Best Colleges & Universities in Minnesota


We all know Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but did you know it is also the land of nearly 200 public and private institutions of higher learning? Minnesota aggressively attempts to draw students into its beautiful borders with programs and agreements which are designed to assist students financially survive through college.

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education has what are called “reciprocity agreements” with the neighboring states of Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, as well as the Canadian province of Manitoba. There is a limited agreement with Iowa Lakes Community College. The agreements allow students of those states to pay lower tuition rates than other out-of-state students. Through this program, non-resident admission fees and tuition are reduced or eliminated. See if you could take part in this program by visiting

The state of Minnesota wants to help students who would like to attend school from several other states, too. It participates in the Midwest Student Exchange Program, which allows students from participating states to pay no more than 150% of the in-state tuition at another participating state’s colleges or universities. Learn about this and find out if you could take part in this program by visiting

Minnesota can attract the eye of the outdoorsman as well as the frugal college student. With so many college choices to look at and so many financial assistance programs all available in Minnesota, it may be just the place for you.

Colleges and Universities in Minnesota Fast Facts

  • Fall enrollment (2017) = 412,966
  • Degrees awarded in Minnesota (2016) = 107,211
  • Average in-state public tuition (2016) = $7,291
  • Median out-of-state tuition (2016) = $13,644
  • Largest schools = 1.University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, 2. Walden University, 3. Capella University

NCES and DataUSA


EDsmart assesses colleges in Minnesota based on data that covers four main areas:

  • Cost (average net price)
  • Academic quality (graduation rate)
  • Student satisfaction (retention rate)
  • Salary After Attending (the median earnings of former students who received federal financial aid, at 10 years after entering the school)

All data was gathered from the U.S. Department of Education websites College Scorecard and College Navigator.

This ranking aims to help students assess the affordability and value of colleges and universities in Minnesota so they can make informed decisions about which college to attend.

Best Colleges in Minnesota for 2019-2020

1. University of Minnesota-Morris


Score: 100

Average Net Price: $11,051
Retention Rate: 79%
Graduation Rate: 61%
Salary After Attending: $40,700

Founded in 1960, this public liberal arts college offers 35 majors and 32 minors. The University of Minnesota-Morris is known for offering quality education at an affordable cost. A significant number of students study abroad, and a large percentage of graduates pursue advanced degrees. Psychology and English are the two most popular majors in the schools. The music department at the school is well-known for its jazz musicians. Jim Carlson, a professor of music at the university, founded Jazz Fest in 1979. The events of the festival were broadcast online in 2009. Alumni of the university include the current Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court Lorie Skjerven Gildea, associate-professor of biology PZ Myers, and singer Cynthia Johnson.

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2. University of Minnesota-Crookston

Score: 98.6

Average Net Price: $12,857
Retention Rate: 73%
Graduation Rate: 54%
Salary After Attending: $44,800

The University of Minnesota-Crookston is a high ranking technology-driven university. UM-Crookston provides all students and faculty with laptop computers. The school is among the first colleges to give all full-time students a standard model laptop computer. The college has plenty of online students; half the student body learns online. The school faculty encourage students to use hands-on approaches to learning. They present leadership and internship opportunities to many of the students. UM-Crookston is also known for having a student body with remarkably low amounts of student debt. The financial aid is often generous to the incoming freshman students. Applicants who wish to apply to this school should plan to emphasize their high school grades and experiences. Test scores are optional. Applicants who are homeschooled or who have attended a non-graded school must submit SAT or ACT scores. Employers consistently rank the school graduates as among some of the best-prepared people to enter a technologically advanced workforce.

3. University of Minnesota-Rochester

Score: 98.6

Average Net Price: $15,234
Retention Rate: 69%
Graduation Rate: 59%
Salary After Attending: $51,900

Given its unique location in the heart of Med-City, the University of Minnesota-Rochester (UMR) is well-known for its focus in the health sciences. Students interested in pursuing a wide range of health science careers flourish in the Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences program. Those looking to gain unparalleled experiences at Mayo Clinic where health professionals address the well-being and treatment needs of patients from around the world each day, seek the Bachelors of Science in Health Professions program where students are trained in Echocardiography, Radiography, Respiratory Care and Sonography. Practical clinical experience is the focus in this program. UMR faculty are expected to be available to students who want or need help with coursework and teaching assistants are not employed by the university. This is one of the best colleges in Minnesota for those who want to enter health-related disciplines.

