Iowa’s Best Research Universities of 2021

Interested in attending a STEM school in Iowa? Our ranking of top research universities for bachelor’s degrees displays schools that will best prepare you for STEM careers.

Iowa’s Best Research Universities of 2021

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.

Find college admissions consultants in your state.

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

Iowa's Best Research Universities 2021 badge
Download Badge

How do we determine Iowa's best colleges and universities?

Methodology

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why, at the undergraduate level, we rank the best colleges and universities based on what we call “Concentrated Influence”. Concentrated Influence takes the combined influence score of a college or university’s top academic influencers (including faculty and alums) and divides it by the school’s total number of undergraduates.

Using concentrated influence gives small and mid-sized schools an opportunity to shine by taking away the size advantage of larger universities. A small school with proportionately more influential faculty than a large school, whose influence in absolute terms may be bigger, will nonetheless score higher in a concentrated influence ranking. Our approach highlights undergraduate schools that truly rank for excellence, regardless of size.

If you are serious about finding the best colleges and universities for a bachelor’s degree, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching and whether their graduates are themselves advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence.

Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Concentrated Influence provides a ranking that is free from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

Related: Differences between research universities and teaching colleges

A research university is a great option for students interested in obtaining STEM degrees. Research universities invest heavily in research, which consequently provides meaningful and extensive opportunities for its students and faculty to participate in research. There are 5 research universities in Iowa, 4 of which satisfy our criteria. The list below of the best research universities in the state satisfies the following four conditions:

  1. It must be a fully accredited university.
  2. It must be a non-profit institution.
  3. It must offer doctoral degrees across the range of STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).
  4. It must report high levels of research activity based upon the number of research and/or practice doctorates awarded each year.
  5. It must have a graduation rate of greater than 60%.

Best Research Universities in Iowa

  1. #1

    Clarke University

    Dubuque , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    89%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1030/20

    What is Clarke University known for?

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

    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Education
    • Communications
    • History
    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • Chemistry
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  2. #2

    University of Iowa

    Iowa City , IA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    84%

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    26K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1235/25

    What is University of Iowa known for?

    University of Iowa’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Law
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Education
    • Engineering
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  3. #3

    Drake University

    Des Moines , IA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $44K

    Acceptance

    68%

    Graduation

    78%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1235/27

    What is Drake University known for?

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

    • Law
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Communications
    • Education
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  4. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    88%

    Graduation

    75%

    Student body

    30K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1220/25

    What is Iowa State University known for?

    Iowa State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • Chemistry
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Economics
    • Business
    • Education
    • Literature
    REQUEST INFO

Find the Best Research Universities in Iowa for your Major

Resources for College-Bound Students

Photo By: Clarke University