Best Online Colleges in Illinois

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The Illinois state government projects that the state's educational services, professional-business services, and healthcare sectors will grow 9-16% by 2026. Many of the best-paying jobs in these fields require a college degree. Fortunately, the top online colleges in Illinois offer rigorous academic programs.

The best online schools offer more than a good education. Learners enjoy the same resources as on-campus degree-seekers. Other advantages may include an asynchronous curriculum and savings on room and board and transportation. Residents should explore state and institutional financial aid opportunities to reduce their costs further. Read on to learn more about colleges in Illinois and some of the state's in-demand professions.

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.

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Top Online Degree Programs in Illinois

Illinois Employment Outlook

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data from June 2022 shows that many Illinois employment sectors experienced strong growth compared to June 2021. Top-growing industries included leisure and hospitality, information, and professional and business services. Only the mining and logging industry decreased its workforce during this 12-month period.

BLS salary data for Illinois from May 2021 shows that healthcare professionals, IT employees, and lawyers earned higher average salaries than other workers. Other high-paying career fields included education and finance.

The Illinois state government reports that the Urbana-Champaign, Davenport, and Lake County metropolitan areas experienced the lowest unemployment rates in May 2022. Rockford featured the highest unemployment rate that month at 8.3%.

5 in Demand Illinois Jobs

Actuaries

  • Annual Median Salary (May 2021): $105,900
  • Job Outlook (2020-2030): 24%

Actuaries with a bachelor's degree in mathematics or a similar subject analyze potential events' risks. They do so by reviewing statistics. The profession also involves making presentations and simplifying information for different stakeholders.

Actuaries may specialize in health, life, or property insurance. Other opportunities include working in the public sector.

Civil Engineers

  • Annual Median Salary (May 2021): $88,050
  • Job Outlook (2020-2030): 8%

Civil engineers design and oversee infrastructure projects, such as buildings, bridges, and roads. Typical responsibilities include creating long-term plans, estimating costs, and monitoring job sites. These professionals also perform soil tests and research the latest building materials.

Most civil engineers hold a state-issued license. Some workers choose to raise their earning potential by earning master's degrees.

Fundraisers

  • Annual Median Salary (May 2021): $60,660
  • Job Outlook (2020-2030): 16%

Fundraisers help companies or organizations raise money by researching donors, creating advertising campaigns, and using social media. Other day-to-day tasks include keeping track of donor information.

These professionals may specialize in annual or capital campaigns. Some experienced fundraisers work with clients who want to make a major gift or donate money as part of their will.

Public Relations Managers

  • Annual Median Salary (May 2021): $119,860
  • Job Outlook (2020-2030): 13%

Public relations managers help their employers create a positive public image. This task involves identifying target consumers, crafting corporate communication, and selecting the right spokesperson.

Public relations managers succeed on the job by coordinating with their employers' lawyers and financial managers. These professionals craft convincing and accurate public relations messages.

Top Executives

  • Annual Median Salary (May 2021): $98,980
  • Job Outlook (2020-2030): 8%

Experienced professionals with college degrees can become top executives within their companies or organizations. They set goals for different departments, hire managers, and negotiate contracts. Top executives also analyze financial statements.

Popular job titles for top executives include chief executive officer (CEO) and operations managers. Professionals in the public sector may work as mayors or school superintendents.

Popular Career Paths in Illinois

Featured Online Programs

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

Best Accredited Online Colleges in Illinois

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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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 Best Online Colleges in Illinois Best Value

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  • Champaign, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $416-$500
Undergrad, out of state | $416-$500
Graduate, in state | $298-$1,172
Graduate, out of state | $298-$1,172

U of I operates a robust virtual college offering 90 online degrees and certificates. Undergraduates can pursue degrees in in-demand fields such as early childhood education.

Graduate students can choose from a variety of master's degree programs, including MBA and master of engineering programs. The school has a strong teacher professional development program that leads to an M.Ed.

Admission requirements vary for prospective Illinois students. First-year undergraduate applicants submit high school transcripts and optional SAT or ACT scores.

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 Best Online Colleges in Illinois

University of St. Francis

  • Joliet, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $425
Undergrad, out of state | $425
Graduate, in state | $599-$798
Graduate, out of state | $599-$798

A Catholic college located in Joliet, USF offers online undergraduate degree programs designed for working students. Transfer students can pursue degree completion programs in business, healthcare management, or nursing. 

Learners can finish their degrees faster by transferring credits and earning credit for work and military experience. Online graduate programs include an MBA, MSN, MS in management, and MSW.

USF is one of the best online colleges in Illinois because of its rigorous and affordable liberal arts programs. Undergraduate transfer applicants must possess a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5 on all prior college credit.

