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North Dakota Online Colleges & Universities: Top Schools for 2018

Updated on: 01/04/2018

Compared to some other, more highly populated states, residents of North Dakota may not have the same options for attending college or university. With such a low population density, many aspiring students must commute long miles or make a long-distance move to attend school. Luckily, the rise of online college education provides another option: education completed from the comfort of home. Let’s look at the online college landscape in North Dakota and the best ways to find the right online college for you.

North Dakota’s Best Online College: 2018

Choosing among the best accredited online colleges in North Dakota requires a comparison of certain college metrics, such as location and cost of attendance. Therefore, the following ranking of North Dakota colleges is based on several traits, such as cost, which can help students choose among the best affordable online colleges in North Dakota.

  • Accredited public or private not-for-profit institution

  • At least 3 online associate degrees or certificate programs (2-year schools)

  • At least 3 online bachelor’s or master’s degrees (4-year schools)

  • Annual in-state tuition below $5,000 (2-year schools)

  • Annual in-state tuition below $25,000 (4-year schools)

Colleges receive a total score based on performance in the following categories:

  • Average in-state net price for first-time/full-time undergraduates

  • Count and breadth of online programs available

  • Student-teacher ratio

  • 6-year graduation rate (4-year schools only)

  • % of beginning, full-time undergrads receiving scholarship/grant aid from the college

  • Average $ of financial aid students receive directly from the college

  • Availability of academic/career counseling services

  • Availability of job placement services for students and graduates

  • 3-year loan default rate

  • AC Online Peer-Based Value (PBV)*

  • *PBV is a proprietary metric that compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or a similar) qualitative score. It also compares the qualitative score of the program to the score of other programs with the same (or similar) cost. In short, the PBV calculation denotes the overall value – or ‘bang for your buck’ – of an online degree.

Our college rankings are backed by data collected and analyzed from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, a program managed by the National Center for Education Statistics. Surveying over 7,500 colleges annually, it is among the most longstanding and trusted providers of U.S. postsecondary information.

  • Most recent “Final Release” data available as of October 2017

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher RatioGrad RateCredit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Valley City State University Valley City, ND 100.00 $5,027 9 98% 11:146%no yes yes
2 University of Mary Bismarck, ND 99.54 $14,990 13 99% 13:15%yes yes yes
3 Dickinson State University Dickinson, ND 99.44 $4,891 19 60% 10:138%yes yes yes
4 Minot State University Minot, ND 98.69 $4,941 10 70% 12:137%yes yes yes
5 Mayville State University Mayville, ND 97.99 $4,810 9 71% 15:136%yes yes yes
6 North Dakota State University-Main Campus Fargo, ND 97.38 $6,604 16 38% 18:153%yes yes yes
7 University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND 96.72 $6,388 15 44% 21:153%no yes yes
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2-Year Best College Rankings

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher RatioGrad RateCredit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Williston State College Williston, ND 100.00 $3,235 14 87% 23:1N/Ayes no yes
2 Lake Region State College Devils Lake, ND 99.49 $3,197 6 60% 13:1N/Ayes yes yes
3 Dakota College at Bottineau Bottineau, ND 97.77 $3,301 22 30% 8:1N/Ayes no yes
4 North Dakota State College of Science Wahpeton, ND 97.61 $3,781 14 31% 11:1N/Ayes yes yes

North Dakota’s Online Colleges: Growth and Advancement

Because North Dakota is a sparsely populated state, many of its more than twelve schools have online degree offerings. At the larger, four-year universities, such as the University of North Dakota, over 50 online undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs are available. And many of these online offerings are in technical areas, such as chemical engineering, aviation and nursing. But the University of North Dakota, even as a flagship university, isn’t the only postsecondary institution with robust online course offerings. Minot State University has approximately 20 online degree and certificate programs, including a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a master of science in information systems. Even community colleges, such as Dakota College at Bottineau, have over 25 online degree options.

Paying for School: Tuition & Financial Aid in North Dakota

Students who enroll in an online course can expect to pay the same tuition rate as all other students. In many instances, this is the in-state tuition rate. With traditional, on-campus programs and courses, students who have North Dakota residency will have significantly lower tuition.

If students wish to receive in-state status for tuition purposes at a North Dakota public college, they must either be 18 years of age and have been a legal resident of North Dakota for one year prior to beginning classes, have graduated from a North Dakota high school or are a dependent with parents who have lived in North Dakota for at least one year prior to the student beginning classes.

In-state tuition (public, 4-year institution): $7,208

Out-of-state tuition (public, 4-year institution): $17,727

In-state tuition (public, 2-year institution): $4,506

Out-of-state tuition (public, 2-year institution): $8,719

Private tuition: $13,883

Source:National Center for Education Statistics

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Do online college students in North Dakota pay in-state or out-of-state tuition?

Most online degree programs charge all students an in-state tuition rate. Sometimes a higher rate is charged for online students, but this higher rate is usually the same for all students, regardless of residency. In addition, as a result of a number of reciprocity and special agreements, there are a variety of tuition classifications North Dakota students can fall under.

Students who are residents of Minnesota pay tuition that is about the same as that of a North Dakota resident. Then there’s the Contiguous Residency ,where students from states contiguous to North Dakota have their own special tuition rate. Next is the Western Undergraduate Exchange, with a slightly higher tuition rate than Contiguous Residency students. The next to last is the Midwest Students Exchange Program.

