About Central

Central College of Pella, Iowa, is a private, four-year college known for its academic rigor, engaged citizenship and character formation, experiential learning, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), athletics and service. The Central experience is rooted in exploration and self-discovery and enhanced by life in an academic community of 1,100 students. Founded in 1853, the college participates in NCAA Division III athletics and is a member of the American Rivers Conference. Central is an active part of the Greater Des Moines region and just minutes from Lake Red Rock, Iowa’s largest lake.

Central’s home of Pella, Iowa, is a thriving community of more than 10,000. Pella impressively appears in Oprah’s 60 Charming American Towns You Haven’t Heard of But Should Visit ASAP. The community is famous for its annual Tulip Time Festival, its Dutch pastries and its fully functional 1850s-style windmill. In fact, Pella has it all! Pella is located just minutes from Red Rock Lake, Iowa’s largest lake, and is the corporate headquarters of several international companies, including Vermeer Corporation, Pella Corporation, Precision, Inc., and Lely North America.

Niche.com named Pella one of the Best Places to Raise a Family in Iowa and one of the Best Places to Live in Iowa in 2021.

Read more about our welcome statement.


Vision Statement

Central College opens minds to knowledge, hearts to service and doors to the future.


Mission Statement

Central College is a welcoming learning community committed to vigorous and open inquiry as the best preparation for lives of integrity, creativity and adaptability. Our students learn collaboratively with supportive educators who share a commitment to intellectual engagement, personal growth, career readiness and civic involvement.

Shaped by its Christian heritage, Central College values inclusivity, humility, kindness and hospitality, and invites learners of all backgrounds and faiths to join us in the pursuit of knowledge, opportunity and fulfillment.



Pella, Iowa, is just 40 minutes southeast of Iowa’s capital city of Des Moines and minutes from Lake Red Rock. Pella is a thriving community of more than 10,000 and home to several large international companies such as Pella Corporation (Pella Windows), Vermeer Corporation, Heritage Lace and Precision, Inc. The city of Pella is known for tourism and the annual Tulip Time Festival that brings more than 200,000 visitors each year.


Brief History

Founded in 1853 by a determined group of pioneer settlers, Central College has, since its inception, been committed to the ideals of liberal education. Central was originally a Baptist institution, and its founders immigrated to central Iowa to escape religious tyranny in the Netherlands.

Central College officially opened Oct. 8, 1854, with a class of 37. The campus consisted of one two-story building containing three rudimentary classrooms. This fledgling institution grew both in size and mission during its first 60 years, eventually moving to a parcel of land donated by Pella’s founding father, Dominie Pieter Scholte. The college survived fires, wars and economic depression during a period of history that saw the United States double in size. It remained solvent because of the faith and dedication of its early faculty members, some of whom accepted produce from local farms as payment.

In 1916, Central became affiliated with the Reformed Church in America. As its academic reputation grew, Central attracted many more students from outside the denomination.

International study programs were introduced in 1965, strengthening an institutional emphasis on cross-cultural study. Today, Central continues to encourage students to develop a global perspective and joins with study abroad programs at universities around the world. Students also gain a world view through faculty-led off-campus programs.

Over the college’s history, Central has expanded its footprint and academic programs to nurture students into successful careers. The construction of A.N. Kuyper Athletics Complex significantly expanded athletics at Central. Douwstra Auditorium was renovated in phases, beginning in 2017. No matter if you are in Graham Conference Center, Kruidenier Center or Maytag Student Center, students benefit from generous alumni and donors who have contributed financially to expand and modernize the Central campus.



Central College is a member of:

  • Higher Learning Commission
  • American Chemical Society
  • Council on Accreditation of Strength and Conditioning Education
  • Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET
  • Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs
  • National Association of Schools of Music
  • State of Iowa Board of Education

Learn more about Central’s accreditation.


Environmental Mission

Central College is a leader in environmental stewardship in Iowa and the Midwest. Central students have opportunities to learn and foster sustainable habits. Sustainability education is infused throughout the college’s academic curriculum and everyday life. Students live and learn in green buildings, develop sustainability research and service projects, work in the college garden and eat local foods in Central Market. Learn more about Central’s commitment to the environment and campus sustainability efforts.


