Best Community Colleges in Illinois

March 5, 2020

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top 10 occupational fields in Illinois include office and administrative support, sales, management, and education. These and other well-paying positions require more than a high school diploma; to remain competitive in the job market, professionals can consider continuing their education at a community college in Illinois.

Unlike traditional four-year colleges and universities, community colleges award associate degrees and professional certificates at lower tuition rates. Graduates can use an associate degree to start a new career or enter a bachelor's completion program at a four-year school. In a bachelor's completion program, students with an associate degree can earn a bachelor's degree in only two years.

Best Community Colleges in Illinois

#1 Frontier Community College Fairfield, IL
#2 Elgin Community College Elgin, IL
#3 Olney Central College Olney, IL
#4 Richland Community College Decatur, IL
#5 Lincoln Trail College Robinson, IL
#6 Morton College Cicero, IL
#7 Lake Land College Mattoon, IL
#8 College of Lake County Grayslake, IL
#9 Danville Area Community College Danville, IL
#10 Rend Lake College Ina, IL

To help you select the right community college in Illinois, we rank the state's best schools below. These rankings consider each school's academic programs, tuition rates, and student support services. In addition to on-campus programs, these schools also boast numerous online learning opportunities. In online programs, degree-seekers can take courses from home; in most cases, they can enroll in an asynchronous format. Asynchronous courses do not have set meeting times, meaning that students can view recorded lectures at their convenience.

Each degree-seeker possess their own academic and support needs. While this ranking is not a comprehensive list of every school in the state, you can learn about some of the factors that comprise a quality school.

Ranking the Best Community Colleges in Illinois

Although this list of Illinois community colleges is a good starting point for your search, do not hesitate to contact colleges directly to learn more information. Admissions representatives can answer many of your questions.

Frontier Community College View School Profile Fairfield, IL

FCC is one of four Illinois Eastern Community College (IECC) institutions on this ranking. The school offers over two dozen academic programs -- including four associate degrees -- that prepare degree-seekers to transfer to a four-year school. This Illinois community college boasts certificates in health informatics, light vehicle diesel service, and phlebotomy, as well as many other programs that prepare learners for in-demand careers.

Degree- and certificate-seekers at all IECC schools use the same distance education program, and each semester students can select from more than 200 online courses. Distance education learners who want face-to-face contact can complete a degree or certificate in a hybrid format, in which some courses take place on FCC's Fairfield campus. The school holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

Like all IECC schools, FCC accepts students who hold a GED certificate. High school students can enroll concurrently with their principal's permission. Incoming degree-seekers interested in institutional aid should submit the school's general scholarships application by the March 15 deadline.

Elgin Community College View School Profile Elgin, IL

With courses available online and on campus, ECC boasts associate degrees for transfer and over 130 career and technical education programs. This community college in Illinois features four campuses throughout the state, in Elgin, Hanover Park, Burlington, and Streamwood.

ECC's program offerings include a citizenship program that helps immigrants pass the U.S. naturalization test. Additionally, Illinois residents ages 50 and over can take a specialized program that conveys valuable networking and job search skills. All degree-seekers use Desire2Learn software to view recorded lectures and submit assignments.

Prospective learners can apply for the spring, summer, or fall semester. As a military friendly school, ECC provides student support services to active-duty military personnel and veterans. Other financial aid opportunities include ECC Foundation Scholarships, which are open to students with a minimum 2.0 GPA.

Olney Central College View School Profile Olney, IL

OCC is another Illinois Eastern Community College institution on this list. The school features a special relationship with Franklin University in Ohio; students who earn an associate degree at OCC can transfer seamlessly to a bachelor's completion program at Franklin. The school offers several certificate programs, such as medical office assistant, professional bookkeeping, and administration of justice.

Online students at OCC can transfer an associate degree to any out-of-state school that participates in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements. All OCC learners receive access to a learning skills center, where they can receive tutoring at no additional cost. This community college in Illinois also offers courses for adult learners preparing for the GED.

OCC extends in-state tuition to some degree- and certificate-seekers who live in western Indiana. Also, online students pay the same tuition as their in-state peers. Learners may qualify for financial aid, and institutional scholarships use different applications and deadlines.

Richland Community College View School Profile Decatur, IL

RCC educates nearly 3,500 students on its Decatur campus annually, most of whom pursue associate degrees. Available associate degrees at this Illinois community college include African American studies, drafting and design engineering, and engineering technology - facilities maintenance. The college also boasts certificate programs in in-demand fields, such as web programming and environmental sustainability.

