2022 Top Public Colleges and Universities in Illinois

Public colleges and universities are often the most affordable option for students pursuing higher education, but it’s not just affordability that makes these institutions attractive. Public institutions also rank highly among the best colleges and universities in many states, Illinois included.

Public colleges and universities receive state and federal funding. Although they generally have larger class sizes than private institutions, they also tend to offer a wide variety of academic programs, diverse student bodies, and prestigious research opportunities.

2022 Best Public Colleges and Universities in Illinois

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering transparent, inclusive, and relevant school rankings.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

This site is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Showing 30 schools

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    Avg Tuition per YearTuition is the price you pay to attend classes. Tuition varies by school, and does not include costs associated with room and board, books, school supplies, meal plans, or transportation.

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    #1

    University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

    Champaign, IL

    Graduation Rate

    86%

    Enrollment

    52,679

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $14317

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $33824

    From its campus in Champaign, Illinois, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign awards degrees as a top school. Students choose from multiple degree-granting programs and courses. With academic and technical tracks, the school's programs help learners meet their professional goals. Students can earn an associate degree in two years, a bachelor's degree in four years, a master's degree in 1-2 years, or a doctoral degree in 3-7 years. Some programs offer a waiver for standardized test scores. Flexible admission score requirements make it easier to enroll. Admission advisors can provide additional information on submitting an application. Degree-seekers also use financial aid to cover their educational costs. The school is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    #2

    Frontier Community College

    Fairfield, IL

    Graduation Rate

    72%

    Enrollment

    1,262

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $8902

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $10928

    A public institution, Frontier Community College enrolls students on its campus in Fairfield, Illinois. The school offers academic and technical programs to help learners reach their educational goals. Students prepare for a successful career by completing the program's coursework. Applicants may qualify for a test score waiver. The waiver makes it simpler to apply. Enrollees receive support in the form of tutoring and career services. Data on the school's average cost per credit is currently unavailable. The accredited school qualifies for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. The school holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, an independent accrediting body.

    #3

    Lincoln Trail College

    Robinson, IL

    Graduation Rate

    54%

    Enrollment

    723

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $8902

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $10928

    Lincoln Trail College enrolls learners from its Robinson, Illinois campus. Enrollees take courses with experts in diverse disciplines. With academic and technical tracks, the school offers programs for students with a variety of professional goals. Academic programs generally take anywhere from a few months to several years to complete depending on degree or certificate type. Applicants may qualify for test-optional admissions. A test score waiver makes it easier to apply. The admissions department provides more information about the application process. Financial aid helps degree-seekers pay for their education. The school holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

    #4

    Elgin Community College

    Elgin, IL

    Graduation Rate

    42%

    Enrollment

    7,882

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $7128

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $9504

    From its campus in Elgin, Illinois, Elgin Community College offers academic programs as a public institution. Students leave the school with experience and credentials that prepare them for the workforce. The institution offers affordable programs that do not sacrifice academic rigor. Several of the school's programs appear in national rankings. Data on the school's average cost per credit is currently unavailable. Degree-seekers at this accredited institution may qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Students receive $4565 in aid on average, lowering the average tuition cost after aid to $4159. Learners choose from academic and technical programs. Depending on their program, enrollees complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. The school is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    #5

    Olney Central College

    Olney, IL

    Graduation Rate

    59%

    Enrollment

    906

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $8902

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $10928

    From its campus in Olney, Illinois, Olney Central College enrolls students as a public institution. Learners take courses with experts in diverse disciplines. Students who complete an academic or technical program enter the workforce or pursue a bachelor's degree. The amount students pay per credit on average is currently unknown. At the accredited institution, students qualify for financial aid, including federal loans, scholarships, and grants. The institution reports that 98% of students receive aid, and 10% receive loans. The public institution reports a graduation rate of 59%. The school's admission rate is unavailable. Admissions advisors can provide more information about application requirements and start dates. Olney Central College has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, an independent accrediting body.

