For our inaugural rankings, the research team at Nursing Schools Almanac collected data on over 3,200 nursing schools and campuses throughout the United States. We included the following states within our Plains rankings: Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. We evaluated each nursing school in the region on three dimensions:

  • The institution’s academic prestige and perceived value
  • The breadth and depth of nursing programs offered
  • Student success, particularly on the NCLEX national licensure exam

We then combined these assessments into an overall score and ranked the schools accordingly. For a detailed description of our assessment methodology and dimension weights, please see here.

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#1: Barnes-Jewish College, Goldfarb School of Nursing | Saint Louis, MO
Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College is recognized as a Laerdal Center of Educational Excellence. The school welcomes more than 700 nursing students annually and awards the bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), master of science in nursing (MSN), and dual doctor of nursing practice / doctor of philosophy in nursing (DNP/PhD) degrees. Approximately 400 BSN graduates sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) annually, and they have passed this licensure exam at a strong 91% rate over the past eight years. More than 40% of graduates land positions at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.


#2: University of Kansas | Lawrence, KS
The University of Kansas School of Nursing is designated a Center of Excellence™ (COE) by the National League for Nursing (NLN) and ranks #21 nationwide among public nursing schools in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding. The school offers a notable breadth of programs including advanced practice clinical, leadership, and nurse educator (NED) certificates; traditional BSN, RN-to-BSN, MSN, and DNP degrees; and a PhD program in nursing – the only one of its kind in the region. BSN graduates consistently earn outstanding NCLEX-RN pass rates of 91-95% each year.


#3: University of Minnesota | Minneapolis, MN
The University of Minnesota School of Nursing is one of the oldest and largest nursing schools in the region. The first to offer doctoral programs in certified registered nurse anesthetist, nursing informatics, and health innovation and leadership, the school’s DNP program was recently ranked #12 out of approximately 150 nationwide by U.S. News & World Report. University of Minnesota also offers highly regarded BSN and MSN programs. The school produces approximately 120 BSN and 60 MSN prelicensure graduates annually, who have achieved NCLEX first-time pass rates of 87% and 93%, respectively, over the past six years.


#4: North Dakota State University | Fargo, ND
The School of Nursing at North Dakota State University offers several degree programs, both for aspiring nurses just starting out and for licensed nurses looking to enhance their careers. Options include prelicensure BSN, LPN-to-BSN, and RN-to-BSN tracks as well as a BSN-to-DNP program with a family nurse practitioner (FNP) specialty. Each year, 90+ BSN graduates take the NCLEX exam, scoring an admirable pass rate of 90-97% for eight consecutive years. The number of FNP graduates who pass the certification examination for advanced practice also well exceeds the national average.


#5: University of Iowa | Iowa City, IA
The College of Nursing at the University of Iowa is a Big Ten nursing school, hailed as a national leader in gerontology and nursing service administration (both ranked #2 in the country), pediatric nurse practitioner (#12), and nurse anesthetist (#11). Considered one of the most elite nursing schools in the country, the college produces more than 100 BSN graduates annually with a stellar four-year NCLEX pass rate of 96%. In addition to DNP and prelicensure BSN degrees, University of Iowa offers RN-to-BSN, clinical nurse leader (CNL), and nursing PhD programs.


#6: Winona State University | Winona, MN
The College of Nursing & Health Sciences at Winona State University focuses on both undergraduate and graduate nursing education. The undergraduate program produces approximately 150 BSN graduates annually, who have passed the NCLEX licensure exam at a solid 88.6% rate over the past six years. Similarly impressive is the number of graduate nursing offerings available. Graduate students may pursue an MSN, DNP, or graduate certificate, including specializations in family practice nursing and adult health nursing. Winona State also offers RN-to-BSN and RN-to-MSN degree completion programs for existing registered nurses.


#7: University of Missouri - Columbia | Columbia, MO
The University of Missouri’s Sinclair School of Nursing (SSON) is a member of one of the most comprehensive healthcare networks in Missouri, including the School of Health Professions, the School of Medicine, and University of Missouri Health Care. SSON educates nurses at all levels through its traditional BSN, accelerated BSN (ABSN), online RN-to-BSN, MSN, DNP, and PhD degree programs. At the undergraduate level, SSON produces 150-200 prelicensure BSN graduates annually. These students have consistently passed the NCLEX-RN exam at an exceptional rate of 92-96% for at least eight years in a row.


#8: South Dakota State University | Brookings, SD
The College of Nursing at South Dakota State University has an 80-year history of providing high-quality nursing education. Home to nearly 1,000 nursing students enrolled in BSN, MSN, PhD, and DNP programs, the school had an enviable job placement rate of 100% for all graduates in 2014. That same year, the College of Nursing reported an NCLEX pass rate of 92% for its undergraduates, and a stellar 100% pass rate for advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) graduates seeking certification through the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).


#9: University of Nebraska Medical Center | Omaha, NE
University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) is a prominent and vast institution that enrolls more than 3,700 students each academic year. Nearly half of the state’s bachelor-prepared nurses, physicians, dental professionals, pharmacists, and allied health professionals have graduated from UNMC. The school’s College of Nursing offers traditional BSN, ABSN, and RN-to-BSN programs for undergraduates, as well as MSN, DNP, and PhD degrees for graduate nurses. In addition, a post-master’s certificate (PMC) is offered in areas ranging from adult gerontology to women’s health. Prelicensure BSN graduates have enjoyed an excellent 90% NCLEX exam pass rate over the past five academic years.


#10: Saint Louis University | Saint Louis, MO
The School of Nursing at Saint Louis University created the first ABSN and comprehensive online MSN programs in the nation, the first accelerated MSN and nursing PhD programs in Missouri, and the first DNP program in St. Louis. SLU’s BSN graduates have maintained a strong NCLEX-RN exam pass rate of ~90% since 2008, well above both state and national averages. In addition to impressive licensure exam pass rates, all programs are nationally recognized for their innovative and comprehensive curricula.


The accredited schools below also offer highly regarded nursing programs. Many of them are taught online.

Featured Schools

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