Best Minnesota Colleges & Universities

Become Team
Become Team
November 18, 2020

Minnesota is one of the best-educated states in the Union, ranking second in the nation (behind only Massachusetts) in the number of working-age residents with an associate degree or higher. One reason for Minnesota's well-educated population is the number of high quality colleges and universities in the state. From public universities to small private colleges to trade schools offering numerous skills and technologies, students in Minnesota have many options for pursuing higher education. This guide presents an overview of the best colleges in Minnesota, pointers on which might be most affordable, and which might have the best outlook for graduates. Read on for rankings, lists and college planning programs about Minnesota colleges.

Ranking Minnesota's Best Colleges

Not all institutions of higher learning are created equal. From cost of attendance to class size to the number of programs available for study, each school has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on the student's perspective and academic goals. Our ranking of the best Minnesota colleges takes some guesswork out of the process of choosing by looking at hard statistics such as student-to-teacher ratio, tuition and graduation rate.

Rankings Methodology Minimum Qualifications
  • Located in Minnesota
  • Public or private not-for-profit
  • Institutionally accredited
  • At least 10 total programs
Ranking Metrics
  • Median annual alumni earnings 10 years after entering the college
  • In-state tuition and fees for undergraduates
  • Student/teacher ratio
  • 6-year graduation rate
  • % of students receiving institutional financial aid (first-time, full-time undergrads)
  • Average amount of institutional aid awarded per student (first-time, full-time undergrads)
  • Availability of placement services upon completion
  • Availability of academic/career counseling services
  • Availability of employment services
  • 3-year student cohort loan default rate
Data Sources

Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS): National Center for Education Statistics

Latest 'Final Release' data available as of Fall 2016 College Scorecard: U.S. Department of Education

2-Year Programs

Hennepin Technical College View School Profile $ 29% 99.8 $33,900 21:1 3% N/A 1 128 Yes Yes
Hibbing Community College View School Profile $ 32% 99.74 $34,600 17:1 10% N/A 3 38 Yes Yes
North Hennepin Community College View School Profile $ 16% 99.59 $36,600 24:1 2% N/A 9 61 Yes Yes
Rochester Community and Technical College View School Profile $ 19% 99.15 $35,000 21:1 7% N/A 5 99 Yes Yes
Minnesota State Community and Technical College View School Profile $ 32% 99.1 $32,900 21:1 5% N/A 16 108 Yes Yes
Dakota County Technical College View School Profile $ 38% 98.91 $34,400 20:1 10% N/A 4 107 Yes Yes
Anoka-Ramsey Community College View School Profile $ 13% 98.74 $36,500 28:1 4% N/A 3 40 Yes Yes
Alexandria Technical & Community College View School Profile $ 55% 98.66 $35,600 23:1 25% N/A 9 57 Yes Yes
South Central College View School Profile $ 22% 98.64 $32,300 18:1 8% N/A 6 91 Yes Yes
St Cloud Technical and Community College View School Profile $ 28% 98.61 $35,600 23:1 5% N/A 3 85 Yes Yes
Minneapolis Community and Technical College View School Profile $ 14% 97.96 $32,800 24:1 N/A N/A 3 111 Yes Yes
Inver Hills Community College View School Profile $ 14% 97.84 $38,400 24:1 1% N/A 2 44 Yes Yes
Itasca Community College View School Profile $ 31% 97.38 $30,300 23:1 24% N/A 0 19 Yes Yes
Normandale Community College View School Profile $ 16% 97.12 $37,000 26:1 4% N/A 2 44 No Yes
Lake Superior College View School Profile $ 29% 97.09 $34,000 22:1 N/A N/A 6 80 Yes Yes
Riverland Community College View School Profile $ 31% 97.06 $32,000 20:1 15% N/A 5 66 Yes No
Central Lakes College View School Profile $ 35% 96.89 $32,000 25:1 13% N/A 4 72 Yes Yes
Vermilion Community College View School Profile $ 32% 96.35 $31,600 23:1 21% N/A 0 27 Yes Yes
Northwest Technical College View School Profile $ 29% 95.83 N/A 17:1 5% N/A 11 57 Yes Yes
Century College View School Profile $ 13% 95.73 $35,000 24:1 N/A N/A 1 101 Yes Yes
Pine Technical Community College View School Profile $ 22% 95.59 $26,900 17:1 N/A N/A 0 29 No Yes
Anoka Technical College View School Profile $ 25% 95.48 $37,200 21:1 N/A N/A 1 54 Yes Yes
Minnesota State College – Southeast Technical View School Profile $ 29% 95.44 $32,800 16:1 N/A N/A 12 79 Yes Yes
Ridgewater College View School Profile $ 43% 95.3 $32,300 21:1 N/A N/A 3 114 Yes Yes
Northland Community and Technical College View School Profile $ 28% 95.11 $34,500 20:1 N/A N/A 5 78 No Yes
Saint Paul College View School Profile $ 20% 95.02 $31,500 26:1 1% N/A 2 102 Yes Yes
White Earth Tribal and Community College View School Profile $ 4% 94.98 N/A 6:1 N/A N/A 0 6 No No
Mesabi Range College View School Profile $ 38% 94.28 N/A 20:1 N/A N/A 1 31 Yes Yes
Rainy River Community College View School Profile $ 30% 93.6 $27,200 21:1 N/A N/A 0 9 Yes No
Minnesota West Community and Technical College View School Profile $ 47% 88.66 $32,400 20:1 1% N/A 11 92 Yes Yes
Leech Lake Tribal College View School Profile $ 10% 87.48 N/A 10:1 1% N/A 1 10 No No
Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College View School Profile $ 20% 86 $25,900 29:1 4% N/A 0 20 No Yes