    #6

    University of Illinois Chicago

    Chicago, IL

    Graduation Rate

    63%

    Enrollment

    33,518

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $12105

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $26726

    A public institution, University of Illinois Chicago enrolls students on its campus in Chicago, Illinois. With both academic and technical programs, the institution helps students reach their professional goals. During a bachelor's degree, enrollees take lower-division and upper-division coursework. Undergraduates also complete general education classes. In upper-division classes, students learn advanced concepts in their major. The school provides support such as tutoring and career services. The college charges an average of 750 per credit. At the accredited school, learners qualify for federal student aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. University of Illinois Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    #7

    William Rainey Harper College

    Palatine, IL

    Graduation Rate

    35%

    Enrollment

    12,199

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $9372

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $11184

    William Rainey Harper College offers programs from its campus in Palatine, Illinois. Students take courses with experts in diverse disciplines. The school's academic and technical tracks help learners meet diverse career goals. Check the program website for specifics on the degree- or certificate-completion timeline. Some programs may no longer require standardized tests for admission. The waiver makes it simpler to enroll. The admissions department can help prospective students complete their application. At the accredited institution, learners also qualify for financial aid to pay for school. William Rainey Harper College has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    #8

    Moraine Valley Community College

    Palos Hills, IL

    Graduation Rate

    29%

    Enrollment

    11,026

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $7584

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $8880

    From its campus in Palos Hills, Illinois, Moraine Valley Community College enrolls students as a public institution. Experts in diverse disciplines teach at the institution. Students who complete a technical or academic program may enter the workforce. The amount students pay per credit on average is unknown. Enrollees at the accredited institution qualify for federal financial aid, including grants and loans. The institution reports that 66% of learners receive financial aid, while 5% take out loans. Learners graduate from the school at a rate of 29%. The school's admission rate is unavailable. Prospective students can contact an admission advisor to learn more about applying. The school holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

    #9

    Waubonsee Community College

    Sugar Grove, IL

    Graduation Rate

    34%

    Enrollment

    7,564

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $9079

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $9884

    Waubonsee Community College, located in Sugar Grove, Illinois, offers 119 programs for degree-seekers. Degree-seekers benefit from rigorous programs that rank among the best in the nation. The school reports a 18-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. According to the institution, 54% of enrollees receive some form of financial aid. Students earn their degree from the school at a rate of 34%. Real-world experience helps candidates stand out on the job market. The admission rate is unknown at this time. Some programs provide a test-optional admission option. Prospective students can contact the admissions office for more information about applying.

    #10

    Lewis and Clark Community College

    Godfrey, IL

    Graduation Rate

    51%

    Enrollment

    4,683

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $9000

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $12000

    Lewis and Clark Community College, located in Godfrey, Illinois, often ranks as one of the best schools. Instructors bring expertise in their fields. With academic and technical tracks, the programs help learners reach a variety of career goals. Visit the program's website to find information on the typical timeline for completion. Applicants may qualify for a test score waiver. Flexible admission score requirements make it easier to apply. The admissions department can help prospective students complete their application. Degree-seekers also use financial aid to cover their educational costs. Lewis and Clark Community College has received accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, an independent accrediting body.

    #11

    College of Lake County

    Grayslake, IL

    Graduation Rate

    32%

    Enrollment

    11,854

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $9016

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $12208

    From its campus in Grayslake, Illinois, College of Lake County enrolls students as a public institution. Degree-seekers take courses with experts in diverse disciplines. The school offers academic and technical programs for students planning to enter the workforce or pursue further studies. The institution's cost per credit is unknown. At the accredited institution, degree-seekers qualify for financial aid, including federal loans, scholarships, and grants. A total of 50% of students receive financial aid and 2% take out loans at the institution. The public institution reports a 32% graduation rate. The school's admission rate is unavailable. Prospective students can contact the admissions department for more details about application requirements. College of Lake County has received accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

    #12

    Lake Land College

    Mattoon, IL

    Graduation Rate

    47%

    Enrollment

    3,862

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $7139

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $12940

    A public institution, Lake Land College educates students on its campus in Mattoon, Illinois. With both academic and technical programs, the school helps learners reach their career goals. Students prepare for a successful career by completing degree- or certificate-specific coursework. Some programs may let applicants apply without submitting test scores. Test-optional policies make it easier to enroll. The school supports learners with tutoring and career services. The school's cost per credit is unknown. The accredited school qualifies for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Lake Land College holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

    #13

    Oakton Community College

    Des Plaines, IL

    Graduation Rate

    28%

    Enrollment

    7,313

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $10276

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $12292

    Oakton Community College, located in Des Plaines, Illinois, enrolls students in 123 programs. Degree-seekers benefit from rigorous programs that rank among the best in the nation. The school reports a 14-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. Approximately 55% of students use some form of financial aid to pay for their education at the school. Students in the school's programs graduate at a rate of 28%. The institution understands that real-world experience helps job seekers stand out. The school's admission rate is unknown at this time. Applicants may qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores. The admission department can provide more information about application requirements and start dates.