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
#3 Best Online Colleges in Illinois

University of Illinois at Springfield

  • Springfield, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $359-$368
Undergrad, out of state | $359-$368
Graduate, in state | $366
Graduate, out of state | $366

Students can choose from the 52 online programs available at UIS. The academic catalog includes bachelor's degrees in fields as diverse as business administration, psychology, and information systems security. The liberal studies major allows students to design an individualized academic experience.

The school's strong graduate program allows students to pursue online master's degrees in fields like education, finance, legal studies, and management information systems. UIS offers e-tuition rates for online learners, who pay lower tuition than traditional out-of-state students.

Admission requirements for first-year applicants include college prep coursework and high school transcripts. UIS is SAT and ACT test-optional.

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
#4 Best Online Colleges in Illinois Best Value

University of Illinois at Chicago

  • Chicago, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $318-$500
Undergrad, out of state | $318-$500
Graduate, in state | $500-$1,250
Graduate, out of state | $500-$1,250

UIC is well-known for its diverse student body and welcoming atmosphere for first-generation students. Working professionals can earn online bachelor's degrees in fields like business administration and nursing.

Students may also want to explore UIC's cyber and coding bootcamps to learn in-demand tech skills in an accelerated timeframe. The university offers an extensive number of graduate programs including an online MBA and an MS in health informatics.

UIC is one of the most affordable colleges in the state of Illinois. Admission requirements for first-year applicants include high school transcripts and a competitive GPA.

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
#5 Best Online Colleges in Illinois

Judson University

  • Elgin, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $480-$580
Undergrad, out of state | $480-$580
Graduate, in state | $750
Graduate, out of state | $750

Located in Elgin, Judson is a Christian college with a variety of online programs. Students can pursue an AA in liberal arts that transfers to a bachelor's degree at Judson and other institutions. The school offers bachelor's degrees in applied psychology, human services, business administration, and organizational leadership.

Graduate students can explore three fully online programs: an MBA, an MA in human services administration, and an MA in organizational leadership. The master of leadership in ministry requires weekend residencies.

First-year applicants to one of the best online colleges in Illinois must submit high school or GED transcripts.

Average Tuition
In-state
$28,840
Out-of-state
$28,840
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
76%
Admission Rate
39%
Students Enrolled
1,233
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
45% 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.

#6 Best Online Colleges in Illinois

Olivet Nazarene University

  • Bourbonnais, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $275-$785
Undergrad, out of state | $275-$785
Graduate, in state | $450-$700
Graduate, out of state | $450-$700

ONU is a small Christian college located outside of Chicago. Students can pursue undergraduate degrees online in fields such as business, leadership, and nursing. 

Learners with prior college credit may find the BS and BAS in multidisciplinary studies ideal for flexibility. The customizable curriculum offers six concentrations, including healthcare and leadership. 

Graduate students can choose from online programs such as the MSN, MBA, and MA in education. ONU offers a comprehensive ministry program with degrees like the MA in urban ministry. First-time applicants must submit high school transcripts and SAT or ACT scores.

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
#7 Best Online Colleges in Illinois

Lewis University

  • Romeoville, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $430-$610
Undergrad, out of state | $430-$610
Graduate, in state | $600-$820
Graduate, out of state | $600-$820

Lewis is one of the best colleges in Illinois for distance learning. At the school, students can earn online degrees while they work. LU offers accelerated bachelor's programs in business administration, computer science, and criminal justice

The BA in professional studies program enrolls students with significant college credit or work experience. This curriculum relies heavily on classroom projects to develop learners' problem-solving, decision-making, and leadership skills.

The graduate school offers MS degrees in fields like cybersecurity, data science, and public safety administration. Transfer students must submit all transcripts from prior undergraduate experience when they apply.

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 Best Online Colleges in Illinois

McKendree University

  • Lebanon, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $400
Undergrad, out of state | $400
Graduate, in state | $490-$600
Graduate, out of state | $490-$600

Since the 1970s, McK has developed programs specifically for busy professionals. Programs include an AS in business administration that satisfies the first two years of a bachelor's in business. The BBA offers a comprehensive suite of concentrations like accounting, marketing, and cyber defense. 

Graduate students can pursue online degrees in nursing, business administration, and health administration. An MAEd in curriculum design and instruction is ideal for working teachers who want to advance their careers.

One of the top online colleges in Illinois, McKendree requires first-year applicants to submit high school or GED transcripts.

