How Much Does It Cost to Study and Live in Illinois?

Illinois has leading colleges and diverse cultural opportunities. Find out how much it costs to study and live in Illinois.

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by Alison Plaut

Published August 15, 2022

Edited by Jared McMasters
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How Much Does It Cost to Study and Live in Illinois?
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Students choose to study in Illinois for many reasons. Chicago, the third-largest city in the U.S., is both a cultural and educational center for the Midwest. World-class academics, fascinating cultural and arts venues, and parks, including Lake Michigan, are some of the reasons to study in Illinois.

Beyond Chicago, charming smaller Illinois cities like Springfield, Peoria, and Champaign also offer many cultural activities and educational opportunities.

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Illinois has 184 colleges and universities. The average in-state tuition in Illinois is $14,455, making it the fourth-highest in-state tuition rate at four-year public colleges in the nation.

According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, Illinois has one of the lowest costs of living in the U.S. The Greater Chicago area also has a lower cost of living when compared to other big metropolitan areas like New York City and San Francisco.

How Much Does It Cost to Study in Illinois?

In-state college costs in Illinois are some of the highest in the nation. But lower-than-average cost of living in the state may reduce total costs. College and location within Illinois can influence total expenses.

Generally, two-year institutions and community colleges have significantly lower tuition. As of 2020, Illinois students had debt below the national average.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in-state students in Illinois paid an average of $14,455 at public institutions in 2019-2020. For out-of-state students, tuition and fees at public institutions in Illinois cost $29,515.

Tuition

In-state tuition is usually less expensive than out-of-state tuition at public institutions. According to NCES, the cost of out-of-state tuition and fees in Illinois was more than double in-state tuition and fees in the 2019-2020 academic year. Public two-year institutions can offer significant savings, with average tuition and fees of just $4,035.

Tuition Costs in Illinois (2019-2020)
Institution Type Average Cost of Tuition and Required Fees
Public four-year (in-state) $14,455
Public four-year (out-of-state) $29,515
Private four-year $35,570
Public two-year (in-state) $4,035
Public two-year (out-of-state) $11,450

Source: NCES

Fees

College students should plan for common fees that institutions charge in addition to tuition. These include application fees, on-campus parking fees, meal plans, laboratory fees, mandatory health insurance, printing fees, transportation fees, and health service fees.

Room and board are the largest fees. According to NCES, the average cost of board, such as a meal plan, at a public institution in Illinois was $5,208 in 2019-2020.

Students can avoid some fees by living off campus, taking public transportation, cooking for themselves, or using their family's health insurance.

Textbooks and Supplies

According to College Board research, in 2020-2021, U.S. students paid an average of $1,460 at two-year institutions and $1,240 at four-year colleges for books and supplies.

Students should plan to buy college supplies like pens, pencils, notebooks, and a laptop or tablet. Purchasing or renting textbooks is usually a major expense for students. It's possible to save some costs by buying used textbooks or renting from the university bookstore or online.

On-Campus Housing

Housing is most students' largest expense after tuition. According to the NCES, the average cost of on-campus housing in Illinois in the 2019-2020 academic year was $6,143.

At the University of Illinois, for example, a quad room with a bath and a partial meal plan costs $10,306 for the 2021-2022 academic year. A single room with a private bath and all meals costs $16,158. University apartments can be a cost-saving option.

How Much Does It Cost to Live in Illinois?

Students in Illinois can expect comparable living costs to other Illinois residents, which is lower than the national average. Your location within Illinois, however, is a key factor to your living costs.

The cost of living in Chicago is 23% higher than the national average, according to Payscale. However, the cost of living in Springfield is 2% less than the national average. Peoria's cost of living is 13% less, and Champaign's cost of living is 12% less than the national average.

Rent

Rent prices in Illinois vary by city. For example, the highest median rent is in Evanston at $3,067 per month, according to Payscale. The median rent in Chicago is $1,937 per month, although student housing in Chicago can be cheaper.

Springfield is more affordable, with a median rent of $1,213 per month, according to Payscale. One of the least expensive options is Peoria, with a median rent of $916 per month, and Champaign, where the median rent is $898 per month.

Students can reduce rent costs by sharing an apartment with one or more roommates. Rentals are also typically less expensive farther from the college or city center. Although living farther from campus can increase your transportation costs.

Utilities

The average cost of utilities in Illinois typically range from $155-$170 for electricity and $170-$190 for phone bills. Utilities are less expensive in Chicago than the smaller cities. Overall, utilities in Chicago are 9% less than the national average, according to Payscale.

Compared to the national average, utilities in Peoria are 3% less and in Champaign, 2% less. Only Springfield has utilities that are 1% more than the national average, according to Payscale.

Students can lower utility costs by reducing electricity and water usage. For example, turning off air conditioning and heating overnight or when not in the building can help reduce electricity usage.

Food

According to Payscale, students in Illinois can expect to pay close to the national average for food. Peoria and Champaign have grocery prices 3% and 6%, respectively, below the national average. Chicago and Evanston both have grocery prices 4% higher than the national average. Grocery prices in Springfield are equal to the national average.

On-campus unlimited meal plans at the University of Illinois cost $6,124 for in-state students and $6,675 for out-of-state students for the 2022-2023 academic year. For an average academic calendar of nine months, that is about $680-$740 per month.