    #14

    Carl Sandburg College

    Galesburg, IL

    Graduation Rate

    36%

    Enrollment

    1,755

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $7140

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $7952

    Carl Sandburg College, which is often listed among the best schools, operates from its main campus in Galesburg, Illinois. Students study with experts in many different fields. The school's academic and technical tracks help students meet diverse career goals. Enrollees earn their degree or certificate in as little time as a few months or as much time as seven years depending on program type and enrollment status. Some programs may let applicants apply without submitting test scores. A waiver makes it easier to apply. The admissions department can provide more information on the process. Degree-seekers at the accredited institution also qualify for financial aid to cover costs. Carl Sandburg College holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, an independent accrediting body.

    #15

    Rend Lake College

    Ina, IL

    Graduation Rate

    56%

    Enrollment

    1,802

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $5250

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $6000

    A public institution, Rend Lake College grants degrees and certificates from its campus in Ina, Illinois. Learners study with experts in many different fields. The school's academic and technical programs prepare graduates for the workforce or further study. The school's cost per credit is unknown. At the accredited school, enrollees qualify for financial aid, including federal loans, scholarships, and grants. The institution reports that 93% of students receive aid, and 0% receive loans. The public school reports a graduation rate of 56%. The institution's admission rate is unknown at this time. The admission department can provide more information about application requirements. The school is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, an independent accrediting body.

    #16

    Sauk Valley Community College

    Dixon, IL

    Graduation Rate

    46%

    Enrollment

    1,386

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $11588

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $12218

    A public institution, Sauk Valley Community College grants degrees from its campus in Dixon, Illinois. The college offers academic and technical programs to help learners reach their educational goals. The institution's degree and certificate programs offer coursework that prepares learners for a career in their field. Applicants may qualify for test-optional admissions. Test-optional policies make it easier to apply. Enrollees receive support in the form of tutoring and career services. The amount students pay per credit on average is currently unknown. Learners at the accredited school can pay for their educational costs with federal student aid programs. The school holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, an independent accrediting body.

    #17

    Danville Area Community College

    Danville, IL

    Graduation Rate

    43%

    Enrollment

    2,171

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $7500

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $7500

    From its campus in Danville, Illinois, Danville Area Community College enrolls students as a public institution. Degree-seekers take courses with experts in diverse disciplines. The college offers academic and technical programs that prepare graduates for the workforce. Data on the school's average cost per credit is currently unavailable. Students can fund their education with financial aid such as federal loans, scholarships, and grants. The institution reports that 85% of learners receive financial aid, while 5% take out loans. The institution reports a 43% graduation rate. The rate of admission for the school is unknown. Admissions advisors can provide more information about application requirements and start dates. The school holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

    #18

    McHenry County College

    Crystal Lake, IL

    Graduation Rate

    32%

    Enrollment

    7,814

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $11345

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $14104

    From its campus in Crystal Lake, Illinois, McHenry County College enrolls students in programs as a public institution. Students leave the school with experience and credentials that prepare them for the workforce. The institution offers academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Several of the school's programs appear in national rankings. The cost per credit is unknown. Students attending the accredited institution may qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. Students receive $5822 in aid on average, lowering the average tuition cost after aid to $6768. Degree-seekers choose from academic and technical programs at the institution. Based on their major, students take essential courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. The school holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

    #19

    Governors State University

    University Park, IL

    Graduation Rate

    24%

    Enrollment

    4,650

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $7512

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $15024

    Located in Illinois, Governors State University enrolls students in 90 programs. Students enroll in top-ranked programs that offer a rigorous course of study. The school has a student-to-faculty ratio of 11-to-1. A total of 90% of students receive some form of financial aid. The school reports a 24% graduation rate for bachelor's programs. The institution's commitment to experiential learning helps students enter the workforce. Enrollees benefit from internships, research opportunities, and other forms of service learning. Prospective learners can expect admission rates of 48%. Some students qualify for test-optional admissions.

