Best Online Colleges in Illinois

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Badge (Online) with 2-Line TitleBest Collegesin Illinois2017
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Illinois is part of the Midwestern-State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, a program that allows students to access online and distance education courses across state lines. As part of the agreement, students can take online courses at public colleges in participating states while paying in-state tuition. The agreement also helps the Illinois Board of Higher Education in its effort to increase the percentage of adults in the state with a college degree.

Of the 200 colleges and universities in Illinois, 75% of schools offer online and distance education opportunities. These schools provide students with a variety of programs, from career development and certification options to undergraduate and graduate level degrees. Students interested in an online program should be aware that not all official-sounding accreditation agencies are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The Illinois Board of Higher Education encourages students to vigilantly evaluate their target schools, and to ensure that they apply only to accredited colleges.

Despite recent funding cuts in higher education across the nation, Illinois managed to increase state appropriations by over 10% in 2011 and 2012. Still, tuition has climbed steadily in the state. In response, students are increasingly attracted to online programs, where costs are generally lower.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 University of St Francis 85.80 3/5 56% Joliet, IL

USF offers a liberal arts education that integrates students’ immersion in a program of study with transformational experiences, including university ministry, service learning, and internships. USF’s practical, real-world curriculum is instilled in its 48 undergraduate majors, 38 undergraduate minors, and 19 graduate programs.

Among the best online colleges in Illinois, USF offers more than 120 online courses, with 100% online degree programs at the baccalaureate level in business administration, RN-to-BSN, and healthcare leadership. The The RN-BSN degree completion program is a fast-track curriculum for registered nurses with an associate degree or diploma. All online students are given links with access to class content, assignments chat, discussions, and more. Students and faculty interact primarily through a discussion forum. A help desk is accessible 24/7 through email or phone.

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2 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 83.18 3/5 84% Champaign, IL

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is located in the twin cities of Champaign and Urbana and educates about 44,000 students through its 15 colleges and instructional units. Among the school’s notables are 23 Pulitzer Prize-winners (alumni and faculty), including Roger Ebert and George F. Will. The school has been a pioneer in innovative research in areas such as global sustainability and agriculture.

It is also the home to one of the largest online colleges in Illinois, with more than 75 online degree, certificate, and endorsement programs. The institution offers an online bachelor of science (BS) in liberal arts and sciences for transfer students. The program, with concentrations in either society and environment or society in the Earth system, offers several areas of specialization, including sustainable business and sustainable societies. In addition, the institution has more than 800 online courses and 2.6 million Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) learners.

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3 Lincoln Christian University 72.16 3/5 45% Lincoln, IL

Founded in 1944 as a Bible institute, LCU instills theological values into its curriculum to educate “a transformational community of global difference makers”. Approximately 1,000 students in undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs study areas as diverse as ministry and education to communication studies and organizational leadership in a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio.

Around 20% of LCU’s students complete their degrees from a distance. LCU offers 100% online bachelor’s degree programs in areas such as Bible studies, business administration, Christian ministry, and psychology. A program of note is the BA in intercultural studies, in which students complete a cross-cultural internship in locations across the United States, Africa, or South America. Whether taking classes online or on campus, students at LCU have access to affordable tuition and a suite of financial aid options.

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4 University of Illinois at Chicago 69.66 3/5 58% Chicago, IL

An acclaimed research institution with 15 colleges, UIC’s 85 bachelor’s, 98 master’s, and 65 doctoral degree programs educate more than 29,000 students each year. Of note is UIC’s research into diverse areas such as cancer detection, wound healing, and climate change.

UIC provides distance students with opportunities to study through a broad catalog of eLearning opportunities. Fifteen bachelor’s degree programs are offered 100% online at UIC, in fields such as English, business administration, and mathematical sciences. One of the best online colleges in Illinois, UIC offers bachelor’s degree completion programs in nursing and health information management. Of note is the BS degree in Earth, society, and environmental sustainability, in which students can specialize in several areas, including environmental informatics and sustainable societies.

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5 Concordia University-Chicago 64.32 3/5 49% River Forest, IL

CUC is a comprehensive liberal arts university of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, providing 100 degree programs in the arts & sciences, education, and business to approximately 5,600 students.

Among Illinois online colleges, CUC is notable for its accelerated undergraduate degree programs. Adult learners can complete their bachelor’s degree 100% online in organizational management, sports and recreation, and management information systems. Students entering these online programs can earn up to 32 semester hours of credit for prior learning for experiences such as workshops, corporate training, and military training. The BA in organizational management, which prepares effective managers, is a pathway to CUC’s MBA. Overall, CUC has a dynamic community of online learners; 24/7 student access to assignments, books, And student discussions. The school is affordable, with 100% of full-time undergraduate students receiving financial aid.

