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For prospective students hoping to obtain their degrees at a smaller school, Iowa offers over 40 options to choose from. For a more affordable option, students can pay $4,000 per year for tuition at Indian Hills Community College. Like most community colleges in Georgia, Indian Hills also offers an array of online programs.

At the other end of the spectrum, students will pay up to $52,000 for an academic year at Grinnell College. Furthermore, nearly half of the schools in Iowa are religiously affiliated.

Iowa is often recognized for its agriculture as it produces the most pork and corn in the nation. Equally noteworthy is Iowa’s wealth of one-of-a-kind roadside attractions. From the largest wooden nickel, to the crookedest street, to the Grotto of Redemption, The Hawkeye State is full of wonders. Students in search of curiosities and oddities while earning a degree can attend one of Iowa’s public or private colleges.

Whether you’re looking to earn your associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree, Iowa offers a wealth of on-campus and online learning options. Discover more about Iowa’s top brick-and-mortar and online programs as well as top career paths in the state of Iowa.


What are Iowa’s Colleges & Universities?

Iowa’s Best Overall

Related: Differences between research universities and teaching colleges

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A liberal arts college is a school that puts a premium on undergraduate studies and offers a broad range of subjects for students to study. A college of liberal arts typically provides smaller class sizes, more direct engagement with professors, and, most importantly, the opportunity to sample a wide range of subject areas on the way to a bachelor’s degree. We’ve identified 23 liberal arts colleges in Iowa. To be ranked among the best liberal arts colleges in Iowa, schools must fully accredited institutions.

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Best Liberal Arts Colleges in Iowa 2022

  1. #2

    University of Northern Iowa

    Cedar Falls , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    86%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/23

    University of Northern Iowa’s Online Degrees

    BAS in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Elementary Education
    • Required Credits: 48-53
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: None Reported
    BA in Liberal Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  2. #3

    Cornell College

    Mount Vernon , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $48K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1174/26

    Cornell College’s Online Degrees

    BFA/MFA in Fine Arts
    Degree Concentrations
    • Creative Writing Low-Residency
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: None Reported
  3. #6

    Upper Iowa University

    Fayette , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    65%

    Graduation

    39%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    953/20

    Upper Iowa University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Human Services
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Communication Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • Communication Studies
    • Mass Media
    • and Sports Communication
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Criminal Justice
    Degree Concentrations
    • Homeland Security
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Emergency and Disaster Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Entrepreneurship
    • Finance
    • General Business
    • Global
    • Health Services Administration
    • Human Resource Management
    • Marketing
    • Sports Administration
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Information Systems
    Degree Concentrations
    • Information Systems and Security and Integration (ISSI)
    • and Information Systems and Technology Management (ISTM)
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Business Management
    Degree Concentrations
    • Financial Management
    • Accounting
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Nursing
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Public Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • General
    • Emergency Management
    • Fire Science or Law Enforcement
    • Policy and Politics
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: None Reported
    BS in Information Technology
    Degree Concentrations
    • Cyber Security and Computer Forensics (SEC)
    • and Network Management (NET)
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Social Science
    Degree Concentrations
    • General Social Science
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Sociology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Sociology
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  4. Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    47%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1000/20

    Graceland University’s Online Degrees

    BA in Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 141
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Nursing
    • Required Credits: 62
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Organizational Leadership
    • Required Credits: 108
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  5. #9

    Grand View University

    Des Moines , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    100%

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1015/20

    Grand View University’s Online Degrees

    BA in Accounting
    • Required Credits: 65-66
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Finance
    • Human Resource Management
    • Management
    • Required Credits: 48-50
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Psychology
    • Required Credits: 53
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Nursing
    • Required Credits: 26
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Liberal Arts
    • Required Credits: 42
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Social Work
    • Required Credits: 58
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  6. #10

    Iowa Wesleyan University

    Mount Pleasant , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    82%

    Graduation

    23%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    920/18

    Iowa Wesleyan University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Criminal Justice
    Degree Concentrations
    • General
    • Cybersecurity
    • Homeland Security
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Accounting
    • Agribusiness
    • Applied Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Health Care Management
    • Human Resource Management
    • Human Services
    • Logistics and Supply Chain Management
    • Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Human Services
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  7. #11

    Wartburg College

    Waverly , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $48K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    70%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1085/22

  8. #12

    Briar Cliff University

    Sioux City , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    <1K

    What is Briar Cliff University known for?

