Higher Education in Minnesota: A Review of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System





Minnesota State is the third largest system of colleges and universities in the U.S. with 30 colleges, 7 universities, and 54 campuses throughout Minnesota. The system offers a wide variety of over 4,000 programs ranging from associates degrees to applied doctorates, and serves more than 340,000 students every year. More students of color attend Minnesota State colleges and universities than all other higher education providers in Minnesota combined.


The system offers the lowest tuition in Minnesota and the majority of students receive some sort of financial aid. A staggering 65% of all Minnesota residents pursue a degree within the Minnesota State system and, upon graduation, 89.5% of all students will find a job in their related field of study. While the application process at the universities is more selective, anyone with a high school degree or equivalent is able to apply at any of the two-year community/technical colleges.


Let’s check out several of the colleges and universities and see what they have to offer. If you would like to discuss any of the following institutions, or have questions about the Minnesota State system in general, please feel free to reach out for more information.



Metropolitan State University:

Based on the CollegeNet’s Social Mobility Index, which measures success in elevating students from low income into the middle class within five years of graduating, Metro State ranks in the top 3% of schools in the country, and 1st overall in Minnesota. The university was established in 1971 and is located just minutes from the bustling, commercial activity of downtown St. Paul and peaceful, green spaces along the Mississippi River. With more than 50 undergraduate and 25 graduate programs, Metro State serves over 10,000 students in the Twin Cities area, many of whom are working adults juggling work and education.

Niche.com Overall Grade: B



Normandale Community College:

University life isn’t for everyone. With an enrollment of nearly 15,000 students, Normandale is the largest community college in the state of Minnesota. It is also one of the state’s most affordable options at $198.78 per-credit (2.5 times less than the University of Minnesota). Conveniently located in Bloomington, the campus features a beautiful Japanese Garden and numerous green spaces for outdoor activities. Students are presented with the opportunity to enroll in “employment-ready” degree options such as dental hygiene, law enforcement, and nursing.

Niche.com Overall Grade: B-



Minneapolis Community and Technical College:

Created in 1996 as a merger between a 100 year old technical school and 50 year old community college, MCTC enrolls nearly 10,000 students annually and features a modern, spacious campus in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. The college offers more than 100 associate’s degrees, diplomas, and certificates at inexpensive tuition costs, highlighted by top programs such as information technology, counseling, and business management. Over 1,000 students every year take advantage of the Liberal Arts transfer program in which they transfer MCTC course credits to various colleges and universities across the country.

Niche.com Overall Grade: B-



Winona State University:

Established over 160 years ago, Winona State University is the oldest college in the Minnesota State system. Situated between the stunning bluffs along the Mississippi River, Winona offers a healthy balance of city living and outdoor recreation. Whether it be climbing the area’s limestone cliffs, kayaking in the Trempealeau National Refuge, attending the Great River Shakespeare Festival, or biking around Lake Winona, there is always something for the adventurous heart. With small, personable class sizes and strong, local-based internship programs, 98% of WSU graduates are hired in a field related to their degree.

Niche.com Overall Grade: B



St. Cloud State University:

An hour north of the Twin Cities with a large campus stretching alongside the mighty Mississippi, St. Cloud State offers a change of pace and atmosphere compared to some of the system’s metro-based schools. The university has a population of 14,000 students and offers 200 undergraduate programs and more than 60 graduate programs. Business management, journalism, and education are several of the most popular degree programs, and St. Cloud State is the only Minnesota school to offer an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredited manufacturing engineering program. It also offers ABET-accredited electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and computer science programs.

Niche.com Overall Grade: C+



Bemidji State University:

At just over 100 years old, Bemidji State University offers an escape from urban Minnesota to the dense forests and pristine shoreline of Lake Bemidji. Home to nearly 5,000 students, the university plays an important part in environmental stewardship and community service. Of the 70 undergraduate programs, business, nursing, and education are the most popular, but unique programs such as aquatic biology, Indian studies, and wilderness management give the university a natural identity. The Minnesota northwoods offer a little bit of everything -- forests, wetlands, and glacial lakes -- as well as close proximity to Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters.

Niche.com Overall Grade: B




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