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Thinking of attending one of the 181 colleges in Illinois? With more jobs requiring a degree than ever before and tuition rates consistently climbing, it’s important that students find the perfect college. Graduation rates, tuition fees and financial aid are just a few things you need to take into account before selecting a school; you’ll also want to evaluate the degree offerings and academic reputation of each college you’re considering.

Recent reports indicate that college graduates earn about $400 more per week than those with a high school diploma. College graduates are more satisfied with their jobs than non-degree holders, and a bachelor’s degree also reduces your chances of unemployment. Furthermore, despite an expensive price tag, the higher salary college graduates earn in their first four years on the job offsets the cost of college. Simply put, a college that offers a quality education and a rich learning environment will give you a marketable degree and a chance to pursue a challenging and rewarding career.

Considering that selective schools produce much higher graduation rates than non-selective schools, it’s important to consider acceptance rate when evaluating colleges. While acceptance rates vary among the 115 4-year colleges in Illinois, the University of Chicago at 8.8% and Northwestern University at 15.3% are the state’s most selective schools. Not coincidentally, they boast some of the highest graduation rates in the country, with 86% of students earning a degree.

Our list of the best 4-year colleges in Illinois uses recent government data to analyze the most important school performance markers, including acceptance, retention, graduation and enrollment rates. These metrics indicate a university’s overall quality and help us determine which schools best prepare students for their professional careers.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1University of Chicago 5/592.88%Chicago, IL

University of Chicago is revered for its Economics and Engineering departments. With a robust Common Core curriculum that covers everything from philosophy to physics in small freshmen-only classes, the school provides a strong foundational knowledge.

The University of Chicago maintains an enormous research fund, operating 12 institutes and 113 laboratories. Research laboratories range from the Oriental Institute, which investigates Near Eastern culture, to the Yerkes Laboratory, an astronomy lab with the world’s largest refracting telescope. The University of Chicago also boasts the nation’s largest university press. Additionally, the school is known for its impressive alumni list including author Kurt Vonnegut Jr., former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson.

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2Northwestern University 5/5N/AIL

Northwestern University is a private research institute located in the Chicago suburb of Evanston. Northwestern also has one of the nation’s most highly-revered journalism schools, which has produced 38 Pulitzer Prize winning journalists.

Northwestern has a renowned performing arts school. Student theatre groups put on more than 60 annual student productions on the same stages that alumni like Stephen Colbert and Zach Braff launched their careers. Northwestern also boasts one of the most successful college debate programs. As a founding member of the Big Ten, Northwestern has an active sports scene, and one of the most successful women's field hockey teams.

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3University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 3/584.16%Champaign, IL

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a public university operating 17 colleges, including an Institute of Aviation and a School of Social Work. UIUC is most celebrated for its engineering college.

UIUC is a research-intensive institute, home to major developments in the history of computer technology. It’s Prairie Research Institute has also been a landmark for research in ecology, wildlife, and industrial technology. UIUC maintains a unique, 13-building “Research Park,” where 90 companies conduct research with the help of University staff and approximately 400 student interns. UIUC also possesses the second-largest university library collection in the entire United States.

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4Wheaton College – Illinois 5/589.31%Wheaton, IL

Wheaton College is a small liberal arts college that operates in the evangelical Protestant tradition. Students study from a core curriculum of arts, humanities, and social sciences, all framed through the school's unique "Christ at its Core" doctrine. Wheaton has a well-known music conservatory program. It's unique Human Needs and Global Resources program merges coursework with field-based service-oriented internships.

Wheaton maintains a highly-respected science laboratory and an active community of faith-based charity work. Notable alumni include the Reverend Billy Graham and former presidential speechwriter Michael Gerson

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5Illinois Wesleyan University 5/580.6%Bloomington, IL

Illinois Wesleyan University is a liberal arts college offering 80 majors, including a brand new Design, Technology and Entrepreneurship program. It has a well respected College of Fine Arts, which offers specialized study in everything from Ceramics to Music Composition to Musical Theatre. It is also known for its impressive Nursing undergraduate program.

The school offers an annul "May Term" in which students participate in a three-week long immersive course for credit. The campus also has a large “Think Green” movement mobilizing environmental activism. It's pivotal Center for Humans Rights offers social justice opportunities to undergraduates.

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6Illinois Institute of Technology 5/565.23%Chicago, IL

The Illinois Institute of Technology is a private, research-focused technology university. The institute specializes in engineering, science, architecture and technology. For decades, it's computer engineering program has been a hotspot for innovation. With a high stress on interdisciplinary collaboration, the Interprofessional Projects Program brings students from diverse majors to design solutions to world problems.

