Twin Cities Colleges & Universities

A guide to private and public colleges and universities in the Twin Cities
Hamline University

Photo by Cory Ryan

There’s an energy—a vibrancy—to the Twin Cities area, and that allure is not lost on prospective college students. We have a number of Fortune 500 companies—UnitedHealth Group, Target, Best Buy, 3M, CHS, U.S. Bank—right in our backyard, providing internship and job opportunities. Only New York City, Houston, Dallas, Chicago and San Francisco have more Fortune 500 headquarters. The metro also consists of a vast network of trails and parks, creating an extremely bike-friendly environment (every train and bus has bike-carrying capabilities). Other attractions include museums, theaters and sporting events, many of which offer discounted tickets on designated college nights.

Every state claims an emblematic university, and in Minnesota, it’s the University of Minnesota, better known as “the U of M.” This Division I school consists of five campuses throughout the state: Crookston, Duluth, Morris, Rochester and the flagship Twin Cities campus, with the Mississippi River dividing the latter’s East and West banks. The U is one of the most prestigious public research universities in the nation, drawing students from around the country and around the world. In the fall of 2018, there were 31,455 undergraduate students majoring in nearly 150 specialties, plus 16,038 graduate and professional students.

University of Minnesota – Morris

U of M students have plenty of reasons to feel proud: The Carlson School of Management in the Twin Cities is ranked No. 32 on Forbes “Best U.S. Business Schools 2019,” and the Medical School, a national research powerhouse, has more than 20 research centers and institutes, with PhD programs in microbiology, immunology, and cancer biology and pharmacology. The Law School comes in at No. 20 in the 2020 U.S. News & World Report “Best Law Schools” rankings.

Gopher pride is alive and well outside of academics, too. Due to the sheer size of the school, there are 23 varsity teams, a robust Greek system and 800 student groups, ranging from the alpine ski team to the capoeira club, which practices an Afro-Brazilian martial art. As described on the U’s website, “The U of M is a world in itself—with more than 10,000 trees, miles of bike paths, and the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area right in the heart of campus.”

The U of M is part of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, a network of 30 colleges and seven universities with 54 campuses and a strong online presence—making it the country’s third-largest public higher-education system. It serves more than 350,000 students and awards more than 38,000 degrees, certificates and diplomas annually, with 87 percent of graduates finding a job related to their field of study within one year of graduation.

For those who want a smaller campus than the U of M, one option is the accessible, affordable, culturally diverse education at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul. There are no sports at Metro State, no dorms, and the median age is 30. It’s geared toward working adults, and that suits the students just fine. “You know that everyone who goes to school wants to be there,” says Alicia, an alum. The school offers 60 undergraduate majors, 17 graduate degrees and two doctorates, in addition to certificates, diplomas and two-year associate degrees.

University of St. Thomas

Photo by Mike Ekern

Every year, thousands of families looking for a private college choose one of the 17 liberal arts colleges and universities within the Minnesota Private College Council. Twin Cities-based members include Augsburg University—the only private liberal arts college in Minneapolis; Bethel University in St. Paul, “fusing evangelical faith with top-ranked academics”; Concordia University in St. Paul, affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; Hamline University in St. Paul, boasting graduate programs in management, education and law; Macalester College in St. Paul, with students coming from 90 countries and all 50 states; and St. Catherine’s University, known as St. Kate’s and among the largest private women’s colleges in the nation. There’s also Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, offering 20 majors in a Christ-centered environment; Carleton College in Northfield, which has been ranked the seventh-best national liberal arts college by U.S. News & World Report; and St. Olaf College in Northfield, which has been ranked 12th among undergraduate institutions whose graduates go on to earn doctorate degrees.

Located on a beautiful undergraduate campus in St. Paul and a graduate campus in downtown Minneapolis, the University of St. Thomas is a Catholic liberal arts school large enough to offer more than 150 undergrad majors and minors, yet small enough for students to get to know professors. Among its many accolades, the university is home to the nationally ranked Schulze School of Entrepreneurship and a robust study-abroad program, with nearly half of students participating in the 160 or so study-abroad programs spread over more than 45 countries. “Tommies” are also a dominant force in athletics, recently receiving an invitation to move up from the Division III conference to NCAA Division I.

Students who appreciate the creative side of the Twin Cities gravitate to the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, or MCAD. The private four-year art school enrolls more than 800 students in design, media arts, fine arts and entrepreneurship programs. The 3-acre campus shares a block with the Minneapolis Institute of Art, or Mia, and includes classrooms, galleries, student housing, artist studios and a sculpture garden.

Just south in Bloomington (and less than 10 minutes from the Mall of America), students at Northwestern Health Sciences University (NWHSU) focus on alternative health care. Academic programs include acupuncture and Chinese medicine, chiropractic, massage therapy, medical assistance, medical laboratory science, medical laboratory technology, nutrition, radiation therapy and radiologic technology. The on-campus NWHSU Bloomington Clinic deals in non-invasive, non-pharmacological care, and it’s open to the public, treating injuries and chronic pain and offering services in pediatrics, orthopedics and more.

Check out our guides to public schools and private schools in the Twin Cities, and find even more schools in your area by searching our education directory.