Illinois is one of the most populous states in the nation, and its system of higher education is proportionately massive. According to the state’s Board of Education, prospective students can choose from more than 270 accredited colleges, universities, community colleges, vocational colleges and technical schools. This diversity of institutions means students can earn certificates and degrees in almost any field imaginable, and thanks to a statewide embrace of all things high-tech, they do not necessarily have to report to a classroom–or even Illinois–to do it.
Online learning is on the rise globally, and Illinois is on the cutting edge. The Prairie State recognized early on how valuable distance learning programs can be for students living in rural communities, working full-time or otherwise limited in higher education options. Online schools in Illinois have grown in numbers, but traditional colleges and universities also offer online courses and degrees. The Illinois Community College Board reports that enrollment in its distance learning offerings grew by 38.2 percent between 2008 and 2012. Several four-year institutions have reported similar expansion. This online learning boom is good news for prospective students, but they must still do their research before selecting programs. This review of the state’s higher education system, including top online schools in Illinois, can help.
Private career colleges were generally among the earliest adopters of online education in Illinois, but now even large, public schools offer Web-based courses and degrees. The University of Illinois, for example, offers online bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, certificates and continuing education across all three of its campuses. Northern Illinois University and Northeastern Illinois University also have online bachelor’s and master’s programs. Even two-year schools are on-trend via the Illinois Community College Online (ILCCO) consortium, which connects students with online courses across the system. Dozens of private online schools in Illinois supplement these public options, including DeVry University, which is headquartered in the state.
Illinois’ hundreds of colleges and universities may give students plenty of program choices, whether virtual or traditional, but navigating them can seem overwhelming. Here is a broad overview of the state’s post-secondary educational options.
Illinois launched the nation’s very first community college–an experiment that evolved into what is now the third largest community college system in the nation, with 48 member schools in 39 districts serving nearly 1 million students each year. Students can pursue targeted career training, certificates and associate degrees in over 300 disciplines. This diversity of programs, along with the system’s comparative affordability, makes community college a popular choice in Illinois: almost two-thirds of all public college students statewide attend these two-year schools. Some of these students transfer into four-year institutions, but others aim to build or expand upon workforce-ready skills. Illinois community colleges have built evening, weekend and online programs to better serve these working and nontraditional students.
Illinois’ nine public universities serve about one-fifth of its undergraduate and one-third of its graduate student population. The extensive system offers bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and professional degrees and graduate certificates in hundreds of disciplines. Each university is distinct in its programs and services. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for instance, is known for its research programs, particularly in the areas of science, math and engineering. Twelve campuses and even more satellite facilities mean most state residents have access to public university programs, but a boom in online degree programs expanded their reach well beyond these classroom walls–and even the state’s borders.
Private colleges tend to be more expensive than Illinois’ public universities, but they remain popular among students looking for certain programs, services and learning experiences. How popular? There are about 100 independent nonprofit schools alone serving nearly a quarter-million students each year, and for-profit institutions only add to that share. Private colleges in Illinois range tremendously in size and scope. There are religiously affiliated institutions, prestigious research universities and several targeted professional schools specializing in areas like psychology, technology, optometry and more. Some are nationally renowned, like The University of Chicago and Northwestern University, which consistently rank among the top 20 best universities in the country according to U.S. News & World Report.
Western Illinois University
Western Illinois University, a public institution headquartered in Macomb, offers a number of online courses through its School of Distance Learning, International Studies and Outreach. Students can earn a handful of degrees fully online, including a Bachelor of Arts in General Studies, a Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology, and a Master of Science in Education with a concentration in elementary education. WIU also participates in the National Fire Academy’s Fire and Emergency Services for Higher Learning curriculum, which allows working firefighters to take career-related upper division courses through the university’s distance learning system. Note that WIU students enrolled in other programs still have access to dozens of individual online courses.
All online courses begin and end at the same time as regular on-campus classes, with sessions starting in the spring, fall and summer. Students can access lectures and materials online at any time, but must comply with all instructor-set homework and exam deadlines.
To learn more about Western Illinois University and its distance learning programs, visit the website at: http://www.wiu.edu/online_learning.
