Known as the Hawkeye State, Iowa is full of natural beauty. It’s no wonder this state is home to 50,629 registered nurses!
If you’re considering a nursing degree, or are already a nurse and want to advance your education, Iowa’s healthcare scene has a high demand for these roles. In a 2021 survey report, 58.4% of employers said they had difficulty finding qualified nursing candidates for jobs, and 69.2% said they didn’t have enough people applying for roles they have open.
If you’re looking to be one of these in-demand, qualified nursing candidates, the first step is picking a good nursing school. To make this less stressful and to help you figure out where to start the process, we’ve compiled a list of the 5 best nursing schools in the state.
Overall score: 84
NCLEX pass rate: 96.6%
Graduation rate: 72%
Annual tuition: $9,942 in-state, $31,905 out-of-state
The University of Iowa’s nursing program is nationally recognized and 99% of nursing graduates successfully find job placement within 6 months of graduation. The school is closely affiliated with the health sciences campus at the University of Iowa, allowing students access to state-of-the-art facilities and advanced research and training.
At the University of Iowa, students are treated as “junior colleagues” who are coached by the staff. Their innovative nursing program “combines in-depth learning with extensive patient contact.” This university is internationally recognized for its education in the nursing field.
There are chapters of Sigma Theta Tau International, the Minority Student Nurse Association, and the University of Iowa Men in Nursing– which offers membership to all students.
Their CCNE accredited programs are:
Overall score: 80
NCLEX pass rate: 98.35%
Graduation rate: 85%
Annual tuition: $19,236
Allen College was established 90 years ago and has the distinction of being strictly a health sciences school. It is partnered with the UnityPoint Health system. Before enrolling in the nursing programs, general education credits must be completed at another institution. Class sizes are small, with an 11:1 student to teacher ratio, allowing more individualized instruction.
Allen College states its nursing programs “empower students to thrive in both theory and practice.” They focus on preparing their graduates through exposure to evidence-based practice, healthcare information technology, and the use of patient-centered strategies.
Their CCNE accredited nursing programs are:
Overall score: 69
NCLEX pass rate: 94.52%
Graduation rate: 69%
Annual tuition: $36,606
Located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Mount Mercy University’s Martin-Herold College of Nursing is partnered with Mercy Medical Center, which offers a grant program to attend the nursing program with little to no student debt. In addition to this exciting opportunity, the university’s average job placement rate is 97%.
Mount Mercy University’s professors also serve as nurses in local hospitals and other facilities. This means you can count on them to draw from real-world experience to provide your nursing education!
The school’s CCNE accredited programs are:
- RN-BSN (choice of online or on-campus courses)
- MSN (online)
Overall score: 61
NCLEX pass rate: 78.19%
Graduation rate: 65%
Annual tuition: $20,790
A private Catholic college located in the state capital of Des Moines, Mercy College’s nursing programs offer many flexible options. If you happen to be a paramedic looking to transition to a BSN they even have a degree pathway to meet that need (the only one in the state)! The flexibility extends to start dates, with availability throughout the entire year, not just the fall semester.
Mercy College’s BSN program introduces students to nursing coursework in their very first semester, meaning you’ll get clinical experience right from the start! Within a year of graduation, 88% of these students find job placement.
Their ASN program is offered in a part-time evening and weekend format, giving you an additional path to jumpstart your career if you need a less traditional approach.
The accredited degree pathways are:
- RN-BSN (online)
- MSN (hybrid; focus on Organizational and Systems Leadership only)
Overall score: 57
NCLEX ASN pass rate: 92.5%
Graduation rate: 80%
Annual tuition: $18,000
Like Allen College, St. Luke’s College is affiliated with UnityPoint Health. This small program based out of Sioux City offers small class sizes and a focus on educating students right in a healthcare setting– UnityPoint Health- St. Luke’s.
St. Luke’s RN-BSN program is 100% online and ranked the #1 RN-BSN program in Iowa, per the college.
Their ASN program is offered in-person and prepares students to be “competent and compassionate” new nurses.
