Find Schools

Study Area & Zipcode

Find Schools Near

2021 Best Colleges in the Plains States Region

180 Colleges
$55,368 Avg Salary*
63% Avg 4-Year Grad Rate*

When pursuing a degree in today's world, there are many different options to choose from. College Factual has developed its Top Plains States Region Colleges and Universities ranking as one item you can use to help make this decision.

We analyzed 180 colleges and universities across the Plains States Region to determine which were the best in terms of overall quality. Our ranking is based on over 20 objective factors, including post graduate earnings, freshman retention, and graduation rate. We steer clear of subjective measures since they don't give a clear picture when determining how one school compares to another.

See what other factors we include in our ranking methodology.

Custom Rankings

We know that one set of rankings doesn't always help you determine the best school for you, so we've created the ability to narrow your list by location and field of study as well as alternative rankings that prioritize different factors such as those of importance to veterans and returning adults or those who value diversity and value for your money.

We've created a tool called College Combat that lets you create your own customized comparisons based on the factors that matter the most to you. Test it out by comparing your favorite schools against others you are considering!

Top Colleges in the Plains States Region

Learn more about these excellent schools below:

#1

Washington University in St Louis

Saint Louis, Missouri

Washington University in St Louis tops this year’s ranking as the best school in the Plains States Region for overall quality. WUSTL is located in Saint Louis, Missouri and has a fairly large student population. In 2018-2019, this school awarded 2,407 bachelor’s degrees to qualified undergradutates.

Students who start out at the school are likely to stick around. The freshman retention rate is 97%. During the early years of their career, graduates from WUSTL make an average of $70,100 a year.

Read full report on Washington University in St Louis

Request Information
#2

Carleton College

Northfield, Minnesota

A rank of #2 on our Best Colleges in the Plains States Region list means Carleton College is a great place for students working on their bachelor’s degree. Carleton is a private not-for-profit institution located in Northfield, Minnesota. The school has a small population, and it awarded 512 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The impressive student-to-faculty rate of 9 to 1 means that students may have more opportunities to work more closely with their professors than they would at other schools. Upon graduation, bachelor’s degree recipients go on to jobs making an average salary of $54,200 during the early years of their career..

Read full report on Carleton College

Request Information
#3

St Louis College of Pharmacy

Saint Louis, Missouri

Out of the 180 schools in the Plains States Region that were part of this year’s ranking, St Louis College of Pharmacy landed the #3 spot on the list. Located in Saint Louis, Missouri, the small private not-for-profit school handed out 161 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The low student loan default rate of 0.7% is a good sign that students have an easier time paying off their loans than they might at other schools. For comparison, the national default rate is 10.1% Those who receive a bachelor’s degree from St Louis College of Pharmacy go into careers with an average salary of $124,100 during the early years of their career.

Read More…

Request Information
#4

Macalester College

Saint Paul, Minnesota

You’ll join some of the best and brightest minds around if you attend Macalester College. The school came in at #4 in the Plains States Region on this year’s overall quality ranking.Saint Paul, Minnesota is the setting for this small institution of higher learning. The private not-for-profit school handed out bachelor’s degrees to 679 students in 2018-2019.

The 4-year grad rate at the school is 85%. That’s impressive when you compare it to the national rate of 33%. During the early years of their career, graduates from Macalester make an average of $47,600 a year.

Read full report on Macalester College

Request Information
#5

Grinnell College

Grinnell, Iowa

The excellent bachelor’s degree programs at Grinnell College helped the school earn the #5 place on this year’s ranking of the best schools in the Plains States Region . Located in Grinnell, Iowa, the small private not-for-profit school handed out 524 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The school has an impressive student loan default rate. It’s only 1.0%, which is much lower than the national rate of 10.1%. Graduates with a bachelor’s degree from Grinnell make an average of $49,100 per year during the early years of their career.

Read More…

Request Information
#6

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Minneapolis, Minnesota

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities landed the #6 spot on the 2021 Best Colleges in the Plains States Region ranking. University of Minnesota - Twin Cities is a large public school located in Minneapolis, Minnesota that handed out 8,988 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The school has an impressive student loan default rate. It’s only 2.2%, which is much lower than the national rate of 10.1%. The average salary of a graduate with a bachelor’s degree from UMN Twin Cities is $51,900 during the early years of their career.

Read More…

Request Information
#7

Creighton University

Omaha, Nebraska

Creighton University did quite well in the 2021 Best Colleges in the Plains States Region ranking, coming in at #7. Located in Omaha, Nebraska, the medium-sized private not-for-profit school awarded 1,243 diplomas to qualifed bachelor’s degree students in 2018-2019.

The low student loan default rate of 1.2% is a good sign that students have an easier time paying off their loans than they might at other schools. For comparison, the national default rate is 10.1% During the early years of their career, graduates from Creighton make an average of $59,700 a year.

Read full report on Creighton University

Request Information
#8

St Olaf College

Northfield, Minnesota

St Olaf College landed the #8 spot on the 2021 Best Colleges in the Plains States Region ranking. St Olaf College is a small private not-for-profit school located in Northfield, Minnesota that handed out 920 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

With a freshman retention rate of 92%, the school does an excellent job of retaining its students. During the early years of their career, graduates from St. Olaf make an average of $50,400 a year.