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6 Eastern Illinois University 64.09 3/5 60% Charleston, IL

Through its four colleges, graduate school, and School of Continuing Education, EIU offers 51 undergraduate and 32 graduate degree programs to approximately 7,500 students. In addition to academic rigor and a faculty-to-student ratio of 1:14, students have access to online learning opportunities in several disciplines.

One of the best online colleges in Illinois for students seeking a range of options, EIU offers bachelor’s programs that can be completed 100% online in general studies, psychology, organizational and professional development, and RN-to-BSN. The BA in general studies is a degree completion program with a childcare education option called the ABC/associate to bachelor's in childcare. Designed for adults 25 and older, the program is a cooperative effort between EIU and select community colleges around the state; it incorporates the study of academics with technological advances in the field.

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7 DePaul University 63.64 4/5 68% Chicago, IL

DePaul’s Catholic, Vincentian, and urban identity distinguishes it from other institutions. A comprehensive university, DePaul’s curriculum of undergraduate and graduate programming covers the liberal arts and sciences in addition to specialized and professional programs. Among the school’s notables is a top game design program and one of the top film schools in the nation; overall, 90% of graduates of DePaul are employed, continuing education, or not seeking employment six months after graduation.

One of the best online colleges in Illinois, DePaul has invested in distance learning over the years with award-winning training for online faculty, an online curriculum that is unique, and provision of the necessary digital learning tools to students. Several bachelor’s degree programs are offered online, including communications, computer science, and psychology. Of note is the BA in computing (BAC), designed for working adults with a competence-based curriculum in which students earn credit for college courses, work, and life experiences.

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8 Olivet Nazarene University 63.18 3/5 57% Bourbonnais, IL

Grounded in the Wesleyan tradition, Olivet is a private, Christian, liberal arts university that offers 120 areas of study delivered by seven schools and one college. Olivet offers online undergraduate degrees, including nontraditional adult degree completion programs, and graduate degree programs in a range of disciplines.

One of the best online colleges in Illinois, Olivet Online offers undergraduate programs in business administration, applied science in management, and an RN-to-BSN. Of note is the accelerated bachelor of applied science (BAS) in management degree program designed for professionals holding an associate degree who work in a vocational or technical field. Learning at Olivet Online involves convenience and flexibility; the school uses a cohort model and students complete programs 100% online in an accelerated format of two years or less. Online students still interested in campus life have more than 100 different organizations from which to choose.

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9 Loyola University Chicago 63.07 4/5 70% Chicago, IL

One of the nation’s largest Jesuit, Catholic Universities, Loyola has a student body of approximately 16,000. The school delivers more than 80 undergraduate majors and 170 graduate, professional, and certificate programs through 11 schools and colleges. Undergraduate students have a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio at Loyola’s four campuses and online.

Loyola is one of the online colleges in Illinois offering 100% online degree completion programs; the fields covered are nursing, applied studies, psychology, criminal justice, information technology, and management. Notably, the BA in applied studies provides a strong foundation in communication and business, and allows students to focus on a discipline relevant to their professional world. All online learners have access to learner-centered courses, faculty specially training in the creation and delivery of online courses, and support in the use of distance learning.

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10 Benedictine University 60.11 3/5 53% Lisle, IL

Inspired by the Catholic intellectual tradition, Ben U provides a learning environment that is dedicated to values such as scholarship and service, truth, and justice. A transformative educational experience awaits Ben U students, with 56 undergraduate and 24 graduate degree programs from which to choose.

One of the best online colleges in Illinois, Ben U offers asynchronous online programs and courses in a number of disciplines. Undergraduate students can transfer up to 90 credits into either one of the school’s two online bachelor’s degree programs: the BA in management and the BA in organizational leadership. To help online students succeed, they participate in a complementary “success strategies” course -- a live simulation familiarizing them with the format. They also have 24/7 technical support and the flexibility to learn on demand.

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11 McKendree University 60.00 3/5 49% Lebanon, IL

The oldest college in Illinois, MCK has a tradition of graduates who have gone on to become pioneers in business and industry, politicians, and career public servants. The institution offers 48 majors, 37 minors, six graduate programs, and one doctorate program to about 3,000 students in small class sizes.

MCK is one of the Illinois online colleges offering bachelor's degree programs designed by faculty and reviewed by their peers. Undergraduate degrees are offered through Blackboard online and are offered every eight weeks in the fields of nursing, business administration, and psychology. The online bachelor of business administration (BBA) has six majors, including business administration, accounting, and marketing. Each MCK online student has an advisor and access to tutoring and writing support services. MCK is among the state’s top universities for lifetime return-on-investment. A military friendly school, MCK has staff ready to address the needs of veteran and active military students.

