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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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#31: St. Ambrose University | Davenport, IA
St. Ambrose University’s Department of Nursing is located in SAU’s state-of-the-art Health Sciences Education Center at Genesis Medical Center, a member of the award-winning Genesis Health System. Two nursing degree options are available: a traditional four-year BSN program and an RN-to-BSN completion pathway. The traditional BSN program focuses heavily on nursing theory before the start of patient care experiences. SAU graduates 50-60 students annually from this program, with a solid 89% first-try pass rate on the NCLEX exam since 2009. The RN-to-BSN pathway is offered in both standard and accelerated formats.


#32: Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota | Minneapolis, MN
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota offers an undergraduate RN-to-BSN curriculum based on Lasallian principles, including concern for the poor and social justice. This degree completion program prepares existing RNs to improve their professional nursing practice and/or pursue graduate studies. Saint Mary's Graduate School of Health & Human Services also offers a Master of Science in Nurse Anesthesia program. This course of study prepares graduates to sit for the certification exam offered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists, successful completion of which confers the CRNA title.


#33: College of Saint Benedict & Saint John’s University | Saint Joseph, MN
The College of Saint Benedict & Saint John’s University have jointly prepared nurse leaders for forty years. The schools offer an undergraduate BSN program with several unique components, including participation in the Minnesota Student Nurse Association and a study-abroad experience in South Africa or Belize. Student pass rates on the NCLEX-RN licensure exam have exceeded the national average for baccalaureate graduates, with an 88.2% cumulative pass rate over the past six years. Several recent graduating classes have achieved pass rates in excess of 95%.


#34: Concordia College | Moorhead, MN
The Concordia College nursing curriculum is approved by both the Minnesota and North Dakota Boards of Nursing. The school’s traditional and accelerated BSN programs emphasize global health and cultural competence through immersion opportunities in countries like China, Vietnam, and Tanzania. Concordia students have access to laboratories with simulation manikins, as well as convenient clinicals and internships at renowned healthcare facilities throughout the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area. Each year, approximately 40 BSN graduates from Concordia take the NCLEX-RN national licensure exam, achieving a stellar 95.2% pass rate since 2009.


#35: Northwestern College | Orange City, IA
The four-year BSN program at Northwestern College has several distinctive features, including hands-on training through healthcare-related mission trips, a state-of-the-art nursing laboratory with six human patient simulators, and a biennial study-abroad course in Africa. This prelicensure program educates a well-prepared graduating class of 20-25 new nurses each year. Indeed, since 2010, Northwestern graduates have passed the NCLEX licensure exam at a 91% rate on their first attempt. The nursing department also offers an online RN-to-BSN program that accepts nurse applicants residing in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota.


#36: Nebraska Wesleyan University | Lincoln, NE
The nursing curriculum at Nebraska Wesleyan University (NWU) has several undergraduate and graduate tracks. At the undergraduate level, NWU offers a traditional four-year BSN and an RN-to-BSN completion program. The graduate nursing department offers two MSN entry points (BSN-to-MSN, RN-to-MSN), two dual MBA tracks (joint degree, MSN-to-MBA bridge), and a post-master’s certificate with two specializations (nurse educator, nurse leader). Students may choose between several convenient campuses including Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska and Clarinda and Council Bluffs, Iowa. Students at the main campus in Lincoln attend classes at Saint Elizabeth Hospital, which has held the prestigious designation as a Magnet hospital since 2004.


#37: University of Mary | Bismarck, ND
The School of Health Sciences at the University of Mary offers a community-focused nursing program with several degree paths. Undergraduates can pursue a traditional four-year BSN or a BSN completion program with LPN and RN entry points. The school produces 50-70 prelicensure BSN graduates annually, and these students have passed the NCLEX-RN licensure examination at a solid 85% rate over the past 6-8 years. At the graduate level, University of Mary offers two MSN tracks (nursing administrator, nursing informatics) and a DNP program with an FNP focus. The university offers clinical opportunities at CHI St. Alexius Health in Bismarck and at local public health agencies, nursing homes, hospitals, and schools.


#38: Benedictine College | Atchison, KS
The Department of Nursing at Benedictine College offers a prelicensure BSN program that accepts 25 new juniors each fall. Interested students must submit an application to the nursing program during their sophomore year at Benedictine, and admission is very competitive. The college places special emphasis on the spiritual care and psycho-social support of patients, as well as fostering nursing leadership in its BSN students. The school counts among its alumni Madeleine M. Leininger, a retired professor and founder of the worldwide transcultural nursing movement.


#39: University of South Dakota | Vermillion, SD
University of South Dakota (USD) Nursing has been designated a COE three times by the National League for Nursing. USD graduated its first four-year BSN class in May 2015, and the university currently offers the prelicensure BSN program at four campuses: Vermillion, Sioux Falls, Rapid City, and Pierre. Other offerings include an ASN degree (available at the Watertown campus) and an online RN-to-BSN completion program. ASN graduates have maintained a strong 85% first-time pass rate on the NCLEX licensure exam over the past decade. A unique component of USD Nursing is the international clinical experience in Guatemala, where students have the opportunity to provide healthcare services to rural indigenous people.


#40: Newman University | Wichita, KS
Newman University admits 64 students annually into its nursing program in two installments: one in August (32 students) and one in January (32 students). Undergraduate nursing options include traditional BSN, LPN-to-BSN, and RN-to-BSN programs. The university’s BSN graduates have achieved an outstanding 95% cumulative pass rate on the NCLEX-RN licensure exam since 2009. Newman also offers the coveted master of science in nurse anesthesia (MSNA) program, which takes approximately 24 months of fulltime study to complete.


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

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