DePaul University’s Online Learning program allows students to earn Web-based certificates, bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees in a number of fields. Undergraduate options include a fully online baccalaureate in computing as well as online bachelor’s degree completion programs in communication and media, information technology and psychology. Also available is an online bachelor’s degree with an individualized focus area based on personal and professional goals. Students can pursue online graduate certificates and master’s degrees in many different subject areas, like accountancy, computer science, public service management and software engineering, among others.
DePaul offers remote students an array of learning tools and support resources, including library services, career counseling, academic advising and more.
For more information about DePaul’s online programs, visit: http://www.depaul.edu/academics/online-learning/Pages/default.aspx.
University of Illinois (U of I Online)
The University of Illinois’ U of I Online is a one-stop hub for students enrolled at any of its Chicago, Springfield and Urbana-Champaign campuses. The system grants fully online bachelor’s degrees in business, computer science and health information management. The University of Illinois Springfield’s online bachelor’s degree programs have been ranked the 31st in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Students can pursue online graduate certificates in community public health and forensic nursing, or online master’s degrees in areas like agricultural education, foodservice and nutrition, and management information systems. Online doctoral degree programs include nursing practice and public health.
The University of Illinois is known for its selective admissions requirements. For example, students looking to enroll in the college of business must have 24-50+ semester hours of transferable coursework. Students who have completed less than 30 semester hours of credit are evaluated based on their grades and courses in college, high school academics, ACT or SAT scores and essays. Transfer admission preference is given to applicants who would have been admitted as freshmen. Graduate admissions requirements are equally steep–many programs require bachelor’s degrees from regionally accredited U.S. colleges and a GPA of 4.0 as well as specific GRE scores.
For a full list of offerings, visit the U of I’s online program page: http://www.online.uillinois.edu/.
Loyola University (Loyola Online)
Loyola University’s Loyola Online System offers advanced certificates, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and doctoral degrees in a fully Web-based format. Online bachelor’s degrees are currently limited to the fields of management and applied studies, but online graduate study options are much more robust. Students can also pursue six fully online certificate programs.
Loyola University distance learning courses are divided into three distinct categories: online, hybrid and blended. Online classes are delivered 100 percent over the Internet through Sakai, the university’s virtual learning system. Hybrid courses are available mostly online, but students must complete 25 percent of the coursework in the classroom. Blended courses incorporate varying amounts of content online. Some online, hybrid and blended courses require students to log into Sakai to for real-time, synchronous sessions.
For more information on Loyola’s online programs, visit http://www.luc.edu/online/index.shtml.
Best Online Schools in Illinois for Military Service Members
Illinois is often considered a microcosm of the country, and the diversity of its total student population reflects that. Many online colleges and universities in Illinois offer programs specifically for certain groups of students–especially active and retired military service members. All online programs can be tremendously helpful for military personnel and spouses who want to invest in higher education, but do not want their studies disrupted by a deployment, relocation or any other event. Some schools take their mission to serve these students even further. They might offer special scholarships or financial aid programs for active and retired military, counseling on how to get the most out of their education benefits, or even transition support. Congrats to the following online schools in Illinois whose military support programs go above and beyond the call of duty.
|Tuition||City||ROTC - Army||ROTC - Navy||ROTC - Air Force|
|University of Illinois at Chicago||$10,466||Chicago||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||$12,603||Champaign||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Northeastern Illinois University||$6,120||Chicago||Yes||No||Yes|
|Southern Illinois University Edwardsville||$6,256||Edwardsville||Yes||No||Yes|
|Southern Illinois University Carbondale||$7,635||Carbondale||Yes||No||Yes|
Best Online Schools in Illinois for Personalized Education
Illinois has no shortage of top-notch online schools and degrees, but program formats and technologies can vary tremendously. Some of these differences can make students’ learning experiences a little more personal. For instance, courses that use a lot of collaborative tools, like Skype and cloud-based projects, help students feel connected. Small class sizes free instructors up to answer questions and provide more individual feedback. Even synchronous courses in which students log in to view interactive live-streamed courses during set times can be enormously helpful for students who like the convenience of online learning, but miss the spontaneity of classroom lectures. The following online schools in Illinois may use different methods, but all actively work to provide their students with this kind of personalized attention.
