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Best Online Colleges in Illinois

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Online colleges in Illinois continue to grow as a flexible and affordable option for post-secondary students. At the 4-year level, the University of Illinois at Springfield offers more than twenty full online bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, with tuition & fees just below $10,000 per year. Southern Illinois University at Carbondale has a dozen fully online programs at a price point of ~$8,000. These schools represent just two of the top 19 Illinois colleges with outstanding higher education online. At the 2-year level, Southeastern Illinois College and Lincoln Land Community College provide associate degrees online at an even lower cost.

Enrolling at an Illinois online college is a big step for any student, and often comes with lots of questions that need answers before committing. Many students are concerned about the finances of their decision and seek details about tuition, fees, and how their state residency status will affect those two costs. Others are interested in learning what the best online college in their area can offer them and how it compares to other options. Below, students in Illinois can find answers to their most common questions and pick up helpful tools to guide them in their decisions.

Accredited Online Colleges in Illinois

Because students have different priorities when it comes to what makes for the perfect college experience, lists that claim to highlight the best accredited online colleges in Illinois may sometimes not feel attuned to student needs. One student may prioritize academic rigor, while another may only be interested in learning about the best affordable online colleges in Illinois. The following list of schools allows student to dig into a range of specific data points and explore factors used to rate schools, thereby giving them the tools needed to decide for themselves which school is truly the best for their future goals. Take a look at the list below and see how it stacks up against your needs.

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number University Score Cost Graduation Rate Location University Information
1 University of Illinois at Springfield 100.00 $$$$$ 43% Springfield, IL

The University of Illinois at Springfield is home to 4,956 students, more than half of them undergraduates. Offering 1,681 online majors, UIS has been ranked among the Midwest's top 15 public regional universities for the past 11 years by U.S. News & World Report. Not to mention, UIS receives $7 million annually in funding for research. Although the most popular undergraduate majors are accountancy, computer science, business administration, psychology, biology and criminal justice, students can choose online undergraduate degrees from 13 fields. Master's students are afforded the same luxury, with another 13 online degrees offered at the graduate level. For students seeking flexible, online certificates for their careers, UIS has a 10 certification/licensure programs as well as 15 graduate certificates. Though the list of online majors is immense, prospective UIS students need not to worry about getting lost among their fellow students; UIS keeps their classes small, averaging a student-to-professor ratio of 15:1.

2 Greenville College 97.91 $$$$$ 50% Greenville, IL

Greenville University, formerly Greenville College, was founded by the Free Methodist Church in 1892 and offers a transformative Christ-centered education for its 1,200 students. Students needing a more flexible schedule can rest easy because more than 50 of Greenville University's undergraduate and graduate programs offer courses online. Wholly online degree programs include studies in business management, criminal justice administration, health psychology, organizational leadership and education. The Donald N. and Kathleen G. Bastian School of Theology, Philosophy, and Ministry focuses its programs on strong pastoral training. Approximately 96 percent of Greenville students receive financial aid through merit scholarships, awards, grants, low-interest student loans and work-study programs. For incoming students with a minimum high school GPA of 3.0 who are hoping to fast-track their education, the university also offers a three-year degree program that speeds up the time to graduate.

3 Aurora University 97.88 $$$$$ 58% Aurora, IL

Located 40 miles from Chicago, Aurora University serves 5,600 degree-bound students through its onsite campuses in Illinois and Wisconsin and online. AU hosts 40 undergraduate majors in business, arts, science, education, criminal justice, social work and nursing. Students can also earn graduate degrees, endorsements and certificates in the same academic fields of study. AU Online offers distance students eight bachelor-degree programs, five master's degrees and an online professional endorsement in Bilingual/ESL education. Popular online majors are in emerging fields such as cybersecurity, homeland security and non-profit leadership studies. Those already working in their field can take advantage of AU's online courses as well, like nurses, who can pursue an online RM-to-BSN degree to advance in their healthcare profession. Online AU students can also take pride in knowing they are learning from some of the best, with over 85 percent of the online faculty having obtained the highest degree in their major fields.