    #20

    Eastern Illinois University

    Charleston, IL

    Graduation Rate

    51%

    Enrollment

    8,626

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $9036

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $11231

    Eastern Illinois University, located in Charleston, Illinois, offers 124 programs for degree-seekers. Degree-seekers enroll in top-ranked programs that offer a rigorous course of study. The school holds a student-to-faculty ratio of 14-to-1. The institution reports that 98% of students receive some form of financial aid. Students in the school's programs graduate at a rate of 51%. Experiential learning opportunities help graduates on the job market. Hopeful learners can expect admission rates of 56%. Some programs provide a test-optional admission option. Applicants can reach out to the admissions office to learn more about enrolling.

    #21

    Wabash Valley College

    Mount Carmel, IL

    Graduation Rate

    61%

    Enrollment

    2,222

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $8902

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $10928

    From its campus in Mount Carmel, Illinois, Wabash Valley College awards degrees and certificates as a top school. Experts in diverse disciplines teach at the institution. Academic and technical programs help students reach their professional goals. Academic programs generally take anywhere from a few months to several years to complete depending on degree or certificate type. Some programs may offer test-optional admission policies. These policies make it easier to enroll. Admission advisors can help applicants complete the process. Financial aid helps degree-seekers pay for their education. The school is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    #22

    University of Illinois Springfield

    Springfield, IL

    Graduation Rate

    55%

    Enrollment

    4,146

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $9592

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $16120

    From its campus in Springfield, Illinois, University of Illinois Springfield awards degrees as a public institution. Instructors bring expertise in their fields. The school's academic and technical programs prepare graduates for the workforce or further study. The amount students pay per credit on average is currently unknown. Students can fund their education with financial aid such as federal loans, scholarships, and grants. According to the institution, 98% of students receive aid and 45% receive loans. The public institution reports a 55% graduation rate. The admission rate is 77% for new students. Prospective applicants can contact the admission department for more information about applying. The school is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    #23

    Rock Valley College

    Rockford, IL

    Graduation Rate

    36%

    Enrollment

    5,762

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $8790

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $16470

    Rock Valley College, located in Rockford, Illinois, enrolls students as a public institution. With both academic and technical programs, the school helps learners reach their career goals. The institution's degree and certificate programs offer coursework that prepares learners for a career in their field. Applicants may qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores. A test score waiver makes it easier to apply. Enrollees receive support in the form of tutoring and career services. The institution's cost per credit is unknown. At the accredited school, learners qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. Rock Valley College holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, an independent accrediting body.

    #24

    Morton College

    Cicero, IL

    Graduation Rate

    21%

    Enrollment

    3,618

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $7552

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $9600

    From its campus in Cicero, Illinois, Morton College awards degrees and certificates as a top school. Instructors bring expertise in their fields. With academic and technical tracks, the programs help learners reach a variety of career goals. Check the program website for specifics on the degree- or certificate-completion timeline. Applicants may qualify for a test score waiver. This makes it easier to enroll. The admissions staff can provide more information on the process. At the accredited institution, enrollees also qualify for financial aid to pay for school. Morton College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, an independent accrediting body.

    #25

    Richland Community College

    Decatur, IL

    Graduation Rate

    43%

    Enrollment

    2,235

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $5790

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $13950

    Richland Community College, located in Decatur, Illinois, enrolls students in 127 programs. Students enjoy rigorous programs that rank among the best in the nation. The school has a student-to-faculty ratio of 14-to-1. The institution reports that of its total enrollees, 95% receive financial aid. The public institution reports a graduation rate of 43%. The institution's commitment to experiential learning makes graduates more competitive. The school's admission rate is currently unknown. Some programs waive the test score requirement for qualified applicants. The admissions office provides more information about application requirements and start dates.

    #26

    Lincoln Land Community College

    Springfield, IL

    Graduation Rate

    38%

    Enrollment

    4,977

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $6384

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $9576

    From its campus in Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln Land Community College educates students as a public institution. The school offers accredited programs that prepare students for a successful career. Learners benefit from academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Several of the school's programs appear in national rankings. The cost per credit is unknown. Degree-seekers at the accredited school may qualify for federal financial aid, including the Pell Grant. Current students receive an average aid award of $5735, lowering the average tuition cost after aid to $5495. Degree-seekers choose from academic and technical programs at the institution. The school offers foundational courses, technical classes, and general education courses in multiple majors. Lincoln Land Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, an independent accrediting body.

