Illinois Online Colleges & Universities – Top Online Schools for 2016

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Illinois Online Colleges Guide

Considered by many to be the center of the Midwest, Illinois is also a center for postsecondary education. Schools in the state accommodate students from within its borders and many also draw in additional learners from further afield. Students seeking an online degree program from a quality public university would do well to start with the University of Illinois’s system. UI currently offers online programs and courses originating on all three of its locations: Chicago, Springfield, and its main campus in Urbana-Champaign. Other options include Eastern Illinois University and Western Illinois University.

Other notable choices around the state include Rockford University, Methodist College, Lincoln College, Greenville College, and Illinois Wesleyan University. All of Illinois’s 49 community colleges offer online classes that culminate in degrees and certificates.

There are also a variety of private, not-for-profit online colleges in Illinois to consider, many of which are located in the Greater Chicago area. Chicago is the third largest city in the United States by population, making it a perfect home for so many institutions. Below is a brief look at the online college environment in the Windy City.

City in Focus: College in Chicago

Chicago routinely appears on rankings of the most educated cities in the United States. According to the Brookings Institute, 34 percent of Chicago’s residents held a college degree as of 2010, a 21 percent increase from 1970. Part of this growth can be attributed to the city’s outstanding collection of world-class universities, city colleges, and vocational schools. U.S. News and World Report ranked the University of Chicago as the fifth best university in the nation (tied with Stanford), highlighting its freshman retention rate of 99 percent. The institution also earned top honors in the social sciences, with 36 percent of its graduates earning a degree in that field. Chicago’s collection of city colleges adds another dimension to this hub of higher education. With seven locations domestically and various campuses abroad, the city colleges graduate close to 10,000 students each year. Individual institutions include Richard J. Daley College, Malcolm X College, Olive-Harvey College, Kennedy-King College, Harry S. Truman College, Harold Washington College, and Wilbur Wright College.

Online Schools and Courses in Chicago

Chicago boasts a number of schools offering online programs for interested students. In addition to its campus-based degrees, City Colleges of Chicago has a Center for Distance Learning, which provides more than 85 online courses, an online tutoring service, and numerous distance-learning seminars.

DePaul University continues to grow its collection of fully online programs, including 10 online master’s degrees offered by its College of Computing and Digital Media. Like DePaul, other colleges in Chicago provide students with full degree programs via distance learning, including University of Illinois at Chicago, Loyola University at Chicago, Northwestern University, and Saint Xavier University.

Tuition, Fees & Cost of Living in Illinois

Financing a college education is something every college applicant needs to consider, and tuition is often the largest portion of those expenses. While figures vary by school and location, in 2012 the average resident student in Illinois paid $15,250 per year in tuition.

To provide the best possible college experience, many institutions go beyond the classroom and offer further social and learning opportunities. On top of tuition, they maintain parking, student activities, labs, and technology facilities by charging students an annual fee. Student fees in Illinois averaged $950 in 2012, resulting in a bottom line of $16,200 annually.

In addition to tuition and fees, potential Illinois students need to consider living expenses: food, housing, transportation and miscellaneous expenditures. In general, Illinois has a cost of living index 4 percent below the national average. Below you can find a breakdown of the major cities and their COL indexes as they relate to the national average (100%).

Urban Area Composite Index Housing Groceries Utilities Transportation Health Care Misc.
Springfield -14.20% -29.90% -10.30% -20.20% 4.50% 6.50% -8.30%
Danville -8.90% -25.80% -5.40% 16.40% 9.30% -4.20% -9.30%
Decatur -8.60% -11.80% -10.90% -7.80% -3.30% -8.10% -6.70%
Rockford -7.60% -25.30% -7.40% 11.20% 5.80% 3.30% -3.20%
Galesburg -7.00% -20.00% -0.30% 3.10% -3.90% -2.70% -2.80%
Quincy -4.50% -5.50% -2.60% -4.50% -5.80% -0.20% -4.50%
Peoria -3.70% -5.00% -6.60% -2.80% 1.40% -4.20% -3.20%
Champaign-Urbana -3.10% -9.20% -1.50% -2.90% -1.80% 0.50% 0.70%
Joliet-Will County 2.20% 2.30% 0.90% 16.10% 11.30% 6.50% -4.80%
Chicago 16.90% 34.80% 11.20% 17.30% 16.50% 8.50% 4.40%

Accreditation Standards for Online Colleges in Illinois

Every accredited college or university has a governing body that holds the school to certain standards. Accreditation also makes it possible for schools to accept federal aid and scholarships for their students. Organizations such as the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (‎ ) ensure Illinois colleges provide quality education and degrees. While regional accreditation is the most common type among top institutions, Illinois colleges may also apply for specialized accrediting bodies to vet their programs. For example, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education awarded Western Illinois University’s School of Nursing a five-year accreditation in 2014.