Illinois Tech lets its highest achieving students bolster their bachelor’s degrees by taking graduate level courses to earn master’s degrees in just five years. IIT also supports a Leadership Academy, where students from a variety of disciplines hone their communication, management, and writing skills.

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7University of St. Francis-Joliet 4/556.16%Joliet, IL

The University of St Francis is a small Roman Catholic college offering a broad arts and science education in a vibrant student community. It’s school for Business and Health Administration offers a cutting-edge education in health care delivery, human resource management and more.

Each semester, the school participates in a nationwide “business simulation” contest that helps students practice real-world business concepts. The school also has a Business Incubator to support student-led startup ventures. USF’s Intermodal Transportation Institute, located at the intersection of railroads, waterways and trail systems, provides a unique opportunity for students to study and innovate intermodal transportation.

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8Illinois State University 3/571.92%Normal, IL

ISU is the oldest public university in Illinois. Originally a teaching college, ISU is still best known for its wide variety of education degrees, with specialties in Bilingual/Bicultural education, Low Vision and Blindness education, Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing education, and more. Other academic strengths include Business, Health Professions, and Social Sciences.

Uniquely, ISU has one of just two college circuses in the country, Gamma Phi Circus, which is also the oldest collegiate circus in the world. The institute has one of the United States’ most enormous student spirit organizations, called Red Alert Over; one-quarter of its 18,155-member student body participate in the club. Other unique features include a vast horticulture research center, a world museum, and a planetarium.

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9Augustana University 5/566.67%Sioux Falls, SD

Augustana is a private liberal arts college. It offers a gorgeous woodland campus where its 2,500 undergraduates can pursue unique majors like Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Scandinavian studies, or Library and Information Science Advising, as well as more popular majors in its well-regarded departments of Business and Health.

The college makes it remarkably easy to pursue a diverse set of interests, and nearly half of the students double or triple major. The school offers generous support for independent student projects: The Augie Choice provides $2,000 for any student looking to conduct a research study, pursue an internship, or pursue research abroad.Augustana also excels in preparing students for their next academic goals: 95% of students who apply for an advanced degree within a year of graduating from Augustana are accepted into their first or second choice schools.

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10Dominican University 4/562.74%River Forest, IL

The 2,180 students on Dominican College's suburban campus receive their education in an intimate setting, with a 12-1 faculty ratio. The curriculum is grounded in liberal arts, with an annual "Liberal Arts and Sciences Seminar" that all students must complete. This school is well known for is arts and science departments, with a particularly rigorous Visual and Performing Arts school.

Dominican Colleges stresses diversity in its student body, and has a Multicultural Studies requirement for all students. Dominican is extremely veteran-friendly, with a policy that allows all former veterans who meet certain academic qualifications to automatically enroll at a lower cost. Dominican has a number of impressive research centers, including the Butler Children's Literature Center, where professors and students conduct studies about literature for children and young adults.

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11University of Illinois at Springfield 2/548.68%Springfield, IL

The University of Illinois at Springfield is a public liberal arts college that offers 27 major degree programs, and is particularly well-known for its impressive undergraduate business program. UIS has a well-regarded school of public affairs, and strong programs in political science and global politics. These strengths, combined with the school’s numerous internships and networking opportunities, makes UIS a top place for graduating future Illinois government employees.

UIS also maintains its commitment to educating future policy-makers at its renowned Center for Social Policy and Leadership, where students can participate in summits and conduct research. Another popular research institute at UIS is the Therkildsen Field Station, which serves as a gathering place for researchers from around the world interested in floodplain ecology.

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12Elmhurst College 5/5N/AIL

Elmhurst is a liberal arts college located in the Chicago suburbs. The school is affiliated with the United Church Of Christ, and focuses on service-based learning, with an emphasis on social justice and community service. Elmhurst has a particularly specialized education program, where students can pursue majors ranging from Kindergarten/PreSchool Education to Teaching Agriculture.

Elmhurst also boasts an impressive pre-professional program, from which 93% of students gain employment within six months of graduation. This school’s a mecca of science technology, with two nuclear accelerators and four electron microscopes on campus.

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13Lewis University 4/562.46%Romeoville, IL

Lewis is nationally ranked as one of the top 15 colleges that are most accommodating to veterans. The University is also particularly well-suited to commuter students, who make up the majority of its student body. This Catholic university offers a number of niche majors, including undergraduate degrees in several kinds of aviation.