4-Year Programs

Gustavus Adolphus College View School Profile $$$$ 83% 99.73 $50,100 11:1 98% 61% 0 48 Yes No
St Catherine University View School Profile $$$$ 59% 99.51 $45,300 11:1 99% 67% 1 80 Yes Yes
Saint Johns University View School Profile $$$$ 77% 99.02 $55,900 12:1 100% 79% 3 40 Yes No
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities View School Profile $$ 73% 98.5 $47,800 17:1 54% 45% 17 311 Yes Yes
The College of St Scholastica View School Profile $$$$ 65% 98.5 $47,500 14:1 100% 66% 6 62 Yes Yes
Bethel University View School Profile $$$$ 71% 98.25 $44,000 12:1 100% 95% 8 76 Yes Yes
Augsburg College View School Profile $$$$ 60% 98.24 $44,800 12:1 99% 68% 0 92 Yes Yes
Carleton College View School Profile $$$$ 94% 98.13 $46,100 9:1 63% 23% 0 57 Yes No
Hamline University View School Profile $$$$ 63% 97.95 $46,900 13:1 100% 70% 5 58 Yes Yes
University of St Thomas View School Profile $$$$ 74% 97.83 $54,300 15:1 96% 87% 1 123 No No
College of Saint Benedict View School Profile $$$$ 81% 97.72 $47,600 12:1 100% 82% 0 38 Yes No
Macalester College View School Profile $$$$ 90% 97.11 $45,700 10:1 74% 36% 0 41 Yes No
St Olaf College View School Profile $$$$ 86% 96.07 $44,800 11:1 87% 51% 0 45 Yes No
Concordia College at Moorhead View School Profile $$$$ 68% 95.97 $41,200 12:1 100% 64% 1 68 Yes No
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota View School Profile $$$$ 62% 94.49 $41,600 16:1 99% 74% 6 98 No Yes
Concordia University-Saint Paul View School Profile $$$ 47% 93.61 $45,300 15:1 85% 53% 29 66 Yes Yes
University of Minnesota-Duluth View School Profile $$ 54% 92.97 $43,300 18:1 56% 77% 4 107 Yes Yes
Minnesota State University-Mankato View School Profile $ 52% 92.13 $42,700 23:1 22% 67% 6 162 Yes No
University of Minnesota-Morris View School Profile $$ 60% 92.09 $38,800 13:1 89% 64% 0 34 Yes Yes
Saint Cloud State University View School Profile $ 49% 91.68 $40,800 22:1 39% 82% 4 153 Yes Yes
Martin Luther College View School Profile $$ 73% 91.63 $40,400 14:1 87% 97% 1 17 Yes No
Winona State University View School Profile $$ 53% 91.55 $41,900 20:1 43% 63% 5 75 Yes Yes
University of Northwestern-St Paul View School Profile $$$$ 66% 91.49 $35,300 18:1 100% 70% 6 66 Yes No
Bethany Lutheran College View School Profile $$$ 51% 91.34 $34,000 9:1 100% 78% 0 19 No No
Metropolitan State University View School Profile $ 35% 89.76 $43,600 17:1 N/A 100% 11 56 No Yes
Minnesota State University-Moorhead View School Profile $$ 46% 88.58 $37,000 20:1 38% 84% 6 91 Yes No
University of Minnesota-Crookston View School Profile $$ 47% 88.28 $39,900 21:1 84% 72% 9 32 Yes Yes
Minneapolis College of Art and Design View School Profile $$$$ 61% 88.02 $31,400 13:1 97% 64% 1 15 Yes No
North Central University View School Profile $$$ 46% 87.83 $29,600 14:1 98% 91% 0 38 Yes Yes
Bemidji State University View School Profile $$ 44% 87.46 $37,300 22:1 43% 94% 12 69 Yes Yes
Southwest Minnesota State University View School Profile $$ 41% 86.09 $35,600 29:1 76% 67% 0 51 Yes No
Crown College View School Profile $$$ 47% 86 $31,600 18:1 89% 28% 15 44 No Yes

