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Online and On-Campus Colleges in ILLINOIS

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Students pursing a higher education in Illinois can choose from a number of both private and public institutions. These may offer two-year, four-year or graduate degrees either on-campus or online.

Illinois State University, with its campus in Normal, had the honor of being founded as the first public university in the state. However, the University of Illinois System is the state's largest network of higher education institutions. The system includes distinct universities at Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield plus regional campuses in Rockford, Peoria and Quad Cities.

For students interested in starting with vocational training or a two year degree, the Illinois Community College System includes 48 colleges covering 39 districts. Students completing an A.A. or A.S. degree at one of these institutions can transfer their credits to the more than 100 schools that participate in the Illinois Articulation Initiative. There are also specialized transfer degrees available in the areas of engineering science, fine arts and teaching.

Best 4-Year Colleges in Illinois

While home to many excellent schools, the following is a list of the best traditional and online colleges for Illinois.

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1University of Illinois at Springfield+
ADMISSION RATE
65%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
$50
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
27

Students will find there are a lot of reasons to love the University of Illinois at Springfield. That's especially true if they are interested in earning an online bachelor's degree in Illinois. Business administration, psychology and computer science are just a few of the online degree programs offered at the school.

Overall, the school is ranked third in the state when it comes to the number of distance education programs it offers. Depending on the program, students may be able to earn credit for life experiences, enroll in remedial classes to brush up on skills and use career placement services to secure a job upon graduation.

All this comes at an affordable rate too. Its tuition and fees rank the University of Illinois at Springfield sixth in the state for affordability. Once financial aid has been factored in, the university's average net price is the third best in the state.

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2University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign+
ADMISSION RATE
60%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
$50
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
28

The accredited University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign takes the No. two spot for best online colleges for Illinois. Like its counterpart in Springfield, this university offers a significant number of distance education programs, ranking fourth in the state for that metric.

Founded in 1867, the flagship campus in the University of Illinois System can boast of the fifth best graduation rate in the state. Psychology is one of its most popular degree programs on-campus. Meanwhile, its online offerings include an undergraduate degree in earth, society and environmental sustainability as well as a number of graduate degrees and certificate programs.

When it comes to cost, the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign is a good choice for students with limited financial means. The school ranked second in the state for average net cost for low-income students.

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3University of Illinois at Chicago+
ADMISSION RATE
74%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
$60
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
6

The University of Illinois System sweeps the top three spots on this ranking of best online colleges for Illinois. The school places second out of 57 state institutions when it comes to average net price. For low-income students, it ranks third for average net price.

Psychology is the most popular major for on-campus students while those studying online may choose from a number of programs including business administration, public health and engineering. Whether studying via online school or on-campus, students are often able to walk away from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a relatively low loan balance. The school ranked third in the state when it comes to the median debt of its graduates.

From remedial classes for those who need to improve skills to career placement services for graduates, the University of Illinois at Chicago offers a full range of services to help students succeed.

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4Eastern Illinois University+
ADMISSION RATE
47%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
$30
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
3

With a campus in Charleston, Eastern Illinois University is another affordable higher education option. The university ranked fifth in the state for its affordable tuition rate. Students don't have to worry about their out-of-pocket costs inflating because of books and supplies either. Eastern University Illinois has the most affordable books and supplies cost in the state. Even more impressive, when ranked against 1,648 schools nationwide, Eastern Illinois University comes in second for that metric.

Those interested in online Illinois degrees will find a number of the university's courses are available through distance education. Fully online programs include general studies and psychology. Graduate programs include cybersecurity, aging studies and an MBA. However, some graduate programs have summer residency requirements.

With a few exceptions, such as the MBA, online students are assessed in-state tuition rates regardless of where they live. That's another reason Eastern Illinois University ranks as one of the best online colleges for Illinois.

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5Illinois State University+
ADMISSION RATE
89%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
$50
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
9

Illinois State University is a popular institution for future teachers, awarding the most degrees in the areas of elementary education and teaching in 2015. However, its strong graduation rate and wide range of services make it an appealing option for students studying other fields as well.

Of 57 Illinois schools surveyed, Illinois State University ranked 11th for its graduation rate. It offers remedial classes and support, career placement services and tuition payment plans, among other things. The university also earned top ten rankings for its affordable tuition, books and supplies and its net price.

Illinois State University is also a particularly good choice for nursing students. The university is one of several institutions that offers an online bachelor's degree in Illinois to registered nurses who want to earn a BSN. An online master's degree in nursing systems administration and an online doctoral degree in nursing practice are also offered.