Read More…

Request Information
#9

Saint Louis University

Saint Louis, Missouri

Saint Louis University did quite well in the 2021 Best Colleges in the Plains States Region ranking, coming in at #9. SLU is a fairly large private not-for-profit school situated in Saint Louis, Missouri. It awarded 1,867 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

With a student-to-faculty rate of 9 to 1, it’s easy to see that the school is committed to helping their undergraduates succeed. Those who receive a bachelor’s degree from SLU go into careers with an average salary of $56,500 during the early years of their career.

Read full report on Saint Louis University

Request Information
#10

Gustavus Adolphus College

Saint Peter, Minnesota

With a ranking of #10, Gustavus Adolphus College did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges in the Plains States Region list. Gustavus Adolphus is a small private not-for-profit school situated in Saint Peter, Minnesota. It awarded 621 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The school boasts an average 4-year graduation rate of 81%, which is excellent when compared to the national rate of 33%. The average salary of a graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Gustavus Adolphus is $51,700 during the early years of their career.

Read full report on Gustavus Adolphus College

Request Information
#11

Drake University

Des Moines, Iowa

Drake University did quite well in the 2021 Best Colleges in the Plains States Region ranking, coming in at #11. Drake is located in Des Moines, Iowa and has a small student population. In 2018-2019, this school awarded 896 bachelor’s degrees to qualified undergradutates.

The school has an excellent freshman retention rate of 87%, which means students like the school well enough to return for a second year. During the early years of their career, graduates from Drake make an average of $58,300 a year.

Read full report on Drake University

Request Information
#12

College of Saint Benedict

Saint Joseph, Minnesota

College of Saint Benedict landed the #12 spot on the 2021 Best Colleges in the Plains States Region ranking. CSB is located in Saint Joseph, Minnesota and has a small student population. In 2018-2019, this school awarded 419 bachelor’s degrees to qualified undergradutates.

Bachelor’s degree students at the school tend to finish their degree on-time. The 4-year graduation rate is 77%, which is impressive compared to the national rate of 33%. The average salary of a graduate with a bachelor’s degree from CSB is $52,600 during the early years of their career.

Full College of Saint Benedict Report

Request Information
#13

Saint Johns University

Collegeville, Minnesota

Saint Johns University came in at #13 in this year’s edition of the Best Colleges in the Plains States Region ranking. SJU is a small private not-for-profit school situated in Collegeville, Minnesota. It awarded 410 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The school has an impressive student loan default rate. It’s only 1.3%, which is much lower than the national rate of 10.1%. During the early years of their career, graduates from SJU make an average of $60,600 a year.

Read full report on Saint Johns University

Request Information
#14

University of St Thomas Minnesota

Saint Paul, Minnesota

University of St Thomas Minnesota did quite well in the 2021 Best Colleges in the Plains States Region ranking, coming in at #14. UST MN is located in Saint Paul, Minnesota and has a medium-sized student population. In 2018-2019, this school awarded 1,561 bachelor’s degrees to qualified undergradutates.

The school has an impressive student loan default rate. It’s only 1.1%, which is much lower than the national rate of 10.1%. Upon graduation, bachelor’s degree recipients go on to jobs making an average salary of $56,800 during the early years of their career..

Read More…

Request Information
#15

University of Iowa

Iowa City, Iowa

University of Iowa came in at #15 in this year’s edition of the Best Colleges in the Plains States Region ranking. Iowa is a large public school situated in Iowa City, Iowa. It awarded 5,811 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

With a freshman retention rate of 86%, the school does an excellent job of retaining its students. The average salary of a graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Iowa is $51,900 during the early years of their career.

Full University of Iowa Report

Request Information
#16

Concordia College at Moorhead

Moorhead, Minnesota

Concordia College at Moorhead came in at #16 in this year’s edition of the Best Colleges in the Plains States Region ranking.Moorhead, Minnesota is the setting for this small institution of higher learning. The private not-for-profit school handed out bachelor’s degrees to 540 students in 2018-2019.

The low student loan default rate of 2.4% is a good sign that students have an easier time paying off their loans than they might at other schools. For comparison, the national default rate is 10.1% Those who receive a bachelor’s degree from Concordia College Moorhead go into careers with an average salary of $44,500 during the early years of their career.

Full Concordia College at Moorhead Report

Request Information
#17

Iowa State University

Ames, Iowa

With a ranking of #17, Iowa State University did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges in the Plains States Region list. Iowa State is a large public school situated in Ames, Iowa. It awarded 7,380 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

Students who start out at the school are likely to stick around. The freshman retention rate is 87%. Upon graduation, bachelor’s degree recipients go on to jobs making an average salary of $50,700 during the early years of their career..

Read More…

Request Information
#18

Luther College

Decorah, Iowa

With a ranking of #18, Luther College did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges in the Plains States Region list. Luther is a private not-for-profit institution located in Decorah, Iowa. The school has a small population, and it awarded 591 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The student loan default rate at the school is 2.4%, which is quite low when compared to the national default rate of 10.1% The average salary of a graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Luther is $47,400 during the early years of their career.