Search & Compare Colleges in Minnesota

What if the goal is to search through specific criteria and compare the results? That's what students get with this search tool, which allows them to drill down on certain criteria, such as tuition rates or student population, and then compare the schools that meet those guidelines. The result is a nice way to help students narrow down their short list of potential colleges in Minnesota.

College Planning & Assistance Programs in Minnesota

Preparing for college is not easy. It takes hard work and careful planning to find the financial resources and build up the academic record needed to successfully transition from high school to college. Once in higher education, many students could use assistance in maximizing their college experience, transitioning to college life and preparing for the working world after graduation. There are many resources available to help students do all of this. Here are just a few.

Minnesota Education Equity Partnership

The Minnesota Education Equity Partnership's (MNEEP) goal is for all students to have equal access to education in Minnesota regardless of their race, class, creed or nationality. Utilizing a multifaceted approach, the MNEEP takes various steps to achieve that educational equality, including educating policy makers to recognize the advantages of promoting a diverse students body, empowering students and families to reach for their academic and professional goals, improving college access and addressing school discipline disparities among different types of students based on their race.

Minnesota College Goal

This initiative helps Minnesota students and families take full advantage of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Consisting of volunteers, the program connects financial experts with families of students who plan to attend college. Between February and May, numerous FAFSA workshops are offered in locations all over Minnesota. Special attention goes to low income families or those who have no prior college graduates. MCG helps students find all the financial aid possible in order to make college easier.

Minnesota Self Loan Program

This long-term, low-interest loan is administered by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. The loan has either a fixed interest rate, currently 6.5%, or a variable rate which is often a bit lower. In order to be eligible, students must be attending school at least part-time, make satisfactory academic progress, and be current on any other student loan payments. The program has a cumulative limit of $100,000 for a four-year program, $140,000 for a graduate school program, and much lower amounts for associate, certificate or other programs.

Cost Analysis of Attending College in Minnesota

Most students who attend college in Minnesota will not have the benefit of free tuition or a scholarship that pays for everything. As a result, the cost of a particular school will be one of the most important considerations. How do the colleges in Minnesota stack up to each other and the rest of the colleges across the United States? We did the research to help aspiring students make informed decisions.