4 Southern Illinois University-Carbondale 97.56 $$$$$ 44% Carbondale, IL

Southern Illinois University-Carbondale is the premier down-state Illinois university, serving 14,000 full-time students. In 2017, it graduated 292 students in agricultural sciences, 893 in the applied arts and sciences, 381 students in business, 938 in education and human services, 457 in engineering and 765 in the liberal arts. SIU offers online degree and certificate programs though the Extended Campus, and students can choose from 13 bachelor's degrees and 10 master's programs. There is also an online degree-completion program for students who previously completed coursework but haven't satisfied the total requirements for graduation. Online students have the opportunity to complete the university's core curriculum, taking required courses in foundation, disciplinary and integrative studies. Popular online bachelor's majors include accounting, business administration, electrical engineering, journalism and public safety management.

5 National Louis University 97.17 $$$$$ 43% Chicago, IL

National Louis University was founded over 130 years ago with the goal of providing Illinois students with a progressive education that today offers more than 60 college degree programs through its two colleges. NLU's National College of Education has been regarded as a “teacher of teachers” because the college was the first in Illinois to offer a four-year teaching degree. Currently, NLU enrolls 8,000 students at six locations in Florida and Illinois, at its global business school located in Nowy Sacz, Poland, and online. Off-campus undergraduate and graduate students can complete online bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs through NLU's College of Professional Studies and Advancement and through the National College of Education. The School of Business and Management provides online MBA programs as well as a blended business management program that combines web learning with campus sessions at campuses in Illinois and Florida.

6 Lincoln Christian University 97.08 $$$$$ 42% Lincoln, IL

Founded in Lincoln in 1944 as a Bible institute, Lincoln Christian University's motto claims, “Our students come to LCU for a major. They leave on a Mission.” During the 2016-2017 school year, 325 undergraduate students performed over 10,300 hours of ministry-based service learning. Lincoln's students have also received more than $10 million in financial aid to pursue their academic and spiritual calling. And, class sizes are kept low, with a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Students unable to take classes onsite can take advantage of the seven online degree programs, ranging from the associate to the master's level. Students can also opt for taking two-thirds of all coursework online and completing their semesters at week-long intensives in Lincoln. Online students can complete online courses leading to an Associates in the Bible, a Bachelor's in Business Administration, in Christian Ministry and in Psychology, and a Master's in Bible and Theology, in Intercultural Studies and in Organizational Leadership.

7 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 96.92 $$$$$ 84% Champaign, IL

Located 140 miles south of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the flagship of the University of Illinois system and aims to be the leading public research institution. Founded in 1867 as one of the original land-grant institutions, this educational powerhouse has graduated winners of 28 Pulitzer Prizes, invented the first graphical web browser, and is currently ranked 14th in the nation among public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The accolades don't stop there; U.S. News & World Report has also ranked UI's College of Education in the top 10 best online graduate education programs. An internet pioneer, the university has now developed an immense system of online classes and degrees, allowing students from outside the Urbana-Champaign campus to receive the same high-caliber education from the faculty who teach on campus. There are more than 75 online degree, endorsement and certificate programs at UI, over 800 online courses, and over 2.7 million learners taking UI's Massive Open Online Courses.

8 North Park University 96.69 $$$$$ 56% Chicago, IL

North Park University, located on the north side of Chicago, was founded by the Evangelical Covenant Church in 1891 with the purpose of continuing the educational tradition of the liberal arts under Christian faith. Today, NPU enrolls 3,000 undergraduates, and some 88 percent of its students have either committed to graduate school or found a job waiting for them upon completion of their undergraduate degrees. Class sizes are kept small, with an average 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio, allowing students to receive a more personalized education. Its most popular undergraduate majors are nursing, biology, business/economics, and exercise science. Classes in NPU's online undergraduate and graduate degree programs begin every seven weeks, so students don't have to wait long if they missed enrollment dates. Online degrees offered through the School of Professional Studies include majors in business administration, digital marketing, location intelligence, nonprofit management, and organizational management and leadership. Majors in online graduate studies are offered in business administration, higher education administration, human resource management, nonprofit administration and organizational leadership.