Eating off campus or at restaurants can increase a student's food budget and total monthly costs.

Students can save on the cost of food by preparing meals at home and planning well-balanced nutritional meals and snacks to increase satisfaction. Preparing coffee at home and reducing alcohol consumption can also reduce costs.

Transportation

In Illinois, students can rely on a car or public transportation to get around.

Students without cars may prefer to live on campus. Whether a car is necessary will depend on the college. Those living off campus, especially in rural areas, will need a car or other transportation.

The average cost of gas in Illinois was around $4 per gallon, as of August 2022. Students in Illinois can also consider a taxi, Uber, or another rideshare. Chicago is one of the cheapest cities for Uber rides.

Chicago is also home to one of the best public transit systems, where college students often have access to reduced rates.

Miscellaneous

The cost of miscellaneous expenses will vary by each student's needs, budget, and spending habits. These include basic personal care needs, entertainment, activities, and unexpected expenses. Miscellaneous expenses may also include costs for university-related trips, events, or labs, which vary by institution.

Health insurance is a major expense students need to plan for in their budgets. Students should also budget for miscellaneous expenses like clothing and health items.

How to Lower the Cost of College in Illinois

Apply for Financial Aid, Scholarships, and Grants

Financial aid, scholarships, and grants are practical ways to reduce college costs. Students fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine their eligibility for student loans, scholarships, grants, and work-study programs.

In addition, students can find privately funded or publicly funded scholarships in Illinois. These are awarded on the basis of financial need and/or academic or athletic performance. Both scholarships and grants can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands.

Attend a Public College or University

The state and federal governments fund public colleges. This reduces student tuition and fees. Compared to a private college, a public college can reduce your total college costs in Illinois.

The average cost of tuition and fees at a public four-year college in Illinois in 2019-2020 was $14,455. For out-of-state students, tuition and fees were $29,515. Tuition and fees at private four-year institutions in Illinois averaged $35,570 during that same academic year.

Transfer Credits

Students can transfer credits from an accredited institution to reduce total costs. In Illinois, tuition and fees at a public, two-year institution were $4,035 for in-state students in 2019-2020.

Students can earn up to two years of college credit before transferring from a community college to a university. Compared to four-year public colleges, students could save over $20,000 on tuition and fees during their first two years of college.

Find Free or Low-Cost Textbooks and Supplies

Textbooks and supplies can add thousands of dollars to your yearly expenses. Students can save money on college textbooks by renting or buying used textbooks. Other cost-saving options include reselling textbooks after courses or borrowing textbooks from the campus library.

For other supplies, students should take advantage of student discounts and consider used laptops or supplies.

Apply for Work, Volunteer, or Military Experience

Students may be able to reduce costs by getting college credit for work, volunteer projects, or military experience. Many colleges also offer the option to test out of up to 30 college credits with the national testing service. With work credit and testing out, students could possibly earn one year or more of college credits.

Frequently Asked Questions About Studying and Living in Illinois

How much does it cost to live in Illinois as a student?

The cost to study in Illinois will depend on your college's location, whether you live on or off campus, your meal plan, and your personal spending habits. The average cost of room and board in Illinois was over $11,300, excluding tuition, in 2019-2020, according to NCES.

Living off campus in a shared apartment or cooking at home can reduce food and housing costs. Students also need to budget for transportation, books, supplies, and miscellaneous expenses.

Students also need to consider the cost of tuition and fees in Illinois. In 2019-2020, they averaged $4,035 for in-state students at a community college to $35,570 at a private, four-year institution.

Is Illinois a good place for international students?

Illinois can be a good place for international students. Many Illinois colleges are highly ranked internationally. International students can benefit from diverse institutions with cutting-edge research and academics.

Cities like Chicago, Springfield, and Champaign have lively cultural scenes. Illinois is home to major league sports teams, amusement parks, concert venues, world-class museums, and libraries. Chicago is also a large international hub for travel, making it easy to reach.

The affordable cost of living also makes Illinois a good choice for international students. Outside of Chicago, the cost of living in Illinois is below the national average. Affordable tuition at community colleges and private colleges also makes Illinois a good choice.

Is Illinois a good place to go to college?

Illinois universities are regionally and nationally ranked. College towns and cities are some of the best places to live in Illinois. With cultural opportunities, a diverse population, and excellent academic programs, Illinois is a good place to go to college.

Chicago, the third-largest city in the U.S,, is a major attraction for Illinois students. In warmer months, students can enjoy Lake Michigan and the many parks around Illinois.

While winters are cold, students can take advantage of an abundance of indoor venues from concerts to museums, recreation centers, and libraries.

The lower cost of living in Illinois can help students graduate with less debt than the national average.

What is the most affordable city in Illinois?

Most cities in Illinois — including Springfield, Peoria, and Champaign — have a cost of living below the national average.

Some of the cheapest places to live in Illinois are Peoria and Champaign. Peoria has a cost of living 13% below the national average. Champaign's cost of living is 12% below average. Champaign is home to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

In Champaign, the cost of housing is 26% less than the national average, according to Payscale. Groceries cost 6% less. Average energy bills are 2% less, and transportation is 8% less.

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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