Online learning programs can be completed part time, full time, or on accelerated tracks. Students use Canvas to complete asynchronous coursework and submit assignments; they also receive free antivirus and productivity software. Learners at RCC benefit from special programs, such as 2+2 agreements with nearby four-year colleges and dual-credit enrollment for Illinois high school students.

RCC helps prospective degree-seekers select a program by explaining how each program prepares degree-seekers for specific career paths. The college also provides information on each career's projected growth rate. Each year, RCC awards over 100 scholarships to eligible students. Veterans and their dependents also benefit from a reduced tuition rate.

Lincoln Trail College View School Profile Robinson, IL

Another Illinois Eastern Community College (IECC) institution, LTC offers four associate programs and over 30 certificate programs. Certificate options at this Illinois community college include computer security and forensics, interconnect technician, and public service management.

LTC also boasts continuing education courses for residents living in and around the school's Robinson campus. Learners can take classes like defensive driving, computer literacy, and GED preparation. Online students benefit from the same courses as their peers at other IECC schools.

LTC accepts new students in the spring, summer, and fall semesters. IECC uses the same application for its four member schools, and the college must receive all application materials at least 30 days before applicants intend to start courses. Financial aid opportunities exclusive to LTC students include general and transfer scholarships. Incoming learners who possess excellent GED scores may qualify for additional financial aid opportunities.

Morton College View School Profile Cicero, IL

Degree-seekers at MC can pursue transfer programs, such as those awarding AA, AS, associate in liberal studies, or associate in fine arts degrees. Students can also prepare directly for a career by enrolling in programs such as accounting, early childhood education, and supply chain management.

Online learners at MC use Blackboard to access asynchronous course content. Some courses may require field trips or small group meetings at set times. To help both online and on-campus students succeed, MC requires that incoming learners complete a five-part orientation process that involves meeting with academic and financial aid advisors.

MC boasts resources to help prospective students apply, transfer credit, and receive financial aid. Incoming degree-seekers with ACT, SAT, or AP scores do not need to take placement tests. Active-duty military personnel automatically qualify for reduced tuition at this community college in Illinois. The college also awards merit scholarships throughout the year. Scholarships require an additional application.

Lake Land College View School Profile Mattoon, IL

Students at LLC can prepare for a bachelor's completion program or a new career. The college's workforce- and transfer-ready programs include horticulture, physics, and secondary education. The college also boasts special admission-track programs, such as dental hygiene and nursing; these admit only the most qualified applicants.

In addition to traditional degrees and certificates, LLC also features four career preparation programs that align with the state's fastest-growing fields, such as truck driving and asphalt inspection. Like many community colleges in Illinois, LLC also offers defensive driving courses to community members who live near campus.

Financial aid opportunities at LLC include Foundation Scholarships that award up to $5,000. Students can submit a single scholarship application -- by the February 1 deadline -- to apply for multiple awards. Incoming in-district students with an excellent high school GPA and test scores may qualify for additional scholarships. Degree-seekers can also set up a tuition payment plan.

College of Lake County View School Profile Grayslake, IL

From its Grayslake campus, CLC awards degrees and certificates in 10 academic areas. The wellness and health sciences department features the largest number of programs, including certified nursing assistant, kinesiology, and yoga. The college's personal enrichment programs include courses that help adult learners master areas like technology, wellness, and photography.

Each year more than 9,000 students enroll in online and hybrid courses at this Illinois community college. Online students use Blackboard to interact with professors and peers. Online course offerings include GED preparation courses and professional development in areas such as business writing and sales.

Applicants to AA and AS programs should possess either a high school diploma or GED certificate. Programs with limited enrollment have additional application steps beyond those required for general admission. This community college in Illinois requires all incoming degree-seekers to meet with financial aid and academic advisors before registering for courses.

Danville Area Community College View School Profile Danville, IL

DACC offers five transfer degrees and two career degrees. Unlike many other community colleges in Illinois, DACC boasts a specialized 3+1 transfer program, where degree-seekers spend only one year taking courses at a four-year school. These students can save thousands of dollars compared to their peers who complete traditional bachelor's completion programs.

DACC uses Blackboard to deliver online course content. All online degree-seekers take an online learning orientation course before attempting academic courses. Some courses may require on-campus proctored testing. Online and on-campus students can access extensive student services like academic advising, student employment, and tutoring.

Prospective learners with a high school diploma or GED certificate can apply. DACC accepts some high school students ages 16 and under, although these learners must submit a permission letter from their principal. More than three-fourths of DACC degree-seekers receive college-funded or federal financial aid. Financial aid opportunities are available for both full- and part-time students.

