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Colleges in Illinois

Why go to College in Illinois?

Universities and colleges in Illinois boast world-class research programs, Division I athletic teams, and robust academic programs. Eleven schools meet the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching criteria as “National Universities.” Public universities are optimistic about the future following the resolution of a two-year budget impasse. In addition to allowing schools to plan for faculty and program improvements, the state can also fund student grants.


More than 770,000 students were enrolled in an on-campus or online college in Illinois in the fall of 2016. Enrollment includes students seeking associate, bachelor’s, and doctorates at any Illinois school as well as those seeking certificates or taking noncredit courses. More than 44,000 students attend the University of Illinois-Urbana.


Illinois offers four distinct seasons, with highs in the 80s throughout the summer and lows in the teens during the winter. The state averages about 32 to 48 inches of precipitation annually. The elevation change in Shawnee Hills in southern Illinois leads to an increase in precipitation while Lake Michigan contributes to heavier snow in the Chicago area.

Number of Higher Learning Institutions

Illinois students can choose from 391 public and private schools and universities. The state’s public university system includes nine universities with 12 campuses. Forty-eight community colleges offer two-year degrees.

Sporting Events

Illinois is home to 13 NCAA Division I schools — the highest level of competitive collegiate sports. That level of competition is evident with the University of Illinois Fighting Illini, whose men’s basketball team ranked 11th in all-time winning percentage through the 2013-14 season. Students seeking some friendly competition will find opportunities through campus intramural athletic programs, which feature traditional team sports such as flag football and softball, but also include some unique offerings — like Quidditch at Illinois State University. 


The colleges in Chicago offer a bustling nightlife. Bars throughout the city cater to college students, offering music to dance the night away or laid-back pubs where students can grab a beer and enjoy a friendly game of darts. Campus organizations also provide social opportunities. Many colleges also host popular musical acts, stage Broadway plays, and produce top-quality student theatrical performances.

What Options are Available for Colleges in Illinois?


On-campus learning provides students with a traditional college experience as well as additional hands-on opportunities that are integral parts of many degree paths. For example, nursing programs often require students to complete clinical experiences critical to the curriculum. The face-to-face learning opportunities may also better suit some students. On-campus students also have easy access to college support services, such as tutoring, writing labs, career coaching, and mental health services. First-time college students, like recent high school graduates, benefit from the on-campus option, which provides a set schedule and a high level of structure for assignments.

Online Programs

Online colleges in Illinois allow those with outside obligations to schedule classwork around their other responsibilities. Online degree programs also remove educational barriers and help individuals achieve their goals more quickly. Many colleges also extend support services to online students, such as writing labs, tutoring, and providing dedicated librarians to serve distance learners.

Technology allows for a variety of delivery methods, such as videos, audio recordings, slideshows, and in-depth readings. Discussion boards enable interaction among classmates. Many online schools in Illinois offer accelerated class formats as well.

Students attending an online school in Illinois need self-discipline. With no set class time, students must complete assignments by the due date and communicate with instructors on their own.

Hybrid Programs

Hybrid programs combine online course delivery with some on-campus sessions. Students may elect to complete a few electives on campus while completing most courses online. Some degrees will require in-person instruction. Students in a medical program need to complete clinical practice as part of the curriculum. Flexibility is a primary objective of hybrid online schools in Illinois. Instructors keep in-person classes to a minimum. Some schools offer classes at satellite campuses to reduce commute times. Night classes can minimize conflicts with work schedules. Intensive weekend sessions allow students to focus on necessary skills in a shorter time than weeknight sessions.

Popular Degree Programs in Illinois

More than 30 Fortune 500 companies call Illinois home, with Walgreens, Boeing, and State Farm Insurance headquartered in the state. A business management and administration degree prepares graduates for a variety of roles within these organizations. The concentration of insurance companies makes actuarial science a promising field in the state, with a growth projection of 18% through 2024.

  • Actuarial Science

    Graduates often combine mathematics, statistics, and economics into work in the insurance field. Actuaries use data to calculate risk and design insurance policies to account for it. These professionals also work with governments and financial institutions to evaluate pension plans and ensure enough funds are available to meet benefit promises.

  • Business Management and Administration

    Among the most popular undergraduate degrees since the 1980s, business management and administration courses provide foundational business knowledge used in many industries and careers. Many schools allow students to specialize in an area, such as marketing or accounting. Many also have expanded options to include e-commerce and entrepreneurship.

Best Online Colleges in Illinois for 2018

Students have multiple choices when selecting an online college in Illinois. These choices can be narrowed by selecting a potential career path and finding schools with that particular major. This resource provides information on school and program accreditation.

Also, consider if the programs are 100% online or require in-person attendance. Students returning to college may have transferrable credits from a previous educational experience. Some schools will even offer credit for work experience, reducing the time and cost to complete a degree. While the traditional semester course continues to be a popular choice, some programs allow students to accelerate their progress either through competency-based learning or shorter class sessions where students complete one to two courses at a time.