The school also has a well-rounded visual and performing arts department, offering Music Management, Commercial and Advertising Art, and more. It has a cutting-edge business department, offering e-commerce majors and organizational leadership. It has state of the art facilities including an aviation center, nurse simulation labs, and a broadcast TV studio with digital robotics.

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14Knox College 5/580.38%Galesburg, IL

Knox College is a small, liberal arts college that allows each student to customize their own curriculum. According to the college, 100% of its students take a course in experiential learning. They do so under the tutelage of the school’s impressive staff, 97% of whom have a PhD or equivalent degree. Reputable departments include Creative Writing and Education.

Knox College strongly encourages students to pursue independent studies or creative projects, and indeed 85% of students will complete such a project during their time at Knox. This emphasis on self-motivated learning helps Knox produce a large number of Fulbright Scholarships. Author Loren Pope spotlighted Knox College in his famous book, “Schools that Change Lives."

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15Bradley University 4/573.83%Peoria, IL

Bradley University is a private, medium-sized university with a compact campus. Bradley has particularly reputable Engineering and Animation programs. Bradley's business college has received awards for its innovative curriculum, and was one of the first business colleges to create a separate institute exclusively focused on entrepreneurship.

The school has an active Greek population, with nearly one in three students participating in a fraternity or sorority. Bradley's speech team is considered among the most successful in the nation, with a near two-decades-long winning streak at the American Forensics Association Championship. Bradley is one of the most successful universities of its kind in producing Fulbright Scholars.

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16Principia College 4/587.69%Elsah, IL

The rurally-located Principia College grounds its education in the values of Christian Science and liberal arts, offering a broad base of humanities programs. With a remarkable 8:1 student to faculty ratio, Principia provides an intimate classroom setting. The school boasts unique facilities, including a tropical aviary and a natural museum with a mammoth excavation.

Principia has a strong Visual and Performing Arts department, so it’s no surprise that Principa graduated a number of famous actors, including Robert Duvall. Other notable alumni include several well-known authors and journalists, such as Ron Charles, fiction critic at the Washington Post.

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17Lake Forest College 5/573.02%Lake Forest, IL

Lake Forest College is a private liberal arts college that provides an intimate educational environment. Freshmen students have the rare opportunity to collaborate with professors on research projects through the Richter Scholar program. Lake Forest also offers accelerated 3-year Bachelor’s program in communication or philosophy, as well as pre-professional and dual-degree programs in law, business and medical fields.

Lake Forest is a suburban college, but its Center for Chicago Programs provides resources for students wishing to explore the city, and coordinated events with top Chicago thinkers. Lake Forest has received numerous national accolades for its campus-wide commitment to community service. It's vast greenery and 19th/20th century architecture make Lake Forest a popular site for movie sets.

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18University of Illinois at Chicago 3/559.68%Chicago, IL

The University of Illinois at Chicago is an urban college and Chicago's only public research university, as well as the site of groundbreaking discoveries in public health and software technologies. UIC has the biggest medical school in the United States, which is consistently one of the most active sites for the nation’s medical research.

The school has also been nationally ranked in social science school and life/agriculture sciences. UIC has been recognized nationally for its commitment to promoting diversity on campus, and furthers that goal by hosting programs like Research on Urban Education and Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education.

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19Eastern Illinois University 3/559.47%Charleston, IL

As the smallest public residential university in the state, Eastern Illinois University offers students an experience similar to that of a private college, but at a much more appealing price. With low tuitions for residents and non-residents alike, it's one of the most affordable schools in the state. EIU has also been ranked as one of the best colleges for veterans.

Popular programs include Education, Parks and Recreation, and Fitness. EIU also has developed reputable Communication Disorders and Biological Sciences departments. EIU innovative Renewable Energy Center is one of the most ambitious biomass facilities in the country, and its Center of Clean Energy Research and Education provides opportunities for students to explore new sources of green energy.

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20Illinois College 4/575.3%Jacksonville, IL

Illinois College is a private college affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church. It has reputable programs in education, science, and business fields, with unique combined degree programs in Biology with Medical Technology, Biology with Occupational Therapy, and Physics with Engineering. It also offers a special, 32-credit Master of Arts in Education degree perfectly tailored to working teachers.

Illinois College has won the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for both its student and faculty dedication to service. Students have numerous study abroad opportunities, as well as a unique Intercultural Exchange program with Ritsumeikan University in Japan.