Read full report on Luther College

Request Information
#19

Augustana University

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Augustana University did quite well in the 2021 Best Colleges in the Plains States Region ranking, coming in at #19. Augustana Sioux Falls is a small private not-for-profit school situated in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It awarded 442 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The low student loan default rate of 0.4% is a good sign that students have an easier time paying off their loans than they might at other schools. For comparison, the national default rate is 10.1% Upon graduation, bachelor’s degree recipients go on to jobs making an average salary of $43,700 during the early years of their career..

Read More…

Request Information
#20

University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Lincoln, Nebraska

University of Nebraska - Lincoln landed the #20 spot on the 2021 Best Colleges in the Plains States Region ranking. UNL is located in Lincoln, Nebraska and has a large student population. In 2018-2019, this school awarded 4,859 bachelor’s degrees to qualified undergradutates.

The low student loan default rate of 3.5% is a good sign that students have an easier time paying off their loans than they might at other schools. For comparison, the national default rate is 10.1% The average salary of a graduate with a bachelor’s degree from UNL is $46,400 during the early years of their career.

Read full report on University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Request Information
#21

University of Kansas

Lawrence, Kansas

University of Kansas landed the #21 spot on the 2021 Best Colleges in the Plains States Region ranking. KU is a large public school situated in Lawrence, Kansas. It awarded 4,536 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The low student loan default rate of 4.6% is a good sign that students have an easier time paying off their loans than they might at other schools. For comparison, the national default rate is 10.1% Those who receive a bachelor’s degree from KU go into careers with an average salary of $48,800 during the early years of their career.

Read full report on University of Kansas

Request Information

With a ranking of #22, Missouri University of Science and Technology did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges in the Plains States Region list. Missouri University of Science and Technology is a public institution located in Rolla, Missouri. The school has a medium-sized population, and it awarded 1,388 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The low student loan default rate of 3.4% is a good sign that students have an easier time paying off their loans than they might at other schools. For comparison, the national default rate is 10.1% Those who receive a bachelor’s degree from Missouri University of Science and Technology go into careers with an average salary of $71,200 during the early years of their career.

Full Missouri University of Science and Technology Report

Request Information
#23

Cornell College

Mount Vernon, Iowa

Cornell College did quite well in the 2021 Best Colleges in the Plains States Region ranking, coming in at #23. Cornell College is a small private not-for-profit school situated in Mount Vernon, Iowa. It awarded 268 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The low student loan default rate of 3.9% is a good sign that students have an easier time paying off their loans than they might at other schools. For comparison, the national default rate is 10.1% During the early years of their career, graduates from Cornell College make an average of $43,000 a year.

Read full report on Cornell College

Request Information
#24

Central College

Pella, Iowa

With a ranking of #24, Central College did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges in the Plains States Region list. Central is a private not-for-profit institution located in Pella, Iowa. The school has a small population, and it awarded 290 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The student loan default rate at the school is 2.5%, which is quite low when compared to the national default rate of 10.1% Upon graduation, bachelor’s degree recipients go on to jobs making an average salary of $44,700 during the early years of their career..

Full Central College Report

Request Information
#25

University of Missouri - Columbia

Columbia, Missouri

With a ranking of #25, University of Missouri - Columbia did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges in the Plains States Region list. Located in Columbia, Missouri, the large public school awarded 6,314 diplomas to qualifed bachelor’s degree students in 2018-2019.

The school has an excellent freshman retention rate of 87%, which means students like the school well enough to return for a second year. Upon graduation, bachelor’s degree recipients go on to jobs making an average salary of $48,300 during the early years of their career..

Read More…

Request Information

Rest of the Top 15% Best Colleges in the Plains States Region

Not only did these schools make the top 27 list, but they also landed in the top 15% of this year’s ranking:

#26

Bethel University Minnesota

Saint Paul, Minnesota
#27

Kansas State University

Manhattan, Kansas

View Best Colleges Nationwide >

All Majors and Fields of Study >

Honorable Mentions

These schools also performed well in our Best Colleges ranking:

Rank College Location
28 University of Northern Iowa Cedar Falls, IA
29 Martin Luther College New Ulm, MN
30 Rockhurst University Kansas City, MO
31 Truman State University Kirksville, MO
32 The College of Saint Scholastica Duluth, MN
33 Dordt College Sioux Center, IA
34 North Dakota State University - Main Campus Fargo, ND
35 Coe College Cedar Rapids, IA
36 Bryan College of Health Sciences Lincoln, NE

More Rankings >

Notes and References

Footnotes

*These averages are for the top 25 schools only.

References

  • The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a branch of the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) serves as the core of our data about colleges.
  • Some other college data, including much of the graduate earnings data, comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s (College Scorecard).
  • Information about the national average student loan default rate is from the U.S. Department of Education and refers to data about the 2016 borrower cohort tracking period for which the cohort default rate (CDR) was 10.1%.

More about our data sources and methodologies.

Featured Schools

Find Schools Near You