Additional Info
6Southern Illinois University Edwardsville+
ADMISSION RATE
89%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
$40
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
10

Students looking for affordable online Illinois degrees should consider the Edwardsville campus of Southern Illinois University. The school ranked sixth on this list in large part because of its affordability. It ranks second in the state when it comes to its tuition rate and sixth for the low cost of books and supplies.

Once financial aid is factored in, the school's net price lands it in the ninth place spot among 57 colleges and universities. So it's not surprising that graduates of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville have relatively little debt compared to those earning degrees at other state institutions.

For online learners, the university has a popular RN-to-BSN undergraduate option as well as graduate, doctoral and certificate programs. Remedial support, career counseling and placement services are offered to help all students and graduates be successful.

Additional Info
7Southern Illinois University Carbondale+
ADMISSION RATE
77%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
$40
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
15

The main campus of Southern Illinois University ranks right behind the university's Edwardsville location. Located in Carbondale, it too is an affordable option that attracts those looking for the best online colleges for Illinois.

Southern Illinois University has a robust program for trade and industrial teachers as well as degrees in popular fields such as psychology and business administration. The university ranks 11th in the state for its distance education offerings. These include a number of completion programs for those who have an associate degree but want to earn an online bachelor's degree in Illinois. There are also online master's degrees and certificates available.

Its wide range of student services and flexible learning options are other reasons students choose the Carbondale campus of Southern Illinois University. Students may be able to earn credit for life experiences, take night and weekend classes or take advantage of a number of support services.

Additional Info
8Western Illinois University+
ADMISSION RATE
59%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
$30
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
7

With degree programs in virtually all the state's most popular fields of study, Western Illinois University attracts students from across the region. Criminal justice, agriculture and biology are among its signature programs.

The university has a cost guarantee that helps keep its rates affordable. When ranked against 57 colleges and universities in the state, Western Illinois University had the eighth lowest tuition and fees. It was seventh for the price of books and supplies and 11th for its net price.

Western Illinois University also earns strong marks for the number of distance education programs it offers. Options include an online RN-to-BSN program, an MBA and the National Fire Academy Curriculum for Fire Fighters. The school ranks 13th in the state in terms of the number of its students participating in distance education classes.

Additional Info
9University of St. Francis+
ADMISSION RATE
49%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
N/A
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
24

While many of the best online colleges for Illinois residents are public universities, the University of St. Francis is a private institution. Its main campus is in Joliet, but the school has also been offering its education online for the past 15 years. As a result, the University of St. Francis ranks fourth in the state in terms of the distance education programs it offers, and nearly 60 percent of its students enrolled in at least one of these courses in 2015.

Nursing is among the school's most popular majors, and registered nurses can earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing online. Plus, there are distance education programs in business administration, management and education.

As a small school with total enrollment of less than 4,000, the University of St. Francis prides itself on fostering a welcoming community. It offers a variety of student support services and may grant credit for some life experiences.

Additional Info
10Olivet Nazarene University+
ADMISSION RATE
78%
TEST REQUIREMENTS
Required
APPLICATION FEE
$25
NO. OF ONLINE PROGRAMS
11

Another private school rounds out the top ten of this list of best colleges in Illinois. Based in Bourbannais, Olivet Nazarene University has been providing a higher education to Illinois students since 1907. Even though it is one of the smaller schools on this list, Olivet Nazarene University also offers a substantial number of online degrees in the areas of business, nursing and education.

Students who enroll at Olivet Nazarene University tend to come back year after year. The university's retention rate is the eighth highest in the state. It also has a strong graduation rate which may be due and provides a number of support services.

Although its tuition is more than that of public universities, it offsets its rate by offering many students generous aid packages. When it comes to the amount of institutional grant aid it awards as a percentage of its tuition rate, the school is ranked seventh in the state.

Additional Info

Most Popular Degree Programs in Illinois

While the best online colleges for Illinois offer a number of degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, a few fields of study stand out. Here's a look at some of the most popular degree programs in the state.

In-Demand Careers in Illinois

Selecting the right degree program may be easier if students know which jobs will be most likely to be hiring when they graduate. While there are no guarantees, the following chart looks at some of the careers expected to be in-demand in Illinois in the coming years.