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21Millikin University 4/561.36%Decatur, IL

This Presbyterian institution specializes in Business Management, Marketing and Visual Arts. Millikin University fosters a tight-knit community, with 67% of the student body living in on-campus or school-affiliated housing.

The school stresses "performance learning," in which students in all disciplines participate in hands-on application of their skills from New Musical Workshops to a student-owned and operated publishing press.
Millikin has two-week long immersion research programs in the Dominican Republic, Taiwan, the Galapagos Islands, and South Africa. Alumni include Jodi Benson, who voiced Ariel in Disney's The Little Mermaid and Herbert D. Ryman, a Disney artists who designed the Cinderella Castle.

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22Robert Morris University Illinois 4/547.38%Chicago, IL

Robert Morris is a private institution with several locations in and around Chicago. At Robert Morris, about 90% of students complete a bachelor’s degree within four years, and the school maintains one of the top five highest graduation rates amongst private, non-for-profit schools nationally. Unique majors available at Robert Morris include Culinary Arts and Nuclear Medicine Technology. Robert Morris encourages experiential learning, with its recent installment of its ICenter, where students can engage in everything from mobile phone app development to recipe development.

Robert Morris’s men's basketball team is one of the top programs in the NAIA, while its women’s basketball team has been ranked #1 by the USCAA. Robert Morris also has the oldest competitive collegiate electronic-gamers team.

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23North Park University 4/553.38%Chicago, IL

North Park has a number of theology-related majors, including Youth Ministry and Biblical Studies. The Seminary offers a number of events, including weekly campus worship, theological lectures, and a larger Symposium on the Theological Interpretation of Scripture. The school’s Urban Discipleship Learning Community” program creates support groups for freshmen students, where they can participate in community service, develop their spiritual understanding, and adjust to the university setting.

North Park is known for its impressive Nonprofit Management program, which prepares students for the world of charity work. At the Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management, students have opportunities to connect with nonprofit professionals and even CEO's through networking events and career training programming.

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24McKendree University 4/556.49%Lebanon, IL

The oldest college in Illinois, McKendree University is primarily a residential campus with an expansive center for the arts and a full-size golf course. McKendree offers a wide range of undergraduate degrees, including unique fields like Professional Writing, Interactive Media, and Athletic Training. McKendree University offers substantial financial aid.

For the past four years, McKendree University has been honored as a "Military Friendly School" for being amongst the colleges most accommodating to veterans. The Center at Scott Air Force Base allows students to work toward their undergraduate degree with one-month classes to accommodate their military duties.

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25DePaul University 5/571.21%Chicago, IL

DePaul is the largest Catholic university in the United States, with two-thirds of its graduates hailing from the Chicago area. DePaul is the site of some of the most cutting-edge developments in information technology research. The university also has a reputable computer programming department, where students have access to research labs investigating artificial intelligence, mobile e-commerce, and more.

DePaul places a special emphasis on diversity, with programs like the “Men of Color Initiative,” which focuses on enrolling first-generation, low-income male students of color. DePaul also emphasizes the importance of service learning in all academic fields.

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Illinois’ community college system is the third largest of its kind in the world; more students enroll in it than any other higher education sector in Illinois. Whether you want to attend a two-year college in preparation for a four-year program or to attain an associate degree or certificate, you’ll have 66 schools to choose from.

With tuition ranging from $2,272 to $4,035, community colleges are about 75% cheaper than other four-year programs in Illinois. They offer affordable schooling while opening doors to further education to a range of students from various backgrounds. Although graduation rates at community colleges are comparatively low, students who earn their degree benefit financially. A recent report indicates that graduates from Illinois’ community colleges received an average full-time salary of $36,420 in their first year out of school.

To ensure you’re setting yourself up for success and investing in a quality education, browse our list of the best 2-year colleges in Illinois. Developed in accordance with our unique methodology, our rankings can help you find the right program for your academic and professional interests.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1Frontier Community College 2/571.79%Fairfield, IL

A rural college in Fairfield, Illinois, Frontier Community College is a home to over two-thousand students, most of whom are commuters. Primarily serving students pursuing associate's degrees in the liberal arts, Frontier also provides a number of professional certificates in subjects like Construction Trades, Fire Services Administration, and Medical Insurance Coding.

FCC also offers an Entrepreneurship major, in which students gain hands-on experience in the process of creating and running a business. Ninety-nine percent of students attending Frontier Community College are receiving some level of financial aid, and 94% of them are pursuing their degrees part-time. FCC’s Workforce Education program offers training in Illinois mining region.