4. Minnesota State University-Mankato


Score: 97.6

Average Net Price: $15,615
Retention Rate: 74%
Graduation Rate: 49%
Salary After Attending: $44,900

This public university offers 130 undergraduate programs of study. Its aviation program further distinguishes the college. MSU-Mankato is among the best colleges in MN for those who want to prepare for pilot training. Students who cannot go to the college campus may complete their university degree with the online college programs. A significant percentage of graduated student bodies find employment connected to an area related to their studies. The university was one of the first schools in the country to offer a Master of Fine Arts degree in Forensics. In-state tuition fees are affordable, making this an attractive choice for native Minnesotans. The college will admit any student who graduated in the top 50% of their high school, has a GPA of at least 3.0, or achieves an ACT of at least 21. Those who do not meet these requirements will still be evaluated based on other factors, such as college preparation work or the likelihood of succeeding in a university environment.

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5. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities


Score: 97.6

Average Net Price: $17,396
Retention Rate: 93%
Graduation Rate: 79%
Salary After Attending: $51,900

This university has graduated distinguished alumni who have won Nobel Prizes and Pulitzer prizes. The quality of this school has been compared to the quality of Ivy League schools, hence its “Public Ivy” ranking. The school has a particularly distinguished math department. The school is also known for its fraternities and sororities. There are more than 200 such organizations on campus. Six hundred more student groups are also on campus, and students who wish to create a student group for their own purposes are encouraged to do so. Adult learners are also welcome to apply to the school, and they will find several college programs available to help them progress with their education. An exceptional faculty helps promote diversity and interdisciplinary approaches to difficult subjects. The university is well known for its research; the school graduates many students who go on to win famous prizes for their work, and the school has spent over $940 million in research expenditures.

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6. Metropolitan State University


Score: 97.2

Average Net Price: $14,814
Retention Rate: 72%
Graduation Rate: 33%
Salary After Attending: $48,200

This institution was founded in 1971 as a way to serve non-traditional students who could not access resources provided by other existing schools in the state. Since then, the college has adjusted and refined its approach to learning to make it a major center of learning in its own right. Adult learners, students with children, students with full-time jobs, and students transitioning into significant life changes are welcome at this college. The school is known for serving a frequently overlooked student population. Students may get degrees in career-oriented majors such as Research and Information Studies or other fields such as Physics or Religious Studies. Students are encouraged to join student organizations. Students who do not have enough members to begin a full-fledged student organization may start a Small Community instead. Successful Small Community leaders are encouraged to further their leadership skills by starting a student organization later in their college career.

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7. Saint Cloud State University


Score: 96.4

Average Net Price: $14,633
Retention Rate: 68%
Graduation Rate: 45%
Salary After Attending: $44,200

This public university in Saint Cloud is one of the largest universities in the state. At least 14,000 students attend the college. Students may choose from over 200 majors. The university is known for having enjoyable and distinctive undergraduate majors such as meteorology and mapping sciences. Each year, students take part in “Mainstreet,” a showcasing for communities and campus services. Those who cannot go to the campus may enroll in online programs. The college ranks among one of the best schools for student veterans. The university has shown a commitment to providing resources for military students in order that they may enjoy a successful college career. The in-state tuition is reasonable, making it one of the most affordable schools in the nation.

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8. Bemidji State University


Score: 95.8

Average Net Price: $15,464
Retention Rate: 70%
Graduation Rate: 46%
Salary After Attending: $40,600

Initially founded as a teacher’s preparatory school in 1919, this public state university is now home to over 6,000 students each year. Many of the school courses are available online. This school is distinguished by the very high rate of students who pass their social work licensing exams; 96% of social work majors successfully qualify for their employment. In comparison, only 76% of the entire state of Minnesota passes the licensing exams. The university is also set apart by its relationship to Liaoning University in China. The two schools have enjoyed a 16-year relationship that promotes education on Chinese culture. Every year a Liaoning professor attends Bemidji to teach Chinese. Every summer, a selection of Bemidji students go to Liaoning to study and tour the country. The university also demonstrates care for the environment; a bike rental service exists on campus for students who require transportation. For students who need to gain real-world experience, the school offers several internships in different cities.

