Best Private Colleges in Iowa 2022

Best Private Colleges in Iowa 2022

Private colleges, unlike large public institutions, can be a great option for students wanting a more intimate campus experience, more personal attention from excellent professors, and more immediate access to support services. Here is our list of the best private colleges in Iowa.

Colleges and Universities in Iowa

Iowa’s largest public university, Iowa State University, serves over 30,000 students and offers extra flexibility for those pursuing a graduate-level degree or certificate through online and distance learning opportunities in more than 50 academic fields. Additionally, the home of the Hawkeyes, the University of Iowa, is also home to some of the nation’s top programs in literature, philosophy, and law. This school 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 students hoping to obtain their degrees at a smaller school, Iowa offers over 40 options to choose from, with tuition ranging from $4,000 at Indian Hills Community College 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 many higher education institutes to choose from. Discover more about Iowa’s top programs and career paths.


What are Iowa’s Colleges & Universities?

Iowa’s Best Overall

What is the difference between public and private colleges?

Public and private colleges and universities operate under different business models. Public colleges and universities are owned by the state and receive both state and federal funding to operate. Private colleges and universities are private companies with private funding. If you’re looking at the pros and cons of private vs. public colleges, consider that many public colleges provide diverse course offerings, influential professors, and an excellent return on your investment.

Public colleges are schools that receive most of their funding from tax revenues. As a result, the cost of a bachelor’s degree at a public university is often lower than the equivalent cost at a private college — especially for students attending a public school in their home state. Attending a college in-state is usually the cheapest option. Private universities and colleges can be very competitive with their funding opportunities, so do not simply believe that private colleges are always going to be more expensive. According to National Center for Educational Statistics, the average annual cost (tuition, fees, room and board for full-time students) at a public university was slightly over $20,000. In contrast, private universities cost, on average, nearly $43,000 annually. But in the end, the cost of college comes down to each student’s academic and financial situation.

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This list is composed entirely of private colleges and universities that offer bachelor’s degrees. We’ve identified 24 private universities in Iowa. To be included in the list below of the best private universities in Iowa, schools must be fully accredited, private, non-profit institution, and must offer a broad range of bachelor’s degrees.

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Best Private Colleges in Iowa

  1. #11

    Wartburg College

    Waverly , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $48K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    68%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/23

  2. #12

    Briar Cliff University

    Sioux City , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    <1K

    What is Briar Cliff University known for?

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #13

    University of Dubuque

    Dubuque , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    960/19

  4. #14

    St. Ambrose University

    Davenport , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    74%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1170/22

  5. #15

    Simpson College

    Indianola , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $44K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1140/22

  6. #16

    Clarke University

    Dubuque , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $37K

    Acceptance

    89%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1030/20

  7. #17

    Buena Vista University

    Storm Lake , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $38K

    Acceptance

    56%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1020/22

  8. #18

    Waldorf University

    Forest City , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $24K

    Acceptance

    61%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1015/19

    What is Waldorf University known for?

    Waldorf University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #19

    Mount Mercy University

    Cedar Rapids , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $37K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    2K

    What is Mount Mercy University known for?

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. Tuition + fees

    $17K

    Acceptance

    100%

    Graduation

    43%

    Student body

    2K

    What is Maharishi International University known for?

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #21

    William Penn University

    Oskaloosa , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $27K

    Acceptance

    55%

    Graduation

    37%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    970/18

  12. #22

    Dordt University

    Sioux Center , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1185/24

  13. #23

    Northwestern College

    Orange City , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    74%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1140/24

  14. #24

    Morningside University

    Sioux City , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    69%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    2K

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Iowa’s Best Private Colleges in Your Area 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 utiulized 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. Clarke University
  3. Drake University
  4. Cornell College
  5. Graceland University
  6. Wartburg College
  7. Coe College
  8. Maharishi International University
  9. Loras College
  10. Morningside University
  11. Luther College
  12. Dordt University
  13. Northwestern College
  14. Mount Mercy University
  15. University of Dubuque
  16. Simpson College
  17. Buena Vista University
  18. Grand View University
  19. St. Ambrose University
  20. Upper Iowa University
  21. Briar Cliff University