Rend Lake College View School Profile Ina, IL

RLC's academic programs attract degree-seekers and high school students interested in earning college credit. In fact, high school students who enroll concurrently make up 50% of RLC's student body. The college's six academic departments include international studies, allied health, and arts and sciences. Online learners use Canvas to take courses asynchronously.

Career services at this Illinois community college include career planning surveys and one-on-one advising. RLC also connects degree-seekers with popular career and job search websites and resources. Additionally, the college partners with businesses in the Ina area to post positions and recruit talent.

Applicants submit either a high school diploma or GED scores. Homeschooled students should submit ACT or SAT scores. The Rend Lake College Foundation awards multiple scholarships that require only one application. These award $500-$1,500 but are non-renewable. Work-study programs and need-based grants can also help students pay for their certificate or degree.

Carl Sandburg College View School Profile Galesburg, IL

Sandburg offers five degrees for transfer, 17 program degrees, and 36 career program certificates to students from diverse backgrounds. This community college in Illinois also boasts a reverse transfer program, in which students who earned some credit at a four-year school can apply that credit toward an associate degree at Sandburg.

Academically gifted degree-seekers who possess a minimum 3.5 high school GPA can apply to Sandburg's Honors Program. Honors students take two honors courses and complete a project that involves community service or a research paper. Honors students must stay in good academic standing by maintaining a minimum 3.0 GPA and earning a "B" or better in both honors courses.

Incoming degree-seekers can apply for Foundation Scholarships between October 1 and March 15. The college also awards six additional scholarships, each with its own application requirements, such as academic excellence or residency in a specific county.

Sauk Valley Community College View School Profile Dixon, IL

In addition to associate degrees and certificates, SVCC offers college-preparation tracks, including a dual-credit program for high school students. This community college in Illinois also offers an academy exclusively for high school seniors, where learners complete all of their general education core courses in one year.

Transfer degrees at SVCC include psychology, secondary education, and nursing. Some academic programs feature multiple degrees and certificates, and the school offers 10 degrees entirely online. Students gain access to the college's Business Services/Career Services Center where they can receive resume critiques, practice interviewing skills, and explore potential careers.

Prospective degree-seekers can apply for the summer, fall, or spring semester. Transfer applicants should possess at least 12 credits. SVCC posts new scholarship opportunities each month; each scholarship requires a separate application, and requirements may vary.

Waubonsee Community College View School Profile Sugar Grove, IL

At WCC, students can choose from four academic options: transfer programs, career programs, individual courses, and professional development. Degree-seekers planning to transfer to a bachelor's completion program can complete an AA or AS degree. WCC boasts transfer agreements with over two dozen colleges and universities throughout the Midwest. Unlike many other Illinois community colleges, WCC does not ask students to select a major. Instead, learners choose an area of concentration.

Online degree-seekers can select from four-, eight-, or 12-week courses. They use Blackboard to access asynchronous course content. Learners who plan to earn a degree on campus but still desire a flexible education can take evening or weekend courses. This community college in Illinois runs campuses in Sugar Grove, Aurora Downtown, Aurora Fox Valley, and Plano.

WCC has different application requirements for new, transfer, returning, and international students. Prospective degree-seekers can attend a virtual workshop that explains the application process. Each year, WCC awards over 150 scholarships to incoming students.

Wabash Valley College View School Profile Mount Carmel, IL

Another Illinois Eastern Community College (IECC) institution, WVC educates approximately 1,100 students on its Mount Carmel campus and online. The college was the second to join IECC in 1960 and offers the same transfer degrees as other IECC schools. Students earning a certificate can major in areas such as gunsmithing, coal mining maintenance, and truck driving.

Adult and continuing education programs at this Illinois community college include GED-preparation courses, computer literacy, and adult literacy. WVC participates in the Federal TRIO Program, and the college also provides local high school students with college counseling services. Undergraduates may also be able to receive tutoring at no additional cost.

Incoming students may qualify for scholarships exclusive to WVC. The college boasts over 20 scholarships open to all learners; these financial aid opportunities have a March 29 deadline. Transfer students may qualify for additional financial aid opportunities.

Southeastern Illinois College View School Profile Harrisburg, IL

SIC boasts both career- and transfer-orientated AA and AS programs, as well as a GED-preparation course for adult learners. This community college in Illinois also features many community education programs open to residents living in and around Harrisburg, including firearms training, food handler training, and a career exploration camp for young adults.

