Best Colleges in Illinois for Associate, Bachelor’s & Master’s

Illinois College Guide – What You Need to Know

The best colleges and universities in Illinois also happen to be some of the best in the nation. The Chicago area is home to Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and University of Illinois at Chicago, to name just three of the top schools. When you venture out of that sprawling megalopolis, you'll find countless opportunities for post-secondary education, including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Wheaton College, and Bradley University.

Illinois not only has great universities, but it also has excellent opportunities that await its graduates. After you toss your cap in the air, there are plenty of employers waiting to snap you up for their management training programs, entry-level positions, and more. You can start off in the Chicago area, which is home to many Fortune 500 companies, top financial firms, and countless small businesses. Alternatively, you could take your world-class degree anywhere your heart desires. Illinois' fantastic opportunities will be waiting when you return.

What are the most popular bachelor's degrees offered in Illinois?

Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, is home to the United States' third largest city, borders a Great Lake, and grows tons of grains across its expansive plains. Bachelor's degrees in Illinois are also plentiful and you can study nearly anything you wish at one of the state's many public and private universities. Since Chicago is a hub of finance, the most popular bachelor's degrees include business, finance, and accounting. However, engineering is also strong in Illinois, as are health sciences.

Top Majors in Illinois

Education Level & National Average Median Compensation


NO FORMAL EDUCATION HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA ASSOCIATE DEGREE BACHELOR’S DEGREE MASTER’S DEGREE DOCTORAL DEGREE
$30,784* $38,792* $46,124* $64,896* $77,844* $96,772*

Best Associate Degrees in Illinois


In Illinois, students can choose amongst nearly 50 public community colleges that offer associate degrees in various educational arenas. You can find amazing two-year degree programs all over the state. For those interested in the top associate programs in Illinois, look for degrees in nursing, engineering, biology, social work, liberal arts, business, or social and behavioral sciences. No matter your interests. It’s never a bad idea to start out with an associate degree.

Fox College
College Type
2-year, Private for-profit
Campus Housing
No
Student Population
451
Graduation Rate
78%
Net Price
$13,195
Grads Salary
$33,500
Coyne College
College Type
2-year, Private for-profit
Campus Housing
No
Student Population
530
Graduation Rate
61%
Net Price
$18,373
Grads Salary
$37,700
Frontier Community College
College Type
2-year, Public
Campus Housing
No
Student Population
1,719
Graduation Rate
72%
Net Price
$7,152
Grads Salary
$26,600
Oakton Community College
College Type
2-year, Public
Campus Housing
No
Student Population
8,083
Graduation Rate
28%
Net Price
$6,559
Grads Salary
$38,500
Elgin Community College
College Type
2-year, Public
Campus Housing
No
Student Population
9,931
Graduation Rate
42%
Net Price
$4,159
Grads Salary
$32,300
Olney Central College
College Type
2-year, Public
Campus Housing
No
Student Population
1,034
Graduation Rate
59%
Net Price
$7,580
Grads Salary
$29,500
Wabash Valley College
College Type
2-year, Public
Campus Housing
No
Student Population
2,646
Graduation Rate
61%
Net Price
$6,040
Grads Salary
$27,800
William Rainey Harper College
College Type
2-year, Public
Campus Housing
No
Student Population
13,477
Graduation Rate
35%
Net Price
$8,874
Grads Salary
$37,300
Kishwaukee College
College Type
2-year, Public
Campus Housing
No
Student Population
3,060
Graduation Rate
41%
Net Price
$7,324
Grads Salary
$34,100
Moraine Valley Community College
College Type
2-year, Public
Campus Housing
No
Student Population
13,032
Graduation Rate
29%
Net Price
$1,850
Grads Salary
$33,700
Full Ranking Report