Great Resources for Students at Illinois Online Colleges

Distance learning is a new world for many students, requiring the development of a wide range of skills to ensure academic success in an online environment. Fortunately there are countless resources available free of charge to students looking to enroll in one of Illinois’s many online learning programs. Below is a list of organizations and government agencies within the state that are helpful to both distance education novices and experienced students alike.

Best Online Colleges in Illinois for 2015-2016

As more students require the accessibility and flexibility provided by online programs to fit their busy lives, colleges in Illinois are stepping up to the plate. With over 150 schools in the state currently offering online postsecondary education, potential learners have many choices when it comes to selecting the perfect program to meet their needs. In the midst of so many options, some schools rise above others. The list below ranks online colleges in Illinois in terms of program quality, value and range of choice. See which schools earned spots on our list of the Best Online Colleges in Illinois for 2015-2016.

RANK COLLEGE ScoreStudent-Teacher RatioFinancial AidCost MORE INFO
1 University of Illinois at Springfield 99.3313:196%

University of Illinois-Springfield offers undergraduate and graduate online college degrees in addition to certification programs and certificates. The college has formal partnerships with dozens of other institutions that help provide online programming. Courses include Blackboard software, and the University of Illinois' YouTube channel has informational videos for students interested in online learning.

2 MacMurray College 98.3712:1100%

MacMurray College's three online degree programs allow students to earn their degree while maintaining other work and family obligations. The programs are flexible with accelerated options and based on the college's curriculum from its brick-and-mortar programs. Degrees are based on MacMurray's composition sequence, which helps students develop communication skills that foster success in the workplace. Online degrees are available in business administration, criminal justice and nursing, and programs run on 8-week terms. Students can often earn a complete bachelor's degree in about three years.

3 Greenville College 98.2311:198%

Greenville College offers bachelor's degree, master's degree, and endorsement programs. While most are fully online, between 10 to 50 percent of a course may require in-person participation. Greenville College also offers a jump start program for high school juniors and seniors interested in earning online college credits. Online tutoring is available through the college's Student Success Center.

4 National Louis University 98.0912:186%

National Louis University offers online accredited degree programs for students who are unable to commit to coming to on-campus classes. Students can choose from four online master's degree programs and four online bachelor's degree programs. Online students may be able to complete some credits through credit by examination, credit by proficiency or credit by portfolio.

5 Roosevelt University 98.0911:196%

Roosevelt University offers 16 online college programs through RUOnline. Online students can choose from six bachelor's degree programs, three master's degree programs, one undergraduate minor, one undergraduate credential and five graduate credentials. The school also offers Guided Independent Distance Education (GuIDE) courses, which can be completed online. RUOnline courses use Blackboard as an online learning system.

6 Eastern Illinois University 97.9714:193%

Eastern Illinois University offers four online college degree programs and one hybrid degree program. The university is a military-friendly school, and online programs are designed for adults students who work full time or have other obligations. Students can choose from two Bachelor's of Arts programs, two Bachelor of Science programs and one Master of Science program.

7 Lewis University 97.8913:199%

Lewis University offers undergraduate, adult-accelerated undergraduate, and graduate programs. Some tracks have customized curriculum and all online courses are also taught on campus in a classroom-based format. Lewis University offers a self-assessment quiz on their website for those interested in finding out if online college is the best choice for them.

8 McKendree University 97.8914:1100%

McKendree University has undergraduate and graduate level online college courses available in education, business, nursing, and psychology. The University also offers a dual Master of Science in Nursing and Master of Business Administration program. A self-assessment quiz for those interested in finding out if online learning is best for them on the McKendree University site.

9 Governors State University 97.7010:1 N/A

Governors State University allows students to combine online college and campus courses to complete their degree. All courses are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and include Blackboard software.

10 Dominican University 97.6712:1100%

The Dominican University School of Education offers online master's degrees and certification programs with six session start dates throughout the year. Students can attend online college classes at any time. For those interested in taking an accelerated track, some of Dominican's master's degree programs can be completed in as little as 18 months.

11 Moody Bible Institute 97.2117:173%

The Moody Bible Institute offers two graduate-level programs in Biblical Studies. The school has a free trial course with sample lessons and tools to explore the Blackboard software features. Online courses follow two-month long or self-paced formats and students can enroll in multiple online college courses at once.

12 Southern Illinois University-Carbondale 96.9916:188%

Southern Illinois University offers online college degree, certificate, certification and diploma programs through SIU Online. Degree-seeking students can choose from five online bachelor's degree programs and five online master's degree programs in variety of fields, including accounting and business administration. SIU Online is partnered with the Center for Teaching Excellence.

13 Northern Illinois University 96.9615:196%

Northern Illinois University offers online and blended courses for undergraduate and graduate students. Online college students can choose from bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs, as well as certificate programs. Online coursework includes online games, discussions and simulations. Many online courses still require students to come to some meetings on campus.

14 Western Illinois University 96.6415:182%

Western Illinois University offers online college degree programs and online courses through WesternOnline. Students can choose from three different online degree programs: a Bachelor of Arts in General Studies, a Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology or A Master of Science in Education. Online students may have to take proctored exams.

