Students from around the world come to Minnesota to study in the states more than 200 colleges and universities. The largest concentration is in the Minneapolis–St. Paul metro area, where there is a variety of excellent four-year and two-year schools, including the University of Minnesota public research university, which lies less than an hour away from Carleton College and Macalester College, two of the country's most prestigious liberal arts schools.
Of the quarter of a million students attending public colleges and universities in Minnesota annually, more than half attend the state's two-year technical schools and community colleges. Some of the best are in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. Their increasingly sophisticated curricula, low cost and an open-admissions policy that allows anyone with a high school diploma or a GED to enroll have made them popular options.
Below, you'll find the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area's largest state universities, some of its lauded private liberal arts colleges, several of the area's top private colleges and universities, and its leading community colleges and technical schools.
University of Minnesota–Twin Cities
The University of Minnesota–Twin Cities, with some 30,000 students, is among the largest and most highly rated research universities in the country, where students can get paid to start conducting research as undergraduates. Located in Minneapolis at the nexus of the state's scholarly activity, this public university is renowned as well for its law school and its Carlson School of Management. Famous alumni include Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug, former Vice President Walter Mondale, and NPR host Garrison Keillor.
Metropolitan State University
Metropolitan State University is a four-year public university in St. Paul and Minneapolis. It launched in 1972 as a nontraditional university for working adults, but with substantial growth, it became more traditional. It still caters to working adults, has a nearly 100 percent acceptance rate and keeps a non-traditional College of Individualized Studies where students design individualized, interdisciplinary majors and curricula. Students praise the accomplished faculty for putting "a lot of effort into teaching their classes."
Liberal Arts College: Carleton
Carleton College, founded in 1866 in Northfield, is today widely considered one of the country's very best private colleges. It is one of the top 10 U.S. most innovative schools, among the best national liberal arts colleges and is renowned for its undergraduate teaching. Carleton ensures that its bright students have opportunities for experiential learning, internships, hands-on learning, and work-study opportunities, and 70 percent of all students study abroad at some point. Carleton students are among the top awardees of National Science Foundation Fellowships for graduate study: The college has had 18 Rhodes scholars, and 100 Fulbrights have been awarded to students and alumni since 2000.
Liberal Arts College: Macalester
Macalester College, in St. Paul, is one of the nation's top private liberal arts colleges. Founded in 1874, Macalester College today cultivates diversity and prepares students for a global economy. It emphasizes international perspectives, study abroad, faculty with worldwide experience and a polyglot student body from some 90 countries. Alumni include former U.N. Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize winner Kofi Annan; members of Congress; leaders of Fortune 500 companies; award-winning actors, authors, artists, poets, producers, and playwrights; Fulbright and Rhodes scholars; Peace Corps volunteers and scientists.
Liberal Arts College: St. Olaf
St. Olaf College, in Northfield, is a private Evangelical Lutheran college founded in the late 1800s by Norwegian immigrants. It encourages students to lead a life of faith, and they must take Bible and Christian theology classes. More than a third of students are active in eight choirs, two orchestras, and other musical organizations. The school's annual St. Olaf Christmas Festival is broadcast on PBS. True to its founders, students can even enroll in Nordic studies and the Norwegian language. Oh, and this was where Jay Gatsby said he had studied.
Liberal Arts College: Hamline
Hamline University, in St. Paul, was Minnesota's first college when it was founded in 1854 and was among the first coeducational institutions in the nation. Hamline distinguishes itself with cutting-edge degree programs across a range of disciplines. Students are challenged in and out of the classroom to engage on the local and global levels while cultivating an ethic of civic responsibility, social justice, inclusive leadership, and service. More than half of the students engage in some form of volunteerism every year.
Private Colleges and Universities: St. Catherine
St. Catherine University, with campuses in St. Paul and Minneapolis is a private Catholic university founded in 1905 to serve diverse students. Home to one of the nation's largest colleges for women, "St. Kate's" also offers graduate and associate programs for women and men in both traditional and weekend or online formats. The superb St. Catherine faculty prepares students to make a difference in their professions, their communities, and the world. Notable alumni include congresswomen, state supreme court justices, ambassadors, leading businesswomen, and leading foreign politicians.