|Hebrew Theological College||20 to 1||501||$17,620||Private not-for-profit||Skokie|
|East-West University||20 to 1||1,005||$16,800||Private not-for-profit||Chicago|
|Saint Augustine College||20 to 1||2,254||$8,760||Private not-for-profit||Chicago|
|University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||20 to 1||33,400||$12,603||Public||Champaign|
|Robert Morris University Illinois||19 to 1||4,313||$22,200||Private not-for-profit||Chicago|
|Illinois State University||19 to 1||19,965||$9,286||Public||Normal|
|Southern Illinois University Edwardsville||18 to 1||12,773||$6,256||Public||Edwardsville|
|Moody Bible Institute||17 to 1||3,753||$8,800||Private not-for-profit||Chicago|
|University of Illinois at Chicago||17 to 1||18,698||$10,466||Public||Chicago|
|Northern Illinois University||17 to 1||18,830||$8,149||Public||Dekalb|
|DePaul University||17 to 1||19,088||$31,650||Private not-for-profit||Chicago|
|Methodist College||16 to 1||661||$15,198||Private not-for-profit||Peoria|
|Lincoln Christian University||16 to 1||716||$15,060||Private not-for-profit||Lincoln|
|North Central College||16 to 1||2,985||$30,891||Private not-for-profit||Naperville|
|Olivet Nazarene University||16 to 1||3,442||$27,250||Private not-for-profit||Bourbonnais|
|Chicago State University||16 to 1||6,198||$6,144||Public||Chicago|
|Western Illinois University||16 to 1||11,892||$7,415||Public||Macomb|
|Telshe Yeshiva-Chicago||15 to 1||79||$12,000||Private not-for-profit||Chicago|
|Lincoln College||15 to 1||1,395||$16,500||Private not-for-profit||Lincoln|
|Aurora University||15 to 1||3,183||$19,900||Private not-for-profit||Aurora|
|Benedictine University||15 to 1||4,750||$23,217||Private not-for-profit||Lisle|
|Eastern Illinois University||15 to 1||10,579||$7,780||Public||Charleston|
|Loyola University Chicago||15 to 1||11,095||$33,450||Private not-for-profit||Chicago|
|Northeastern Illinois University||15 to 1||11,325||$6,120||Public||Chicago|
|Southern Illinois University Carbondale||15 to 1||17,448||$7,635||Public||Carbondale|
|Eureka College||14 to 1||826||$18,650||Private not-for-profit||Eureka|
|Monmouth College||14 to 1||1,361||$30,450||Private not-for-profit||Monmouth|
|Quincy University||14 to 1||1,425||$24,344||Private not-for-profit||Quincy|
|Greenville College||14 to 1||1,453||$22,750||Private not-for-profit||Greenville|
|McKendree University||14 to 1||2,755||$24,340||Private not-for-profit||Lebanon|
|Saint Xavier University||14 to 1||3,432||$27,330||Private not-for-profit||Chicago|
|Elmhurst College||14 to 1||3,508||$31,450||Private not-for-profit||Elmhurst|
|University of Illinois at Springfield||14 to 1||3,631||$6,840||Public||Springfield|
|Trinity International University-Illinois||13 to 1||1,286||$25,400||Private not-for-profit||Deerfield|
|Lake Forest College||13 to 1||1,582||$37,660||Private not-for-profit||Lake Forest|
|North Park University||13 to 1||2,440||$22,090||Private not-for-profit||Chicago|
|Lewis University||13 to 1||5,242||$25,770||Private not-for-profit||Romeoville|
|MacMurray College||12 to 1||598||$20,400||Private not-for-profit||Jacksonville|
|University of St Francis||12 to 1||2,052||$26,374||Private not-for-profit||Joliet|
|Dominican University||12 to 1||2,142||$27,480||Private not-for-profit||River Forest|
|Wheaton College||12 to 1||2,559||$30,120||Private not-for-profit||Wheaton|
|Illinois Institute of Technology||12 to 1||2,999||$35,203||Private not-for-profit||Chicago|
