Most Affordable Online Colleges in Illinois

Do you plan on attending college in Illinois? BestColleges ranks the most affordable online colleges in Illinois. See which schools stand out.
20 min read

Share this Article

Like all states, Illinois experienced the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout 2020. However, Illinois quickly rebounded in early 2021. The state also saw better-than-average economic growth throughout the remainder of the year. These favorable economic conditions make Illinois an attractive place to earn a degree and start a career.

Top online colleges in Illinois provide students with an excellent educational experience that may feature financial advantages over in-person learning. State government data projects strong growth for many business careers. Keep reading to see how the best colleges in Illinois offer degrees in business and other subjects that may lead to an in-demand job.

BestColleges.com 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.

Ready to Start Your Journey?

Top Online Degree Programs in Illinois

Related Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Illinois Employment Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that Illinois experienced a 4.5% unemployment rate in June 2022, about one percentage point higher than the U.S. unemployment rate in the same month. The fastest-growing industries included leisure and hospitality, information, and professional and business services. Only the mining and logging industry saw a growth decline compared to the prior year.

The BLS reports that the average annual salary for all jobs in Illinois was $59,650 in May 2021. Management occupations paid the highest average salaries in Illinois at $123,060 per year. Both of these figures exceed the median yearly salary for all U.S. occupations of $45,760.

BLS data shows that the typical worker in the Chicago metropolitan area earns a weekly salary exceeding the national average by about 10%. However, these professionals experience a higher cost of living than people located outside of big cities.

5 In-Demand Illinois Jobs

Financial Manager

Annual Median Salary (May 2021): $131,710
Job Outlook 2020-2030: 17%

Financial managers prepare statements for top executives, monitor economic trends, and supervise less-senior employees. Other responsibilities include reviewing financial statements and making recommendations based on their findings.

Job titles for financial managers include controller, treasurer, and insurance manager. Job applicants need a bachelor's degree in finance or a related field and at least five years of experience as an accountant or financial analyst.

Information Research Scientist

Annual Median Salary (May 2021): $131,490
Job Outlook 2020-2030: 22%

Information research scientists use their computer science background to write computing languages and perform experiments. Their results advance the computer science field and make computers easier to use. Other tasks include publishing research essays.

Information research scientists need at least a master's degree in information technology or a related field. Some professionals hold a Ph.D.

Management Analyst

Annual Median Salary (May 2021): $93,000
Job Outlook 2020-2030: 14%

Employers hire management analysts to improve their organization's efficiency. These professionals do so by gathering financial data, interviewing employees, and making observations. They turn this information into reports containing recommendations.

Many management analysts hold an MBA. Professionals with only a bachelor's may need many years to qualify for this position.

Market Research Analyst

Annual Median Salary (May 2021): $63,920
Job Outlook 2020-2030: 22%

Market research analysts study market trends, analyze marketing programs' effectiveness, and turn technical information into reports for upper management. The career requires these analysts to choose the best research methods for a specific task.

Market research analysts need a bachelor's or master's, depending on the job. Aspiring professionals should research colleges in Illinois offering advanced coursework in statistics and research methods.

Marketing Manager

Annual Median Salary (May 2021): $133,380
Job Outlook 2020-2030: 10%

Marketing managers perform many roles, such as collaborating with department heads, negotiating contacts, and performing market research studies. The career also involves predicting consumers' demands for specific products and services.

Prospective marketing managers need at least a bachelor's degree in marketing or another business-related subject. The career also requires many years of experience.

Popular Career Paths in Illinois

Most Affordable Accredited Online Colleges in Illinois

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

How We Rank Schools

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.

#1 Most Affordable Online Colleges in Illinois Best Value

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  • Champaign, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Academic Year
Undergrad, in-state | $17,138
Undergrad, out-of-state | $35,110
Graduate, in-state | $13,440
Graduate, out-of-state | $29,034

Established in 1867, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ranks as the most affordable online college in the state. As the flagship institution of Illinois's university system, U of I has an enrollment of over 56,000 students. This school's most popular majors include psychology, economics, and accounting.

Prospective students should have high school transcripts showing rigorous coursework preparing them for college. Alongside high school coursework, U of I considers personal experiences, extracurricular activities, and standardized test scores when making admission decisions.

Average Tuition
In-state
$14,188
Out-of-state
$33,127
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: High

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
High
Retention Rate
93%
Admission Rate
59%
Students Enrolled
51,605
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#2 Most Affordable Online Colleges in Illinois

University of Illinois at Springfield

  • Springfield, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Academic Year
Undergrad, in-state | $9,645
Undergrad, out-of-state | $19,410
Graduate, in-state | $5,316
Graduate, out-of-state | $10,908

Located downstate in the state capitol, UIS ranks among the most affordable colleges in Illinois. This public institution is home to more than 4,000 students, and popular undergraduate majors include business, computer science, and psychology.