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2Olney Central College 2/548.7%Olney, IL

OCC provides courses for students pursuing two-year associates degrees and technical certificates in topics ranging from Cosmetology to Massage Therapy to Pre-Dentistry to Professional Bookkeeping. A number of certificate programs take less than a year to complete, in topics like E-Commerce and Paralegal training.

OCC has an active musical theatre program that performs shows every semester in the OCC theatre. Olney Central College Foundation is a non-profit corporation that was formed to enhance the education for students at OCC. Through the foundation, OCC receives equipment like 3D printers and specialized microscopes. The OCC Foundation also distributes scholarships to students.

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3Lincoln Trail College 2/557.43%Robinson, IL

Lincoln Trail College received an Aspen Prize Top 150 U.S. Community College ranking by USA today for its vast curriculum of degrees and certificate programs that provide students with professional skills they can immediately apply, or transfer to a four-year bachelor college.

A special horticulture degree program gives students hands on experience in pest control and landscape design. Other topics range from an Electronic Medical Records Certificate program to a Broadband Telecom degree program. The LTC Theater has been bringing musicals to audiences for forty years, providing students course credits for participating in productions.

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4Rend Lake College 1/552.3%Ina, IL

This two-year, open-admission college has two campuses as well as a non-credit class center. RLC has transfer partnerships with local four-year colleges, and provides student resources to help prepare them for transitioning into a bachelor's degree program.

RLC has an active College Bowl academic club that regularly wins state championships, as well as a Cultural Events Committee that houses a theater program and brings famous artist to perform for the student body. Popular and unique majors include Mechanic and Repair Technology and Agriculture. Students pursuing Agriculture have the opportunity to join the Ag Club, which provides students with hands on community service opportunities in their field.

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5Sauk Valley Community College 2/534.76%Dixon, IL

Sauk Valley Community College (SVCC) offers 43 transfer programs, in which students can earn credits for associate degrees that can be transferred to four-year institutions. Additionally, the school offers career-technical degrees and certificates in Computer Information Systems, Fire Science, Office and Administrative Services, and more.

Every semester, a SVCC sponsors a Student Success Week that brings free workshops and programming to students to help them improve their study skills, learn about career opportunities, and map out their career goals. Sauk's First Year Experience program provides a support structure to help new students adjust and excel, and has won awards for its retention success.

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6Elgin Community College 2/530.62%Elgin, IL

Elgin Community College offers associate degrees in 19 different fields. ECC has a broad Visual and Performing Arts program with several highly-specialized degrees. Students pursuing performing arts degrees have access to facilities like the 660-seat Blizzard Theatre for stage productions.

With career training opportunities like a Precision Metalworking degree and Hotel/Motel Administration/Management, ECC focuses on helping students prepare to enter the workforce. A diversity-friendly school, ECC leads a series of workshops called EMBRACE (Eagerly Making Bridges Regarding All Cultural Experiences) to help foster cross-cultural awareness. The school also sponsors a Spartan Food Pantry to ensures that no students have to worry about having access to healthy food.

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7Lincoln College 3/525.93%Lincoln, IL

Located in Lincoln, Illinois, Lincoln College offers associates degrees in topics ranging from Pre-Nursing to Law Enforcement to Cosmetology and Massage Therapy. Nine out of ten two-year Lincoln graduates will transfer to a four-year college the following semester, a rate far above the state average.

Students who earn associate degrees can also enter Lincoln's Accelerated Bridge to Education, which helps students turn their associate degree into a bachelor's degree with once-weekly, on-campus classes and supplemental online classes. Unlike many colleges, Lincoln provides on-campus residence halls for two-year students. The college also works hard to accommodate off-campus students, with 10 daily Amtrak trains, as well as 42 hours of free shuttle services around campus and the nearby town.

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8Illinois Valley Community College 2/523.92%Oglesby, IL

At Illinois Valley Community College, students can pursue an associate degree in fields within Arts, General Studies, and Science. These programs are tailored to students hoping to transfer to a four-year university and complete majors as diverse as Fashion Merchandising or Pre-Speech Pathology. IVCC also offers an Associate in Applied Science Degrees for students looking to enter the workforce immediately, with specialties ranging from Health & Wellness to Industrial Technology to Social Service.

Additionally, IVCC offers certificates in career-oriented, niche topics like Sales Operations and Ground Transportation. With a focus on workforce placement, IVCC offers career/job search classes, internship placement programs, resume counseling, and on-campus job interviews.

