Iowa’s Best Small Colleges of 2021

Small colleges in Iowa are a great option for students interested in a more intimate campus experience, more personal attention from excellent professors, and more immediate access to support services. Whether the focus is on the technical or on the liberal arts, small colleges give you the chance to pursue a well-rounded education while working closely with classmates and professors in a dynamic community atmosphere.

Iowa’s Best Small Colleges 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.

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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


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How do we determine Iowa's best small 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.

The following list of the best small colleges and universities in Iowa is composed mainly of four-year undergraduate schools (though a handful also offer graduate programs). We’ve identified 24 small colleges in Iowa, 21 of which satisfy our criteria. The list below of the best small colleges in the state satisfies the following four conditions:

  1. It must be a non-profit institution.
  2. It must be fully accredited.
  3. Its student body must consist of 5,000 or fewer students.
  4. Its graduation rate must be above 40%.

Best Small Colleges & Universities in Iowa

  1. #1

    Grinnell College

    Grinnell , IA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    19%

    Graduation

    87%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1450/32

    What is Grinnell College known for?

    Grinnell College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Philosophy
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
    • History
    • Economics
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  2. #2

    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
  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. #4

    Cornell College

    Mount Vernon , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $46K

    Acceptance

    82%

    Graduation

    67%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1222/26

    What is Cornell College known for?

    Cornell College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Engineering
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    REQUEST INFO
  5. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    68%

    Graduation

    41%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1020/21

    What is Graceland University known for?

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

    • Education
    • Religious Studies
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Philosophy
    • Psychology
    • Sociology
    • Communications
    • Medical
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  6. #6

    Wartburg College

    Waverly , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $46K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    68%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/23

    What is Wartburg College known for?

    Wartburg College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Philosophy
    • Business
    • History
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Religious Studies
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Social Work

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  7. #7

    Coe College

    Cedar Rapids , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $47K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    1K

    What is Coe College known for?

    Coe College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Communications
    • History
    • Physics
    • Chemistry
    • Sociology
    • Education
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    REQUEST INFO
  8. 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:

    • Business
    • Education
    • Medical
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Communications
    REQUEST INFO
  9. #9

    Loras College

    Dubuque , IA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    58%

    Graduation

    70%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1055/22

    What is Loras College known for?

    Loras College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Communications
    • Religious Studies
    • Business
    • Medical
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Social Work
    • Philosophy
    • Chemistry
    REQUEST INFO
  10. #10

    Morningside University

    Sioux City , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    69%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    2K

    What is Morningside University known for?

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

    • Communications
    • Literature
    • Engineering
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • Religious Studies
    • Sociology
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  11. #11

    Luther College

    Decorah , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $46K

    Acceptance

    64%

    Graduation

    77%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1147/25

    What is Luther College known for?

    Luther College ’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • Religious Studies
    • History
    • Literature
    • Psychology
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    REQUEST INFO
  12. #12

    Dordt University

    Sioux Center , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $33K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1185/24

    What is Dordt University known for?

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

    • Education
    • Engineering
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Nursing
    • Social Work
    • Religious Studies
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  13. #13

    Northwestern College

    Orange City , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $33K

    Acceptance

    74%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1140/24

    What is Northwestern College known for?

    Northwestern College ’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • History
    • Religious Studies
    • Education
    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  14. #14

    Mount Mercy University

    Cedar Rapids , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    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:

    • Education
    • Criminal Justice
    • Religious Studies
    • Nursing
    • Business
    • History
    • Social Work
    • Mathematics
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    REQUEST INFO
  15. #15

    University of Dubuque

    Dubuque , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    960/19

    What is University of Dubuque known for?

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

    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • Medical
    • Business
    • Religious Studies
    • Criminal Justice
    • Mathematics
    • Sociology
    • Biology
    • Literature
    REQUEST INFO
  16. #16

    Simpson College

    Indianola , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $42K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1140/22

    What is Simpson College known for?

    Simpson College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • History
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Religious Studies
    • Mathematics
    • Business
    • Communications
    • Medical
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  17. #17

    Buena Vista University

    Storm Lake , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    56%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1020/22

    What is Buena Vista University known for?

    Buena Vista University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Computer Science
    • Business
    • Education
    • History
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Criminal Justice
    • Mathematics
    • Literature
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  18. #18

    Grand View University

    Des Moines , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $30K

    Acceptance

    97%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1020/19

    What is Grand View University known for?

    Grand View University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Education
    • Business
    • Criminal Justice
    • Medical
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Biology
    • Sociology
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  19. #19

    St. Ambrose University

    Davenport , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $33K

    Acceptance

    74%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1170/22

    What is St. Ambrose University known for?

    St. Ambrose University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Nursing
    • Social Work
    • History
    • Biology
    • Communications
    REQUEST INFO
  20. #20

    Upper Iowa University

    Fayette , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $33K

    Acceptance

    65%

    Graduation

    27%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/21

    What is Upper Iowa University known for?

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

    • Business
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology
    • Nursing
    • History
    • Medical
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  21. #21

    Briar Cliff University

    Sioux City , IA

    Tuition + fees

    $33K

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    <1K

    What is Briar Cliff University known for?

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

    • Education
    • Nursing
    • Medical
    • Social Work
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    REQUEST INFO

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