When evaluating undergraduate applicants, UIS considers class rank, GPA, and essay questions. Accepted students typically complete a college-prep curriculum at the high school level. UIS is currently a standardized test-optional institution.

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,520
Out-of-state
$15,948
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: Medium

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
Medium
Retention Rate
79%
Admission Rate
77%
Students Enrolled
4,275
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
70% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#3 Most Affordable Online Colleges in Illinois Best Value

University of Illinois at Chicago

  • Chicago, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Semester
Undergrad, in-state | $5,200
Undergrad, out-of-state | $12,120
Graduate, in-state | $4,055
Graduate, out-of-state | $8,452

Established in 1859, the UIC is an urban public institution that serves over 34,000 students. UIC stands out as one of the most affordable schools in Illinois. It offers an expansive list of graduate and undergraduate programs. Popular majors include biology, finance, and nursing.

Prospective students can apply through the Common Application and must submit official high school transcripts. UIC evaluates high school performance, choice of major, and personal essays when making admission decisions. UIC is currently test-optional.

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,924
Out-of-state
$26,224
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: High

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
High
Retention Rate
79%
Admission Rate
73%
Students Enrolled
32,324
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
24% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#4 Most Affordable Online Colleges in Illinois

Governors State University

  • University Park, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in-state | $313
Undergrad, out-of-state | $625
Graduate, in-state | $353
Graduate, out-of-state | $706

Located outside Chicago, GSU is an affordable public institution that offers various undergraduate and graduate programs. Governors State has an enrollment of over 5,700 students and is home to four colleges: business, education, arts and sciences, and health and human services.

Prospective students must submit an online application with official transcripts, standardized test scores, and all associated fees. Additionally, freshman applicants should hold a minimum 2.0 high school GPA. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,512
Out-of-state
$15,024
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: Medium

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
Medium
Retention Rate
52%
Admission Rate
46%
Students Enrolled
4,789
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
31% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#5 Most Affordable Online Colleges in Illinois

Moody Bible Institute

  • Chicago, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in-state | $380
Undergrad, out-of-state | $380
Graduate, in-state | $495
Graduate, out-of-state | $495

Founded in 1886, the MBI is a Chicago-based Christian institution that also operates campuses in Michigan and Washington. In addition to campus-based degrees, MBI also offers online associate, master's, and certificate programs. MBI's popular majors include biblical studies, missionary studies, and pastoral counseling.

Prospective students can apply online and must include biographical essays, two letters of recommendation, and high school transcripts. Applicants to this evangelical Christian institution must adhere to various religious tenets.

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,200
Out-of-state
$11,200
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: Medium

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
Medium
Retention Rate
81%
Admission Rate
94%
Students Enrolled
3,009
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
42% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

BestColleges.com 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.

  • Browse programs
  • Discover matches
  • Request info
#6 Most Affordable Online Colleges in Illinois

University of St Francis

  • Joliet, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in-state | $399
Undergrad, out-of-state | $399
Graduate, in-state | $748
Graduate, out-of-state | $748

Based in Joliet, Illinois, the USF is a private Catholic institution that serves over 3,300 students. This school has a 100-year history. It offers wide-ranging academic options, including nursing, accounting, computer science, and elementary education. 

Admitted freshman applicants typically have a college prep background with multiple years of English and math coursework. Prospective students must hold a 2.5 cumulative GPA and must submit official transcripts. The University of St. Francis is a test-optional school.

Average Tuition
In-state
$34,000
Out-of-state
$34,000
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: Medium

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
Medium
Retention Rate
81%
Admission Rate
46%
Students Enrolled
3,776
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
63% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#7 Most Affordable Online Colleges in Illinois

Lewis University

  • Romeoville, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in-state | $1,056
Undergrad, out-of-state | $1,056
Graduate, in-state | $820
Graduate, out-of-state | $820

Lewis is a private Catholic institution that currently serves more than 6,200 students. Lewis's Romeoville main campus is just a short drive from Chicago and offers over 100 undergraduate and graduate programs and majors. In addition to ranking among the most affordable schools in Illinois, 98% of Lewis students receive some form of financial aid.

Prospective students can apply through the Common Application or directly through the Lewis University website. Lewis evaluates applicants holistically and considers elements such as academic performance, coursework, and extracurricular activities.

Average Tuition
In-state
$33,270
Out-of-state
$33,270
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: Medium

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
Medium
Retention Rate
84%
Admission Rate
64%
Students Enrolled
6,359
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
43% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#8 Most Affordable Online Colleges in Illinois

Dominican University

  • River Forest, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in-state | $1,167
Undergrad, out-of-state | $1,167
Graduate, in-state | $1,035
Graduate, out-of-state | $1,035

An affordable Chicagoland institution, DU is a private Roman Catholic school that offers various undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs. DU is home to more than 3,000 students, and in the fall of 2021, 100% of incoming first-year students received some form of financial aid.

Those applying to Dominican University should have a minimum 2.75 high school GPA, but the school reviews applications holistically and considers elements from both inside and outside the classroom.

