Top 25 Best Plains Colleges in the US | 2022 Rankings

The heartland is so much more than just “flyover country.” The plains are home to booming industry, gorgeous farmlands, and incredible colleges. In fact, some of the very best colleges in the US are located in the plains.

For this list, we’re including the following states in the plains region: Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Curious about the very best colleges in the plains? Here are the top 25.

Top 25 Best Plains Colleges

Washington University in St. Louis was named after George Washington and founded in 1853. A private research university, the school receives over 24,000 applications a year and accepts around 3,500 students. Commonly chosen majors are computer science, biology, and experimental psychology. Top sports on campus include track, football, and baseball.
Location St. Louis, MO
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 16,191
Part of the Midwest Conference, the most popular sports at Carleton College include football, basketball, baseball, and cross country/track, soccer, and swimming and diving. They’re known as the Knights and wear blue and maize for school colors. International relations and affairs is a top major, with computer science, biology, and research and experimental psychology also being popular choices.
Location Northfield, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,115
The two most popular majors at Grinnell College are Computer Science or Biology/Biological Sciences. Part of the Midwest Conference and NCAA Division III, the Pioneers, wearing scarlet and black, have a wide variety of sports to choose from including football, swimming, diving, golf, and soccer. They currently have just under 400 athletes and their unofficial mascot is a squirrel.
Location Grinnell, IA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,733
Exclusively for undergraduates, Macalester College has an acceptance rate of around 32%. They have a relatively low student to faculty ratio (10 to 1) and a 93% first year retention rate. Although the school is located in Minnesota, many students also come from California, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Macalester’s campus is located near the mighty Mississippi River.
Location St. Paul, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,098
The University of Minnesota – Twin Cities’ campus is actually made up of two locations, 3 miles apart: Minneapolis and Falcon Heights. Also known as U of M or Minnesota, their motto is “Commune vinculum omnibus artibus” or “A common bond for all the arts.” It’s the largest and oldest school in the University of Minnesota system and actually got its start in 1851, before Minnesota was even a state.
Location Minneapolis, MN
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 51,327
Founded by Norwegian-American immigrant pastors and farmers, the campus has actually been visited by King Olav and King Harald V. Their mascot is named St. Olaf Lion and athletes go by Oles. St. Olaf College accepts only 47.5% of students, with many going on to major in Biology, Economics, Mathematics, and Psychology.
Location Northfield, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,072
The second oldest Jesuit university in the country, SLU is also the oldest university west of the Mississippi. Although they are based in St. Louis, they also have a campus in Madrid, Spain. The school boasts a 9 to 1 student to faculty ratio and 91% first year retention rate. Registered Nursing and Kinesiology and Exercise Science are popular majors.
Location St. Louis, MO
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 12,799
Registered Nursing is by far the most popular area of study for Creighton University. With a first year retention rate of 90%, a majority of students come from Nebraska and the surrounding states. The campus is located near the Missouri River on the border of Nebraska and Iowa. Blue and white are the school colors and their mascot, appropriately, is a bluejay.
Location Omaha, NE
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 8,821
The University of St. Thomas in Minnesota was founded in 1885 as a Catholic Seminary. Named after Thomas Aquinas, he is now the patron saint of the students attending the university. The main campus of the school is located in Saint Paul, but other campuses and property can be found in Minneapolis, Owatonna, and Rome, Italy.
Location Saint Paul, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 9,824
Partnered with Saint John’s University for men, the College of Saint Benedict is exclusively for women. Resources are shared between the two campuses, a partnership that began in 1955. The College of Saint Benedict got its start in 1913 with only six students. They have an 11 to 1 student to faculty ratio, 85% first year retention rate, and 76% four year graduation rate.
Location Saint Joseph, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,748
The University of Iowa has a 16 to 1 student to faculty ratio and 86% first year retention rate. The oldest university in the state, the school offers over 200 areas of study. The top major is Kinesiology and Exercise Science. Flannery O’Connor and Gene Wilder are famous alumni from the school. Athletes are known as Hawkeyes and their team is led by Herky the Hawk.
Location Iowa City, IA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 31,240
A very small school, Bethlehem College & Seminary has only 192 students, with about 63% being men. The undergraduate majors available are Bible/Biblical Studies, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Theology/Theological Studies. Bethlehem has an 88% first year retention rate, 75% six year graduation rate, 9 to 1 student to faculty ratio, and a 79% acceptance rate.
Location Minneapolis, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 192
