Public Colleges in Illinois: Full List of Schools

Public colleges in Illinois can provide you with a great education at an affordable price. Some of the most popular schools include ISU and UIC.
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Updated on August 24, 2023
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With many excellent public colleges in Illinois to choose from, it's important to find the one that aligns with your education and career goals. Consider enrollment, price, and acceptance rate when comparing schools. And research whether the public universities in Illinois on your shortlist award financial aid.

Start your search in the state's largest city by exploring public colleges in Chicago. Moody's Analytics reports that Chicago's economy recovered faster from the COVID-19 pandemic than comparable Midwest cities.

Read on as we spotlight some popular Illinois schools and provide a complete list of public colleges in Illinois.

3 Popular Public Colleges in Illinois

Here, we introduce three popular public Illinois colleges. We chose these schools based on many factors, including number of applicants, student outcomes, and overall reputation.

1. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

  • Avg. Annual Net Price: $14,544
  • Acceptance Rate: 45%
  • Total Student Enrollment: 56,607

U of I boasts the most racially diverse campus of all Midwest universities. Offering dozens of culturally based fraternities, the school also lets you select from more than 300 study abroad programs.

In addition, U of I features fully online undergraduate and graduate degrees, with online continuing education programs to help working professionals advance their careers.

2. University of Illinois Chicago

  • Avg. Annual Net Price: $10,384
  • Acceptance Rate: 79%
  • Total Student Enrollment: 34,199

Students attending UIC benefit from living in the heart of Illinois's cultural and economic activity. The university boasts affordable in-state tuition and a high acceptance rate. Here, you can select from over 250 undergraduate and graduate programs.

UIC awards online degrees and certificates in 16 areas, including education, public health, and the liberal arts.

3. Illinois State University

  • Avg. Annual Net Price: $20,551
  • Acceptance Rate: 86%
  • Total Student Enrollment: 20,233

Public universities in Illinois can trace their lineage to ISU, the state's first public institution of higher education. Its high acceptance rate makes ISU an appealing option if you hold a GED diploma or want to transfer undergraduate credit. Although ISU is somewhat pricier than comparable public colleges in Illinois, about 80% of students receive financial aid.

Online students can select from certificates, undergraduate degrees, and graduate degrees.

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List of All Public Colleges in Illinois

We've created a complete list of four-year nonprofit public universities in Illinois. You can use the table below to compare data on student population, average net cost, acceptance rate, and number of applicants.

The following school data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). We did not include schools with fewer than 500 undergraduates.

All Public Colleges in Illinois
School Total Student Enrollment Avg. Annual Net Price Acceptance Rate Number of Applicants
Chicago State University 2,366 $6,446 49% 7,404
Eastern Illinois University 8,608 $13,380 68% 11,584
Governors State University 4,395 $9,833 57% 1,865
Illinois State University 20,233 $20,551 86% 19,596
Northeastern Illinois University 6,440 $14,262 63% 4,603
Northern Illinois University 16,234 $13,884 71% 25,961
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale 11,266 $16,990 91% 9,771
Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville 13,010 $13,586 98% 9,325
University of Illinois Chicago 34,199 $10,384 79% 23,562
University of Illinois Springfield 3,944 $11,733 82% 3,634
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 56,607 $14,544 45% 63,257
Western Illinois University 7,455 $11,213 75% 9,219
Source: NCES

What Are the Highest-Paying Jobs in Illinois?

Public universities in Illinois can prepare you for a career in one of the state's highest-paying jobs. Note, however, that recent graduates often earn less than seasoned professionals. Other factors that may impact your salary include your location and employer.

The table below reflects the latest salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

10 Highest-Paying Jobs in Illinois
Job Annual Mean Wage (2022)
Dermatologists $360,560
Ophthalmologists $356,600
Emergency medicine physicians $333,280
Surgeons $319,710
Obstetricians/gynecologists $314,860
Chief executives $268,560
Orthopedic surgeons $266,800
Neurologists $250,580
Physicians, pathologists $241,070
Anesthesiologists $238,620
Source: BLS

What Is the Cost of Public College in Illinois?

NCES reports that four-year public colleges in Illinois charge out-of-state students only slightly more than their in-state peers. A wider tuition gap exists at the state's public two-year schools.

Keep in mind that your cost of attendance (COA) includes more than just tuition and fees, as you may need to buy a meal plan or pay for on-campus housing. Don't forget to factor in transportation costs if you commute to campus.

Cost of Public College in Illinois 2021
Institution Type Average Tuition & Required Fees
Public 4-year (in-state) $14,579
Public 4-year (out-of-state) $28,660
Public 2-year (in-state) $4,180
Public 2-year (out-of-state) $11,166
Source: NCES

Scholarships for Illinois Students

You can lower your COA by applying for scholarships for Illinois students. Typical application requirements include an essay, official transcripts, and recommendation letters.

Here are some popular Illinois scholarships to consider applying for.

  • Corporate Relocation Council Scholarship: Graduating seniors who relocated to the Chicago area in high school may qualify. Other application requirements include a minimum 3.0 GPA.
  • Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois: Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois considers applicants with a high school or GED diploma and who have at least a 2.5 GPA. The scholarship renews as long as you maintain good grades in college.
  • Wentcher Foundation Scholarship: The Wentcher Foundation Scholarship awards funding to Chicago Public School seniors with good grades and financial need. You must have a minimum 3.0 GPA to apply.

Frequently Asked Questions About Public Colleges in Illinois

How many public colleges are in Illinois?

Illinois has around 60 public two- and four-year colleges, according to NCES. The vast majority of these are two-year schools.

What is the No. 1 public college in Illinois?

Educating over 55,000 students, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign ranks first in Illinois for enrollment. The university caters to learners with over 150 majors and 1,000 organizations and student clubs. Small class sizes make U of I an appealing choice if you want a personalized educational experience.

Is it expensive to go to college in Illinois?

Public universities in Illinois charge in-state residents the most affordable tuition rates. For example, at the University of Illinois Chicago, Illinois residents save about 50% on tuition compared to their out-of-state peers, according to the latest NCES data.

That said, out-of-state degree-seekers may qualify for institutional aid, significantly reducing their COA.

What are the benefits of going to a public college in Illinois?

Public colleges in Illinois offer benefits such as small class sizes, affordable tuition, and positive graduate outcomes. Tenured professors teach undergraduate classes, and you can select from hundreds of extracurricular activities.

You can learn more about whether these benefits meet your needs by contacting universities' admissions departments. 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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