Best Bachelor's Degrees in Illinois


Consistently, the best colleges in Illinois offering a variety of majors in which you can earn a bachelor’s degree. Keep in mind that effective and influential bachelor’s degree programs can be found at over a dozen higher learning institutions in Illinois. Here you can see which one will be the right fit for you. The top bachelor’s programs in Illinois include business, education, research, digital forensics and internet security, management, marketing, biological and biomedical sciences, health professions and, psychology.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
College Type
4-year, Public
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
52,679
Graduation Rate
86%
Net Price
$13,517
Grads Salary
$78,700
Northwestern University
College Type
4-year, Private not-for-profit
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
22,448
Graduation Rate
95%
Net Price
$28,344
Grads Salary
$83,800
University of Illinois Chicago
College Type
4-year, Public
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
33,518
Graduation Rate
63%
Net Price
$12,614
Grads Salary
$73,400
University of St. Francis
College Type
4-year, Private not-for-profit
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
3,529
Graduation Rate
60%
Net Price
$16,761
Grads Salary
$79,200
University of Chicago
College Type
4-year, Private not-for-profit
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
17,452
Graduation Rate
96%
Net Price
$36,584
Grads Salary
$81,500
Saint Xavier University
College Type
4-year, Private not-for-profit
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
3,623
Graduation Rate
56%
Net Price
$13,326
Grads Salary
$76,000
Principia College
College Type
4-year, Private not-for-profit
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
407
Graduation Rate
75%
Net Price
$15,630
Grads Salary
$65,600
Lewis University
College Type
4-year, Private not-for-profit
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
6,359
Graduation Rate
70%
Net Price
$20,022
Grads Salary
$71,100
University of Illinois Springfield
College Type
4-year, Public
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
4,146
Graduation Rate
55%
Net Price
$11,628
Grads Salary
$68,800
Northern Illinois University
College Type
4-year, Public
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
16,609
Graduation Rate
48%
Net Price
$14,397
Grads Salary
$72,200
Full Ranking Report

Best Master's Degrees in Illinois


Advanced degrees in Illinois are widely available in every region of the state. Some of the most well-regarded colleges and universities in the state offer full post-graduate degrees in a variety of majors. These degrees can earn you access to promotions and salary increases or let you pivot your career toward something new. Each of these colleges and universities has a number of exceptional master’s and doctorate degrees including healthcare management, education, MBAs, law, medicine, public policy, social sciences, business, biological sciences, economics, journalism, engineering, communications, and finance.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
College Type
4-year, Public
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
52,679
Graduation Rate
86%
Net Price
$13,517
Grads Salary
$78,700
Northwestern University
College Type
4-year, Private not-for-profit
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
22,448
Graduation Rate
95%
Net Price
$28,344
Grads Salary
$83,800
University of Illinois Chicago
College Type
4-year, Public
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
33,518
Graduation Rate
63%
Net Price
$12,614
Grads Salary
$73,400
University of St. Francis
College Type
4-year, Private not-for-profit
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
3,529
Graduation Rate
60%
Net Price
$16,761
Grads Salary
$79,200
University of Chicago
College Type
4-year, Private not-for-profit
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
17,452
Graduation Rate
96%
Net Price
$36,584
Grads Salary
$81,500
Saint Xavier University
College Type
4-year, Private not-for-profit
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
3,623
Graduation Rate
56%
Net Price
$13,326
Grads Salary
$76,000
Lewis University
College Type
4-year, Private not-for-profit
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
6,359
Graduation Rate
70%
Net Price
$20,022
Grads Salary
$71,100
University of Illinois Springfield
College Type
4-year, Public
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
4,146
Graduation Rate
55%
Net Price
$11,628
Grads Salary
$68,800
Northern Illinois University
College Type
4-year, Public
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
16,609
Graduation Rate
48%
Net Price
$14,397
Grads Salary
$72,200
Wheaton College
College Type
4-year, Private not-for-profit
Campus Housing
Yes
Student Population
3,004
Graduation Rate
88%
Net Price
$27,474
Grads Salary
$64,800
Full Ranking Report

Cost of Illinois College Education & Salaries


An Illinois bachelor's degree is not a cheap proposition. Those four or more years of study often mean that you aren't able to work full-time and that you graduate with a large amount of debt. That might seem daunting. However, consider that there are ways to ameliorate your tuition and other expenses.

One way to offset college expenses is by starting out at a community college. You can complete your core curriculum at a two-year school and then save the more expensive courses for when you move up to a four-year institution. It's also important to remain in-state for public education. When you travel out-of-state for your bachelor's degree you are likely to be charged two or even three times the in-state tuition. For the same money you could pay for a private school education.