Average Tuition
In-state
$30,540
Out-of-state
$30,540
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
75%
Admission Rate
63%
Students Enrolled
2,292
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
47% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#9 Best Online Colleges in Illinois

Eastern Illinois University

  • Charleston, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $324
Undergrad, out of state | $324
Graduate, in state | $329-$600
Graduate, out of state | $329-$600

EIS offers an extensive catalog of undergraduate and graduate degrees. Undergraduate and degree completion programs include an RN-to-BSN, a BS in health communication, and a BSB in business administration.

Students seeking a more customizable curriculum should research the school's BA in interdisciplinary studies program, which accepts up to 100 transfer credits. Graduate programs cover fields as diverse as history, aging studies, and cybersecurity. The MBA program allows students to choose specializations like applied management and geographic information systems.

Undergraduate and transfer students can apply to this college in Illinois for free. Admission requirements for first-year applicants include high school and GED transcripts.

Average Tuition
In-state
$8,875
Out-of-state
$11,045
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
53%
Students Enrolled
7,806
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
34% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#10 Best Online Colleges in Illinois

North Park University

  • Chicago, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $570
Undergrad, out of state | $570
Graduate, in state | $2,410 per course
Graduate, out of state | $2,410 per course

Founded in 1891, NPU is a Christian liberal arts college based in Chicago. The school offers accelerated bachelor's degrees in fields such as business administration and digital marketing.

Students can transfer in up to 90 credits for undergraduate degree programs and may receive a 20% tuition discount if they transfer an associate degree.

Graduate students can choose from four business programs, including an MBA and master of human resource management. Many business students qualify for grants and scholarships that can reduce tuition by as much as 35%.

First-year and transfer applicants must submit high school and college transcripts.

Average Tuition
In-state
$30,360
Out-of-state
$30,360
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
75%
Admission Rate
48%
Students Enrolled
2,892
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
20% 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, Illinois is home to nearly 250 higher education institutions. Although no school focuses solely on online learning, many public and private colleges offer online certificates and degrees. Accredited online programs provide learners with the same educational experience as in-person courses of study.

Prospective students should note that some schools offer hybrid degree programs. These programs let learners take most classes online, but degree- and certificate-seekers must still travel to campus to fulfill academic requirements, such as labs or seminars.

Current high school students may explore online colleges in Illinois through a dual-enrollment program. This opportunity lets participants graduate high school with some college credit.

Does Illinois have good online colleges?

Illinois is home to many excellent online colleges. The University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) offers online degrees in education, medicine, public health, engineering, and social work. Students may then go on to pursue an online or on-campus master's degree.

Prospective students should also research top private online colleges. Degree-seekers at Lincoln Christian University may earn a fully online bachelor's in Christian ministry. Options at the master's level include organizational leadership and Bible and theology.

Good online colleges must hold proper accreditation. Check a school's accreditation status on its consumer information website. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation also offers accreditation information on U.S. colleges.

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

The University of Illinois system of schools uses a different tuition schedule for online degree-seekers. Online undergraduates at the University of Illinois Springfield paid $308-$359 per credit in the spring 2022 semester. Graduate students paid $366 per credit.

Online and hybrid programs at private colleges in Illinois cost learners significantly more in spring 2022. Degree-seekers earning a master's in the humanities at the University of Chicago paid over $7,000/class.

Tuition makes up just one part of students' costs of attendance (COA). Prospective degree-seekers can calculate COA by combining tuition fees with textbook costs and other education-related expenses. These extras mean that learners attending one of the cheapest online colleges may still need financial aid.

What is the cheapest online college in Illinois?

Residents should explore local community colleges in Illinois to find the cheapest tuition. Schools such as Illinois Central College (ICC) charge in-district residents only $155 per credit. Out-of-district learners pay significantly more.

Students attending ICC or a comparable community college save significantly compared to learners at four-year public schools. Full-time degree-seekers at UIC pay $15,000 per year or more. Out-of-state learners spend approximately double.

Out-of-state students may save money on public school tuition in different ways. Some public universities offer free tuition to children of veterans and graduate learners who sign up for assistantships. Others waive out-of-state tuition for fully online degree-seekers.

Who qualifies for free college in Illinois?

Prospective students on a budget should explore community and junior colleges. The City Colleges of Chicago award free tuition to city public school graduates with a minimum high school GPA of 3.0. Degree-seekers also receive a discount on textbooks.

Public four-year colleges in Illinois also award free tuition. Northeastern Illinois University's NEIU For You Scholarship covers four years of tuition for state residents with a minimum high school GPA of 2.0. Other eligibility requirements include a family income of less than $60,000 per year.

Some online colleges in Illinois like the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (U of I) feature free tuition programs, as well. Like NEIU, U of I uses academic and income requirements to determine eligibility.

Feature Image: Photography by Aurimas Adomavicius / Moment / 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.

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