The recent boom in oil drilling in North Dakota has drawn many people to the state to work and find their fortune in “black gold.”

Best Colleges in North DakotaAnd while this economic boom bodes well for graduates in North Dakota looking for jobs after college, that’s certainly not the only thing that the state has going for it. Even just on the economic side, oil is not even the biggest part of the state economy. Agriculture plays a bigger role, and food processing and technology also figure as major sectors. All in all, this has made North Dakota the state with the fastest growing GDP and the highest rate of job creation. Not so bad.

But it’s not all about money, either. The state can lay claim to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and it has a vibrant cultural atmosphere as well. The city of Minot’s Norsk Høstfest, or Norwegian Autumn Festival, is the largest Scandinavian gathering of any kind in North America. Many visitors from Canada also come over the border to visit. In addition, North Dakota can lay claim to having the most churches per capita of any other state, as well as the highest percentage of it population that attends church.

Related: Best Online Schools in North Dakota.

So, if you’re considering going to college in North Dakota, you’ll be sure to find something for you, and a job waiting for you afterwards, if you’re willing to put in some effort.

What are the best colleges in North Dakota?

With this ranking, we’ve collated the state’s colleges and used a data aggregation method in order to rank them. Our ranking criteria are based on three factors: institutional excellence, student satisfaction, and return on investment. In other words, we’re looking for statistical evidence that students are being educated well, are enjoying their collegiate experience, and that their tuition money is well-spent and will improve their earning prospects later on. Data comes from IPEDS, U.S. News & World Report, Payscale, individual college websites, and student ranking sites.


Minot State University

College Choice Score: 100

Average Net Price: $16,864

School Website


Located in the north central part of the state of North Dakota, Minot State University has served the population since 1913. As the third largest university in North Dakota, the school accommodates 2,279 undergraduate and 1,281 graduate students. With an acceptance rate of 58 percent, this city school competes within its region for students from North Dakota, Montana, and Minnesota. The majority of international students come from Canada, but the student body represents 28 countries.

Both undergraduate and graduate student demographics tilt heavily toward one gender. Of all undergraduates, 61 percent are female. Among graduate students, 67 percent are female. A large majority, 2,265, identifies as Caucasian. Retention rates are strong as 70 percent of freshmen return for a second year.

Program Features

Small class sizes with a ratio of 14:1 mean more individual attention for each student. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), the school has a solid reputation for serving nearby Minot Air Force Base (MAFB).

The College of Education and Health Sciences offers a Bachelor of Social Work degree. Courses include:

  • Family Dynamics
  • Social Welfare Policy
  • Human Behavior and the Social Environment


MSU offers a Center for Extended Learning (CEL). Classes are conducted online, by video conference, at MAFB, and in other North Dakota cities. The Air Force base program offers a CCAF degree, which stands for Community College of the Air Force). Military Tuition Assistance provides financial aid for Air Force students. The B.S. in Criminal Justice, B.S. in General Studies, and B.S. in Management all offer on-base classes toward general education requirements. Classes intended to fulfill core requirements within a major must be completed on campus or online. The base and campus are just 10 miles apart for easy commuting.

High school students should inquire about Early Entry (Dual Credit). Any junior or senior in high school with a minimum 3.0 GPA can take classes for both high school and college credit. Courses are conducted in high school, by interactive video (IVN), or on the MSU campus. Prior authorization from a high school administrator is required. The Emerging Scholars Award equals the tuition rate for every course taken as part of Early Entry.


University of North Dakota

College Choice Score: 97.58

Average Net Price: $30,813

School Website


Grand Forks hosts the University of North Dakota. As the oldest university, UND predates statehood by six years. Recent awards include being named #1 Fittest College in America by Rodale Wellness, #1 Online College in North Dakota by Online Colleges, and ranking #5 in the United States for Drone Training.

Total enrollments of 15,000 break down to 53 percent male and 47 percent female students. Pupils arrive from every state plus 60 countries to attend this school near the Minnesota border.

Program Features

With 220 programs, 3,000 courses, 40 online degrees, and 80 graduate programs, UND stands out from the competition. The university maintains both a law school and a medical school, which is rare.

One unique major, Commercial Aviation, lets students train on simulators or in an altitude chamber. The university maintains the world’s biggest on-campus fleet of aircraft for flight instruction. Graduates with 125 credit hours earn a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics with a major in Commercial Aviation. Students select either airplane or helicopter piloting as their focus.

Courses within this degree include:

  • Multi-Engine Systems and Procedures
  • Aerodynamics – Airplanes
  • Aviation Meteorology


Special clubs exist for aviation majors. These include the Aerobatics Team, the Flying Club, the Helicopter Association, and the Student Aviation Advisory Council (SAAC). A Summer International Aerospace Camp draws applicants with a full week of flight training.