15 Benedictine University 96.3913:196%

Regionally accredited?y the Higher Learning Commission of the?orth Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA), Benedictine University offers a range of online college degree programs for nontraditional students. Online students can choose from graduate degree programs, doctoral degree programs, bachelor's degree programs, associate's degree programs and graduate certificate programs.

16 Quincy University 96.3014:1100%

Quincy University offers five master's online college programs and a Bachelor of Human Services Degree, with a sixth master's program due to be added in Fall 2014. Quincy University is accredited as a four-year university by the Higher Learning Commission.

17 University of Illinois at Chicago 95.9517:182%

University of Illinois at Chicago offers more than 30 online degree, non-degree and certificate programs through UIC online. Students can choose from online college programs offered through nine of the university's on-campus colleges. Online students can access their courses at any time and have access to all of the University's online and on-campus educational resources.

18 Loyola University Chicago 95.6914:196%

Loyola University Chicago Online offers a variety of programs that can be completed entirely online or through a combination of on-line and on-campus meetings. Students can choose from a range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs from ten of the university's schools, including the School of Nursing and the School of Law.

19 DePaul University 95.6516:195%

DePaul University offers online bachelor's degree, master's degree and certificate programs as well as online CPA review courses. DePaul's School for New Learning offers a versatile Bachelor's of Arts degree program designed for students aged 24 an older. Many of the online college programs do not require students to ever come on campus.

20 University of St Francis 95.5911:1100%

Adults looking for online options for furthering their education can earn one of three online bachelor's degrees at University of St. Francis. Students learn valuable interpersonal skills, team building and general leadership in the online community for each program. Depending on the format, students may choose to complete their degree completely online or through a scheduling option that allows for both traditional and online classes. Programs are eight weeks, and follow either the traditional universityschedule, or the alternative option of entering at one of six entry points. All programs are designed to be flexible to accommodate a working adult's schedule.

21 Olivet Nazarene University 95.5616:1100%

Programs through Olivet Nazarene University are completed entirely online and are considered accelerated. Students conclude their online college studies in two years or less. The University offers a bachelor's of business administration and five master's programs, with others launching soon.

22 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 94.9420:165%

University of Illinois offers online college undergraduate degree, graduate degree, certificate and continuing education programs. Some of the university's online courses may require students to take tests on campus or at a local community college, while other courses allow students to take tests online. Online lectures may combine several learning methods, including video and text.

23 The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Chicago 87.73 N/A N/A

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology has master's, doctoral, and certificate programs. The school is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Courses require students in a course to be online at the same time for one to two hours each term. Online courses are self-paced and offered through Pearson eCollege with GotoMeeting software and SocialCourse instant messaging.

Search Accredited Illinois Online Colleges

There are probably as many reasons for choosing an online program as there are online students, which is why finding a program fit to an individual’s unique needs can take some research. A good way to begin your search is to put together a list of educational, financial, career and lifestyle priorities, and then consult the custom search engine below. This tool is designed to help prospective students pinpoint online colleges in Illinois by factors such as college type, acceptance rate, location and cost.

Degree Level:
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Spotlight Interview: Online Programs at the University of Illinois at Springfield

We asked one of the universities selected as our Best Online Colleges for 2015 to tell us what made their programs so great. Here’s what they had to say.

Online Departments in Illinois

University of Illinois at Springfield

How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?

The University of Illinois at Springfield has been the recipient of numerous national awards for online learning. Our approach to online learning is to provide faculty with encouragement, empowerment, and excellent support to allow each faculty member to engage and interact with students in a manner that allows students to learn the content and build relationships with each other and their faculty members. UIS prides itself on reaching out to others to build strong partnerships and to collaborate with other institutions globally while providing an excellent educational experience to students.

What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

Students find our online programs valuable through the relationships that are built with faculty. We have a number of individuals who have taken our programs while serving in the military, as well as working professionals, students finishing their first degrees, working parents, and others in a variety of life situations. Online learning can be very flexible and this is helpful to students in a variety of situations. The most important aspect of value for students is becoming connected to their university. We have chosen to provide Online Program Coordinators who assist students with making strong connections on campus. Students are able to visit with their faculty members, receive help from the Online Program Coordinators, request tutoring services, library services, and participate in student scholarship presentations at a distance. All of these connection points helps to create a valuable online learning experience for students and assists with breaking down any barriers or feelings of isolation that can occur when students are separated in distance from the campus.

Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?

Our online programs will continue to grow through planned strategic growth and measured assessment of our programs. I believe we will continue to add programs as faculty see the need and advocate for new programming and there is student demand. Additionally, I see a number of partnership opportunities that will allow for stronger collaborations between universities in the future. At the University of Illinois Springfield we look forward to continuing to do what we do best, serving students with excellence in education by providing intellectually rich learning experiences to students who live on campus, in near by communities, around the United States, and internationally.

Major Illinois Educational Resources