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12 Quincy University 55.80 3/5 56% Quincy, IL

Founded by Franciscan Friars in 1860, QU is a contemporary liberal arts university with a vibrant community of learners and educators. Some 92% of Quincy graduates find a job or enter graduate school within six months of graduation. Around 98% of students receive some sort of financial aid and 100% students are engaged in community service.

Students have 40 undergraduate and four graduate degree programs to choose from, some of which can be taken through eLearning. Quincy is one of the Illinois online colleges offering degree completion programs that can be taken 100% online. Two baccalaureate programs are offered: a BBA and a bachelor of human services. Flexible learning and a supportive environment await online learners at Quincy, which uses Moodle to deliver its online courses.

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13 Greenville University 55.23 3/5 54% Greenville, IL

GU provides more than 1,200 students with a high-quality liberal arts education on its 50-acre campus located in Greenville and through online learning. Fifty undergraduate majors, adult, and graduate programs are available. Notably, 98% of students are employed within nine months of graduation, and students have access to hands-on experiences such as internships and networking opportunities at major corporations around the globe.

Online learning at GU, one of the best online colleges in Illinois, involves a collaborative learning experience and support from highly respected faculty. Bachelor’s degrees are offered online in business administration, criminal justice, organizational leadership, and health psychology. To help students succeed, GU’s Student Success program provides academic coaching and an Academic Boot Camp. GU’s Jump Start program allows high school students to earn college credits toward a degree from a distance.

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14 National Louis University 53.75 3/5 44% Chicago, IL

One of the oldest universities in Chicago, NLU’s curriculum is academically rigorous, progressive, and adult-centric. NLU offers more than 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs through the National College of Education and the College of Professional Studies and Advancement. NLU’s points of pride include receiving more than $65 million in funding for applied research projects in areas such as school improvement and teacher preparation.

Online bachelor’s degree programs are offered in applied communications, business administration, criminal justice, healthcare leadership, human services, and management information systems. The BS in healthcare leadership now has a concentration in long term care that can be taken online or in hybrid format; it consists of four courses and prepares students for licensing by the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards. The BA in applied communications is notable because students have a concentration in entrepreneurship.

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15 Governors State University 52.61 3/5 40% University Park, IL

Set amidst 750 acres of prairieland, GSU focuses on innovation and flexibility in delivering its curriculum to about 5,500 students. In addition to 64 undergraduate and graduate degree and 24 certificate programs, students have a rich on-campus life that includes more than 70 student clubs and organizations, the world-renowned Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park, and many opportunities for civic engagement.

One of the online colleges in Illinois, GSU offers more than 120 online and hybrid classes each semester, in addition to two fully online degree programs: the BA in interdisciplinary studies and bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). The BA in interdisciplinary studies, which can be taken part time online, is notable because students can choose from 21 minors and earn credit for prior life experiences. Note that transferring to GSU is made easy because of the school’s dual degree program, a partnership with 17 Chicagoland community colleges.

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16 Western Illinois University 51.02 3/5 54% Macomb, IL

Established in 1899, Western Illinois University's traditional, residential campus is located in Macomb, with a non-residential metropolitan branch campus in Moline. WIU provides 66 undergraduate and 38 graduate degree programs, two doctorate degrees and 16 certificate programs to approximately 10,000 students. The school’s top majors are law enforcement and justice administration, biology, and agriculture. The school’s signature undergraduate degree programs include forensic chemistry, the first bachelor of fine arts (BFA) in musical theatre program at a public institution in the state, agriculture, engineering, supply chain management and more, including WIU’s law enforcement and justice administration program, which is the largest in the state and is recognized globally for excellence.

One of the online colleges in Illinois, WIU offers a flexible BA in general studies (BGS), a BS in nursing completion program for nurses with an associate degree or a diploma in nursing, an MBA, an MS in instructional design and technology, and an MS.Ed in elementary education. There are also several online undergraduate minors, including fire administration, anthropology, management, women’s studies, computer-mediated communication, marketing, computer science, economics, and pre-MBA.

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17 Aurora University 49.55 3/5 52% Aurora, IL

Aurora is a four-year, independent liberal institution dedicated to the “transformative power of learning.” The school has approximately 5,500 students who are exposed to academic rigor, award-winning faculty, hands-on learning options such as internships, and academic support programs.

One of the online colleges in Illinois, AU offers distance learning that is flexible and convenient in a dynamic and interactive educational environment. Courses are offered year-round in five- to eight-week modules with many opportunities for student interaction with faculty and classmates via discussion boards and chat rooms. Online adult degree completion programs are offered in business administration, computer science, general studies, social work, RN-to-BSN, and criminal justice. Admission requirements for the online adult degree completion programs include two years of work experience and/or military service. AU has generous credit transfer opportunities for courses completed at regionally accredited institutions.

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18 Judson University 48.64 3/5 50% Elgin, IL

An evangelical Christian institution located in Elgin, Judson University infuses a Christian worldview into its curriculum of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in disciplines ranging from liberal arts and architecture to criminal justice and organizational leadership. With fewer than 1,300 students, Judson has a student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1.