University of St FrancisJoliet, IL

Admissions Rate 51%
Default Rate 4%
Retention Rate 76%
Graduation Rate 65%
Online Enrollment 43%

Offering web-based degrees for over 15 years, the University of St Francis has achieved recognition for its early adoption of distance learning programs. Today, this Joliet-based Catholic university offers more than 120 fully-online courses in everything from forensics to theology, as well as specialized degrees in business, healthcare, and nursing. Programs are designed specifically for working professionals. Without mandatory class times, students can review course materials and complete assignments whenever and wherever they have internet access. Taught through the Canvas online learning platform, courses are identical to their on-campus counterparts. These online classes emphasize student and faculty collaboration through discussion forums and group chats. Financial aid opportunities include scholarships for older students and transferring undergraduates, as well as tuition reimbursement programs offered through corporate partnerships.


Greenville UniversityGreenville, IL

Admissions Rate 56%
Default Rate 7%
Retention Rate 82%
Graduation Rate 57%
Online Enrollment 19%

Located 45 miles from St. Louis, Greenville University is known for taking a holistic approach to higher education. Greenville strives to enrich students’ lives spiritually as well as academically, combining a Christ centered worldview with rigorous academic programs. Its web-based degree offerings have distinguished the college among online schools in Illinois. The school offers both undergraduate and graduate programs in professional studies, business, and education. Professional degrees include health psychology, organizational leadership, and criminal justice. While program formats and pacing vary according to major, most can be completed in one to two years. Tuition rates also differ between majors and programs. Online students are eligible to apply for scholarship opportunities offered through the college, and are encouraged to apply for federal financial aid.


University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignChampaign, IL

Admissions Rate 66%
Default Rate 3%
Retention Rate 93%
Graduation Rate 85%
Online Enrollment 4%

With 28 Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners among its faculty and alumni, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been home to a host of groundbreaking inventions and research milestones. This spirit of innovation extends to its online learning initiative, which includes courses in numerous departments. There is currently one fully online undergraduate degree in environmental sustainability. Students can choose from two tracks within the major, taking either a natural science or social science approach to environmental issues. UIUC also offers 38 online graduate degrees, including social work, health communication, and mechanical engineering. Designed with transfer students in mind, most students are able to earn their degree within two years. Illinois recommends that transfer students complete some foreign language coursework before applying to the program. While a final capstone course or internship is optional, the university provides in-depth resources for distance learners wishing to pursue hands-on study close to home.


Olivet Nazarene UniversityBourbonnais, IL

Admissions Rate 77%
Default Rate 5%
Retention Rate 77%
Graduation Rate 61%
Online Enrollment 23%

Students interested in business, nursing, theology, or education will find a virtual home at Olivet Nazarene University. Located in Bourbonnais, this faith based school is one of the most career-focused online colleges in Illinois. Online degrees are designed with busy professionals in mind. Combining a cohort model with an accelerated format for maximum flexibility, each program is identical in content to its on-campus counterpart. Most degrees take two years or less to complete. Undergraduates who complete advanced coursework for their major may apply these credits to Olivet graduate programs, allowing them to earn a third of their master’s degree as an undergraduate. Applicants must score an 18 or higher on the ACT and at least 960 on the SAT, although exceptions can be made according to individual circumstances. Accepted students who do not meet these standards must complete the university’s Essentials of Learning program.


DePaul UniversityChicago, IL

Admissions Rate 72%
Default Rate 6%
Retention Rate 84%
Graduation Rate 73%
Online Enrollment 8%

Based in Chicago, DePaul has built a reputation for value, innovation, and diversity. The university’s online learning program has made its programs in business, communication, and technology available to students throughout the country. The school has a famously low student-to-faculty ratio so students can get individualized support from award-winning faculty and advisors. Intended primarily for transfer students, DePaul’s five undergraduate programs and 20 graduate programs combine structured degree plans with flexibility of independent coursework. Prerequisite courses, application requirements, and program lengths vary considerably according to major and number of credits transferred. While tuition rates also differ between programs, the cost of online and traditional degrees are the same and the coursework is identical. The university offers several unique scholarship opportunities to all transfer students, regardless of their major. Online students are eligible to apply for the many other scholarships available through DePaul.


Loyola University ChicagoChicago, IL

Admissions Rate 71%
Default Rate 5%
Retention Rate 86%
Graduation Rate 74%
Online Enrollment 6%

Founded in 1870, Loyola is one of the largest and most well-known Catholic universities in the United States. Loyola brought its famed teaching method to the world wide web in 1998 with the creation of its first fully online degree. Today, students can select from seven unique, web-based undergraduate programs in high demand fields like applied psychology and information technology. The school also offers 14 online master’s degrees and and two online doctoral programs. Course materials and lectures are available around the clock through the Sakai learning platform, although some classes may require students to participate in real time virtual sessions. Through the university’s interlibrary loan program, distance learners around the country can access books and digital resources from Loyola libraries. Online students can also seek virtual academic assistance from the Center for Tutoring and Academic Excellence and the university’s writing center.