They offer two nursing programs:
- RN-BSN (online)
The ASN program is ACEN accredited and the RN-BSN program is CCNE accredited.
|School||Rank||In-state tuition||Out-of-state tuition||Accredited||NCLEX pass rate||Graduation rate||Programs offered|
|University of Iowa||1||$9,942||$31.905||Yes||96.60%||72%||BSN, RN-BSN, MSN, DNP, Ph.D.|
|Allen College||2||$19,236||$19,236||Yes||98.35%||85%||BSN, ABSN, RN-BSN, MSN, DNP|
|Mercy College of Health & Sciences||3||$20,790||$20,790||Yes||78.19%||65%||ASN, BSN, ABSN, RN-BSN, Paramedic to BSN, MSN|
|Mount Mercy Univsersity||4||$36,606||$36,606||Yes||94.52%||69%||BSN, RN-BSN , MSN, DNP|
|St. Luke's College||5||$18,000||$18,000||Yes||ASN pass rate=92.5%||80%||ASN, RN-BSN (online)|
How to choose the right nursing program
This list of ranked choices is a great start to figuring out which school might be the best fit for you. To narrow it down, you’ll need to consider your personal career goals and needs. There are some key factors to include in your decision-making process.
Unless you’re enrolled in a 100% online program, commute time is a big factor in your everyday life as a student. Because of this, location matters unless you’re planning to relocate closer to your school of choice. If you’re unfamiliar with the area, it’s a good idea to research what it has to offer and even visit the school to see if the community is a fit for your needs and lifestyle.
Expert advice from nurses like you
Annual tuition will vary from school to school depending on whether they are a public or private institution. It also depends on whether you qualify for in-state tuition or will be paying out-of-state rates. You’ll need to file a FAFSA to determine your federal aid eligibility. Those funds may cover all or most of the cost, especially when combined with any scholarships or grants you may earn.
NCLEX pass rate
As a first-time nurse, when you graduate from the nursing school, you’ll have to take the NCLEX to be able to get your nursing license. This exam is a reflection of how well your nursing school has prepared you with the knowledge you need to become a nurse. Your school of choice should have a good track record for passing test rates.
The nursing degree you are pursuing may not be available at every school you consider. Some schools offer online or hybrid options while others do not. You’ll have to weigh these criteria to narrow down your choices. Then you can decide between schools that have the program and format you need.
When you look at a school, the graduation rate is a good indicator of how well it supports its students in reaching the goal of completing the program on time. It is based on how many students finish their degree program within 4-6 years.
In order to determine the best nursing schools in a state, Incredible Health compared the top schools among five categories: graduation rate, tuition, NCLEX pass rate, accreditation, and the number of nursing programs offered.
Each metric was scored on a 100-point scale with 100 representing the highest total for that category. Then we compiled the individual scores to get an overall score.
We used data from:
- University webpages
- Iowa Board of Nursing
- U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing
- Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
- U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Rankings
It’s a good idea to take a look at the application deadlines for each school and mark them on your calendar so you don’t miss any important dates. Not everyone gets accepted to the number one school of their choice, so it’s best to apply to several to ensure a seat in at least one of your choices.
After you’ve submitted your applications, it’s time to relax. You’ve finished the hardest part of launching your nursing school experience. You’ve got this!
- “About Allen College.” allencollege.edu. Accessed April 20, 2022.
- “Academic Programs.” allencollge.edu. Accessed May 6, 2022.
- “Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.” acenursing.org. Accessed April 20, 2022.
- “Allen College.” allencollege.edu. Accessed April 20, 2022.
- “Bachelor of Science in Nursing.” mchs.edu. Accessed May 6, 2022.
- “Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.” aacnnursing.org. Accessed April 19, 2022.
- “FAFSA Deadlines.” studentaid.gov. Accessed April 20, 2022.
- “Fast Facts.” mtmercy.edu. Accessed April 20, 2022.
- “Higher Learning Commission.” hlcommission.org. Accessed May 6, 2022.
- “Iowa Admissions: Nursing.” admissions.uiowa.edu. Accessed April 19, 2022.
- “Iowa Nursing Demand Survey Report.” nursing.iowa.gov. Accessed April 18, 2022.
- “Mercy College of Health Sciences.” mchs.edu. Accessed April 20, 2022.
- “Mercy Medical Center & Mount Mercy University Announce Education Assistance Program to Jumpstart Nursing Careers.” mtmercy.edu. Accessed April 20, 2022.
- “Mount Mercy University.” mtmercy.edu. Accessed April 20, 2022.
- “Nurses in Iowa.” nursing.iowa.gov. Accessed April 18, 2022.
- “Sigma Theta Tau International.” sigmanursing.org. Accessed May 6, 2022.
- “St. Luke’s College.” stlukescollege.edu. Accessed April 20, 2022.
- “UnityPoint Health.” unitypoint.org. Accessed April 20, 2022.
- “The University of Iowa.” uiowa.edu. Accessed April 19, 2022.