9 Moody Bible Institute 96.39 $$$$$ 84% Chicago, IL

The history of the Moody Bible Institute goes back to 1870 when Bible teachers supporting the victims of the Chicago Fire saw the need for a permanent institution. In 1901, members established the Moody Correspondence School for students who could not visit a campus, offering distance learning classes in Bible Doctrine and Practical Christian Work. Today, Moody Distance Learning offers courses that lead to a Certificate, Associate or Bachelor of Science degree; master's degree or graduate certificate; and continuing education post-graduate certification. Distance students can select from three formats: online studies, independent study or first-year online coursework. Online undergraduate programs lead to the Associate of Biblical Studies, Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies, Bachelor of Science in Ministry Leadership, Bachelor of Science in Theological Studies, Bachelor of Science in Theology and Cultural Engagement, Certificate of Biblical Studies and Certificate of Biblical Leadership. There are no academic admission requirements for students applying for certificates in continuing education.

10 Western Illinois University 96.09 $$$$$ 56% Macomb, IL

Western Illinois University has been recognized by The Princeton Review as a best Midwestern college. It serves 10,000 students at campuses in Macomb and Moline, offering bachelor's and master's degree programs, two doctoral degrees and certificates. Full-time faculty teach more than 96 percent of all studies, and the university promotes small class sizes with a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Each fall, WIU adds new class offerings for students pursuing online degrees and certificates. Online undergrads can earn an Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, Bachelor of Business in Economics, Bachelor of Arts in General Studies, Bachelor of Business in Management, Bachelor of Science in Fire Protection Services and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN). Online graduate students can pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Science in Education – Elementary Education or a Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology. Firefighters can also complete 13 upper division courses in the National Fire Academy's (NFA) curriculum.

11 Chicago State University 95.53 $$$$$ 21% Chicago, IL

Chicago State University had its humble beginnings as a teacher training school, operating out of a railroad car in 1867. Today, it has evolved into a comprehensive university, offering 38 undergraduate and 30 graduate degrees through its colleges of business, health sciences, education, arts and sciences, and pharmacy studies. Its online education program features courses that can be completed entirely on the web using the Moodle Learning Management System, which features video streaming, discussion boards and digital class materials. In addition to select courses, CSU offers wholly online graduate programs leading to master's degrees in physical education, in library and information science and in technology and performance improvement studies.

12 MacMurray College 95.30 $$$$$ 38% Jacksonville, IL

MacMurray College, located in Jacksonville, was founded by Methodist clergymen in 1846. While it has grown over time, even now offering online and blended courses, MacMurray still maintains a strong relationship to the Methodist Church. The student body is comprised of undergraduate students and adult learners. Students working within a budget will be happy to hear that financial aid in the form of scholarships and grants is extended to some 95 percent of all students. Through MacOnline, undergraduate students can complete online degrees in criminal justice, business administration and nursing in their accelerated RN to BSN program. Courses in MacMurray's online degree programs are offered in eight-week sessions, which are offered five times each academic year to optimize the program speed and flexibility. Rigorous online composition courses are designed to build the English academic skills necessary to succeed in class and in the world beyond. Distance students can access all course materials and connect with their peers and professors entirely online.

13 University of Illinois at Chicago 95.25 $$$$$ 57% Chicago, IL

University of Illinois at Chicago was founded in the Windy City in the 19th century. In the last 30 years, UIC has grown into one of the top 60 research universities in the country. Currently, UIC's 19,000 undergraduate students can select from 86 bachelor degree programs that feature an 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Nearly 8,000 graduate students can choose among 99 master's degrees at the university. For 2017, UIC was ranked eighth by the U.S. News & World Report for offering the best online programs at the bachelor-degree level. Online programs are available in 49 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. UIC's online degree and certificate programs are offered in the fields of professional development, education, business, applied health sciences, medicine, pharmacy, nursing, engineering, social work, public health, and liberal arts and sciences. Some majors may require visits to campus or clinical settings.

14 Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville 94.96 $$$$$ 50% Edwardsville, IL

Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville began in 1957 when it opened teaching centers in East St. Louis and Alton, Illinois. The Edwardsville campus is now the main campus of SIUE, home to more than 14,000 students. Undergraduates can earn degrees in education, health, arts and sciences, business, engineering, nursing and human behavior. Students may also enroll in wholly online degree programs at the undergraduate level in nursing, going from RN to BSN, and organizational leadership. Online graduate degrees are offered in criminal justice policy, healthcare informatics, instructional technology, nursing, and physical education and coaching pedagogy. A boon to working health practitioners, SIUE also offers an online post-master's Doctor of Nursing Practice.