Fast Facts

Central College, founded in 1853 and located in Pella, Iowa, is a private, four-year college with a culture of inclusion, empathy and personal excellence. Read our welcome statement.

Majorly obsessed with your future. Central offers academic programs in the sciences, social sciences, arts, humanities and interdisciplinary programs. Recently, new programs were added in data analytics, musical theatre and strength and conditioning. B.S. degrees are now available in biochemistry, chemistry and engineering to complement the B.A. degrees that are also offered. Our ABET-accredited engineering major has attracted students from across the United States. The college also has several professional programs and more than a dozen pre-professional tracks including dentistry, health, pharmacy, law, medicine, nursing, athletic training, public health and more.

It’s all about you. With a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio, faculty and students enjoy a personalized teaching and mentoring environment. The average class size is 16 students.

You’ll be surrounded by the best. All classes are taught by professors, not teaching assistants, and 82% of faculty members have earned a doctorate or other terminal degree. Our professors know their stuff and make time for their students. One of our professors, Terence Kleven, the Jacob and Gela Schnucker Sessler Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies, has been named a Fulbright U.S. Scholar twice. And Jay Wackerly, associate professor of chemistry, has won a prestigious grant from the National Science Foundation to study quinone-based macrocyclic systems for supramolecular applications. True stories! In addition to outstanding faculty, your peers seek success and will challenge you to use every last brain cell. That passion for excellence drives 94% of students to graduate from Central within four years.

Opportunity knocks here. Students have tons of opportunities to do 1:1 research with our faculty who know amazing things — like their students’ names. Last year, about 300 students engaged in some form of academic research.

Central is now test-optional. We believe students are everything but standard.

Incoming students’ academic credentials:

  • Average GPA: 3.61
  • Top 25% of their high school graduating class: 51%
  • Enter with AP or college credit: 67%

Central invests in you. Central’s commitment to affordability is supported by its practice of awarding financial aid to more than 99% of its students. New first-year and transfer students automatically receive a $1,000 Journey Scholarship.

Central opportunities are career builders. In total, more than 90% of Central students complete an internship, off-campus study, research or community service experience. Central College graduates earn an average of nearly $12,000 more than graduates of other colleges six years after graduation, according to Niche.com.

Your passport to the world. For decades, Central has provided numerous global experiential learning opportunities around the world and relaunched international study abroad in 2022, following the 2020 pandemic.

Real-world experience. Students pursue community service and internships, and 76% of Central’s students complete internships before graduation. Internships are available as part of programs in Chicago and Washington, D.C., as well as hundreds of sites nearby and study abroad programs.

Our Commitment. Central is committed to undergraduate education, and 94% of graduates complete their degree in four years or less.

Be part of a larger team. Many extracurricular options encourage student involvement at Central, with 100+ student involvement opportunities available to nurture leadership, engagement and participation.

Employers know when they hire a Central graduate, they get the job done. Nearly 100% of Central’s graduates are employed in a field of interest, enrolled in graduate or professional school or are engaged in meaningful volunteer work, such as the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps or Teach for America within one year of graduation.


Campus Community

Your education is a relationship. The Central College academic community is dedicated to educating undergraduate students. Nearly 100 faculty and 350 staff members, full- and part-time, serve approximately 1,100 undergraduates, who hail from Iowa and more than 35 other states and countries around the world. The power of the Central global network through alumni, parents, donors and corporate partners brings significant opportunities for the college and its students.

Committed to social justice and inclusion. Central’s Building a Culture of Inclusion initiative is a campus-wide effort involving faculty, staff and students who are working in teams to actively engage the community in creating awareness through interaction, sponsoring education and training opportunities and convening members of the campus community in supportive dialogue. The college’s shared commitment is to explore human difference and diversity, ensure equitable treatment for all and promote inclusive participation.

