Best North Dakota Colleges & Universities

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Become Team
November 10, 2021 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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The massive oil boom in North Dakota has been a strong catalyst for pouring a record amount of money into higher education; according to the Hechinger Report, since 2008, North Dakota colleges have received a 61 percent increase in funding from the state. That bodes well for students who are looking for affordable colleges in North Dakota. To make the college search easier, we looked at numerous factors to come up with a well-rounded guide for aspiring students, including rankings of the best colleges in North Dakota as well as information on affordability, alumni salaries, tuition rates and college planning tools.

North Dakota College Leaderboard: Rankings

With well over 20 institutions of higher learning in North Dakota, it can be tough to figure out which ones are the best. Our rankings are based on a variety of factors, including tuition cost, financial aid availability, student-to-teacher ratios and graduation rates. This a comprehensive list of the top colleges in the state, serving as a barometer of quality for students who are starting out on their search for an ideal school.

Rankings Methodology Minimum Qualifications
  • Located in North Dakota
  • 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

North Dakota State College of Science View School Profile $ 47% 99.84 $41,400 12:1 31% N/A 5 64 Yes Yes
Lake Region State College View School Profile $ 40% 99.81 $34,800 14:1 63% N/A 5 28 Yes Yes
Williston State College View School Profile $ 37% 99.15 $33,300 18:1 74% N/A 9 33 No Yes
Dakota College at Bottineau View School Profile $ 28% 99.09 $31,800 9:1 40% N/A 9 43 No Yes
Cankdeska Cikana Community College View School Profile $ 15% 86 $19,400 8:1 74% N/A 0 17 No No

4-Year Programs

North Dakota State University-Main Campus View School Profile $$ 53% 99.42 $46,300 19:1 37% 83% 8 172 Yes Yes
University of Jamestown View School Profile $$ 50% 96.15 $38,600 13:1 98% 64% 0 42 Yes Yes
University of Mary View School Profile $$ 20% 95.14 $45,700 15:1 100% 79% 4 82 Yes Yes
Dickinson State University View School Profile $ 35% 94.55 $37,000 11:1 63% 61% 20 44 Yes Yes
University of North Dakota View School Profile $$ 52% 93.33 $46,600 19:1 30% 86% 34 145 Yes No
Minot State University View School Profile $ 33% 92.09 $37,200 13:1 70% 58% 8 75 Yes Yes
Valley City State University View School Profile $ 41% 91.28 $36,700 11:1 96% 90% 8 37 Yes No
Mayville State University View School Profile $ 39% 86 $34,000 17:1 76% N/A 9 29 Yes Yes

Explore & Research Colleges in North Dakota

Students who have specific criteria in mind can make good use of this search tool, which allows them to sort through North Dakota colleges based on factors like acceptance rates and location. Students can then compare the results side-by-side to get a well-rounded view of which colleges might be the best choice for their educational needs and goals.

North Dakota College Planning and Outreach Initiatives

Students preparing for college are often overwhelmed by the long list of tasks that must be done in order to get the ball rolling. Everything from filling out the FAFSA to finishing all aspects of an application can be daunting. Current college students can face some of the same issues as they approach the end of their time in college and look toward graduating and moving into the workforce. The state of North Dakota recognizes these struggles and provides several college planning tools that can help students make the most of their higher education.

Dollars for Scholars

A program of Scholarship America, this initiative provides scholarships for students in North Dakota communities. North Dakota has one statewide chapter of the organization as well as 70 local chapters throughout the state. As of 2014, all chapters in the state have raised well over $32 million and provided scholarships to over 25,000 students. Today, Dollars for Scholars works with the Bank of North Dakota to present this scholarship program and many others to North Dakota residents who want to make their higher education dreams a reality.

Dual Credit Program

Signed into law in 1997, this program for high school juniors and seniors allows them to take college courses during their years in high school. The college course is not in addition to the typical high school courses, but rather counts for both college and high school credit. Eligible students can take up to two college classes per year at no cost. For students who do not meet the low-income qualifications, loans are available to help students pay for the dual credit courses.

Crash Course

Students, parents and educators who want to get a "crash course" in preparation for college can do so through this innovative program. This free event is hosted at schools across North Dakota and is open to students in seventh through 12th grade as well as their parents and interested educators. The sessions are packed with information on financial aid, life after high school, job opportunities, preparing for college and getting scholarships.

Cost Analysis of Attending College in North Dakota

With many points to ponder when searching for the right college, there is one important question that stands out: How much is this going to cost? Figuring out that bottom line starts by looking at tuition and then factoring in the financial aid packages offered by various schools. The following charts focus on average tuition rates, financial aid availability and how North Dakota colleges compare to the national average.

Source: CollegeBoard

Source: IPEDS

Source: IPEDS

* 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.

North Dakota's Most Affordable Colleges

Although tuition can seem pricey, students should remember to consider the net price. The net price is the cost of attendance minus any financial aid received-in other words, the real price of college. This section looks at the six schools that are most affordable in North Dakota based on net price and compares them to the national average.

North Dakota College Net Price vs. National Average

Annual Net Price

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

Best North Dakota Colleges for Maximizing Earnings Potential

Knowing how much college costs matters, but astute students also want to know what alumni might make after graduation. These six schools in North Dakota tend to turn out the highest paid alumni ten years after they entered college. We have also compared the alumni salaries with the national average to provide a strong overview of what graduates can expect.