Careers for graduates with a B.S. in Aeronautics – Commercial Aviation include working as a pilot, airport management, or air traffic controller. Employers include NASA and the FAA. Graduates have strong placement potential.


University of Jamestown

College Choice Score: 97.19

Average Net Price: $30,730

School Website


Nestled in a small central town of 16,000, the University of Jamestown began with a Presbyterian covenant in 1883. Located midway between Fargo and Bismarck, UJ welcomes 1,100 students from 36 states and 22 countries. Despite their religious backing, the school admits students of all faiths and beliefs. Providing a liberal arts education as a private university, UJ boasts an impressive 99 percent job placement rate. A student to teacher ratio of 13:1 fosters strong connections and boosts success rates.

UJ believes so strongly in their academics, they guarantee results. The “Journey to Success” program promises graduation within 4 years, ensures placement in internships, provides self-assessments, assigns advisors, and guides students through mentorship.

Program Features

Known for its Bachelor of Science in Nursing, the school has approval from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. Graduates have a 100% placement rate within one year of leaving UJ. They work as RNs in critical care, geriatrics, and other units at institutions such as the Mayo Clinic.

Courses in nursing include:

  • Community Health Nursing
  • Microbiology Lecture/Lab
  • Child/Adult Health


In their senior year, nursing students travel for clinical experience. Past journeys included remote African villages and a modern Vietnamese hospital. Each trip lasted three weeks.


North Dakota State University

College Choice Score: 95.96

Average Net Price: $31,602

School Website


North Dakota Agricultural College began in 1890 with “forty acres on the Lowell farm.” The government bestowed $15,000 toward its construction. Early classes took place in a basement at Fargo College, while home economics were taught in a farmhouse. The autumn of 1891 marked the official beginning of student admissions with 80 enrollees. The name was changed to North Dakota State University in 1960.

As a public research institution, NDSU welcomes 14,000 students to its programs. They come from 47 states and 79 countries; however, 41 percent reside in North Dakota, and 45 percent claim Minnesota residency. The retention rate after one year was 80 percent, while the graduation rate in 2012 was 32 percent. The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools as well as the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) accredit the university.

Program Features

The engineering department pulls in the highest enrollment figures. Majors in that department include:

  • Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Computer Engineering
  • Construction Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Industrial Engineering and Management
  • Manufacturing Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


Upward Bound targets at-risk youth from grades 9-12 at Davies, Fargo North, and Fargo South High School. With funding from the U.S. Department of Education, Upward Bound provides college preparatory activities such as tutoring, skills development, advising, test-taking techniques, college tours, and helping with financial aid forms. A full 100 percent of participants in the NDSU program passed their grade level, 100 percent graduated from high school, and 67 percent went on to college.


Valley City State University

College Choice Score: 93.59

Average Net Price: $26,469

School Website


West of Fargo lies the town of Valley City. Originally a teacher’s college, VCSU was established in 1890 on land bordered by forests and a river. Expedia awarded Valley City, population 6,500, with the designation “Most Beautiful Town” in the state in 2017. This year, BuzzFeed listed VCSU as the most beautiful campus in North Dakota.

U.S. News and World Report ranks the school the #1 public Midwestern university. A small class size of 11:1, plus distribution of free laptops and wireless connections, leads to engaged and successful students. VCSU offers 80 undergraduate programs. Two master’s degrees can be taken online: Master of Education (M.Ed.) and Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.).

Program Features

The excellent Elementary Education programs leads to a B.S. in Education and licensing to teach grades one through six. Students within this major engage with young pupils for 150 hours and work as student teachers for twelve weeks. Students may choose additional endorsements:

  • Reading
  • Special education
  • Early childhood
  • Teaching English as a second language
  • Kindergarten
  • Middle School
  • STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)

Accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), Elementary Education requires admittance in the sophomore or junior year with a 2.75 or higher GPA.

The university received a grant in 2009 to improve their Elementary Education program through recruitment efforts, preparation, placement, and ongoing support after graduation. The Network for Excellence in Teaching (NExT) guarantees graduation, and the program’s coordinator follows up with graduates either with in-person visits or via Skype, depending on distance to the VCSU campus.

Courses within Elementary Education include:

  • Creative Activities
  • Mathematics in the Elementary School
  • Elementary Practicum and Classroom Management


As a participant In the North Dakota University System (NDUS), the university allows students to take classes wherever they find themselves. The NDUS includes research schools like Dickinson State University, Mayville State University, Minot State University, and VCSU. Community colleges in the system are Bismarck State College, Dakota College at Bottineau, Lake Region State College, North Dakota State College of Science, and Williston State College.

One feature of NDUS allows dual-credit students to take college courses as high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors. The program requires college admittance and fees, and students must obtain prior authorization. The minimum GPA for enrollment is 3.0.