Be more than a spectator. The campus culture is one of engagement; metaphorically speaking, one cannot be a spectator at Central. Half of Central’s students participate in intercollegiate athletics.

Up your game. Central competes at the NCAA Division III level and is a member of the American Rivers Conference. The Dutch have won:

  • 500+ All-America Awards
  • 11 NCAA Division III Titles in Six Sports
  • 37 National Individual Championships
  • 187 Conference Team Championships
  • 72 CoSIDA Academic All-American® Awards
  • 23 Conference All-Sports Titles
  • 26 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship Winners

Central’s student-athletes are nearly unstoppable. Since 1974, Central’s coaches have been recognized 148 times as the conference coach of the year. In the past year, 154 Central student-athletes received academic all-conference recognition, a distinction reserved for varsity level competitors who are of sophomore standing with a 3.5 or better GPA.

The show starts with you. All Central students may perform in any of 11 ensembles, ranging from classical to jazz to pop. The Mills Gallery showcases art exhibitions throughout the year, including student exhibits in the spring. Theatre performances involve students in every facet of stage production, with a handful of major productions annually, including musical theatre. A wide range of campus life opportunities, including many linked to volunteering and community service, attract students in large numbers.


Selected Rankings and Recognition

Central College

  • #4 Best Value College in Iowa — Niche, 2024
  • One of the Best Value Colleges in America — College Factual, Research.com, 2024
  • #9 Best Professors in Iowa and One of the Colleges with the Best Professors in America — Niche, 2024
  • One of the Best Colleges or Universities in Iowa — Wallet Hub, Research.com, U.S. News and World Report, 2024
  • One of the Best Colleges in America — Money.com, U.S. News and World Report, 2024
  • One of the Best Colleges for Kinesiology and Physical Therapy in America — Niche, College Factual, 2024
  • Top 10 Best College Locations in Iowa and One of the Best College Locations in America — Niche, 2024
  • One of the Best Colleges for Athletics and Student-Athletes in America — Niche, 2024
  • One of the Safest College Campuses in America — Niche, 2024
  • One of the Best College Campuses and Dorms in America — Niche, 2024
  • One of the Top Performers on Social Mobility — U.S. News and World Report, 2024
  • One of the Best Undergrad Engineering Programs — U.S. News and World Report, 2024
  • Grade “A” for Top Colleges in Merit Scholarship Transparency Rankings — College Aid Pro, 2022
  • #1 Ranked College in Iowa for Environmental Studies — College Factual, 2022
  • One of the Best Colleges for Education and Teacher Education Grade Specific Schools — College Factual, 2022
  • #2 Top Colleges in Iowa for Division III Women’s Soccer Athletes — College Factual, 2021


Pella, Iowa

  • One of Oprah’s 60 Charming American Towns You Haven’t Heard of But Should Visit ASAP — Oprah Daily, 2021
  • One of the Best Places to Live in Iowa — Niche.com, 2023
  • One of the Best Places to Raise a Family in Iowa — Niche.com, 2023
  • #8 Best High Schools in Iowa — U.S. News & World Report, 2023
  • One of 7 Must-Visit Small Towns in Iowa — World Atlas, 2023


Des Moines, Iowa

  • #1 Top 10 Places for Young Professionals to Live — Forbes, 2023
  • #2 Most Secure Places to Live in the U.S. (Large Metro Areas) — Bestplaces.net, 2023
  • #4 of the Best Cities for Young Professionals — Homebuyer.com, 2023
  • #19 Best Places to Live — U.S. News & World Report, 2023
  • #8 Best Affordable City for Gen Z Renters — GoBankingRates, 2023
  • Best Mid-Size Cities in the Midwest — Midwest Living, 2022
  • Top 25 Up-and-Coming Tech Market — CBRE, 2022
  • Top 10 Best State Capital to Live In — SmartAsset, 2022
  • #7 Most Affordable Housing Market — GoodHire, 2022
  • One of 50 U.S. Cities Worth Exploring — Travel Pulse, 2022


Notable Alumni

See more Central alumni success stories.

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