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9Morrison Institute of Technology 3/567.57%Morrison, IL

Morrison Institute of Technology offers students a first-rate education in Engineering Technology and Network Administration. Morrison offers an Associate in Applied Science degree in the subject of Engineering Technology, during which students can concentrate on Construction or Drafting and Design. Morrison also offers a degree in Network Administration, which provides students with the fundamentals of computer operating systems.

SME supports students clubs that put their knowledge to work, including the Construction Club, in which students apply their classroom knowledge to charity projects like Habitat for Humanity. As one of the country’s Service Members Opportunity Colleges, Morrison is among veteran-friendly colleges that recognize credits earned by students in military schools. Morrison is also a Concurrent Admissions Program member, which allows Army enlistees to pursue a degree at Morrison during their years of service.

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10Spoon River College 2/536.81%Canton, IL

Spoon River College offers associate degrees and certificate programs, mostly to students pursuing liberal arts degrees. SRC also has a reputable medical school, with a nursing program that was ranked among the top 20 in the state. SRC also offers science facilities like an agriculture science lab, along with agricultural test plots for students to participate in hands-on learning.

SRC is committed to helping students pursue a bachelor degree, and has a dual-enrollment agreement with Western Illinois University that allows students to automatically transfer to WIU upon completing an associate degree. SRC maintains a well-regarded student publication, Kaleidoscope, which showcases student artwork.

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11South Suburban College 3/517.73%South Holland, IL

South Suburban College allows students to earn associate degrees in the fields of health care, business, social and behavioral science, and more. SSC also offers niche certificate programs in Equestrian/Equine Studies and Digital Imaging Design.

SSC focuses on enhancing students employability, with its South Suburban College’s Business & Career Institute which offers non-credit training for a wide variety of professionals. The SSC Speaking center was established to help students hone their public speaking skills, research and craft speeches, and beat performance anxiety. SSC maintains a number of programs well suited to those with full- time jobs, such as the Diagnostic Medical Sonography (Ultrasound) Program, in which students earn their degree entirely through night classes.

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12Carl Sandburg College 2/523.08%Galesburg, IL

Carl Sandburg College offers associate degrees in a wide variety of fields, with unique programs in Funeral Service and Mortuary Science, as well as Agricultural Supplies Retailing and Wholesaling. Carl Sandburg College has a particularly strong agricultural facility, including a greenhouse and 22-acre agricultural plot where instructors lead students in experiential learning.

Carl Sandburg College also sustains 50 occupational programs including Cisco Network and Diesel Power Technology. The college is committed to helping interested students earn their bachelor's degree, and maintains dual-admission programs and bachelor-degree completion agreements with a number of four-year colleges in the area.

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13Lake Land College 2/534.46%Mattoon, IL

Lake Land College was ranked 100 in the nation in preparing students for their graduation, with popular fields including Family and Consumer Sciences and Marketing. Lake Land offers transfer-ready associate degrees in topics diverse as Recreation or Special Education. Workforce-ready programs include rare specialties like Renewable Energy Management and Residential Wiring.

Lake Land offers facilities like a full a cosmetology clinic and an agriculture land laboratory. Lake Land College is open enrollment, and most students attend on a part-time basis. The school provides resources to ease student’s family responsibilities, like an on-campus daycare for students with children.

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14Trinity College of Nursing & Health Sciences 4/550%Rock Island, IL

Trinity College of Nursing and Health Sciences offers two-year programs to prepare students for the medical field, with degrees in Radiography, Respiratory Health, and Nursing. Trinity's affiliation with the Trinity Regional Health System gives students access to high-tech medical equipment, along with the opportunity to apply their classroom knowledge in real-life hospital settings.

Additionally, the Harriet Olson Learning Lab provides on-campus labs where students can hone practical skills in a simulated environment. With a high-job placement rates, 100% for its nursing degree and 96% for its Radiography degree, Trinity succeeds in preparing students to turn their degree into a career in medicine.

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15McHenry County College 2/528.04%Crystal Lake, IL

McHenry offers degrees and certificates in 17 different fields of study, with particularly broad Homeland Security and Medical fields. MCC emphasizes service-based learning, and maintains a broad network of community partners to facilitate these opportunities. MCC's Earth Science department offers extensive campus facilities to complement classroom learning, including a planetarium, weather cam, and greenhouse.

The pre-engineering department offers hands-on learning in its cutting-edge robotics/manufacturing laboratory. MCC also has a number of certificate programs in professional fields like Occupational Therapy, with a particularly unique range of Horticultural certificates, including Floral Design, Greenhouse, and Turf and Golf Course Management.