Lincoln Christian UniversityLincoln, IL

Admissions Rate 60%
Default Rate 8%
Retention Rate 67%
Graduation Rate 61%
Online Enrollment 25%

Since 1944, Lincoln has maintained its commitment to providing comprehensive academic programs grounded in Christian principles. Unlike many online schools in Illinois, the university offers several specialized degrees in religion and ministry, and boasts many pastors, missionaries, and nonprofit founders among its alumni. Other fully online undergraduate offerings include psychology and business administration. Each 120 credit hour program takes around 10 semesters to complete, with full time students taking four courses each semester. Tuition is the same for online and traditional degrees. Payment plans are available to qualifying students, and the university offers several merit and service based scholarships. In addition to transcripts and standardized test scores, applicants must submit an essay and one Christian character reference provided by an individual in a position of Christian leadership.


Eastern Illinois UniversityCharleston, IL

Admissions Rate 50%
Default Rate 6%
Retention Rate 75%
Graduation Rate 58%
Online Enrollment 7%

For those who are still undecided on a major, Eastern Illinois University offers an online bachelor’s degree in general studies, as well as five other online undergraduate degrees. Students majoring in general studies may receive credit for work experience and on-the-job training. All of EIU’s accredited programs offer flexible schedules, although duration and format differ slightly according to major. All online courses are identical in content to their on campus counterparts. Students enrolled in online programs pay in-state tuition rates, and EIU offers several scholarships exclusively for adult, returning, and transfer students. Additional financial aid is available to those pursuing a BA in general studies with child care education option.


McKendree UniversityLebanon, IL

Admissions Rate 63%
Default Rate 9%
Retention Rate 71%
Graduation Rate 56%
Online Enrollment 17%

Small classes, affordable tuition, and a military friendly atmosphere are all characteristics of McKendree University. Founded in Lebanon in 1828, McKendree has expanded its degree offerings to include four online undergraduate programs in psychology, business, criminal justice, computer science, and nursing. Business majors can select from six additional learning tracks, including accounting and sport management. The school also offers five online master’s degrees and one online doctoral degree in nursing. Most courses are offered in eight week sessions, with the majority of students enrolling in two classes every session. Assignments for all courses are due every week and may be accessed through Blackboard. Technical and academic help is available around the clock through the university website, and distance learners are welcome to take advantage of the school’s career and job search resources.


University of Illinois at ChicagoChicago, IL

Admissions Rate 77%
Default Rate 4%
Retention Rate 81%
Graduation Rate 60%
Online Enrollment 4%

One of the most well known traditional and online colleges in Illinois, the University of Illinois at Chicago’s web-based degrees provide the same quality and academic rigor as their traditional counterparts. Offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in everything from math to political science, U of I Online makes its comprehensive programs accessible to busy individuals through a combination of real-time learning sessions and asynchronous activities. While program lengths vary between majors, most degrees are 50-60 credit hours long. A 30-credit-hour RN to BSN completion program is also available, and can be completed in as little as 16 months with no residency requirement. Tuition and financial aid opportunities vary according to major and the campus where each program is located. Special options may be available for students transferring from select Illinois community colleges.


Benedictine UniversityLisle, IL

Default Rate 6% Retention Rate 64% Graduation Rate 53% Online Enrollment 25%

From an intensive orientation program to the help of expert faculty members, distance learners enrolled at Benedictine University have the same strong support network as on-campus students. Located in Lisle, Benedictine is committed to offering innovative, world-class programs, and its online degrees are no exception. Presented through the Engage learning platform, its accelerated undergraduate degrees in management and organizational leadership can be completed in only two years. Both programs provide a solid foundation in business principles and management theory, in addition to concepts and skills that will help students succeed in the workforce. Benedictine also offers online graduate degrees and dual degrees, including an MBA/MPH. Veterans and active duty military personnel are encouraged to apply for both online degrees. Admissions counselors are available online and by phone to assist applicants with any questions they may have regarding financial aid, benefits, and transcripts.


Aurora UniversityAurora, IL

Admissions Rate 77%
Default Rate 7%
Retention Rate 70%
Graduation Rate 56%
Online Enrollment 8%

With only 5,500 students enrolled at its three campuses, this private university offers all the benefits of a small school, even to its online students. Low student-to-faculty ratios and individual attention mean that those earning a bachelor’s degree online will receive the highest quality education. Designed with adult professionals in mind, Aurora’s web-based undergraduate degree offerings include unique options such as gender studies and nonprofit leadership studies. While most of the programs require a certain number of transfer credits, many offer course credit for work experience, military service, or other training in areas relevant to the student’s major. Tuition for adult degree completion programs is considerably less than that of traditional undergraduate degrees, and online students can take advantage of Aurora’s interest-free monthly payment plan option.


Western Illinois UniversityMacomb, IL

Admissions Rate 60%
Default Rate 9%
Retention Rate 68%
Graduation Rate 53%
Online Enrollment 8%

Located in Macomb, Western Illinois University was founded in 1902 as a training college for prospective teachers. Over the past century, its standard of excellence and unique academic programs have set the university apart among both traditional and online schools in Illinois. In addition to an undergraduate general studies degree and nursing completion program, WIU has recently introduced a comprehensive, fully online BA in anthropology. While course format and pacing differs according to program, all are exceptional among online degrees for their flexibility. General studies majors have no time limit for degree completion and can add select online minors if they choose. Course requirements for the RN to BSN program are determined on a case-by-case basis, removing the need to repeat courses students may have completed in prior programs. WIU also offers online master’s degrees in business administration, instructional design, or education. Current firefighters may also complete the online national fire academy curriculum.