North Dakota Alumni Salaries vs. National Average

Annual Median Earnings
10 Years After Entering College

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

Colleges in North Dakota that Produce the Least Student Debt

Aside from looking at what alumni make upon graduation from North Dakota schools, it is also important to consider what kind of debt they carry. These six schools produce alumni with the lowest levels of student debt and have also been compared to the national average to help show students the range of debt levels among alumni.

North Dakota College Grad Debt Vs. National Average

Median Federal Student
Loan Debt After Graduation

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

Beyond Tuition: North Dakota's Cost of Living

In addition to worrying about the net price of college, students should also look at the cost of living, like rent and utilities, in the area around their chosen schools. According to Sperling's Best Places, in North Dakota, utilities and transportation tend to be lower than the national average, while housing, healthcare and groceries tend to be a bit higher. More on the cost of living in metro areas of North Dakota and the state as a whole can be found below.

area composite index housing groceries utilities transportation health care misc.
Statewide Average 101% 105% 107% 85% 96% 111% 101%
Bismarck-Mandan 100% 104% 104% 86% 104% 111% 97%
Minot 102% 106% 111% 85% 88% 111% 105%

Source: The Council for Community and Economic Research

College Accreditation in North Dakota

One of the most important of factors when looking for a college is accreditation. Accreditation means a school has been evaluated by an independent body and found to meet the high standards of a quality education. Besides being a strong indication of quality, accreditation matters in many other ways. Many employers are skeptical of degrees from non-accredited institutions and the credits earned at non-accredited institutions might not transfer to accredited schools. Financial aid options may also be limited for non-accredited programs.

Colleges and universities in North Dakota are accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools of the Higher Learning Commission In addition to regional accreditation, schools can also opt for accreditation of individual programs. Here are a few examples:

North Dakota College City Spotlight


Bismarck is home to numerous institutions of higher learning. From four-year universities to technical and career schools and from schools of medicine to colleges of cosmetology, there is something for everyone in the city. Those who choose to stay in Bismarck after completing their education can look forward to jobs in fields such as agriculture, agribusiness, energy and health services.

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

Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.

BismarkBismarck State College Public $7,968 $38,100
Founded as Bismarck Junior College in 1939, BSC began with 107 students and 12 instructors. Today, the college is the third largest in North Dakota's university system, enrolling over 3,700 students who enjoy a 15-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio. Students can obtain their associate degree, diploma or certificate, or opt for the Bachelor of Applied Science in Energy Management; it's the only one in the nation.
BismarkUniversity of Mary Private not-for-profit $15,029 $45,700
Known simply as "Mary," this private school integrates Benedictine values throughout the college experience. Strong financial aid and scholarship packages have made Mary one of the most affordable private schools in the nation. Students can take courses either in-person or online course and can choose from 54 undergraduate majors, 14 master's degrees and three doctoral degrees. Mary enrolls more than 3,000 students, and 96 percent of all graduates enter the workforce or graduate school within six months after graduation.
BismarkUnited Tribes Technical College Private not-for-profit $6,285 $15,700
UTTC strives to create the best educational experience for members of more than 75 federally recognized tribes across the nation; however, the school serves students of all backgrounds. In addition to offering occupational education and training, the school is the first tribal college in the nation authorized to offer fully online degrees. Students can currently choose between 16 associate degree programs, four bachelor's programs, four certificate programs or a diploma in automotive technology.
Grand Forks

According to, Grand Forks is the third largest city in the state with a population of over 55,000 and is anchored by the University of North Dakota and the Grand Forks Air Force Base. Today, Grand Forks is known as the epicenter of Unmanned Aerial Systems.

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

Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.

Grand ForksUniversity of North Dakota Public $16,931 $46,600
As the pride of Grand Forks, UND is home to almost 15,000 students, 11,000 of which are undergrads. The school offers over 225 fields of study and top degree pursuits include nursing, psychology, commercial aviation, communication and biology. The average class size is 22 students, which allows for intimate learning. Outside the classroom, many students are busy with the 10 men's and 11 women's NCAA sports teams.

Source: College Scorecard

College Resources for Students in North Dakota

Become more familiar with North Dakota colleges and universities, as well as college planning tools, through these resources.

Bank of North Dakota's College Planning Center

From information on financial aid to managing money outside of school, this handy resource can help students and parents navigate the financial waters of college.

College SAVE

This is North Dakota’s 529 plan. This site offers several scholarship and grant opportunities that might be of interest to students and parents.

Consider Your Options 2016

This report by the North Dakota University System discussed the common concerns and questions students might have about attending North Dakota schools.


This site is an easy way to look at all the programs available at public North Dakota schools as well as get help with applying to schools.

ND Tribal College Information

Of the 34 accredited tribal colleges in the country, five of them are located in North Dakota. This site provides information on each one.

North Dakota University System: State Board of Higher Education (SBHE)

The SBHE sets policies and advocates for the 11 publicly supported colleges and universities in North Dakota.

RU Ready ND

This education and career planning resource allows students to do everything from match their skills to potential careers to apply for financial aid.

Become Team
Become Team
Contributing Writer is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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