Cornell College is a nationally acclaimed private liberal arts college in scenic Mount Vernon, Iowa. Founded in 1853, the college operates on a distinctive block plan calendar, known as One Course At A Time, that allows students to devote themselves to just one academic discipline during each of eight blocks per year.

National Recognition

  • Cornell is one of only 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope's book "Colleges that Change Lives."
  • The New York Times selected Cornell as one of 20 "stealth powerhouses" that are "good alternatives to popular brand name universities."
  • Cornell is one of the Huffington Post’s 13 most interesting schools in 2011.
  • Cornell is #32 among national liberal arts colleges in’s 2012 "Top-Choice Colleges."
  • The 2011 "Princeton Review" ranked Cornell's theatre department 15th and includes Cornell in the top 15% of four-year schools.
  • Cornell's art department made the "Fiske Guide to Colleges" 2011 list of 24 top small college art and design programs.
  • U.S. News and World Report ranks Cornell in the top tier of national liberal arts colleges.

The college is located on a wooded, 129-acre hilltop in Mount Vernon, Iowa, a charming town whose mix of historic buildings and creative flair recently earned it accolades as one of "America's Coolest Small Towns" by Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel magazine. Cornell's was the first college campus to be listed entirely on the National Register of Historic Places. The campus is less than 20 minutes from Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, and four hours from Chicago. 

Academic Structure
Under the unique One Course At A Time system, Cornell students immerse themselves in just one academic discipline per three-and-a-half-week course term. Eight terms are offered each year. Each term, students choose from about 60 course offerings, ranging from on-campus classes to off-site internships and international study trips

Programs of Study

The college offers more than 40 academic majors and pre-professional programs. Students also may design their own major.

Commitment to the Liberal Arts
Cornell has always maintained a firm commitment to the relevance and value of liberal education. Learn more about Cornell's perspective on the liberal arts in a 2012 feature story in the Cornell Report, written by Joe Dieker, vice president of academic affairs and dean of the college.

Admission to Cornell is very selective and based on academic ability and preparedness, personal character, and meaningful extracurricular involvement. The 2011 incoming class had an average high school GPA of 3.54, average ACT score of 26.2, and average SAT combined score of 1238. 

Costs & Financial Aid
Tuition, fees, room, and board charges for 2011-2012 total $40,650. Cornell is committed to helping students afford a great education, and a majority of our students receive need-based financial assistance in the form of grants, loans, and jobs. Scholarships are awarded, regardless of need, to students with high academic ability or special talents in music, theatre or art. Cornell has been ranked highly for its overall value by a number of national ratings organizations:

  • The 2012 Fiske Guide to Colleges named Cornell one of the 25 "Best Buy Schools" among private colleges.
  • Kiplinger placed Cornell on their "Best Values in Private Colleges" 2011-2012 list.
  • U.S. News and World Report included Cornell in its 2011 "Great Schools, Great Prices" list.

Cornell professors are accomplished researchers, scholars, and above all, mentors. Ninety-seven percent of the college's tenure-track faculty hold the highest degree in their field. The student-faculty ratio is 11:1, and many students work closely with faculty members on research or other projects.


Cornell's student body includes nearly 1,200 men and women from almost all 50 states and two dozen nations. The college actively cultivates diversity among its student population, and the incoming class of 2011 included 25 percent students of color (6 percent of those being international students), and 80 percent from places other than Iowa. Of those students who graduate from Cornell, 94 percent do so in four years or less, and almost two-thirds have a double major or a major and a minor.

Class Size
The average class has 17 students, though many upper-level courses are significantly smaller. Most classes are capped at 25 students.

While the entire campus is listed on the National Historic Register, Cornell's facilities range from conveniently functional to cutting edge. Science facilities include a cadaver lab, a geographic information systems lab, and a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer. A new theater boasts the most current production technology. And the campus is fully wired, with Internet access from every residence hall room and dozens of "smart" classrooms. 

Alumni Outcomes
Approximately two-thirds of our students pursue graduate studies, and Cornell ranks 68th in the nation among private four-year colleges in the number of graduates who go on to earn PhDs. Cornell ranks in the top 15 nationally among Division III schools with 25 NCAA Postgraduate Scholars, a scholarship for academic and athletic achievement. 


Campus Life
Life at Cornell is active and diverse. Students participate in more than 100 clubs, organizations, and special-interest groups ranging from the Film Club to the Mountaineering Club. About one-third of students join non-national Greek groups. About 75% of our students participate in student organizations, leadership programs, and/or volunteer service. Ninety percent of students live on campus. Housing options include first-year theme floors, Living & Learning Communities, and suite-style halls.

In 2012, Cornell will rejoin the Midwest Conference of NCAA Division III, competing in 19 sports against 10 liberal arts schools in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Cornell ranks among the top 15 Division III schools for the number of Postgraduate Scholars, a scholarship for academic and athletic achievement. Students also participate in nearly 40 intramural sports.

More About Cornell on U-CAN
Learn more about Cornell College on the University & College Accountability Network (U-CAN), a Web-based project launched in 2007 to help prospective students and their families judge the quality of higher education institutions. U-CAN provides information and comparison data on several hundred colleges and universities.