Top 25 Best Plains Colleges in the US | 2023 Rankings

Top plains colleges 2023 badge.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 just under 28,000 applications a year and accepts around 4,500 students. Commonly chosen majors are Computer Science, Biology, and Experimental Psychology. Top sports on campus include track, football, and soccer.
Location St. Louis, MO
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 15,449
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. Biology is a common major, with Computer Science, International Relations and Affairs, and Economics also being popular.
Location Northfield, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,940
The two most popular majors at Grinnell College are Computer Science and 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 exactly 400 athletes and their unofficial mascot is a squirrel.
Location Grinnell, IA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,493
Exclusively for undergraduates, Macalester College has an acceptance rate of around 39%. They have a relatively low student to faculty ratio (10 to 1) and a 90% 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 2,049
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 52,017
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 College accepts only 50.8% of students, with many going on to major in Biology, Economics, Mathematics, and Research and Experimental Psychology.
Location Northfield, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,953
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 90% first year retention rate. Registered Nursing and Kinesiology and Exercise Science are popular majors.
Location St. Louis, MO
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 12,229
Registered Nursing is by far the most popular area of study for Creighton University. With a first year retention rate of 92%, 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 8,770
The University of Iowa has a 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio and 88% 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 30,318
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 2,230
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 Marketing.
Location Des Moines, IA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 4,774
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 4,655
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. Iowa State is known for its engineering program with Mechanical Engineering being the most popular major. A majority of students come from Iowa and the surrounding states.
Location Ames, IA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 31,822
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 31,089
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 9,792
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, and nearly 88% of the students on campus study at the undergraduate level.
Location New Ulm, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 968
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 a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio, 89% first year retention rate, and 80% four-year graduation rate.
Location Saint Joseph, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,668
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 a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio and an 82% first year retention rate. Wearing cardinal and blue, athletes are known as Johnnies.
Location Collegeville, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,668
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. 71.5% of the student body are undergraduates.
Location Lawrence, KS
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 26,744
Bryan College of Health Services accepts about 58% of applicants; out of those accepted, around 53% decide to attend the following fall. The school has a 10 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio, a 90% first year retention rate, and only four majors: Registered Nursing, Cardiovascular Technology, Diagnostic Medical Sonography, and Pre-Medicine.
Location Lincoln, NE
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 778
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, Finance, Marketing, and Public Relations, Advertising, and Applied Communication. 81% of the students on campus study at the undergraduate level.
Location Lincoln, NE
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 25,108
Students at Dordt University wear black, white, and gold to cheer on the Defenders teams. The school has off-campus opportunities around the world for their students, offers a master’s degree, and does not charge applicants fees. 100% of those attending Dordt also receive institutional grant aid.
Location Sioux Center, IA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,662
Bethel University has an 86.6% acceptance rate. Registered Nursing and Business Administration and Management are the most popular majors, followed by Communication, Elementary Education and Teaching, Psychology, and Organizational Behavior Studies. The campus is located on Valentine Lake.
Location Saint Paul, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,814
Condorida College has an 11 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio and an 84% first year retention rate. The school has a robust music program with several choirs, bands, and orchestras, as well as a strong athletic program. Students and Athletes are known as the Cobbers and compete in a variety of sports including ice hockey, soccer, and football.
Location Moorhead, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,973
At Rockhurst University about a quarter of the students are graduate students, leave about 2,700 undergraduates. There is no application fee for this school and they do accept about 73% of applicants. Nursing is by far the most popular major and 73% of students will graduation within 6 years.
Location Kansas City, MO
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 7,642

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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