The Contiguous Residency states (not included in this list are two Canadian provinces) include:

  • Montana
  • South Dakota

Midwest Student Exchange Program states include:

  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Wisconsin

Western Undergraduate Exchange states (not included in this list are two US territories) include:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Oregon
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wyoming
Quick summary on tuition:
  • 1.Even though out-of-state students will pay higher tuition to attend school in North Dakota, they often can pay in-state tuition rates if they are enrolled in an online program.

  • 2.Assuming online students are not eligible for in-state tuition rates, students from Minnesota and states that are members of Contiguous Residency, MSEP and WUE states pay tuition that is greater than North Dakota residents, but less than non-residents.

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What is North Dakota’s application process for financial aid?

Students interested in applying for financial aid in North Dakota should begin with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Since financial need is a common criterion for the awarding of financial aid, the FAFSA is not just used to apply for federal financial aid, but state and school-based aid as well. While the FAFSA deadline is fairly generous, students are strongly encouraged to complete it as soon as they are allowed to submit it, which is October 1, about 10 months before students intend to begin classes at their chosen college or university.

For students receiving federal financial aid and certain types of state-based aid, they must maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress, or SAP, to continue receiving it. Most schools follow the federal SAP guidelines, which are detailed below.

  • GPA:

    For undergraduate students, they must have a cumulative GPA of at least a 2.0. For graduate students, the cumulative GPA requirement is 3.0.

  • Completion Rate:

    Students must pass at least two-thirds of the courses they enroll in.

  • Timeframe:

    The student shall complete the degree within a certain number of attempted credits. The exact limit is 150% of the necessary credits required to graduate. For example, if a student needs 60 credits to get an associate degree, they must obtain their degree before attempting 90 credits.

If a student fails to meet SAP requirements, they will usually have one more semester where they continue to receive financial aid and attempt to improve their academic standing. If they do not, then the financial aid is taken away.

Scholarships & Grants: North Dakota

North Dakota students are in good shape in that much of the state-based financial aid comes in the form of scholarships and grants. And of course, there are the private scholarships and grants offered by companies and nonprofit organizations, as well as school-specific scholarships awarded to students attending a particular school.

What scholarships and grants are available for North Dakota students?

Students attending an online college in North Dakota have several state-based scholarships and grants to choose from. First, there is the North Dakota State Student Incentive Grant Program that provides up to $975 per semester to students with financial need and who are first-time undergraduate students. Students do not need to be full-time students, but if they take fewer classes, their grant amount will drop.

Second, there is the North Dakota Scholars Program, a merit-based scholarship that will pay a qualifying student’s entire tuition at any public North Dakota college or university. To qualify for this generous scholarship, students must take the ACT and obtain a score at or above the 95th percentile.

More grants and scholarships can be found at the North Dakota University System’s Grants and Scholarships page.

How do North Dakota students apply for scholarships and grants?

The exact application process depends on the specific scholarship or grant the student is applying for. For instance, the North Dakota Scholars Program, doesn’t require an application because the student’s ACT score is automatically sent to the North Dakota University System. And with the North Dakota State Students Incentive Grant Program, the application is the FAFSA. This example illustrates how important it is that students pay close attention to each scholarship and grant’s specific application instructions.

For private scholarships and grants, students will usually need to complete an involved application process, which includes the application itself, an essay and either an interview or letter of recommendation. Because of the amount of work and time involved to apply for these scholarships, students are strongly encouraged to begin working on these applications as soon as possible. This will give ample time to students to revise their essay and allow their letters of recommendation writers enough time to write the best letters possible.

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Choosing the Right Online College in North Dakota

Picking an online college is a major decision. To make the best choice, prospective students will research the answers to a variety of questions. Some of the more common questions are described and answered in the following section, which will hopefully make your North Dakota college decision a little easier.

Which colleges in North Dakota accept transfer credits and work/life experience?

In addition to the traditional transfer credit process, where students receive college credit for coursework completed at another school at an earlier time, North Dakota students can also get college credit for work or life experience. The transfer process will vary depending on the school, prior experience and college credit requested. For example, at Lake Region State College, students must request an evaluation and submit sufficient documentation so school officials can determine if the work or life experience warrants the awarding of college credit. And at Bismarck State College, veterans can receive up to 45 college credits for military experience.

I’m a North Dakota resident. Am I required to enroll in an online college in my state?

No. One of the advantages of choosing an online college is the ability to live in a location other than where the school is located. While some online programs could have on-campus or in-person class requirements, you are not required to live in the same state where your school is located. This means if you live in North Dakota, you can attend practically any online college in the United States as long as you’re willing to meet that particular school’s curriculum requirements.

How do I pick between online colleges in North Dakota?

Choosing the right online college program can feel like a lot of pressure. It’s an important decision that can shape your future academic and professional career. However, picking the right online college in North Dakota will largely depend on your specific goals and needs. If you want a particular degree in a unique field, you may be limited to one school that offers it. If cost is a primary consideration, you will need to focus on a school’s tuition and any financial aid awards you may get.

However, regardless of which school you choose, you must make sure it’s accredited. Accreditation ensures the degree you work for actually means something and doesn’t come from a diploma mill. Basically, an accredited school has been reviewed by an independent organization which has concluded that the school’s curriculum meets certain rigorous academic requirements. Do not attend a school that is not accredited, since you may end up working several years for a degree that means nothing to employers or graduate schools.