|Governors State University||12 to 1||4,171||$5,976||Public||University Park|
|Roosevelt University||12 to 1||4,486||$25,950||Private not-for-profit||Chicago|
|Bradley University||12 to 1||5,149||$27,940||Private not-for-profit||Peoria|
|Resurrection University||11 to 1||392||$23,278||Private not-for-profit||Oak Park|
|Illinois College||11 to 1||962||$26,000||Private not-for-profit||Jacksonville|
|Knox College||11 to 1||1,457||$36,138||Private not-for-profit||Galesburg|
|Trinity Christian College||11 to 1||1,594||$23,098||Private not-for-profit||Palos Heights|
|Illinois Wesleyan University||11 to 1||2,105||$37,774||Private not-for-profit||Bloomington|
|Millikin University||11 to 1||2,497||$27,852||Private not-for-profit||Decatur|
|Augustana College||11 to 1||2,737||$34,614||Private not-for-profit||Rock Island|
|Blessing Rieman College of Nursing||10 to 1||292||$18,840||Private not-for-profit||Quincy|
|Blackburn College||10 to 1||591||$17,282||Private not-for-profit||Carlinville|
|Judson University||10 to 1||1,213||$26,220||Private not-for-profit||Elgin|
|School of the Art Institute of Chicago||10 to 1||2,807||$38,340||Private not-for-profit||Chicago|
|Columbia College-Chicago||10 to 1||12,168||$21,200||Private not-for-profit||Chicago|
|Shimer College||9 to 1||138||$26,510||Private not-for-profit||Chicago|
|VanderCook College of Music||9 to 1||194||$22,776||Private not-for-profit||Chicago|
|Saint Anthony College of Nursing||9 to 1||240||$20,134||Private not-for-profit||Rockford|
|Trinity College of Nursing & Health Sciences||9 to 1||284||$22,680||Private not-for-profit||Rock Island|
|Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing||9 to 1||468||$15,810||Private not-for-profit||Peoria|
|Rockford University||9 to 1||1,153||$26,210||Private not-for-profit||Rockford|
|Concordia University-Chicago||9 to 1||1,552||$25,942||Private not-for-profit||River Forest|
|Christian Life College||8 to 1||54||$9,440||Private not-for-profit||Mount Prospect|
|Lakeview College of Nursing||8 to 1||393||$12,870||Private not-for-profit||Danville|
|National Louis University||8 to 1||1,870||$18,855||Private not-for-profit||Chicago|
|Northwestern University||7 to 1||11,076||$43,380||Private not-for-profit||Evanston|
|Lexington College||6 to 1||75||$23,500||Private not-for-profit||Chicago|
|St Johns College||6 to 1||112||$15,030||Private not-for-profit||Springfield|
|National University of Health Sciences||6 to 1||153||$13,987||Private not-for-profit||Lombard|
|University of Chicago||6 to 1||5,518||$43,581||Private not-for-profit||Chicago|
|Rush University||5 to 1||106||$32,603||Private not-for-profit||Chicago|
Best Online Schools in Illinois for Women in Tech
Studies show that though women have made huge strides in breaking through many professional gender barriers, they remain woefully underrepresented in tech. Many colleges took note and launched initiatives to attract and better support women pursuing degrees in high-tech fields like computer science. Because technology programs are particularly well suited for Web-centered education, some online schools in Illinois have joined the movement to support women majoring in tech domains. They might, for instance, hire more female instructors who can guide and mentor young women, or coordinate special networking or other events especially for them. Approaches vary, but these programs’ commitment to helping women succeed in tech is universal. Here are some of the best online schools in Illinois doing just that.