Judson UniversityElgin, IL

Admissions Rate 71%
Default Rate 5%
Retention Rate 73%
Graduation Rate 52%
Online Enrollment 3%

Best known for hosting the annual World Leaders Forum at its Elgin campus, this Christian university has been visited by figures such as Tony Blair and Condoleezza Rice. Judson prides itself in campus wide commitment to sustainability, evangelical values, and academic quality, and its online education programs are an extension of that pledge. Each of four available undergraduate degrees and three master’s degrees are intended to prepare students for careers in psychology, ministry, and business. All are presented in a cohort format and can be completed in 45-50 credit hours. Students may choose additional concentrations within each major. Graduation requirements vary according to program and may include a portfolio or capstone course. Business majors have the option of completing an internship at a local business or organization.


Northern Illinois UniversityDekalb, IL

Admissions Rate 50%
Default Rate 9%
Retention Rate 72%
Graduation Rate 50%
Online Enrollment 2%

Northern Illinois University’s DeKalb campus offers 11 renowned online programs, including business, performing arts, and political science. NIU understands the challenges faced by nontraditional students and offers online degree-seekers extra support every step of the way. Upon acceptance, all students are assigned an admissions counselor for one-on-one help with course selection, and specialists are available to assist those struggling to balance their studies with professional and family life. Program lengths, graduation requirements, and tuition and fees differ considerably according to degree. Certain majors may include additional academic or financial aid opportunities such as scholarships, internships, and mentorship programs.


Roosevelt UniversityChicago, IL

Admissions Rate 72%
Default Rate 7%
Retention Rate 65%
Graduation Rate 37%
Online Enrollment 8%

If you’re passionate about social justice, you’ll feel right at home at Roosevelt University. Since 1945, the university’s mission has been to provide exceptional education to all students regardless of their race, religion, or economic background. This commitment to equality and accessibility in higher education led to the creation of RUOnline in 2001. The program’s six online undergraduate degrees are designed to prepare students for high-demand professional positions. Roosevelt also offers seven online master’s degrees, including conflict and mediation, tourism management, and teaching. Students explore topics such as criminal justice and psychology through a social justice-based perspective. Courses are presented either asynchronously or synchronously at the instructor’s discretion. All online courses follow a traditional semester schedule. Academic advisors are available at the start of each semester to help distance learners create a course plan that best fits their life circumstances and career goals.


Governors State UniversityUniversity Park, IL

Admissions Rate 39% Default Rate 6% Retention Rate 59% Online Enrollment 10%

Located in southern Chicago, this public university is known for having the safest campus in Illinois and northwest Indiana. Even if you never set foot on the GSU campus, you can still take advantage of its top notch academics through one of its fully online bachelor’s degree programs. The school currently offers online bachelor’s degrees in interdisciplinary studies, business and applied science, and nursing (RN to BSN). Three online master’s degrees are also available in business and addiction studies. All online programs offer a great deal of scheduling flexibility. Many students are able to translate on-the-job training, military service, and life experience into college credits. Individuals who have previously earned a bachelor’s degree are not eligible to apply for the interdisciplinary studies program, but may be accepted into others. Transfer students, military personnel, and veterans are encouraged to apply and may receive additional financial aid benefits.


MacMurray CollegeJacksonville, IL

Admissions Rate 63%
Default Rate 16%
Retention Rate 71%
Graduation Rate 33%
Online Enrollment 4%

With strong ties to the Methodist church and the surrounding community of Jacksonville, MacMurray has long been considered one of the most affordable and accessible institutions in the region. With the addition of three web-based undergraduate degrees, students can experience the academic rigor of a MacMurray program from anywhere in Illinois. Stressing the development of high level writing skills, each curriculum is designed to prepare students for the workforce upon graduation. Many internships and work-study opportunities are available for criminal justice and business majors. RN to BSN students are not required to complete a practicum. Year-round sessions and asynchronous courses allow students to maintain a school-life balance as they study at their own pace. Nursing students may complete the program in just 10 months.


National Louis UniversityChicago, IL

Admissions Rate 81% Default Rate 6% Retention Rate 42% Online Enrollment 26%

Founded 125 years ago by pioneer educator Elizabeth Harrison, National Louis University boasts six campuses worldwide, including the main campus in Chicago and an international campus in Nowy Sacz, Poland. In a continuing effort to change lives through higher education, the university has expanded its undergraduate offerings to include six online bachelor’s degrees and six master’s degrees. Differing from their on campus counterparts only in delivery method, these programs offer cutting-edge instruction in high demand fields such as healthcare leadership and management information systems. Course structure, admission requirements, and concentration options vary from program to program, and some students may complete their general education coursework by submitting an experiential learning portfolio. Enrollment specialists are available by phone or email to assist with any questions potential students may have regarding credit transfer policies or academic planning.

Best Online Community Colleges in Illinois for 2018


Southeastern Illinois CollegeHarrisburg, IL

Default Rate 13% Retention Rate 59% Graduation Rate 35% Online Enrollment 24%

Located in Harrisburg, Southeastern Illinois College serves several counties and extends learning to students across the state through eLearning. SIC enrolls approximately 5,000 students and serves as southeastern Illinois' leader in online education.