Private Colleges and Universities: Bethel
Bethel University, based in St. Paul, is a Christian undergraduate and graduate school with adult education programs and a San Diego-based seminary that's among the nation's 15 largest accredited seminaries. Founded in 1871 as a seminary, Bethel is now the largest member of the Christian College Consortium. The school's studies in areas as diverse as business, nursing, filmmaking, sociocultural studies, biblical-theological studies, and missional ministries are a fusion of evangelical faith with top-ranked academics. Bethel is a leader in biokinetics and percentage of students in study-abroad programs.
Private Colleges and Universities: Augsburg
Augsburg College, Minneapolis, was founded in 1869. It's a private, coeducational college that's affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Augsburg educates both traditional and nontraditional students representing a rich diversity of faith traditions, economic backgrounds, ethnicities, national origins, gender identities, and learning and physical differences. Augsburg educates students to be critical thinkers and informed citizens, and it's committed to teaching through service and hands-on experience, and to help students find meaningful work.
Private Colleges and Universities: University of Northwestern
The University of Northwestern in Saint Paul, founded in 1902, is a non-denominational Christian liberal arts college with a beautiful campus on Lake Johanna. It offers traditional undergraduate studies in animation, illustration, children and family ministry, and visual arts education. But it also has nontraditional opportunities through accelerated degree completion, distance education, and other programs. The centerpiece is what the school calls its Biblical Worldview Curriculum, which advances the concept of "biblical truth."
Private Colleges and Universities: Dunwoody
Dunwoody College of Technology, founded in 1914, is a private, not-for-profit endowed institution of higher education with a focus on technical education. The school, a champion of applied education, says it is one of the few institutions of its kind in the nation and the only one in the Upper Midwest. The college's mission is to provide students with a high-quality technical education that results in an immediate job. Dunwoody offers bachelor's and associate's degrees in fields as varied as computer systems analysis, architecture and construction project management to graphic design, mechanical engineering, robotics, auto repair, and welding.
Community College: Dakota County Technical
Dakota County Technical College's tuition is one-third the cost of other Minnesota community colleges operating as private schools. Dakota's central campus is in Rosemont while its information technology campus is in Eagan. The school focuses on student employability and says more than 90 percent of graduates find a job within one year of graduation in fields such as business management, marketing, and sales, administrative support, hospitality, IT, health and human services, industry, and transportation.
Community College: Normandale
Normandale Community College, a private school operating for half a century in Bloomington, prides itself on tuition that's substantially less than Minneapolis-area state universities and private colleges. The school's Minnesota Transfer Curriculum offers a cheaper alternative to paying for four years at a private institution and enables easy transfer of credits to other in-state universities. Normandale has 46 associate degrees, as well as numerous certificates and diplomas, including standout programs like community health education, engineering archaeology, and theatre production, and design.
Community College: Anoka-Ramsey
Anoka-Ramsey Community College, founded in 1965, prides itself on the lowest tuition in Minnesota with 75 percent of students receiving financial aid, easy transfer options, flexible schedules, small class sizes, and rigorous academic programs. The Cambridge and Coon Rapids campuses offer associate degrees and select bachelor’s degrees to more than 12,000 students. For all of that and more, it has won the Aspen Prize as one of the nation's 10 best community colleges.
Community College: Hennepin Technical
The Brooklyn Park and Eden Prairie campuses of Hennepin Technical College provide innovative programs at state-of-the-art facilities, all aimed at preparing students for technical careers and advancement to a four-year college. The school has been in operation since 1972 and continues to provide quality education to 9,500 students. Hennepin Technical offers associate degrees in building, business, emergency and public service, general education, health, manufacturing, and engineering technology, media communications, education, and transportation. Some 98 percent of students find jobs after graduation.