|TUITION + FEES||CITY||WOMEN IN TECH DEGREES AWARDED||TOTAL ENROLLMENT||TYPE|
|University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||$14,522||Champaign||444||40,541||Public|
|Northwestern University||$43,779||Evanston||255||17,089||Private Not for Profit|
|Illinois Institute of Technology||$37,969||Chicago||222||6,322||Private Not for Profit|
|Southern Illinois University Carbondale||$11,528||Carbondale||127||15,814||Public|
|University of Illinois at Chicago||$13,122||Chicago||126||23,041||Public|
|Concordia University-Chicago||$26,476||River Forest||125||1,710||Private Not for Profit|
|Northern Illinois University||$13,066||Dekalb||82||17,448||Public|
|Illinois State University||$12,726||Normal||59||18,825||Public|
|Southern Illinois University Edwardsville||$9,251||Edwardsville||51||10,905||Public|
|Eastern Illinois University||$10,930||Charleston||51||9,257||Public|
|Bradley University||$28,284||Peoria||45||4,970||Private Not for Profit|
|Rush University||N/A||Chicago||44||1,335||Private Not for Profit|
|Western Illinois University||$11,182||Macomb||22||10,386||Public|
|DePaul University||$32,295||Chicago||20||19,029||Private Not for Profit|
|Loyola University Chicago||$34,578||Chicago||18||13,494||Private Not for Profit|
|Lewis University||$25,770||Romeoville||14||3,962||Private Not for Profit|
|Roosevelt University||$25,950||Chicago||13||3,809||Private Not for Profit|
|University of St Francis||$26,924||Joliet||13||1,526||Private Not for Profit|
|Columbia College-Chicago||$21,730||Chicago||12||10,287||Private Not for Profit|
|University of Illinois at Springfield||$8,952||Springfield||8||2,588||Public|
|Robert Morris University Illinois||$22,200||Chicago||7||3,532||Private Not for Profit|
|National Louis University||$18,930||Chicago||7||1,188||Private Not for Profit|
Online Schools in Illinois Fighting for Families
When it comes to social services emphasizing children and family, Illinois colleges shine by creating some of the strongest educational environments for students earning their social work degree. Many online schools in Illinois offer quality social sciences programs that earn high rankings, hire experienced faculty and offer opportunities for honing field experience within students’ own communities. Professional programs, support groups or special scholarships for online social science students help, too. Here is a list of some of the outstanding online social work programs in Illinois.
|CITY||SOCIAL DEGREES AWARDED||WOMEN||MEN||TUITION & FEES||TOTAL ENROLLMENT|
|Loyola University Chicago||Chicago||494||418||76||$34,578||13,494|
|University of Illinois at Chicago||Chicago||380||315||65||$13,122||23,041|
|University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||Champaign||341||260||81||$14,522||40,541|
|University of Chicago||Chicago||261||210||51||$45,609||12,457|
|Northeastern Illinois University||Chicago||188||153||35||$8,089||5,995|
|Southern Illinois University Carbondale||Carbondale||183||150||33||$11,528||15,814|
|Illinois State University||Normal||156||124||32||$12,726||18,825|
|Northern Illinois University||Dekalb||139||66||73||$13,066||17,448|
|Southern Illinois University Edwardsville||Edwardsville||121||100||21||$9,251||10,905|
|Western Illinois University||Macomb||105||75||30||$11,182||10,386|
|Governors State University||University Park||95||83||12||N/A||655|
|Dominican University||River Forest||91||75||16||$27,730||2,272|
|Eastern Illinois University||Charleston||77||46||31||$10,930||9,257|
|Chicago State University||Chicago||57||47||10||$8,558||4,446|
|University of Illinois at Springfield||Springfield||53||44||9||$8,952||2,588|
|North Central College||Naperville||36||22||14||$31,071||2,621|
|University of St Francis||Joliet||29||27||2||$26,924||1,526|
|Olivet Nazarene University||Bourbonnais||26||25||1||$28,090||2,921|
|Augustana College||Rock Island||21||16||5||$34,614||2,504|
|National Louis University||Chicago||19||15||4||$18,930||1,188|
|Saint Xavier University||Chicago||18||13||5||$28,110||2,812|
|North Park University||Chicago||14||10||4||$22,150||1,948|
|Concordia University-Chicago||River Forest||12||11||1||$26,476||1,710|
|Trinity Christian College||Palos Heights||12||11||1||$23,513||1,155|
|Saint Augustine College||Chicago||11||10||1||$8,760||1,276|
|Illinois Wesleyan University||Bloomington||9||7||2||$37,954||2,082|