Yet another tactic to employ when reducing the cost of your Illinois bachelor's degree is applying for scholarships. Many students overlook this possibility, or erroneously assume that scholarships aren't for them. Thus, lots of money is left lying on the table every year. Plus, consider the prestige that comes with a scholarship. Even if an award barely dents the bill for your books and materials, you will enter the job market with an award on your resume that someone else didn't feel was worth their time.

Finally, take a look at how much more you stand to earn with a bachelor's degree than without. Your job satisfaction level may be higher as well. You could perhaps find happiness installing electrical devices in residences, but it would probably be far more gratifying to install a communications infrastructure as an Electrical Engineer. That sort of satisfaction is priceless.

College Cost Analysis - Illinois vs National


Average Illinois Tuition & Fees at 4 Year Public Schools

In-State Tuition - $14,259

National Average – $9,580

Out-of-State Tuition – $28,522

National Average – $27,437

Percentage of Students Receiving Financial Aid

Illinois is among the top five states with the most financial aid. In Illinois, 62% of all FAFSA applicants receive aid for their bachelor's (or other) degrees. Of those that receive aid, 276,800 qualify for grants which need not be repaid. Meanwhile, 353,500 students take out loans at a rate of $12,600 per student. However, keep in mind that Illinois is a highly populated state that places a high value on education.

Financial Aid Illinois Nationally
Received Federal Grants 36% 37.7%
Average $ per Recipient $11,426 $10,927

* Institutional aid represents grant and scholarship funds directly awarded by a postsecondary institution.
* Financial aid data represents 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Best Scholarships for Illinois


Scholarships and grants are a tremendous benefit for a few reasons. Most obviously, they provide much-needed funds to help pay for tuition, books, and even room and board. Secondly, it is an achievement to receive a scholarship or grant and thus will be a happy addition to your resume. So, while you may only receive a few hundred dollars of scholarship money, it may just continue paying dividends in the long-run. Here are a few scholarships for Illinois students:

CFNI_logo

CFNI

Community Foundation of Northern Illinois

https://www.cfnil.org/scholarships/
Amount: $500-$10,000
Deadline: February 1
The CFNIL is a philanthropic organization that manages a wide range of scholarships for students in the state. They maintain scholarships that help firefighters, engineers, musicians, architects, and many more. Many of the scholarships are only available for students in Northern Illinois towns and counties such as Rockford, Winnebago County, Boone, Rochelle, Pecatonica, and Hononegah, to name a few. If you are headed to college from Northern Illinois, you should check it out.

SMCC_logo

SMCC

The Six Meter Club of Chicago Scholarship

http://www.arrl.org/scholarship-descriptions
Amount: $500
Deadline: January 31
The American Radio Relay League offers a scholarship to students who hold Amateur Radio licenses in Illinois. The award is $500 and is awarded to students with a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or better. You can apply no matter what level of undergraduate degree you are seeking.

QCS

Chapter 23 - Quad Cities Scholarship

https://www.smeef.org/sme-education-foundation-scholarships/scholarship-opportunities/
Amount: $1,000-$6,000
Deadline: February 1
If you seek a bachelor's degree in a field related to manufacturing, engineering, manufacturing technology, or integrated manufacturing systems, this award can help with books, fees, or tuition. The first preference is to award the scholarship to an SME Student Chapter member, but students from Iowa or Illinois are welcome to apply.

JFA_logo

JFA

Jewish Federation Academic Scholarship

https://www.jcfs.org/jvsscholarships
Amount: $1,000-$8,000
Deadline: February 1
If you are Jewish and from Chicago, you can apply for this scholarship award. The Federation prefers to disburse funds to students who are studying in a career-oriented field such as engineering, law, fine arts, medicine, or business, among others. When you apply you should have plans to remain in the Chicago area, demonstrate financial need, and show career promise. The application requires an in-person interview in either March or April (ending the 20th.)

SWE_logo

SWE

The Society for Women Engineers Scholarships

http://societyofwomenengineers.swe.org/scholarships
Amount: $1,000-$15,000 (Some are renewable)
Deadline: May 1 (Freshman), February 15 (Sophomores-Graduate Students)
The Society for Women Engineers strives to promote women who seek to enter the field. To apply for one of their many scholarships, you should be in your final year of high school or a college student, enrolled or accepted to an ABET-accredited engineering program. To apply, submit two letters of recommendation, and your official academic transcripts.