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16Chicago ORT Technical Institute  53.98%Skokie, IL

Chicago ORT offers an associate degree program in Accounting, as well as a certificate in fields of Accounting, Information Technology, Medical Assisting, Pharmacy Technician, and Graphic and Web Design. Chicago ORT also offers an English as a Second Language certificate program.

Chicago ORT’s certificate programs are career focused: the pharmacy and medical assistant programs require students to complete an externship, which provides the on-job training. The Digital Graphics program helps students create a portfolio and resume so they're prepared to apply for jobs upon completion. Chicago ORT offers federal and institution-level financial aid to qualifying students, as well as a full-tuition scholarship for Jewish women.

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17Shawnee Community College 1/525.84%Ullin, IL

SCC hosts 40 associate degree programs and 52 certificate programs with unique fields like Natural Resources & Conservation, which offers Forestry and Wildlife and Wildlands Science and Management degrees. Its Nursing program has maintained a 100% student pass rate for several years, giving it a #1 success rate for the state of Illinois.

The school offers S.M.A.R.T. Transportation to help students travel to its main campus or any of its three extension centers in nearby towns. SCC offers students "two-plus-two" programs which guarantee that their credits can be applied to bachelor degrees. The school also has an educational alliance with Franklin University which allows students to complete their bachelor's degree without ever transferring schools.

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18Wabash Valley College 2/558.01%Mount Carmel, IL

Wabash Valley College offers two-year associate degree programs in programs as diverse as Gunsmithing, Social Services, and Truck Driving. WVC has a well-established two-year nurse training program, from which students can transfer into a four-year college and become a registered nurse.

WVC also has a stellar Radio/TV Broadcasting program with facilities like student-run radio station and television broadcast station. Upon completing an associate degree, many WVC students go on to pursue bachelor's degrees at Southern Illinois University Carbondale or University of Southern Indiana. WVC also offers certificate programs in unique topics including Court Reporting and Mental Health Services Technology.

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19Oakton Community College 2/517.3%Des Plaines, IL

Oakton Community College operates campuses in Des Plaines and Oakton, Illinois, offering more than 2,500 courses each term, with special programs and field-work at 240 community sites. Oakton offers associate degree programs ranging from Substance Abuse Counseling to Facilities Energy Systems Technology, and certificate programs in topics as unique as Customer Service or Basic Firefighting.

Oakton maintains a commitment to diversity, and more than half of its student body come from a minority background. The school has a strong Early Childhood Education center, with a Early Childhood Demonstration Center where student teachers can apply their skills educating preschoolers from the community.

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20Highland Community College – Freeport 1/528%Freeport, IL

HCC offers two-year degrees in arts, engineering science, general studies, or applied sciences. Highland's Nursing Program is particularly reputable, offering night-classes for full-time workers and maintaining a 99% licence passing rate in recent years.

HCC has a famous basketball program that ranks among the top 10 in the nation's junior colleges. It also supports baseball, golf, volleyball, and bowling teams. HCC maintains a wind turbine training facility where students can gain hands-on experience in state of the art green technology. Additionally, HCC offers a number of student support resources, including Career Services center, a Peer Mentor program, and additional advising opportunities for first-generation college students through Project Succeed.

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21Christian Life College 3/550%Mount Prospect, IL

Christian Life College offers associate of arts degrees in Christian studies for students who desire a biblical foundation of knowledge to complement their own church-going, or who want to pursue a career in ministry leadership. CLC also offers students with associate degrees the opportunity to continue in one of their four-year bachelor's degree programs.

CLC focuses on providing students with hands-on ministry opportunities at local churches in the Chicago area. CLC also provides housing in it Students Suites Apartment Complex, as well as regular chapel services. Students at CLC have the opportunity to participate in the annual Ascension Convention which draws over a thousand students from youth groups.

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22Kankakee Community College 2/526.42%Kankakee, IL

Kankakee Community College offers degrees in 16 different fields with highly specialized focuses, such as a degree in Logistics, Materials and Supply Chain Management in the business field, or Energy Management and Systems Technology in the field of engineering.

KCC has ranked among the top nursing programs nationwide, with an exam pass rate of 97%. Kankakee has vast athletic facilities with state of the art soccer, softball, and baseball fields. In fact, Tom Prince, a catcher for five Major League Baseball teams, was a graduate of Kankakee. Michael Clarke Duncan, an Oscar-nominated actor who starred in The Whole Nine Yards and The Scorpion King, is another famous alum.