Students wanting to earn an associate degree can choose from options in early childhood education, business management, and criminal justice. The 62-credit associate of arts provides learners with a liberal arts education that transfers into a baccalaureate degree at a senior college. One of the top online community colleges in Illinois, SIC's online certificates in accounting, business management, and biodiesel production offer short-term credentials that prepare workers for the workplace. The school enrolls students in the fall, spring, and summer.


Frontier Community CollegeFairfield, IL

Default Rate 15% Retention Rate 66% Graduation Rate 76% Online Enrollment 1%

The Illinois Eastern Community Colleges system consists of four colleges, including Frontier Community College. The school's associate degrees provide learners with the general education core needed to transfer to any of more than 100 four-year colleges in the state. Frontier's associate of science gives learners junior status in a science-related bachelor's program. The associate of general studies suits learners hoping to attend a four-year college but who want to keep their academic options open.

Learners entering the technical space opt for associate of applied science degrees, and the school also offers an AAS in accounting and computing or medical office assistant. Whichever degree they choose, learners enjoy affordable tuition at one of the top online community colleges in Illinois. Programs start in the fall, spring, and summer.


Lincoln Trail CollegeRobinson, IL

Default Rate 18% Retention Rate 61% Graduation Rate 54% Online Enrollment 8%

One of four colleges in the Illinois Eastern Community College system, Lincoln Trail offers a select number of online degrees. The online associate of science and arts provides the general education core necessary to transfer to one of more than 100 online community colleges in Illinois. When students transfer the associate of science to a senior college, they assume junior status in a science-related bachelor's program. The associate of general studies provides transfer students with flexibility in their academic pursuits.

The associate of applied science suits learners hoping to pursue the technical space. Lincoln Trail, one of the best online community colleges in Illinois, also offers an AAS in computing and accounting and an AAS in medical office assistance. Programs start in the fall, spring, and summer.


Lake Land CollegeMattoon, IL

Default Rate 22% Retention Rate 68% Graduation Rate 39% Online Enrollment 10%

Lake Land College offers educational options to residents in Coles County. The school also provides academic degrees at five locations in the east-central Illinois region and through its virtual arm. Lake Land offers an online associate degree in business administration that serves as the first two years of a baccalaureate degree at a senior college; some learners use the associate degree to enter the workforce right away.

Faculty design the associate degree in medical coding and health information specifically for those hoping to enter the workforce. Learners study topics such as coding, information technology, and management and medical reimbursement. One of the top online community colleges in Illinois, Lake Land also offers certificates in marketing, management, and medical coding specialist. Online students pay the same tuition regardless of in-state or out-of-state residency.


Sauk Valley Community CollegeDixon, IL

Default Rate 19% Retention Rate 64% Graduation Rate 38% Online Enrollment 8%

Sauk Valley Community College serves residents in five counties in Illinois, including Lee, Ogle, and Whiteside. Students access the school's programming through online degree options. Learners interested in completing the first two years of the state's general education core earn the associate of arts online, which transfers to a four-year college.

Students already focused on a particular career may select one of four online options that prepare them for the workplace, including the associate of applied science in criminal justice, marketing, and accounting. Another degree, the associate of liberal studies, gives students a flexible option that they can tailor to meet their individual academic and career aspirations. One of the top online community colleges in Illinois, SVCC also offers several certificates in fields such as corrections, accounting, and entrepreneurship.


Waubonsee Community CollegeSugar Grove, IL

Default Rate 18% Retention Rate 69% Graduation Rate 24% Online Enrollment 10%

Waubonsee Community College delivers high-quality and affordable programs on campuses in Sugar Grove, Aurora, and Plano. Learners take advantage of the school's flexible learning options with night classes and eLearning options that facilitate flexible learning. Waubonsee offers several fully online associate degrees, including the 60-credit associate of arts for learners planning to major in fields like criminal justice, mass communication, psychology, and social work.

Waubonsee's 60-credit associate of science degree caters to learners planning to pursue science majors such as biology, engineering, geosciences, and computer and information sciences. Those seeking to enter the workforce after college can earn the associate of applied science degree through options in business management and human resources management. Whether students study online or on campus, they benefit from comprehensive services and being part of a dynamic student population at one of the top online community colleges in Illinois.


McHenry County CollegeCrystal Lake, IL

Default Rate 18% Retention Rate 65% Graduation Rate 29% Online Enrollment 8%

Serving the seventh fastest growing county in Illinois, McHenry County College enrolls more than 6,500 students in credit-granting and non-credit programs. MCC operates several satellite locations in addition to the school's main campus in Crystal Lake. MCC lists several online options among its 35 associate degrees.

The school's associate of arts and associate of science provide learners with the general education core required to transfer into a baccalaureate degree. One of the top online community colleges in Illinois, MCC offers associate of applied science degrees that prepare learners for immediate employment. The schools AAS options include accounting, business management, criminal justice, and networking security. Those seeking to earn an online certificate may elect to take accounting, bookkeeping, entrepreneurship, and tax practitioner. MCC admits students in the fall, spring, and summer.


