Types of Colleges

Public Universities

  • Four-year and advanced degrees
  • Iowa has three: University of Iowa, Iowa State University, University of Northern Iowa
  • Also called Regent Universities
  • Funded by the state
  • Lower tuition and fees than private institutions

Private, Not-for-Profit Institutions

  • Often smaller, with lower student-to-faculty ratios
  • Four-year and advanced degrees
  • No direct state funding, usually more expensive
  • Higher cost offset by grants and scholarships from endowments, in addition to federal and state aid

Private, For-Profit Institutions

  • Two-year, four-year and advanced degrees
  • Also called proprietary
  • Privately owned and operated to generate profit
  • Often offer technical and pre-professional programs

Community Colleges

  • Two-year degrees, diploma, vocational certificates, transfers to four-year institutions
  • Iowa has 15 community college districts
  • Lower tuition and fees than four-year institutions
  • Open admission—only requirement is high school or equivalency diploma
  • Funded by the state

Vocational & Technical Schools

  • Public or private
  • Many are for-profit
  • Prepare for a specific occupation or trade
  • Examples: IT, cosmetology, auto repair, paralegal

Types of Degrees

Registered Apprenticeships

  • Provide 2,000 hours of on-the-job learning and at least 144 hours of related instruction
  • Most employers cover the cost of classroom education, and you earn a paycheck while you learn
  • Examples: Construction, plumbing, electrical, financial services, health care, advanced manufacturing, food and beverage prep
  • More information at earnandlearniowa.gov

Certificates & Diplomas

  • Particular skills for specific careers
  • Certificates generally take a year or less
  • Diplomas generally take two years or less
  • Community colleges, career/vocational/technical colleges or some four-year colleges
  • Examples: Paralegal, cosmetologist, welder, chef, certified nursing assistant

Associate Degrees

  • Usually earned in two years (sometimes less) at a community college or some career/technical/business colleges and four-year colleges
  • Some can be applied toward a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college or university
  • Examples: Dental hygienist, registered nurse, veterinary tech, auto mechanic

Bachelor’s Degrees

  • Typically take at least four years at any four-year college or university
  • Examples: Teacher, engineer, accountant, dietitian, social worker, criminal justice

Advanced Degrees

  • After bachelor’s degree
  • Master's, doctoral or professional
  • Can take several years, depending on the type
  • Examples: Dentist, lawyer, veterinarian, college professor, medical doctor

What is College? Exploring What's Possible After High School

Different types of degrees are possible for students looking to continue their learning & prepare for the future.