University of Mary

College Choice Score: 89.77

Average Net Price: $26,643

School Website


Bismarck’s University of Mary accepts all faiths as a not-for-profit, private, Catholic college. The Benedictine Sisters of the Annunciation formed the school in 1959, and campuses now reach Dickinson, North Dakota; Fargo, North Dakota; Arizona; Montana; Minnesota; Kansas; Rome, Italy; and Peru.

Its 3,160 students choose from over 60 undergraduate majors, 14 master’s degrees, and 3 doctoral degrees (Physical Therapy, Education, and Nurse Practice). Attendees hail from 42 states and 24 countries, and classes are limited to a 17:1 ratio. Graduates achieve a 96% employment rate within six months. The university has accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Program Features

The Gary Theraldson School of Business offers an MBA (Master of Business Administration), MS (Master of Science – Business), MPM (Master of Project Management), and MPA (Master of Public Administration). Of these, the MBA, MS-Business, MPM, and MPA offer online degrees.

Other online and evening degrees:

  • Accounting
  • Business administration
  • Healthcare administration
  • Information technology management
  • Marketing

Courses toward an MBA include:

  • Information Systems for Managers
  • Organizational Communication and Transition Management
  • Strategic Planning and Execution


The University of Mary Investment Club (UMIC) welcomes students interested in learning about the stock market and investing. Led by A. Kirk Lanterman, CEO and founder of Kirlan Venture Capital, students oversee an actual portfolio worth $150,000. Students access 24 computers, software, and 3 televisions to monitor markets.

A program called Business Challenge accepts high school students in years eleven and twelve. Enrollees attend workshops, learn entrepreneurship and innovation, collaborate with their peers, gain mentors within the business community, create a business, and compete for prizes.


Dickinson State University

College Choice Score: 84.79

Average Net Price: $19,859

School Website


Beginning in 1916 as Dickinson State Normal School, DSU accepted 104 students for classes held at Dickinson High School. Tuition was free, and students boarded with local families. The college moved to the Elks Building before finally opening May Hall in 1924.

One interesting fact: students erected the rock wall around the campus mall as part of the New Deal program after the Great Depression. Each worker received $15 to $25 a month.

Program Features

The Department of Business and Management offers degrees in Human Resources and Accounting. As part of the NDUS (North Dakota University System), students enroll at DSU but can take courses at any of the participating schools. One class must be taken at DSU each semester. Other restrictions also apply.

Professional examinations for which students prepare include:

  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
  • Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)
  • Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
    • The CPA exam requires an additional 29 hours of coursework.

A sample of classes offered to Accounting majors:

  • Cost Accounting
  • Government and Nonprofit Accounting
  • Financial Institutions and Markets


The CPA Experience aims at future business owners and presidents. Since its beginning in 2013, the innovative program consistently achieves a placement rate close to 100 percent. Students arrive in an office setting rather than a typical classroom. With iPads, Apple TV, and CPA exam preparation available, students learn at their own pace. Lectures on tape, videos, and PowerPoint presentations supplement limited class sizes. The program also tours local accounting firms, where students meet and network with CPAs.

High schoolers can opt for Early Entry with prior authorization. Classes are conducted at high schools or the DSU campus, but only classes taken at high schools count toward high school credit.


Mayville State University

College Choice Score: 83.45

Average Net Price: $19,921

School Website


A land-grand received in 1889 allocated 30,000 acres in Mayville to begin a normal school, which provided teacher education in a territory where licensed teachers were rare. By 1893, students had a campus building, Old Main, for classes. Four-year degrees began once the school was permitted to offer a B.A. in Education in 1925. In 1948, the B.S. in Education was the standard, and other bachelor’s degrees outside of teaching were offered by 1961. The school was renamed Mayville State University in 1987. U.S. News and World Report ranked this public, co-ed university #5 in Top Public Schools.

With enrollments at 1,130, MSU caters largely to in-state students (61 percent). The demographics skew 42 percent male and 58 percent female. Current statistics show a 54 percent acceptance rate for incoming students. Classes average a 15:1 student-to-teacher ratio. Accreditation comes from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Program Features

MSU offers eleven undergraduate education majors as well as pre-professional programs, liberal arts, sciences, and business degrees. Business majors go on to careers in banking, finance, marketing, sales, human resources, and other employment. The Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree includes campus and online classes, and other classes are available at the Devils Lake location. An internship will be required.

Courses for the B.S. in Business Administration include:

  • Foundations in Entrepreneurship
  • Business Communication
  • Business Policies
  • Principles of Marketing


With Early Entry (Dual Credit), eligible students in grades ten through twelve take classes in high school, online, or on ITV (interactive video). Enrollees must obtain authorization from a high school official, achieve a 3.0 GPA, and, for some courses, earn a minimum ACT score. Scholarships for Early Entry students who go on to attend MSU have a cap of $2,000.

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