Moraine Valley Community CollegePalos Hills, IL

Default Rate 13% Retention Rate 66% Graduation Rate 26% Online Enrollment 4%

Moraine Valley Community College serves Chicago's southwestern suburbs and enrolls 32,000 students. The school's approximately 150 programs include eLearning options. In addition to a comprehensive range of online courses, the school offers two associate of applied science degrees that prepare them for the workplace.

The 62-credit AAS in business administration offers four majors: accounting, management, marketing, and business information management. The 62-credit AAS in criminal justice offers the option for students to concurrently earn an associate of arts. The AAS degree plan includes study of criminology, criminal law, and juvenile justice. Both AAS degrees require internship components in which students receive hands-on experience. MV, one of the top online community colleges in Illinois, admits students in the fall, spring, and summer.


College of DuPageGlen Ellyn, IL

Default Rate 17% Retention Rate 70% Graduation Rate 19% Online Enrollment 8%

The College of DuPage serves as Illinois' second largest undergraduate college. The school enrolls 28,000 students on a 273-acre Glen Ellyn campus. COD offers 82 degrees, including several eLearning options. COD Online administers seven associate degrees and 26 certificates that students take fully online. One of the top online community colleges in Illinois, COD offers an associate of arts that transfers as the general education core of a baccalaureate degree.

Students seeking flexibility in their curriculum choose the 64-credit associate of general studies, which offers several general education and career and technical education courses. COD's associate of applied science degrees provide specialized training that students take to the workplace in fields like accounting, administrative support, and office technology information. COD admits students in the fall, spring, and summer.


William Rainey Harper CollegePalatine, IL

Default Rate 19% Retention Rate 70% Graduation Rate 26% Online Enrollment 6%

William Rainey Harper College, one of the nation's largest community colleges, serves more than 40,000 students in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. The fully online associate of applied science in business administration trains career-ready professionals versed in one of several specializations, including eMarketing, insurance, entrepreneurship, and financial management.

One of the top online community colleges in Illinois, students may earn online certificates in early childhood education, database management, and computer information systems. Students pursuing careers in accounting complete the CPA preparation certificate in three to four semesters of online study. The school admits students in the fall, spring, and summer.


Rend Lake CollegeIna, IL

Default Rate 27% Retention Rate 66% Graduation Rate 51% Online Enrollment 3%

Rend Lake College consists of a main campus in Ina and satellites in Mt. Vernon and Pinckneyville. The school also administers online and hybrid courses. RLC offers one hybrid degree for distance learners -- the associate of science in business. Students complete the degree mostly online with a few courses requiring some face-to-face contact.

Online learners find the resources they need for academic success through the Learning Resource Center. They access books, periodicals, and other resources without coming to campus. Lake College, one of the top online community colleges in Illinois, also offers tutoring in writing, math, and communications from the Learning Enhancement Center situated on campus. Lake College admits students in the fall, spring, and summer.


Lincoln Land Community CollegeSpringfield, IL

Default Rate 20% Retention Rate 59% Graduation Rate 34% Online Enrollment 9%

Lincoln Land Community College enrolls 15,000 students in central Illinois. They learn on a main campus in Springfield and at centers in Beardstown, Jacksonville, Taylorville, and Litchfield. The school's top associate degrees include business administration and criminal justice, both which can be completed from a distance.

LLCC remains one of the best online community colleges in Illinois, in part because of its agreements with other schools. The associate of arts in business administration caters to learners planning to transfer and serves as a 2+2 degree with Benedictine University, Greenville College, and the University of Illinois Springfield. The AA in criminal justice acts as another 2+2 option that works in conjunction with Kaplan University, Blackburn College, and MacMurray College. Learners seeking to earn a degree that prepares them for the workplace choose among several options: the associate of applied science in criminal justice, computer systems, and office professional.


Richland Community CollegeDecatur, IL

Default Rate 23% Retention Rate 62% Graduation Rate 36% Online Enrollment 7%

Situated on a 155-acre site in Decatur, Richland Community College serves residents in central Illinois and beyond with several programs. The school extends access to associate degrees through centers in Fairview Plaza, Clinton, and a virtual learning platform.

Students complete the first two years of a four-year degree with the associate of arts. The transfer degree offers concentration areas in fields like accounting, psychology, and physical education. Learners interested in pursuing a science major when they transfer to a senior college choose Richland's associate of science. Both online degrees require 60 credits with a minimum 15-credit residency. One of the top online community colleges in Illinois, Richland offers a certificate in office technology -- medical transcription that gives students the entry-level skills needed for this fast growing career. Richland admits students in the fall, spring, and summer.


Illinois Central CollegeEast Peoria, IL

Default Rate 25% Retention Rate 68% Graduation Rate 27% Online Enrollment 8%

Illinois Central College serves as one of the top online community colleges in Illinois with rigorous associate degrees, occupational certificates, and continuing education. Those unable to attend classes on the East Peoria campus complete degrees through the school's virtual arm. Students planning to transfer to a four-year college begin their education at ICC with an associate of arts or associate of science. The degrees fulfill the general education requirements of a bachelor's degree in any number of disciplines.