    Briar Cliff University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

    Briar Cliff University’s Online Degrees

    BA in Accounting
    • Required Credits: 39
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 39
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Health Sciences
    • Required Credits: 39
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Nursing
    • Required Credits: 30-34
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Operations Management
    • Required Credits: 39
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  9. #14

    St. Ambrose University

    Davenport , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1075/22

    St. Ambrose University’s Online Degrees

    BA in Applied Management Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Accounting Management
    • Cybersecurity Management
    • Human Resources Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Psychology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  10. #15

    Simpson College

    Indianola , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $44K

    Acceptance

    91%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1135/23

    Simpson College’s Online Degrees

    BA in Accounting
    • Required Credits: 128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: None Reported
    BA in Computer Information System
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: None Reported
    BA in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: None Reported
    BA in Human Services
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: None Reported
    BA in Management
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Management Information Systems
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  11. #16

    Buena Vista University

    Storm Lake , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $38K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    63%

    Student body

    2K

  12. #17

    Waldorf University

    Forest City , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $24K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    31%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1015/19

    Waldorf University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Criminal Justice
    Degree Concentrations
    • Forensic Mental Health
    • Forensic Psychology
    • Homeland Security
    • Public Relations
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Communications
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Criminal Justice Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Communications
    • Finance
    • Health Care Management
    • Human Resource Management
    • Industrial Organizational Psychology
    • Management
    • Project Management
    • Psychology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Emergency Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Occupational Safety
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Fire Science Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Organizational Leadership
    Degree Concentrations
    • Global Leadership
    • Diversity and Inclusion
    • Health Care Management
    • Leadership Communication
    • Occupational Safety and Health
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Homeland Security
    Degree Concentrations
    • Criminal Justice
    • Emergency Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Nursing
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Public Relations
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Psychology
    Degree Concentrations
    • Communications
    • Criminal Justice
    • Fire Science
    • Health Care Management
    • Occupational Safety and Health
    • Sport Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  13. #18

    Mount Mercy University

    Cedar Rapids , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $37K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    1K

    What is Mount Mercy University known for?

    Mount Mercy University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

    Mount Mercy University’s Online Degrees

    BA in Applied Management
    • Required Credits: 34
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: None Reported
    BA in Healthcare Administration
    • Required Credits: 58-61.5
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Accounting
    • Finance
    • Marketing
    • Management
    • Human Resource Management
    • Sport Management
    • Required Credits: 34-36
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Religious Studies
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  14. Tuition + fees

    $17K

    Acceptance

    95%

    Graduation

    35%

    Student body

    2K

    What is Maharishi International University known for?

    Maharishi International University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

    Maharishi International University’s Online Degrees

    BA in Ayurveda Wellness & Integrative Health
    • Required Credits: 50
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Applied Arts & Sciences
    Degree Concentrations
    • Consciousness and Human Potential
    • Sustainable and Regenerative Living
    • Cinematic Arts and New Media
    • Required Credits: 48
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Cinematic Arts & New Media
    • Required Credits: 40
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  15. #20

    William Penn University

    Oskaloosa , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $27K

    Acceptance

    58%

    Graduation

    32%

    Student body

    1K

    William Penn University’s Online Degrees

    BA in Human Resource Management
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Human Services
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Elementary Education
    • Required Credits: 86
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Business Management
    • Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management
    • General Accounting
    • Public Accounting
    • Human Resource Management
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  16. #21

    Dordt University

    Sioux Center , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    74%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1171/25

    Dordt University’s Online Degrees

    BA in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Management
    • Construction Management
    • Finance
    • General
    • Human Resource Management
    • Information Systems
    • International Business
    • Marketing
    • Office Management
    • Public Administration
    • Required Credits: 159.5
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  17. #22

    Northwestern College

    Orange City , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1110/23

    Northwestern College ’s Online Degrees

    BA in Early Childhood
    • Required Credits: 33
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Nursing
    • Required Credits: 30
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  18. #23

    Morningside University

    Sioux City , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    74%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    2K

    Morningside University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Nursing
    • Required Credits: 88-92
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Organizational Management
    • Required Credits: 50
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
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Iowa’s Best Liberal Arts Colleges in Your Area of Interest

2021 Ranking Archive

Many of our 2022 undergraduate focused rankings look considerably different than 2021. That’s because we took a fundamentally different apporach. For 2021 we utilized our Concentrated Influence algorithm, designed to take away the size advantage larger schools have when we rank their faculty and alumni’s academic influence. Concentrated influence highlights smaller schools that are proportionally as successful as larger universities at cultivating influential alumni and faculty.

  1. Grinnell College
  2. Cornell College
  3. Graceland University
  4. Wartburg College
  5. Coe College
  6. Maharishi International University
  7. Loras College
  8. Morningside University
  9. Luther College
  10. University of Northern Iowa
  11. Dordt University
  12. Northwestern College
  13. Mount Mercy University
  14. University of Dubuque
  15. Simpson College
  16. Buena Vista University
  17. Grand View University
  18. St. Ambrose University
  19. Upper Iowa University
  20. Briar Cliff University

Check out our directory of liberal arts colleges throughout the U.S. for a look at the top liberal arts schools in every state.