Several bachelor’s degrees can be taken online at Judson, one of the best online colleges in Illinois, including business administration, applied psychology, and human services. The BA in applied psychology is a faith-based major preparing students to apply psychological theories and methodologies in problem-solving human behavior challenges in a variety of occupational settings and fields. Judson is affordable, with 99% of students receiving some form of financial aid. All students at Judson have access to many internship and study abroad opportunities, high-tech facilities in which to conduct research, and it is a military friendly school.

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19 Northern Illinois University 45.00 3/5 54% Dekalb, IL

NIU is a world-class, research-focused public institution with an enrollment of about 19,000 students. The school has a catalog of 57 undergraduate and 69 graduate programs, and six pre-professional programs.

NIU is one of the Illinois online colleges with comprehensive offerings; bachelor’s degrees, delivered online using the Blackboard educational platform, can be earned in disciplines such as management, education, health and human services, and manufacturing and engineering technology. Online programs focusing on applied technology include the BS in technology with an emphasis in applied manufacturing technology and the BS in applied management: instructional technology, training, and evaluation.

Distance learners have access to services such as academic advising, tutoring, and career services. NIU notes that online learners receive an education that is affordable and high-quality, have transfer opportunities from an associate degree into a BS program with credit for prior learning, and receive award-winning instruction.

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20 Roosevelt University 39.32 4/5 42% Chicago, IL

Roosevelt is a community of educators and learners who embrace academic and creative excellence and a commitment to social justice. RU offers 70 undergraduate and 46 graduate degree programs in a diverse range of fields. Hallmarks of an education at RU include strong student-faculty interaction and the use of Chicago as a laboratory for learning objectives.

RUOnline began in 2000 as one of the online colleges in Illinois; it now offers bachelor’s programs online incorporating rigorous academics, applied study, and leadership development. Ru’s flex-track bachelor’s degrees are offered in areas such as criminal justice, organizational communication, and strategic management and innovations, and are designed to be taken 100% online or hybrid at an accelerated pace. An online bachelor’s program of note is the BA in interdisciplinary studies, an adult degree completion program in which students design an academic program tailored to their professional interests.

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More About Online Colleges in Illinois

Tuition in Illinois has increased in recent years. In-state tuition in public 4-year schools jumped by 22.7% between 2008 and 2014, while state funding for higher education decreased by nearly 15% in that time. In response, college students have increasingly turned to online programs, where tuition and auxiliary costs are much lower.

Browse our list of the best online colleges in Illinois for more insight into distance learning programs in this state.

NCES Report

According to a recent NCES report, over 10% of Illinois’ higher education students enroll in exclusively online programs, accounting for nearly 100,000 students. Among them:

  • 72.5% were undergraduates
  • 7.9% attended public, four-year schools
  • 57.9% attended private, not-for-profit colleges
  • 60.3% lived outside of Illinois

All 48 Illinois community colleges offer online classes, and additional online education opportunities are sprouting across Illinois’ accredited universities. The state’s acceptance into the Midwestern State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement will further enhance online opportunities in the state. The agreement is a national initiative that makes higher education more accessible to people across state lines through online programs. The initiative, funded by a $3 million dollar grant, affords Illinois students access to online courses and degrees available in partnered states, improving the quality and breadth of the state’s online education programs.

With rigorous, affordable online programs offering marketable degrees, more students will have access to higher education. This will allow students to complete degrees on their own timeline, helping them transition into the career they’ve always wanted. Standing at the forefront of the online education movement, Illinois’ colleges and universities are well-positioned to provide a range of educational opportunities to students for years to come.

Best Online Colleges of Illinois in 2016
Rank School Location
1 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL
2 University of St. Francis-Joliet Joliet, IL
3 Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago, IL
4 Illinois State University Normal, IL
5 University of Illinos at Springfield Springfield, IL
6 Lewis University Romeoville, IL
7 Eastern Illinois University Charleston, IL
8 University of Illinois at Chicago Chicago, IL
9 DePaul University Chicago, IL
10 Dominican University River Forest, IL
11 McKendree University Lebanon, IL
12 Concordia University - Chicago River Forest, IL
13 Judson University Elgin, IL
14 Trinity Christian College Palos Heights, IL
15 Benedictine University Lisle, IL
16 Greenville College Greenville, IL
17 Loyola University Chicago Chicago, IL
18 North Park University Chicago, IL
19 Olivet Nazarene University Bourbonnais, IL
20 Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville Edwardsville, IL
21 National Louis University Chicago, IL
22 Western Illinois University Macomb, IL
23 Trinity International University - Illinois Deerfield, IL
24 Governors State University University Park, IL
25 Lincoln Christian University Lincoln, IL