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9. Minnesota State University Moorhead


Score: 95.8

Average Net Price: $16,096
Retention Rate: 75%
Graduation Rate: 44%
Salary After Attending: $40,600

This public university was established in 1887. For several decades, the Minnesota State University-Moorhead trained young people to become qualified high school teachers. The advent of the Second World War meant that aviators were needed, so the school helped train aviation students. The school is now distinguished by the number of teachers who have won the CASE Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Professors of the Year Award. Every year, the school sponsors a Student Academic Conference. This conference is meant to help students promote their work to faculty and other more established researchers. The university is also distinguished by the large number of study-abroad programs it maintains. There are school study-abroad programs in China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Australia, England, and Norway. The university is also unusually affordable. The cost of college is among the lowest in the state.

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10. Southwest Minnesota State University

Score: 95.6

Average Net Price: $14,708
Retention Rate: 64%
Graduation Rate: 48%
Salary After Attending: $37,600

This is a large public university that developed the nation’s first culinology program. The university offers over 55 undergraduate majors and several extracurricular opportunities. Despite the relative youth of this school, it boasts a highly accomplished set of alumni that have gone on to achieve much in the arts and business. The most popular majors are Business, Childhood Education, and Elementary Education. Both the in-state and out-of-state tuition are reasonably priced, making this an attractive option for any applicant.

Further Reading: Cheapest Affordable Online College Rankings

11. University of Minnesota-Duluth

Score: 95.4

Average Net Price: $17,131
Retention Rate: 78%
Graduation Rate: 59%
Salary After Attending: $47,200

This public university offers students a wide range of choices from 84 majors. It also has a two-year program for Medicine and a four year College of Pharmacy program. The school has had a long development history. It was initially intended just for women and gradually became a college for all students during the mid-1900s. Student culture promotes the flourishing of several fraternities and student organizations. 96% of the school graduates are either employed or are pursuing advanced degrees. The research programs are designed to improve the health of Minnesota and to develop sustainable practices for the environment. The school is distinguished by the numerous doctors that are trained to serve rural areas and American Indian communities. The school also has among its alumni several accomplished athletes, including hockey players.

12. Winona State University

Score: 94.6

Average Net Price: $17,695
Retention Rate: 78%
Graduation Rate: 60%
Salary After Attending: $44,700

This public university is one of the oldest accredited schools in the state of Minnesota. Initially established in the 1850s, this school was initially meant to produce a substantial quantity of competent high school teachers. The university is known in the state for promoting a good working relationship between learning and modern technology. The school is among the first universities to lease laptops to full-time students on campus. Each student pays a small fee to the university to help fund a non-profit for Minnesota students. The school offers Presidential Honor Scholarships for international students with outstanding credentials. International students are expected to share their culture with American students as required by the Cross-Cultural Outreach Program. Although students are generally expected to take part in the campus culture, the university has a robust online program for distance learners who cannot make a traditional college experience a part of their lives.

13. Martin Luther College

Score: 93.4

Average Net Price: $18,324
Retention Rate: 86%
Graduation Rate: 71%
Salary After Attending: $37,300

This private liberal arts college was established in 1995. Men who graduate from the college seminary program may pursue advanced seminary degrees at the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. The school is mainly a Christian institution that offers several theology-based programs to interested students. Faculty hired by the college are expected to be highly committed to ministry and are expected to communicate a passion for Lutheran ministry to their students. Online or satellite courses are available for distance learners. The relatively small community and shared religious beliefs promotes student bonding.

