- University of Illinois System, Accessed March 2017, https://www.uillinois.edu/
- Illinois State recognized for online nursing, bachelor's programs, Eric Jome, January 11, 2017, https://news.illinoisstate.edu/2017/01/illinois-state-recognized-online-nursing-bachelors-programs/
- University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Accessed March 2017, http://illinois.edu/
- Baccalaureate Transfer, Illinois Community College Board, Accessed March 2017, http://www.iccb.org/academic_affairs/?page_id=1
- Online, University of Illinois at Springfield, Accessed March 2017, http://www.uis.edu/online/
- Online Degrees and Certificates, University of Illinois at Chicago, Accessed March 2017, https://ec.uic.edu/uiconline/
- Online Degree Programs, Eastern Illinois University, Accessed March 2017, https://www.eiu.edu/adulted/online.php
- Online Degree Programs, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Accessed March 2017, http://www.siue.edu/online/degrees-programs.shtml
- Academics, Southern Illinois University, Accessed March 2017, http://siu.edu/academics/
- Online Learning, Western Illinois University, Accessed March 2017, http://www.wiu.edu/online_learning/
- Mission and History, University of St. Francis, Accessed March 2017, https://www.stfrancis.edu/about/mission-history/
- Olivet Online, Olivet Nazarene University, Accessed March 2017, http://graduate.olivet.edu/programs/olivet-online
- Illinois and Federal Financial Aid Programs, Illinois Student Assistance Commission, Accessed March 2017, https://www.isac.org/students/during-college/types-of-financial-aid/illinois-and-federal-financial-aid-programs.html
- Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Farm and Home Management Advisors||33.3%||240||$51,900|
|Operations Research Analysts||33.2%||8,360||$87,020|
|Ambulance Drivers and Attendants, Except Emergency Medical Technicians||31.4%||730||$23,360|
|Hearing Aid Specialists||30%||250||$38,980|
|Software Developers, Applications||26.2%||26,180||$97,930|
|Home Health Aides||25.6%||38,730||$23,840|
|Occupational Therapy Aides||24.9%||1,720||$25,880|
|Computer Systems Analysts||24.5%||29,390||$89,630|
|Veterinary Technologists and Technicians||24.5%||3,840||$33,530|
|Reinforcing Iron and Rebar Workers||24.5%||610||$81,910|
|Cartographers and Photogrammetrists||24.4%||270||$66,920|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||24.4%||2,460||$61,590|
|Software Developers, Systems Software||22.8%||12,570||$104,310|
|Insulation Workers, Mechanical||22.5%||370||$76,590|
|Orthotists and Prosthetists||22.3%||240||$76,810|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||22.3%||4,860||$56,220|
|Industrial Machinery Mechanics||22%||12,160||$54,850|
|Forensic Science Technicians||21.3%||690||-|
|Physical Therapist Aides||21.1%||2,960||$41,020|
|Occupational Health and Safety Technicians||20.7%||590||$63,020|
|Helpers--Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble Setters||20.2%||280||$45,720|
|Interpreters and Translators||19.8%||1,390||$45,350|
|Entertainment Attendants and Related Workers, All Other||19.8%||540||$25,410|
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.
December 1 (admittance date)
Minimum 3.3 GPA and completion of at least 12 credit hours per semester required to retain scholarship.
November 15 (Early Action admissions deadline)
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.25 GPA and full-time status.
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.6 GPA.
- University of Illinois System
- Illinois Community College System Foundation
- Illinois Community College Board
- Illinois Board of Higher Education
- Illinois Student Assistance Commission