SIC offers specialized students services, including highly trained advisors who work exclusively with online and first-generation students. Online students can select from four associate degrees and 13 certificates. Learners earning a certificate can specialize in biodiesel production, accounting, or early childhood education, among other in-demand fields.

Incoming learners can skip placement tests if they possess a 20 or higher on the ACT or if they earned a "C" or better in a college-level math or English course. SIC awards programmatic scholarships in over a dozen fields. Degree-seekers in art-related programs may qualify for additional scholarships. Application requirements include a 750-1,000-word essay and official transcripts.

City Colleges of Chicago-Richard J Daley College View School Profile Chicago, IL

Richard J. Daley College has provided Chicago residents with excellent academic programs since 1960. Incoming learners can select from traditional for-credit programs, adult education, online learning, continuing education, and programs for high school students. The college boasts both dual-credit and dual-enrollment options for high schoolers living in the Chicago metropolitan area.

Distance learners can access the same virtual and on-campus student services as on-campus learners. Some courses may ask learners to take proctored exams on campus. Unlike other Illinois community colleges on this ranking, Richard J. Daley College requires that all online students reside in Illinois. The college delivers both accelerated 12-week and traditional 16-week courses.

Richard J. Daley College features six start dates throughout the year, although the college uses fall and spring scholarship deadlines. Degree-seekers can submit one scholarship application each semester.

Lewis and Clark Community College View School Profile Godfrey, IL

With three campuses in Godfrey, Edwardsville, and East Alton, L&C brings degree and certificate programs to students living throughout southwestern Illinois. Popular certificates include music production, criminal justice, and paramedicine. Online programs are available for both degree-seekers and individuals interested in professional and personal enrichment.

L&C boasts an Honors College. As students prepare to transfer to a bachelor's completion program, they complete service projects and original research. The Honors Program also provides smaller class sizes and an exclusive mentorship program. Degree-seekers in the Honors Program also receive a discount on on-campus housing fees.

Prospective L&C students can apply for the spring, summer, or fall semester. This community college in Illinois accepts transfer credit and awards credit based on incoming students' Advanced Placement scores. College and departmental scholarships award up to $1,000 in financial aid. Illinois residents may qualify for additional state-funded scholarships.

Kankakee Community College View School Profile Kankakee, IL

From its Kankakee campus, KCC offers 18 associate degrees for transfer and six academic departments that confer career-aligned associate degrees and certificates. Popular programs include business, health, and technology. Career-aligned degrees -- like transfer degrees -- require approximately 65 credits. Students at this Illinois community college can also select from more than 20 clubs and organizations.

In addition to awarding degrees and certificates, KCC partners with community organizations to provide residents with free or low-cost courses in computer literacy, professional development, and switching careers. The college also works with local businesses to design and implement employee-training programs.

In addition to a high school diploma, applicants to degree programs must complete specific high school prerequisites. Prospective degree-seekers who possess a GED and at least 24 transferable undergraduate credits may also apply. KCC posts new institutional and private scholarship opportunities throughout the year. These $250-$2,500 awards have different application requirements and deadlines.

Harper College View School Profile Palatine, IL

Located in Palatine, Harper offers associate degrees and certificates in 10 areas of interest. The college awards seven types of associate degrees, three of which transfer to Illinois public colleges and universities. Typical degree-seekers who have not yet picked a major can earn an associate of general studies. This degree fulfills general education requirements for a bachelor's degree.

Online and on-campus students can access seven academic support centers at this Illinois community college, including an anatomy room, developmental math center, and tutoring center. Harper offers one associate degree and four professional certificates entirely online. Other degrees and certificates allow students to study in a hybrid format. Online courses use Blackboard.

Incoming degree-seekers interested in Harper's Honors Program must submit an additional application. Each year, nearly 10,000 students at Harper receive a college-funded scholarship. Students submit only one application to apply to all scholarship opportunities. Learners who do not qualify for scholarships can still receive financial aid through an on-campus work-study program.

City Colleges of Chicago-Wilbur Wright College View School Profile Chicago, IL

Wright College offers degrees and certificates in 10 focus areas, including information technology, healthcare, and construction technology. At this community college in Illinois, students can earn an associate degree by taking 16-, 12-, or eight-week courses. Accelerated courses may be suitable for learners who can dedicate themselves fully to a program.

Online and on-campus learners can access Wright College's extensive student support services, such as transfer advisors and a Career Planning and Placement Department. In addition to working with students one-on-one, career advisors research the latest job opportunities in the Chicago area and post them to the Wright College website.