Career TitleProjected Job GrowthTotal EmploymentAnnual Salary
Farm and Home Management Advisors33.3%240$51,900
Operations Research Analysts33.2%8,360$87,020
Web Developers32.4%5,230$74,960
Ambulance Drivers and Attendants, Except Emergency Medical Technicians31.4%730$23,360
Hearing Aid Specialists30%250$38,980
Software Developers, Applications26.2%26,180$97,930
Biomedical Engineers25.8%350$75,190
Home Health Aides25.6%38,730$23,840
Occupational Therapy Aides24.9%1,720$25,880
Computer Systems Analysts24.5%29,390$89,630
Nurse Practitioners24.5%4,030$98,300
Veterinary Technologists and Technicians24.5%3,840$33,530
Reinforcing Iron and Rebar Workers24.5%610$81,910
Cartographers and Photogrammetrists24.4%270$66,920
Occupational Therapy Assistants24.4%2,460$61,590
Software Developers, Systems Software22.8%12,570$104,310
Insulation Workers, Mechanical22.5%370$76,590
Orthotists and Prosthetists22.3%240$76,810
Physical Therapist Assistants22.3%4,860$56,220
Industrial Machinery Mechanics22%12,160$54,850
Physician Assistants21.5%2,850$98,670
Forensic Science Technicians21.3%690-
Physical Therapist Aides21.1%2,960$41,020
Occupational Health and Safety Technicians20.7%590$63,020
Physical Therapists20.2%11,030$90,370
Helpers--Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble Setters20.2%280$45,720
Cooks, Restaurant20%43,900$24,890
Interpreters and Translators19.8%1,390$45,350
Entertainment Attendants and Related Workers, All Other19.8%540$25,410
Management Analysts19.3%34,280$89,770
Source: 2017 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Financial Aid and Scholarships in Illinois

Students earning on-campus or online Illinois degrees have access to a number of state-administered financial aid programs.

  • The State Scholar Program and Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois both provide scholarship dollars to academically eligible high school students.
  • Grants for veterans, scholarships for future educators and loan forgiveness programs are just a few of the other Illinois financial aid offerings.
 
University Scholar Award
Applicant must rank in top 5% of their secondary school class or have a minimum 3.75 GPA with a minimum composite ACT score of 33.
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AWARD AMOUNT

$23,000

APPLICATION DEADLINE

December 1 (admittance date)

RENEWAL CRITERIA

Minimum 3.3 GPA and completion of at least 12 credit hours per semester required to retain scholarship.

 
Moody's Mega Math Challenge
Applicant must be a high school junior or senior who is part of a team working to solve an open-ended, applied math-modeling problem focused on a real-word issue in 14 hours. Teams must be comprised of three to five students.
More

AWARD AMOUNT

$20,000

APPLICATION DEADLINE

February 17

 

 

 
Provost Scholarship
Applicant must be an out-of-state resident with a minimum 3.75 GPA and minimum combined SAT Reasoning score of 1400 (composite ACT score of 32).
More

AWARD AMOUNT

$20,000

APPLICATION DEADLINE

November 15 (Early Action admissions deadline)

RENEWAL CRITERIA

Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.25 GPA and full-time status.

 
President's Non-Resident Scholarship
Applicant must be an incoming freshman student who is not a resident of Utah. Applicant is automatically considered with application for admission.
More

AWARD AMOUNT

$17,000

APPLICATION DEADLINE

Not Available

RENEWAL CRITERIA

Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.6 GPA.

Additional Resources

Article Sources
Methodology

To get our list of the best colleges, we ranked 1,649 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S. Each school was scored on a 100-point scale, using the most recent data available from government sources. Our data points include:

  • The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  • The estimated cost of books and supplies, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  • The average net price for students receiving Title IV grant and scholarship aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014-15
  • The average net price for low-income students receiving Title IV grant and scholarship aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014-15
  • The average amount of institutional grant aid awarded to full-time, first-time undergraduate students as a percentage of in-state tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014-15
  • Median debt of graduates, College Scorecard, 2014-15
  • 3-year student loan repayment rate of graduates, College Scorecard, 2014-15
  • No. of degree and certificate programs offered, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  • No. of degree and certificate programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  • Percent of students enrolled in any distance education classes, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  • Average retention rate for full-time and part-time students, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2015-16
  • Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  • Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
    • Dual credit
    • Credit for life experience
    • Advanced Placement credit
    • Programs of study that can be completed entirely on weekends or in the evening
    • Remedial services
    • Academic and career counseling
    • Job placement services for graduates
    • Guaranteed tuition plan
    • Tuition payment plan
    • Any other alternative tuition plan
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