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23Morton College 2/513.5%Cicero, IL

Morton College has sustained a commitment to serving the Hispanic population of Illinois, and 83% of its student body identify as Hispanic. A number of student groups on campus bolster that commitment, such as the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and Young Ethnic Leaders Reeducating Society.

Morton offers 41 career certificates, and 6 associate in Applied Science degrees to prepare students for the workforce. Morton also offers four transfer program degrees, including an Associate of Arts in Teaching Degree for Early Childhood Education that prepares students to transfer to a teacher preparation program and complete their degree.

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24Kaskaskia College 2/548.92%Centralia, IL

Kaskaskia College is the oldest community college in Illinois. Over the years, it has developed a vast Health Professions department with an associate degree program in nursing that provides students with substantial clinical experience in area hospitals, as well as less conventional certificate programs in topics like Healing Environments for Body, Mind and Spirit, and Holistic and Integrative Health.

Kaskaskia also has a robust Humanities program, with majors in Philosophy, Journalism, Speech and more. One hundred percent of faculty members teaching general education topics hold a master's degree or higher. A community-minded institution, Kaskaskia encourages students to volunteer in their field, and offers course credit for accumulated volunteer hours.

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25Moraine Valley Community College 2/521.18%Palos Hills, IL

Moraine Valley is the second largest community college in Illinois, located in the forest preserves of Cook County. Moraine Valley offers a wide array of degree and certificate programs ranging from Baking and Pastry Arts to Computer Graphics. Eighty five percent of students balance their Moraine Valley education with a full or part time job.

The school maintains a longstanding commitment to diversity and was one of seven community colleges in the nation awarded for "Advancing Diversity" on an institute-wide level. One of its diversity-focused programs is Directing Results through Educational and Academic Mentoring (DREAM), which connects students with faculty mentors through the Multicultural Student Affairs office.

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If you’re thinking about applying to one of the best colleges in Illinois, continuing reading to learn more about living in the Prairie State.

Illinois boasts the 5th largest population in the United States, most of it concentrated in the Chicago metropolitan area in the northeast part of the state. Picturesque prairies characterize central Illinois and large rivers flow through the state’s southern farmlands.

Chicago is home to 2,695,598 people, making it the third largest city in the country, behind New York and Los Angeles. Widely considered a microcosm of America, there’s plenty to see and do in Chicago, from boating on Lake Michigan to eating Chicago dogs amidst the city’s incredible architecture. Residents and tourists alike enjoy exploring museums and attending award-winning plays or live jazz in the city’s famous theaters and clubs.

The hustle and bustle of the big city couldn’t be further away from the quiet solitude you’ll find in the rest of the state. In central Illinois, you can visit the only home Abraham Lincoln ever owned while exploring wineries, breweries, zoos and museums as you head south. Southern Illinois is rich with farmland and wildlife. Orchards, berry farms and pepper farms dot the landscape, offering “u-pick” seasonal agritourism. The 286,400 acre Shawnee National Forest lines the southernmost tip of the state, along with the Mississippi River, Ohio River and Illinois Ozarks.


  • Major Cities: Chicago, Aurora, Rockford, Naperville, Joliet
  • Attractions: Willis Tower, Museum of Science & Industry, Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium
  • Cost of Living: Chicago’s Numbeo Cost of Living
  • Popular Schools: University of Chicago, Northwestern University


  • Major Cities: Peoria, Champaign, Springfield
  • Attractions: Lincoln Home National Historic Site, David Davis Mansion
  • Cost of Living: Peoria’s Numbeo Cost of Living
  • Popular Schools: University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Illinois State University


  • Major Cities: Peoria, Springfield (the state capital)
  • Attractions: The Cahokia Mounds, Shawnee National Forest, Illinois Ozarks
  • Cost of Living: Springfield’s Numbeo Cost of Living
  • Popular Schools: Southern Illinois University, Lewis and Clark Community College


When attending college in Illinois, residency offers a variety of benefits, from cheaper in-state tuition to better scholarships and financial aid opportunities. While residency requirements depend on a student’s age and the duration of their residency, other regulations vary from school to school. Below, you’ll find data reflecting residency requirements established by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. The requirements pertain to their administered programs, which include the Monetary Award Program, State Scholar Program and other gift assistance programs available for prospective students.


For minors applying to an Illinois college, residency will depend on where their parents live. At least one parent must reside in the state and Illinois must be their permanent home.


Adults will be considered a resident of Illinois after living in the state for at least 12 consecutive months immediately before the academic year they are applying for.

Additional Resources for Illinois College Students