Average Tuition
In-state
$33,950
Out-of-state
$33,950
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: Medium

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
Medium
Retention Rate
77%
Admission Rate
64%
Students Enrolled
3,029
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
54% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#9 Most Affordable Online Colleges in Illinois

Aurora University

  • Aurora, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in-state | $438
Undergrad, out-of-state | $438
Graduate, in-state | $670
Graduate, out-of-state | $670

Established in 1893, AU is a private institution based in the Chicago area. AU's more than 6,000 students tackle a relatively deep catalog of undergraduate and graduate programs. In addition to campus-based opportunities, Aurora University offers online bachelor's in areas such as business, criminal justice, and healthcare administration.

Freshman applicants can apply online for free through the university's website and must include official high school transcripts. Aurora University is currently a test-optional institution.

Average Tuition
In-state
$24,800
Out-of-state
$24,800
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: Medium

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
Medium
Retention Rate
73%
Admission Rate
87%
Students Enrolled
6,246
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
20% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#10 Most Affordable Online Colleges in Illinois

Olivet Nazarene University

  • Bourbonnais, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in-state | $36,950
Undergrad, out-of-state | $36,950
Graduate, in-state | $7,650
Graduate, out-of-state | $7,650

ONU is a private Christian institution based in Bourbonnais, Illinois. Established in 1907, ONU has a population of nearly 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Popular majors include nursing, biology, and business administration and management.

Prospective students can apply online and must include official transcripts and ACT/SAT/CLT scores. ONU also strongly suggests an in-person visit before applying.

Average Tuition
In-state
$36,080
Out-of-state
$36,080
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: Low

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
Low
Retention Rate
77%
Admission Rate
58%
Students Enrolled
4,317
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
58% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Colleges in Illinois

How many online colleges are in Illinois?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), prospective students can choose from more than 70 nonprofit colleges in Illinois. Many of these schools feature fully online programs.

Colleges may also offer hybrid degrees. These programs require students to visit campus for some classes or other in-person educational experiences. Check a program's academic requirements closely before applying.

Online colleges in Illinois need the same accreditation as on-campus schools. Some degrees may feature programmatic accreditation. Fully accredited schools provide students with the same educational experience as on-campus learners. Degree-seekers graduate ready to apply to jobs or a graduate program.

Does Illinois have good online colleges?

Students can choose from many excellent online colleges in Illinois. Top public schools include the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (U of I), the University of Illinois at Springfield, and Eastern Illinois University. These public institutions offer many on-campus degrees, as well.

The best private online colleges in Illinois include the University of St. Francis, Lincoln Christian University, and Lewis University. These Christian schools provide learners with a faith-based education. Online opportunities at the master's level may include degrees in Christian ministry, Bible and theology, and organizational leadership.

When deciding if an online college in Illinois is right for you, consider personal factors such as how much financial aid a college offers. Prospective students should also research whether top schools offer programs they need for career success.

How much does it cost to go to college online in Illinois?

According to NCES data, tuition and fees at public four-year institutions in Illinois cost an average of $14,579 per year in 2020-2021. This is about $5,200 more per year than the average cost of tuition and fees at public four-year schools nationwide. Tuition and fees at private schools in Illinois cost an average of $35,894 that same year, slightly higher than the national average of $32,825.

Prospective learners combine tuition, fees, and education-related expenses to calculate a school's true cost of attendance (COA). Knowing the COA helps degree-seekers understand how much financial aid they need to afford school. Other strategies to avoid student debt include researching the most affordable online colleges in Illinois.

What is the cheapest online college in Illinois?

Illinois residents looking for a bargain on their education enroll in Lincoln Land Community College (LLCC). LLCC charges residents younger than 65 only $137 per credit as of July 2022. Learners age 65 and older do not pay tuition for academic classes.

LLCC's fully online degrees include associate programs in accounting, business administration, and computer science. Other online learners major in criminal justice or history. The school also features career certificates for firefighters and network administrators.

Many LLCC undergraduates save considerably compared to degree-seekers attending a public four-year school. The typical Illinois resident at U of I pays over $17,000 in tuition annually as of July 2022. Nonresidents often pay much more for their education, so they may save money by exploring top online schools with affordable tuition.

Who qualifies for free college in Illinois?

U of I's Illinois Commitment awards free tuition to residents whose family or personal income does not exceed $67,100 per year. Other requirements as of July 2022 include assets valued at less than $50,000. The program applies only to learners aged 23 and younger.

Illinois Commitment participants must take at least 12 hours per semester and not already hold a bachelor's degree. Interested prospective and current students determine their eligibility by submitting the FAFSA.

Some Illinois community colleges, like Harper College, also offer free tuition. Eligibility requirements include satisfactory academic performance in high school and living in the district.

Featured Image: Ioana Buliga / EyeEm / Getty Images

BestColleges.com 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.

Compare Your School Options

View the most relevant schools for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to finding your college home.