This university is named in honor of Harry S. Truman, who was a Missouri native. Popular majors include Business Administration, Kinesiology and Exercise Science, and Biology. Athletes are known as Bulldogs and their mascots are Spike and Simone. 94% of students at Truman State study at the undergraduate level.
Location Kirksville, MO
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 5,231
The most popular major at the University of Missouri – Columbia is Business, closely followed by Health Services, and Journalism. It was the first public university west of the Mississippi. The Missouri School of Journalism was founded in 1908, the first journalism school in the world. Famous alumni have included Chris Cooper, Sheryl Crow, Jon Hamm, and Brad Pitt.
Location Columbia, MO
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 30,014
Track is a very popular sport on campus, which shouldn’t be a surprise given the university hosts the famed Drake Relays. In 1935, Jesse Owens set an American broad jump record during the Relays! The Drake Bulldogs also compete in football, basketball, soccer, and tennis. On the academic side of things, the most popular major is Actuarial Science.
Location Des Moines, IA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 4,884
Iowa State University, also known as simply Iowa State, was one of the founding members of the Big 12. They have 16 varsity teams and have won several NCAA national championships. The Cyclones are led by their mascot Cy the Cardinal and they wear the colors cardinal and gold. A majority of students come from Iowa and the surrounding states.
Location Ames, IA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 33,372
Popular majors at Gustavus Adolphus College Psychology, Biology, Business, Economics, and Speech Communication and Rhetoric. The school does not charge students for applications. Gus the Lion is the mascot for the school’s sports teams - the Golden Gusties. Black and gold are the official school colors.
Location St. Peter, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,237
Luther College got its start as a Lutheran seminary by Norwegian immigrants. The seminary would be closed at the start of the Civil War and college classes would be opened later to only 16 students. Today, the college has a first year retention rate of 84% and a six year graduation rate of 80%.
Location Decorah, IA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,951
Saint John’s University is an all-male school that has a partnership with the College of Saint Benedict, the women’s college. They share curriculum and access to resources on either campus. Saint John’s has an 11 to 1 student to faculty ratio and an 85% first year retention rate. Wearing cardinal and blue, athletes are known as Johnnies.
Location Collegeville, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,727
The University of Kansas, also known as KU, is the state’s flagship university. The school athletes compete in the Big 12 Conference. Known as the Jayhawks, there are 16 available varsity sports and several club level sports available to students. 71% of the student body are undergraduates, meaning the remaining 29% are grad students.
Location Lawrence, KS
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 27,552
Bethel University has an 87% acceptance rate. Registered Nursing and Business Administration and Management are the most popular majors, followed by Communication, Elementary Education and Teaching, Psychology, and Biology/Biological Sciences. The campus is located on Valentine Lake.
Location Saint Paul, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 4,005
The University of Nebraska - Lincoln is the oldest university in the state and the flagship of the University of Nebraska system. The top five most popular majors are Business Administration, Psychology, Public Relations, Advertising, and Applied Communications. 81% of the students on campus study at the undergraduate level.
Location Lincoln, NE
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 25,390
Martin Luther College is a very small school with fewer than 1,000 students attending. Elementary Education and Teaching is the most popular major, followed by Pre-Theology / Pre-Ministerial Studies. 87% of applicants are accepted. 86% of the students on campus study at the undergraduate level.
Location New Ulm, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 994
Also known as KSU, Kansas State University began as a land grant college in 1863. Nine colleges make up the university, including the College of Technology and Aviation and the College of Veterinary Medicine. Top majors among undergraduates include Animal Sciences, Marketing/Marketing Management, and Mechanical Engineering.
Location Manhattan, KS
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 21,719
A part of the University of Missouri System, Missouri S & T is well known for its engineering school. It was originally known as the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy when founded in 1870. It wouldn’t get its current name until 2008. Mechanical Engineering is the most popular major, with Civil Engineering and Computer Science following.
Location Rolla, MO
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 8,088

Interested in any of these schools? Check out College Raptor’s free match tool to see if they’re a good fit for you!

Methodology

Colleges are ranked based on a combination of factors, including graduation rates, campus diversity, endowment per student, and other data as reported via the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the most recently-available enrollment year. Some colleges may have been excluded from rankings based on certain criteria, including specialization and classification. Learn about our full methodology.

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