Prospective students can apply for the spring, summer, or fall semester. In-district learners -- including Chicago residents and students who work full time within the city limits -- save approximately 75% on tuition compared to out-of-state degree-seekers. Wright College offers new scholarships in the spring and fall semesters; scholarships require a separate application.

Oakton Community College View School Profile Des Plaines, IL

With two campuses just outside Chicago, Oakton boasts dozens of associate degrees in areas such as accounting, manufacturing technology, and nursing. Like many other Illinois community colleges, Oakton also awards an associate of general studies to students who have not yet chosen their academic major.

Online learning opportunities at Oakton include one AA degree and several certificate programs. Students learn asynchronously through the Desire2Learn course management system. Some online courses may require hybrid components, including field experiences and occasional on-campus course meetings. On-campus and online learners receive access to academic tutoring, counseling, and career advising services.

Admission to Oakton requires a 10-step process that involves submitting transcripts, attending an orientation, and taking placement exams (if applicable). Incoming learners submit a separate scholarship application. The college also helps degree-seekers explore private scholarship and grant opportunities.

John Wood Community College View School Profile Quincy, IL

Based in western Illinois, JWCC offers numerous transfer degrees, technical degrees, and certificates. Transfer degrees include AA, AS, and associate in fine arts options; most transfer degrees involve humanities and natural science topics. Students can pursue beef specialist, industrial welding, and nursing assistant certificates.

Learners have the option of open or online learning. In an open learning course, students work one-on-one with a professor and finish in 8-16 weeks, depending on the course. Online courses at JWCC use Canvas. The college offers prospective students detailed instructional videos on how to succeed at learning online.

Applicants must possess either a high school diploma or GED certificate. The college also considers transfer credits on a case-by-case basis. JWCC awards eight types of scholarships each year, and each scholarship uses a different deadline and unique application requirements. JWCC also offers work-study programs to help students pay for their degree.

Kaskaskia College View School Profile Centralia, IL

Southern Illinois residents can complete associate programs or professional certificates at KC. The school boasts 48 degrees and over 100 certificates in fields such as accounting, criminal justice, and the humanities. Each degree page on KC's website provides prospective students with information concerning learning outcomes and potential careers. Learners should note that some programs may require on-site training or field trips.

This Illinois community college provides 13 academic programs that students can complete entirely online. Many other programs also offer hybrid options, and KC undergraduates can select from over 500 online courses each semester. Students receive 24/7 access to IT support, as well as free tutoring and career-planning services through KC's Academic Center for Excellence.

Students must submit FAFSA results, take placement tests, and attend a mandatory new student orientation. In-state students save approximately 60% on tuition compared to their out-of-state peers. Degree-seekers interested in college-funded scholarships only need to submit one scholarship application.

Rock Valley College View School Profile Rockford, IL

Students at RVC can select a degree or certificate in one of 11 academic fields, including business and mathematics. This community college in Illinois boasts over 30 transfer degrees in areas such as economics, geography, and philosophy; however, these degrees may not transfer seamlessly to schools outside of Illinois. Students earning a career-oriented degree can complete a program in one of over 20 subjects.

RVC boasts seven student support services, including the only behavior intervention team (BIT) at any community college on this ranking. BIT intervenes when a student's behavior concerns or alarms others. BIT creates and implements an intervention plan with the goals of reducing negative behavior and ensuring that all students can learn in a safe environment.

As RVC offers both short- and long-term courses, incoming learners can start a program at one of many points throughout the year. RVC awards nearly 300 Foundation Scholarships annually. Learners must maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA to qualify for scholarships and other college-funded financial aid opportunities.

McHenry County College View School Profile Crystal Lake, IL

Located in northern Illinois, MCC serves residents and students throughout the state. The college offers degrees for transfer, noncredit courses, and professional development programs. Certificate programs at this Illinois community college include administrative office skills, baking and pastry assistant, and emergency medical technician.

Besides conferring degrees and certificates, MCC provides community members with valuable continuing education opportunities. Immigrants can complete an on-campus citizenship or ESL course. Learners of all ages can also prepare for a driver's license test by taking a course in traffic safety. Additionally, adult learners who dropped out of high school can prepare for the GED and take the examination on campus.

Prospective students must possess either a high school diploma or GED certificate. Degree-seekers can look for scholarship opportunities on the school's scholarship website, and MCC posts new scholarships throughout the year. Application requirements and awards vary.

Click here to see the best colleges in Illinois.
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