14. Concordia University-Saint Paul

Score: 92.6

Average Net Price: $18,392
Retention Rate: 68%
Graduation Rate: 53%
Salary After Attending: $49,200

This private liberal arts university offers students both an on-campus and online education. The students may choose from a wide variety of majors, certificates, and graduate programs. The location of the university provides students with a rich environment for seeking internships and entry-level jobs. Its admissions process distinguishes the university; students are not required to submit test scores as part of their application package. Students who feel that their test scores reflect essential aspects of their scholarly abilities they may send in the scores as part of their package. The test-optional policy will not impact international students. The university has religious affiliations. Students who want to enjoy these affiliations have the option of joining a Concordia ministry or student group. They also conduct worship on campus. The university is also distinguished by its church work programs that offer an internship experience for students who are interested in service.

15. Bethany Lutheran College

Score: 92.2

Average Net Price: $17,005
Retention Rate: 82%
Graduation Rate: 53%
Salary After Attending: $34,800

This private Christian liberal arts college has a small student body living on a campus with 50 acres of land. The school is known for providing its students an affordable education, with 98% of the student body receiving financial aid. The culture of the campus is distinguished by the regular chapel service, which lasts each day for fifteen minutes in the morning. They encourage all students to attend the brief Christian Lutheran service before heading out for class. The school chaplain hosts Bible Study groups. Religion courses are part of the curriculum each year, so Bethany students are expected to enroll in one religion course each semester. Minors are available to interested students. They may choose from interesting minors, such as the Communication Disorders minor.

16. Riverland Community College

Score: 90.8

Average Net Price: $8,911
Retention Rate: 65%
Graduation Rate: 37%
Salary After Attending: $34,200

This public community college serves a large student body through a blend of traditional, hybrid, and online programs. Students may acquire bachelor’s degrees, two-year transfer degrees, diplomas, and certificates. Acceptance into Riverland Community College does not always guarantee admission into specific programs, which often require separate application packages. Students who want training for a particular vocation may be able to find vocational training at this school. RCC is also a good option for adult learners who want to enhance or complete their education. The college offers programs designed exclusively for adult learners and ways to transfer credits based on life experience. The school also serves veteran students.

17. Mesabi Range College

Score: 90

Average Net Price: $6,233
Retention Rate: 63%
Graduation Rate: 34%
Salary After Attending: $32,500

This public community college is often used by local high school students who take classes at the school to transfer to their future college of choice. Students who are accepted into the school may have to take a placement test before registering for classes. However, students who perform well on the SAT or ACT may be exempt from the placement test. A student who received at least a math SAT score of 530 may skip the math placement test. Orientation is mandatory for those who are about to begin the fall semester.

18. St Cloud Technical and Community College

Score: 89.6

Average Net Price: $9,397
Retention Rate: 52%
Graduation Rate: 33%
Salary After Attending: $39,100

St. Cloud Technical and Community College began in 1948. Students may acquire Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, and Associate of Applied Science degrees from a wide variety of majors. Interested students will be able to acquire certificates and advanced technical certificates. The college is known for its remarkable affordability, with in and out of state tuition for 2019 standing at $5,295. Eighty percent of SCTCC students receive financial aid, which makes it even more affordable. All accepted students are required to take the “Accuplacer” test, which gauges reading and math skills. Students at this school may choose from majors such as Finance, IT, or Culinary Arts. They may select vocational training programs such as Carpentry, Plumbing, or Land Surveying. Students who cannot have an on-campus experience may be able to begin and complete a degree online.

19. Hibbing Community College

Score: 89.4

Average Net Price: $9,631
Retention Rate: 60%
Graduation Rate: 35%
Salary After Attending: $35,400

Initially started in 1916, this community college began in a room of Hibbing High School and eventually developed its own campus in 1969. Its technical college was created to serve the Hibbing area and eventually merged with the community college. The campus has an open enrollment policy, meaning that any student with a high school diploma or a GED will be accepted. Specific programs may require separate applications. The education at the community college is affordable, especially for in-state residents; many classes are not much more than $200. Students may also apply for financial aid. Students that do not have a GED or high school diploma may take and pass an exam to be accepted. Once accepted, students must take a placement test to gauge their learning skills and ability to comprehend reading passages. Applicants who wish to prepare for this test may visit the college website and practice with the linked sample questions and materials.