The associate of general education offers flexibility through 37 credits in electives. An associate of applied science in web systems gives learners the knowledge and training necessary for entry-level positions. ICC also offers online certificates that students complete in a matter of weeks. Options include supply chain management, small business management, and web developer apprentice. ICC admits students in the fall, spring, and summer.


Kaskaskia CollegeCentralia, IL

Default Rate 23% Retention Rate 52% Graduation Rate 37% Online Enrollment 11%

Kaskaskia College is a two-year institution located in Centralia, Illinois. The school offers 50 degrees and 102 certificates that include transfer and career training options. Students unable to attend classes on campus may select one of three fully online degrees. Those seeking to complete general education can transfer to a four-year college after completing the associate of arts.

One of the top online community colleges in Illinois, KC prepares learners for law enforcement careers with a unique two-year correctional officer/youth officer associate degree. The associate of general arts provides a flexible option that gives students leeway in their academic pursuits. Students complete certificates online in accounting, entrepreneurship, small business accounting, and supervisory management. Students enroll in the programs in the fall, spring, and summer.

How We Ranked the Schools

To determine the best programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school’s commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the best online master’s in management information systems programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school’s ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category’s ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.

Education Trends in Illinois

While Illinois showed higher-than-average spending per postsecondary education student in 2015, the data reflects a one-time payment of $1.08 billion to shore up the state’s retirement system — 44.3% of the state’s higher education funding that year. In fact, state funding for higher education has been decreasing since 2007. Illinois residents earn a bachelor’s degree at a rate slightly higher than the U.S. population.

  Illinois United States
Source: SHEEO and U.S. Census
Postsecondary Education Spending per Full-Time Student $8,332 $6,954
Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education 6.3% 5.8%
Percentage of adults over 25 with associate degree 7.7% 8.1%
Percentage of adults over 25 with bachelor’s degree 19.9% 18.5%
Percentage of adults over 25 with graduate degree or higher 12.4% 11.2%

Paying for College in Illinois

A college education is an investment, but the cost can vary greatly among schools. Public two-year colleges charge about one-third the tuition of a public four-year university in the state. The savings for the first two years of an education can pare down an otherwise hefty amount of student debt. The average Illinois graduate incurs over $29,000 in debt.

Tuition Prices

Tuition and fees make up about half the cost of college attendance. Students also must account for the cost of books, transportation, and room and board. Some programs may have additional fees, such as the charge for a background check for student nurses or teachers prior to enrolling in off-campus, hands-on classes.

Financial Aid

Financial aid can significantly reduce college costs. The first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This determines a student’s estimated family contribution. In addition to determining eligibility for federal grant programs, such as the Pell Grant, Illinois also uses the information to make Monetary Award Program grants. Students must be attending an on-campus or online college in Illinois.

Students may also seek out scholarship funds from colleges, local civic organizations, and professional organizations. Students may need to meet residency or major requirements to qualify for some awards. Work-study programs and loans also help pay college costs. Many schools try to place students in major-specific jobs. Subsidized loans do not accrue interest while students are enrolled at least half-time in school.

Cost for Online Programs in Illinois

Students attending online colleges in Illinois should complete the FAFSA each year. Grants and scholarships apply to online tuition and fees, as well. Online schools in Illinois offer flexibility regarding when students complete coursework, which can save students money on transportation or childcare costs.

Students attending online schools in Illinois may be enrolled part or full time, and this can affect financial aid awards as they will be required to meet any credit hour stipulations for grants or scholarships.

Cost of Living by Region

Chicago offers ample educational options and career opportunities following graduation, but the cost of living is significantly higher than other parts of the state and other popular cities in the region. This is most notable in housing costs, which are about 80% higher than Champaign-Urbana.

Scholarships for Illinois College Students

Back 2 School Illinois College Scholarship

$2,500; must graduate from an Illinois high school.

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George M. Pullman Educational Foundation Scholarship

$10,000; merit- and needs-based scholarship for Cook County, IL, graduating seniors with at least a 3.0 GPA.

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Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois

$23,000; open to graduating seniors, college freshmen, and sophomores attending a partner university who plan to teach in high-need schools. Minimum 2.5 GPA needed with a composite ACT score of 22 or higher, and six on the writing portion or 1110 SAT composite score with a minimum 26 in writing and language.

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Buster Lindsay Memorial Scholarship

Amount varies; must be Jefferson High School graduate and have participated in sports for three years with a minimum 2.5 GPA.

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Carle Auxiliary Health Care Career College Scholarship

$1,000; must be enrolled in college courses resulting in a career in the healthcare field and be a resident of one of the following counties — Champaign, Clark, Clay, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Dewitt, Douglas, Edgar, Effingham, Fayette, Ford, Iroquois, Jasper, Lawrence, Macon, Moultrie, Piatt, Richland, Shelby, or Vermillion.

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Illinois Counties Association Scholarships

$3,000; open to Illinois residents enrolled full time at an accredited four-year university with a 3.0 GPA or higher.

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Carolyn Wones Recruitment Grant

Amount varies; must be a female graduating from a Boone or Winnebago county high school with a record of participation in school activities and planning to study secondary education.