    #27

    Illinois Central College

    East Peoria, IL

    Graduation Rate

    39%

    Enrollment

    7,813

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $9240

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $11310

    Located in East Peoria, Illinois, Illinois Central College awards degrees and certificates as a public institution. Students learn from experts in multiple disciplines. Students who complete an academic or technical program enter the workforce or pursue a bachelor's degree. The amount students pay per credit on average is currently unknown. Students can fund their education with financial aid such as federal loans, scholarships, and grants. According to the institution, 62% of students receive aid and 10% receive loans. The public institution reports a graduation rate of 39%. The school's admission rate is currently unknown. The admissions office provides more information about application requirements and start dates. Illinois Central College holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

    #28

    Illinois Valley Community College

    Oglesby, IL

    Graduation Rate

    41%

    Enrollment

    2,413

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $13000

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $14000

    Illinois Valley Community College enrolls learners from its Oglesby, Illinois campus. Enrollees study with experts in many different fields. With academic and technical tracks, the programs help students reach a variety of career goals. Depending on the degree or certificate type, enrollees can spend anywhere from a few months up to as many as seven years completing a program. Many schools no longer require admissions tests such as ACT or SAT. Test-optional policies make it easier to apply. The admissions department can provide additional resources on applying. Financial aid provides options for degree-seekers to pay for their education. The school is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    #29

    Illinois State University

    Normal, IL

    Graduation Rate

    68%

    Enrollment

    20,720

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $10741

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $19904

    Illinois State University, which offers on-campus and programs from its Normal, Illinois campus, often ranks among the top colleges. The college offers a variety of degree-granting programs and courses. The programs offer academic and technical tracks to help students meet their career goals. Learners can earn an associate degree in two years, a bachelor's degree in four years, a master's degree in 1-2 years, or a doctoral degree in 3-7 years. Depending on the program, applicants may need to submit test scores. The waiver makes it simpler to apply. The admissions department can help prospective students complete their application. Financial aid helps enrollees cover their educational expenses. Illinois State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    #30

    City Colleges of Chicago-Wilbur Wright College

    Chicago, IL

    Graduation Rate

    25%

    Enrollment

    7,946

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $11520

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $14430

    Located in Chicago, Illinois, City Colleges of Chicago-Wilbur Wright College is a public institution that offers multiple programs. Students complete programs that prepare them for careers and professional advancement. Learners benefit from the school's academic rigor and affordable tuition rate. Several of the school's programs appear in national rankings. Data on the school's average cost per credit is unavailable. As an accredited institution, degree-seekers qualify for federal student aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. Students receive an average aid award of $5400, lowering the average tuition cost after aid to $2642. The institution offers both academic and technical programs. Depending on their program, enrollees complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. City Colleges of Chicago-Wilbur Wright College holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, an independent accrediting body.

    Why Choose a Public College or College or University in Illinois?

    The Prairie State is home to 63 public colleges and universities — including two-year and four-year colleges — and 187 private for-profit and nonprofit schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

    Students and their families are often motivated by cost when choosing a public college or university rather than a private college. Illinois, a member of the Midwest Student Exchange Program, also offers tuition reciprocity to residents in participating states such as Michigan. Additionally, public colleges and universities in Illinois offer far more than just an affordable education.

    Public institutions often have larger research facilities and program offerings. However, private Illinois colleges like Northwestern University — with 90 school-based research centers and 40 university research institutes and centers — also have vast research facilities.

    Public college students can also enjoy more extracurricular and campus activities because public schools in Illinois have higher enrollment numbers than private colleges. Discover the top public colleges and universities in Illinois. Learn how much it costs to attend a school in the state and how to pick the right college.

    Pros and Cons of Attending a Public College or University in Illinois

    Pros

    • Check Circle
      More affordable tuition since public colleges and universities receive federal and state aid
    • Check Circle
      Greater demographic diversity
    • Check Circle
      More available majors and minors, as well as certificates
    • Check Circle
      Exciting campus life with more social, civic, and extracurricular activities
    • Check Circle
      A high-quality education at a lower price

    Cons

    • X Circle
      Less interest-free financial aid than private schools with large endowments
    • X Circle
      Less geographic diversity
    • X Circle
      Larger class sizes and overall enrollment
    • X Circle
      Less personal atmosphere and less one-on-one time with instructors
    • X Circle
      Potentially less prestige and lower earnings among graduates

    Nonprofit vs. For-Profit Colleges and Universities in Illinois

    Nonprofit colleges and universities, also called not-for-profit schools, receive public funding from the state and federal government. These institutions usually hold institutional accreditation, signifying the school’s outcomes, curriculum, and facilities have been vetted. Public colleges and universities such as the University of Illinois and Chicago State University qualify as nonprofits even though they profit from tuition and other sources. Tuition and funding from endowments and private donations at a nonprofit go toward educational programs, research, and faculty salaries.

