About Central

Central College in Pella, Iowa, is a private, four-year liberal arts college. Central is known for its academic rigor, leadership and character formation, global experiential learning, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and sustainability education, athletics and service. The Central experience is rooted in exploration and self-discovery and enhanced by life in a residential community of 1,150 students. Founded in 1853, Central values its long-standing relationship with the Reformed Church in America. The college participates in NCAA Division III athletics and is a member of the American Rivers Conference.

Pella is a thriving community of more than 10,000. It is famous for its annual Tulip Time Festival, its Dutch letter pastries and its fully functional 1850s-style windmill. 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 and Precision, Inc.

Niche.com named Pella one of the Best Places to Live in Iowa, one of the Safest Places to Live in Iowa and one of the Best Places for Millennials in Iowa in 2018.

Read more about our history, our welcome statement and our covenant with the RCA.

Mission Statement

Central College is a residential liberal arts college dedicated to helping students discover and develop their greatest potential. Guided by its ecumenical Christian tradition, the college community engages in vigorous, open inquiry in pursuit of academic excellence.

The college nurtures the development of the mind, while fostering spiritual and emotional maturity and physical well-being. Central integrates career preparation with the development of values essential to responsible citizenship, empowering graduates for effective service in local, national and international communities.


Pella, Iowa, just 40 minutes southeast of Iowa’s capital city of Des Moines and minutes from Lake Red Rock. Pella is a thriving community of 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.


Central College is a member of:

  • Higher Learning Commission
  • North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  • State of Iowa Board of Education
  • Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Educators
  • National Association of Schools of Music
  • American Chemical Society

Learn more about Central’s accreditation.

Environmental Mission

Central College is a leader in environmental stewardship in Iowa and the Midwest.

  • It earned Iowa’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating, silver, by the U.S. Green Building Council in 2003 for the renovation of the Vermeer Science Center.
  • It earned a gold LEED rating in 2004 for McKee Residential Hall.
  • It received a platinum LEED rating in 2010 for the Roe Center.
  • It is committed to following LEED guidelines for all new campus construction and to an environmentally friendly campus.

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, liberal arts college affiliated with the Reformed Church in America. Learn more about our history. Read our welcome statement.

Majorly obsessed with your future. Central offers dozens of academic programs in the sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities. In 2018, the college celebrated its first graduates from its new engineering program. 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 an 11:1 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 87% of faculty members have earned a doctorate or other terminal degree. Your peers will challenge you to use every last brain cell. And 94% of students who graduate from Central do so within four years.

Incoming students’ academic credentials:

  • Average ACT: 22.2 (SAT 1082)*
  • Average GPA: 3.53
  • Top 25% of their high school graduating class: 45%
  • Enter with AP or college credit: 64%

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.

Central opportunities are career builders. In total, 98% of Central students complete an internship, study abroad, research or community service experience.

Your passport to the world. For decades, Central has provided numerous global experiential learning opportunities around the world and plans to do so again once international travel is possible.

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.

*Central College was test-optional for the 2020-21 enrollment year due to COVID-19.

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, 30 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.

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 gameCentral is in the NCAA Division III and is a member of the American Rivers Conference. The Dutch have won:

  • 500+ All-America Awards
  • 11 national team championships
  • 34 national individual championships
  • 184 conference titles
  • 64 CoSIDA Academic All-American Awards
  • 23 conference all-sports titles
  • 26 NCAA postgraduate scholarship winners

Central’s student-athletes are nearly unstoppable. In the past 44 years, Central’s coaches have been recognized 143 times as the conference coach of the year. In the past year, 100 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 youTwenty-three percent of Central students are enrolled in a fine arts course — art, music or theatre — including music groups, ensembles and private lessons.

All Central students can perform in one of 12 ensembles, ranging from classical to jazz to pop. The Mills Gallery showcases art exhibitions throughout the year, including student exhibits in the spring. Theatre programs involve students in every facet of stage production, with a handful of major productions annually. A wide range of campus life opportunities, including many linked to volunteering and service-learning, attract students in large numbers.

Selected Rankings and Recognition

Central College

  • The 42nd Best School in the U.S. for the Money, College Factual, 2021
  • Central Students have won some of the nation’s most prestigious scholarships and awards for academic achievement and leadership. In 2020 Central students Katelyn Wang ’21 and Elizabeth Sheldon ’21 brought home a Goldwater Scholarship and a Udall Scholarship, respectively.
  • One of the Best National Liberal Arts Colleges, U.S. News and World Report, 2020
  • One of the Best Colleges for Kinesiology and Physical Therapy in America, Best Christian Colleges in America, Best Colleges for Education in America and a Best Value College in Iowa, Niche.com, 2020
  • Top 15% in the nation for Division III Women’s Soccer program, collegefactual.com, 2020
  • One of the Best Christian Colleges and Universities, edsmart.org, 2020
  • Top 20 Liberal Arts Colleges in the country for close student-professor relationships, bestliberalartscolleges.com, 2019
  • One of the Top 10 Colleges and Universities in Iowa, wallethub.com, 2019
  • One of the Best College Values in America, money.com, 2019
  • One of the Best Christian Colleges and Universities in the Nation, Crosswalk.com, 2019
  • One of the Best Value Colleges in Iowa, Safest College Campuses in Iowa, and Best College Food in Iowa by niche.com, 2019
  • One of the of the Best Colleges in Iowa, Collegechoice.net, 2018
  • One of the Best College Dorms in America, Best College Campuses in Iowa, Safest College Campuses in Iowa and Best College Athletics in Iowa, niche.com 2018
  • One of the Top Colleges for Philosophy and Religious Studies, biggerfaith.org, 2018
  • One of the Best Colleges for Intramural Sports in the Country, bestcolleges.com, 2018
  • One of the Best Bachelor’s in Actuarial Science, College Choice, 2017
  • One of the Top Up-and-Coming Programs for Psychology Degrees in the Midwest, bestpsychologydegrees, 2016
  • Highest value-added to salary of any liberal arts college in Iowa, Brookings, 2015
  • One of the 50 Most Underrated Colleges in America, Business Insider, 2015
  • Awarded the Community Engagement Classification, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 2015
  • Named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll eight times; twice as a finalist and once with distinction in the education category.
  • One of only seven Iowa private colleges or universities with a chemistry program approved by the American Chemical Society.
  • Named to Honor Roll for Character-Building Colleges by the John Templeton Foundation.

Pella, Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa

Notable Alumni

Sustainable Achievement

Udall Scholarship winner Elizabeth Sheldon ’21 came to Central for volleyball but found her niche as a sustainability researcher and advocate.

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