15 Eastern Illinois University 94.69 $$$$$ 60% Charleston, IL

Founded in 1895 in Charleston, Eastern Illinois University currently enrolls 7,415 students. Students can choose from EIU's 51 undergraduate degrees, 32 graduate programs or 10 post-baccalaureate certificates. The university has graduated 86,000 students, which comes as no shock that the U.S. News & World Report has named EIU the highest-ranking Illinois public regional university. For distance students, EIU offers online degree and certificate programs, all of which charge in-state tuition. Online graduate students can take their pick of 17 online master's degree or professional certificate programs, while online undergraduates can choose from eight undergraduate degree and degree-completion programs. Those hoping to earn an MBA online thought EIU can accomplish their goals in a mere six semesters and can budget accordingly using the tuition schedule.

16 Illinois State University 94.20 $$$$$ 72% Normal, IL

Illinois State University, located in Normal, is home to 20,784 students representing 43 states and 67 countries. Ranked in U.S. News & World Report's top 100 best public national universities, Illinois State University's graduation rate at 68 percent is 23 percent higher than the national average. U.S. News & World Report has also recognized ISU's Mennonite College of Nursing among the best online nursing programs. Students adhering to a budget can receive affordable education at ISU, as it not only awarded $45 million this last year in financial aid, but the university kept tuition rates and fees the same. A range of online classes are also available to undergraduates and graduate students.

17 Governors State University 92.11 $$$$$ N/A University Park, IL

Founded in 1969, Governors State University is a four-year public university located 40 miles south of Chicago. Its 5,500 students can choose from 64 degree or 24 certificate programs. While the University Park campus station is a walk from Chicago trains, GSU recognized that many students have family or work commitments that kept them from commuting. As a result, GSU now offers fully online bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees and certificates. Students who need individual courses or want to take advantage of blended learning can also partake in over 120 online classes each semester. Those seeking financial aid are eligible to apply for federal grants and loans, state and institutional grants and scholarships, and opportunities for tuition waivers or work study.

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Explore Online Degree Programs in Illinois

2-Year Best College Ranking

number University Score Location Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher Ratio Grad Rate Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1. Southeastern Illinois College 100.00 Harrisburg, IL $4,380 11 60% 19:1 N/A yes no yes
2. Lincoln Land Community College 99.51 Springfield, IL $4,968 14 13% 19:1 N/A no yes yes

Illinois Online Colleges

Aside from fully-online degree paths, many schools in the state offer countless online courses to round out plans of study and make it easier for students to access higher education. The University of Illinois at Springfield, for instance, is home to one of the largest distance learning departments in the state, with 12 undergraduate degrees, 13 graduate programs and 24 certificate and certification programs – all fully-online.

When it comes to paying for college, being approved for in-state tuition rather than out-of-state can make a substantial difference in the final price tag of a college education. Every school has different rules about what classifies a student to receive in-state tuition. Resident and non-resident students alike who may be considering hybrid programs (plans of study that combine online and in-person learning) or who don’t meet residency requirements may be able to lower their costs through the Midwest Student Exchange Program. Offered via the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, students from certain states, including Illinois, are eligible to receive discounted tuition. Don’t forget to look also at the myriad funding options highlighted by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

Illinois By the Numbers

Online learning in Illinois continues to grow across two- and four-year colleges within the state. Of the 48 community colleges, 35 currently educate more than 111,000 online students annually. Similarly, more than 150 of the 210 four-year institutions in the state provide at least one online class or degree program. In 2012, The U.S. Department of Education put out a report detailing online learning in Illinois.

Here’s what it had to say about online students in the state:

3,217 undergrads were enrolled exclusively online
40% of full-time undergrad students lived in Illinois
7.9% of graduate students were enrolled online only
11.3% of 2-year students enrolled in at least one online class
Explore Online Degree Programs in Illinois