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Champion Scholars Scholarship

$5,000; Must be a high school senior with at least a 3.0 GPA and resident of Illinois, Texas, Pennsylvania, or New Jersey.

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Friends of Moraine Hills State Park Scholarship in Environmental Studies

$1,000; awarded to students attending high school in Lake, McHenry, Cook, DuPage, Kendall or Will counties, who plan to study a field related to the environment. Applicants must have a 2.5 GPA.

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Illinois AMVETS Ladies Auxiliary Memorial Scholarships

$5,000; Illinois high school seniors who are the child or grandchild of an honorably discharged veteran of the United States who served after Sept. 15, 1940. Students must have taken the ACT or SAT.

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Can all Scholarships be Used for Online Programs?

Students may use scholarship awards at any accredited college, including online colleges in Illinois. Most scholarship programs will require students maintain full-time enrollment. A few scholarships, however, were developed specifically for part-time or nontraditional students. Many awards specify a career field or major. Some programs may require students to complete a few years of service in a high-need area after graduation. Be sure to check individual program requirements before accepting a scholarship.

Employment Outlook in Illinois

Illinois is home to more than 30 Fortune 500 companies, including Walgreens, Boeing, and State Farm Insurance. Chicago houses five financial exchanges, including the Chicago Stock Exchange and Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Agriculture remains an important component of the state’s economy, as 75% of the state’s land involved in farming. Agriculture provides the ingredients to feed a thriving food manufacturing industry in the Great Plains region. Agriculture industry giant Archer Daniels Midland — another Fortune 500 company — is headquartered in the state, as well. The state boasts a mean annual wage slightly higher than the national mark; however, the state’s unemployment rate remains above the national average by 0.7%.

  Illinois United States
Source: BLS and BLS
Unemployment Rate, August 2017 5% 4.3%
Annual Mean Wage, May 2016 $51,500 $49,630

Top Employers and Industries in Illinois

Top Industries in Illinois

  • Office and Administrative Support: From customer service and data entry clerks to accounting, human resources and logistics, office and administrative support personnel find employment across industries. Local government employs the most people. The postal service reports the highest concentration of jobs.
  • Sales and Related Occupations: Sales professionals help connect buyers with goods and services, such as clothing, cars, homes, or financial securities. Sales jobs can include clerks in brick-and-mortar businesses to online marketing experts. The top paying industries for this profession is securities and commodities brokerages.
  • Food Preparation and Serving Related:Restaurants and other eating establishments provide the bulk of employment in this industry, followed by special food services. Chefs and cooks may find work at restaurants, in schools or hospitals, or in private homes.


Top Employers in Illinois

  • Retail Salespersons: 186,820 employees
  • Laborers and Freight: 145,060 employees
  • Office Clerks: 140,700 employees

Source: careerinfonet.org

Accreditation for Colleges in Illinois

Students should verify accreditation status for their school and degree program. Accreditation ensures the school has met rigorous quality standards and that the content is appropriate for the course of study. Colleges and universities rely on this assurance when determining transfer credit. Likewise, employers and licensing agencies depend on accreditation to ensure graduates have completed all required classes. Specialized accreditation evaluates distinct career programs, such as law, nursing, or teacher certification. For example, Illinois requires prospective lawyers to graduate from a school accredited by the American Bar Association before taking the bar exam.

Accreditation ensures the school has met rigorous quality standards and that the content is appropriate for the course of study

Schools may be regionally or nationally accredited. North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the regional accrediting agency, certifies the general education programs offered by on-campus and online schools in Illinois. Regionally accredited schools will often accept transfer credits from other such schools. Students attending online colleges in Illinois should verify the program is accredited both through the institution and, if necessary, the specialized accrediting agency. The Council for Higher Education does recognize several national accreditation agencies, which have traditionally focused on career, vocation, or trade schools. Degree requirements from a nationally accredited school may vary significantly from those of a regionally accredited school. Students considering transferring to complete higher level degrees will want to consider the type of accreditation offered to ensure they do not have to retake classes.

Resources for Students in Illinois

  • Illinois Board of Higher Education: View data about individual colleges and universities with a physical presence in the state, including degrees offered, school type, cost, and enrollment. This tool allows students to compare schools and search by degree level and program.
  • Illinois Student Assistance Commission: The agency administers the Monetary Award Program, Illinois’ need-based college grant program. Students will also find information on a variety of scholarships offered by the ISAC, such as the Golden Apple Scholars for prospective teachers or the Nursing Education Scholarship Program.
  • Illinois Community College Board: Find information on college affordability, with additional financial aid resources, as well as detailed data on community college enrollment and completion rates. The site also offers tips for successfully transferring from a community college to a four-year college.
  • Directory of Approved Schools: The Illinois Board of Higher Education must approve higher education institutions operating in the state. While schools may choose whether or not to seek accreditation, state approval to offer the degrees is mandatory. State approval is particularly important for any career that requires state licensure or certification.
  • Illinois Apprenticeship Plus: Illinois agencies offer youth apprenticeship opportunities to gain industry-specific credentials. The initiative works with public agencies and organizations and private industry to provide a pathway to a career through hands-on learning opportunities.
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