* Institutional aid represents grant and scholarship funds directly awarded by a postsecondary institution.

* Financial aid data represents 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Most Affordable Colleges in Minnesota

Tuition is not the only number prospective students should research; some schools will offer more scholarships and financial aid options than others do. Therefore, the actual cost of attendance can be substantially different between schools, even if they have similar base tuitions. The following is a list of the most affordable colleges in Minnesota based on the actual cost of attendance, calculated by subtracting the typical financial aid package from the tuition rate.

Minnesota College Net Price vs. National Average

Average
Annual Net Price
MINNESOTA $19,461
$18,073

Source: College Scorecard
Note: Rankings/data represent 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Minnesota Colleges with Highest-Paid Alumni

If college is an investment, an individual needs to know what the return on the investment is before deciding to take it on. This section looks at what graduates from the top six schools in Minnesota are actually making. Earning figures spanning 10 years after graduating, as well as comparisons between Minnesota and national averages, are all included here.

Minnesota Alumni Salaries vs. National Average

Annual Median Earnings
10 Years After Entering College
MINNESOTA $42,420
$42,759

Source: College Scorecard
Note: Rankings/data represent 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Colleges in Minnesota with Least Alumni Debt

A high salary after graduating college is great, but must be put into perspective-and few things will do that faster than student loan debt. The following ranking shows what students who graduate from Minnesota colleges might expect from student debt.

Minnesota College Grad Debt Vs. National Average

Median Federal Student
Loan Debt After Graduation
MINNESOTA $22,297
$23,145

Source: College Scorecard
Note: Rankings/data represent 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

What Does it Cost Students to Live in Minnesota?

In addition to worrying about tuition and financial aid, students must also consider the costs in the area where they might live for two years, four years or longer. The cost of living in Minnesota tends to be a bit higher than the national average in every category, which is why it is so important for students to do serious research into what to expect financially. The following table compares the cost of living in metro areas of the state, as well as the national average.

area composite index housing groceries utilities transportation health care misc.
Statewide Average 101% 94% 105% 90% 105% 108% 106%
Mankato 94% 76% 103% 78% 94% 113% 108%
Minneapolis 107% 110% 106% 94% 108% 106% 109%
Rochester 101% 94% 99% 97% 115% 99% 104%
St. Cloud 96% 78% 111% 91% 97% 115% 103%
St. Paul 106% 109% 105% 92% 108% 106% 109%

Source: The Council for Community and Economic Research

Minnesota Colleges Accreditation

College isn't easy or cheap, so when choosing which one to attend, prospective students want to know their degree will pay off. While many things can affect whether a college degree from a particular school is worth it, accreditation should always be at the top of a student's wish list. Accreditation ensures a school has been evaluated by an independent body and proven to have consistent, high-quality programs.

Minnesota colleges are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, which is the regional accrediting institution for the North Central Region. In addition to school accreditation, the college or university can pursue accreditation for individual programs as well. Here are a few examples:

Popular College Cities in Minnesota

Mankato

Mankato is known for its excellent parks, trails and opportunities for outdoor activities. It's also known as a great college town with multiple colleges and universities. Plenty of students have recognized the perks offered by the city, such as a shorter commute, a revitalized downtown and a quite young population, with a growing number of residents under the age of 34. Here are some of the colleges students might choose to attend in Mankato.

College Name School Type Annual Net Price Annual Median Earnings
10 Years After College

Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.