    For-profit colleges and universities are run by shareholders in order to make a profit. Revenue may go toward marketing efforts instead of research and education. Graduates of for-profit colleges and universities, which do not always hold accreditation, may receive a lower quality education. Students at for-profit schools more often have unfavorable graduation outcomes and less success in finding jobs. Employers may also look down on for-profit schools. That said, the pros of for-profit schools, such as higher acceptance rates, should not be overlooked. Some for-profit colleges also train students for specific vocations with flexible and quick programs.

    The NCES College Navigator lists all for-profit and nonprofit colleges in Illinois.

    How Much Does It Cost to Attend a Public College or University in Illinois?

    Public colleges and universities in Illinois typically cost less than private schools. According to NCES, Illinois residents attending public four-year colleges paid an average of roughly $14,460 in tuition and fees during the 2019-2020 academic year. Private four-year college students paid $35,570 in tuition and fees during the same period. In-state students at public two-year colleges in Illinois paid an average of about $4,040 in 2019-2020.

    Factors such as residency status can make attending a public college or university expensive. Out-of-state students at public four-year colleges in Illinois paid $29,515 for tuition and fees in 2019-2020, according to NCES. Two-year schools in Illinois charged out-of-state students $11,450 during the same year.

    Tuition costs for out-of-state students vary by school and program. For instance, Northeastern Illinois University charges about $20,180 in tuition for out-of-state students during the 2022-2023 academic year. For out-of-state students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, tuition and fees cost $35,110-$42,800.

    In addition, students must factor in other expenses such as transportation, books, and health. According to NCES, public colleges in Illinois also charged about $6,140 for room and $5,210 for board during the 2019-2020 academic year. Private colleges charged roughly $7,700 and $5,800 for room and board, respectively.

    Nonetheless, despite common misconceptions, not all students borrow money to pay for college. Private and public schools offer financial aid packages, such as grants and scholarships that do not require repayment.

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    Frequently Asked Questions About Public Colleges and Universities in Illinois

    How many public colleges and universities are there in Illinois?

    Illinois has 63 public schools, including 12 four-year colleges and 51 two-year schools.

    Two-year schools include Black Hawk College, Capital Area School of Practical Nursing, Carl Sandburg College, the City Colleges of Chicago system, College of DuPage, College of Lake County, Danville Area Community College, and Elgin Community College.

    Public four-year colleges include Chicago State University, Eastern Illinois University, Governors State University, Illinois State University, Northeastern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University, University of Illinois Chicago, University of Illinois Springfield, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Western Illinois University.

    What is the most expensive public college or university in Illinois?

    The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign charges the highest in-state tuition of all the public colleges and universities in Illinois. During the 2022-2023 academic year, in-state students pay about $17,140-$22,320 in tuition and fees.

    Each program at the University of Illinois schools charges a different tuition rate. Business students pay about $38,740 in tuition, fees, and expenses. Engineering, technology, and management for agricultural systems students pay about $36,140 for tuition and fees.

    College tuition across the nation has continued to increase each year since 1980, with students paying 170% more now than they did 40 years ago.

    What is the least expensive public college or university in Illinois?

    As of 2022, students who attend Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville pay about $9,120 annually for tuition and an additional $12,980 for general student fees and room and board. Eastern Illinois University also charges lower tuition than many schools, with students paying $9,660 annually during the 2022-2023 academic year, not including fees. Chicago State University undergraduates paid about $13,660 a year as of 2021.

    Tuition rates differ for undergraduate and graduate students. Out-of-state fees and international student rates can make Illinois’ most affordable public colleges cost as much as a private institution.

    What is the biggest public college or university in Illinois?

    The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is the biggest public institution in Illinois. The school boasted a total student enrollment of 52,331 in 2020, increasing by 4,135 from 2019. As of the 2021-2022 academic year, the college enrolled 56,299 students, with 8,303 in the first-year class alone. U of I also offers a large catalog of majors with 150 undergraduate programs and 100 graduate and professional programs.

    Is a public college or university right for me?

    What college a student attends depends on what they want to study. Public colleges and universities typically offer more areas of study than private colleges. Attending a public college or university may also suit you if you want an education that, on average, costs less than a private college. While private colleges may offer smaller class sizes and lower enrollment numbers, public colleges have larger class sizes and campuses.