20. Dakota County Technical College

Score: 89.2

Average Net Price: $11,817
Retention Rate: 70%
Graduation Rate: 38%
Salary After Attending: $38,500

This public technical school is one of five technical schools in the state. The college has about 40 degree programs and 60 certificate and diploma programs. These range from construction and manufacturing to healthcare, visual arts to business, and include 57 instructional programs under six academic departments. Students may enroll in brewing, HVAC, interior design, or transportation management. DCTC has one of the top-ranked nursing programs in the nation and made Military Times’ Best for Vets: Top Colleges 2020 list. Students who graduate from the school are attractive to employers, with 97% of employers indicating a willingness to hire more Dakota County school graduates. The college offers short-term programs for students who cannot manage long-term commitments.

21. Rainy River Community College

Score: 88.2

Average Net Price: $8,028
Retention Rate: 60%
Graduation Rate: 32%
Salary After Attending: $28,100

This public community college was established in 1967. It is a small community college with a high degree of adult learners. The majority of the student body is made up of students who are 25 years of age or older. Admitted students must submit SAT or ACT scores or other college placement scores. Alternatively, students may submit transcripts from their transfer college or take the Accuplacer placement test. Students who need help to meet the financial requirements for their education may apply for financial aid or pick the Rainy River Community College payment plan. The plan is interest-free. There are scholarship opportunities available for international students. Students will enjoy the supportive staff and the welcoming environment. The college accepts 100% of its applicants. The school is also affordable. Although the college costs over $7,000 each year, the average applicant receives at least $5,000 a year in financial aid.

22. Minnesota West Community and Technical College

Score: 88.2

Average Net Price: $10,687
Retention Rate: 63%
Graduation Rate: 44%
Salary After Attending: $34,700

Although this public community and technical college was formally established in 1997, the individual campuses have histories that are at least 75 years old. The campuses all have traditions of providing the local community with educational resources and vocational training. Students may pursue degrees or certificates in more than 60 areas. Some specific programs in the school may require a special application apart from the general admission application. MWCTC is also welcoming to students with children or families. The Post-Secondary Child Care Grant Program helps low-income students pay for childcare as they attend class. The Granite Falls campus has child care available through Puddle Jumpers Learning Center. Students who need more resources on the other campus sites may be able to get assistance through the Southwestern Minnesota Opportunity Council (SMOC) Child Care Resource.

23. Minnesota State Community and Technical College

Score: 87.2

Average Net Price: $10,869
Retention Rate: 63%
Graduation Rate: 36%
Salary After Attending: $36,200

The Minnesota State Community and Technical College serves a large student body of about 9,000 people. The school has multiple campuses in Minnesota. The school offers more than 70 programs for students. Acceptance to the school is a simple matter; the online application is required as well as high school or college transcripts. The application fee is approximately $20. Accepted students must go through the online orientation, which lasts about 30 minutes. Doing this will allow the student to enroll in classes. The school is highly affordable. Most of the students enrolled in the school enjoy a free education through a mixture of grants and scholarships that do not require payback. Housing options are available to students who want to attend on campus. Accepted students will need to take the placement exam. However, those who have already gained a certain level of education or who have scored well on college placement tests may be exempt from placement testing.

24. Northland Community and Technical College

Score: 87

Average Net Price: $11,098
Retention Rate: 54%
Graduation Rate: 41%
Salary After Attending: $39,400

One of the standout features of NCTC is its aerospace site in Thief River Falls and a satellite site in Roseau. Students may acquire diplomas, degrees, and certificates in more than 80 areas of study. Students who want vocational training will be able to get this from the school’s vocational programs. The school’s two campuses serve over 4,000 students. Financial aid is available to students who demonstrate a need. The Accuplacer placement test is a requirement for all admitted students. Those who score well on the ACT, SAT, or MCA may be able to skip the placement test before enrollment. Advisors will assist accepted students with class registration. This school has also demonstrated a willingness to offer military veterans support. The school has resources to make sure veterans who apply can access all benefits to which they are entitled. Most veterans may be able to enjoy free education at the community college if they can get Federal Tuition Assistance.

25. Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College

Score: 86.6

Average Net Price: $9,541
Retention Rate: 47%
Graduation Rate: 25%
Salary After Attending: $32,400

This dual public and tribal community college is the state’s first tribal community college. The school helps meet the needs of the Chippewa Indian community in the state. In 1999, the tribal school was accredited as a stand-alone school. Students enrolled at the school may select from several interesting degrees. Practical degrees, such as nursing and business, are available. Other degrees, such as Geospatial Technology, are also available. The school is also distinguished by its willingness to further efforts to sustain the environment. Several programs and research opportunities are managed by the Fond du Lac Reservation Resource Management Division.

26. North Hennepin Community College

Score: 86.6

Average Net Price: $10,358
Retention Rate: 60%
Graduation Rate: 15%
Salary After Attending: $40,000

North Hennepin Community College began in 1966. This school is a small institution that is welcoming to a diverse student body. The school is open to students with children and has apportioned rooms and locations for mothers. The school is also welcoming to students of color with multicultural programs on campus, including the American Indian Education Initiative, Asian Heritage Initiative, Black Men’s Leadership Movement, Global Salaam Initiative, Latino Success Initiative, Weak Yet Strong, and Women on Wednesdays. The school also has a sustainability committee for those who are interested in protecting the environment. Tuition is affordable. In 2019, in and out of state tuition was about $5,708 every year. Financial aid may be available to qualifying students. Summer sessions are available to students who wish to accelerate their degree progress. All entering students must take placement testing or submit college placement scores that qualify as an alternative to placement testing.

27. Itasca Community College

Score: 86

Average Net Price: $10,791
Retention Rate: 59%
Graduation Rate: 36%
Salary After Attending: $36,400

This community college is in Grand Rapids. The 1,400 students at the school have a variety of diploma options, such as wildland fire fighting and pulp and paper. Its global mindset distinguishes this particular community college; each year, about 20 Danish STEM students arrive at the college to visit New York City and to spend time with American host families. Twenty ICC students are allowed to go to Denmark and take classes at one of the country’s schools. These students may gain credit for their studies and travel around Europe. The school has an open admissions policy; those who have a high school diploma or GED may enroll. Without these elements, students may still be admitted if they demonstrate the potential to succeed in a college environment. Standardized tests are not required, but they may be used to qualify for exemption from the school placement test. The school is welcoming to senior citizens and charges older students a low rate for classes.

28. Northwest Technical College

Score: 85.6

Average Net Price: $10,077
Retention Rate: 51%
Graduation Rate: 43%
Salary After Attending: $34,300

Northwest Technical College is a public college in Bemidji. It was founded in 1965. Students have a high degree of flexibility with how they design their college experience. This is helpful for those who are hoping to transfer credits to Bemidji State University. The partnership the school has with Bemidji State University allows students to enjoy a traditional college experience with dorm housing, meal plans, and other services. The cost of education at Northwest Technical is relatively high compared to other community colleges, but financial aid is available to help defray tuition costs. Courses offered by the school are available online to those who cannot take part in classes on campus. It is possible to stack credentials at this institution. A student may earn marketable credentials right away while pursuing education on their own schedule.

29. South Central College

Score: 85

Average Net Price: $10,484
Retention Rate: 60%
Graduation Rate: 25%
Salary After Attending: $36,100

South Central College is located in Faribault and North Mankato. This college offers options that help students transfer to a four-year university or gain vocational degrees in as little as two years. The tuition is affordable. Students may have to pay as little as $2,689 each semester. Financial aid and scholarships are available to students who demonstrate need. The school has relationships with many businesses and institutions that may employ students or offer internships.

30. Inver Hills Community College

Score: 85

Average Net Price: $11,709
Retention Rate: 55%
Graduation Rate: 22%
Salary After Attending: $41,500

This community college was founded in 1970. The yearly cost for education at Inver Hills Community College may amount up to $20,000. Financial aid is available to students who demonstrate need. The school is also accredited to give online programs for students who are not able to attend on-campus classes. Students do not require a permit to drive and park around the campus. Students who need alternative transportation may use the nearby Metro. The student body has a high percentage of minority students. Prospective students who are interested in the school may visit the website and take a virtual tour of the campus.

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