MankatoMinnesota State University - Mankato Public $14,161 $42,700
Minnesota State University-Mankato was founded in 1868 and boasts a student body of over 15,000. Students have the opportunity to study in over 130 undergraduate and 75 graduate programs in fields such as business, humanities, allied health and behavioral sciences. The university is well-known for its research, including partnerships with the Center on Aging, Water Resources Center and Space Image Processing Center.
MankatoBethany Lutheran College Private not-for-profit $16,598 $34,000
Started in 1927, Bethany Lutheran College has worked to provide a high quality college education that is in line with the Bible and Lutheran Confessions. Operated by the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the college provides students the opportunity to study in 20 majors, including American studies, media arts and business administration. The professors at this small school are readily available for additional help and instruction, both inside and outside the classroom.
MankatoSouth Central College Public $11,410 $32,300
South Central College is a two-year college serving over 5,000 students. The academic offerings vary widely, with over 50 technical and professional programs to go along with many associate degree curriculums. Many associate degree programs are designed to allow graduates to move seamlessly into a four-year degree. Some areas of study offered include accounting, culinary arts, carpentry and small business management.
Minneapolis-Saint Paul

Minneapolis-Saint Paul is made up of two cities, but due to their proximity to each other, the cities are considered one metropolitan area. With such a large metropolitan area, it's no surprise that there are more than 30 colleges and universities in the area. In addition to enjoying the vast number of schools that might fit their needs, students will be happy to know they will graduate into an area with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. Here are just a few of the institutions of higher learning students should consider.

College Name School Type Annual Net Price Annual Median Earnings
10 Years After College

Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.

Minneapolis-Saint PaulUniversity of Minnesota - Twin Cities Public $17,208 $47,800
The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities is Minnesota's keystone public university. Established in 1851, the school also has campuses in other locations, such as Duluth, Rochester and Morris. Over 46,000 students attend the university and take advantage of the diverse academic offerings. There are over 200 graduate and undergraduate degree programs available in almost any subject, including law, horticulture, urban regional planning and interior design.
Minneapolis-Saint PaulMinneapolis College of Art and Design Private not-for-profit $24,619 $31,400
Founded in 1886, the Minneapolis College of Art and Design provides elite art and design instruction and formal degrees to students in the Twin Cities region. Attention paid to students is top-notch, with a faculty to student ratio of 10 to 1 and a student body comprised of only 700 to 800 students from all over the world. The bulk of the curriculum covers art and design subjects; however, students will still get a well-rounded education, with approximately a third of the curriculum covering liberal arts topics.
Minneapolis-Saint PaulMinneapolis Community and Technical College Public $14,467 $32,800
The student body of Minneapolis Community and Technical College consists of about 13,000, who surely appreciate the school's convenient location in downtown Minneapolis. In addition to a vibrant on campus experience, students have many academic options available to them, including associate degrees, certificate and diploma programs in over 120 areas. In fact, Minneapolis Community and Technical College is the most comprehensive two-year college in Minnesota.

Source: College Scorecard

Minnesota College Resources for Further Research

Prospective students interested in attending Minnesota colleges will want to learn how to apply, how to pay for school, and what transfer options may be available. The following list of resources is a great place to begin.

CAREERwise Education

Resources provided include career exploration tools, which help students best utilize their interests and skills. For those not yet in college, college-planning tools can help students figure out which school is right for them and how to pay for it.

Minnesota College Savings Plan

This is a version of the popular 529 college savings plan. What makes this savings plan special is the tax and estate planning benefits it receives.

Minnesota Office of Higher Education

For reliable and readily available consumer information about colleges and universities in Minnesota, this website is one of the first places prospective students should visit.

Minnesota State College Student Association

The MSCSA is comprised of students who are attending public, two-year colleges, with the goal of promoting high quality two-year college education to students.

Minnesota Transfer

This resource helps with college transfers. A plethora of information is available, such as an explanation of the transfer process, financial aid considerations and the transfer application process.

Minnesota's Private Colleges

The Minnesota Private College Council represents various private and nonprofit liberal arts colleges and universities. In connection with the Minnesota Private College Fund, the council helps low and middle income families pay for tuition.

Ready Set Go

This is Minnesota's information hub for high school students looking for ways to achieve college credits while still in high school.

Become Team
Become Team
Contributing Writer