Accredited Degree Programs, Scholarships and Resources for Top Schools
Universities and colleges in Illinois are committed to transforming online education. In 2010, the state adopted the Illinois Public Agenda for College and Career Success, a 10-year plan to make higher education more accessible and affordable. As part of this effort, schools are investing in quality online programs. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 10 percent of students in Illinois, or roughly 90,000 people, were enrolled in fully online programs in 2012 alone. If you’re considering earning an online degree in Illinois, this page can help you navigate the growing online college landscape in Illinois, with advice on everything from paying for school to using transfer credits.
Top 10 Online Schools and Colleges in Illinois
|#1||Moody Bible Institute Chicago, IL|
|#2||University of Illinois at Springfield Springfield, IL|
|#3||University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL|
|#4||Elmhurst College Elmhurst, IL|
|#5||Aurora University Aurora, IL|
|#6||University of St. Francis Joliet, IL|
|#7||DePaul University Chicago, IL|
|#8||Lewis University Romeoville, IL|
|#9||Western Illinois University Macomb, IL|
|#10||Olivet Nazarene University Bourbonnais, IL|
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Top Online Programs
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How Can I Find Which Online Colleges Offer the Degree I'm Looking for in Illinois?
How Much More Do College Grads in Illinois Make?
In Illinois and throughout the country, higher education levels tend to lead to higher salaries. According to a report by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, in 2016 professionals with a two-year degree made about 20% more than those with only a high school diploma. Bachelor's degree-holders earned nearly twice as much as professionals with a high school education. The table below illustrates that higher education consistently leads to increased earning potential.
|Degree Level||Average Tuition|
|Less than High School||$28,756|
|High School (GED)||$$37,960|
Paying for Online College in Illinois: Tuition and Financial Aid
Illinois' college costs rank among the most expensive in the nation. The average out-of-state tuition rate for students in Illinois is more than $3,000 higher than the national average of $25,657. Most learners need assistance, such as financial aid and scholarships, to fund their education. Additionally, many students choose online schools and colleges in Illinois, which tend to be more affordable than on-campus options.
Average Undergraduate Tuition and Fees: Public Colleges and Universities
|Tuition Type||Average Tuition|
|National Avg.||$9,037(In-State); $25,657(Out-of-State)|
Average Undergraduate Tuition and Fees: Private Colleges and Universities
|Tuition Type||Average Tuition|
Cost Considerations for Online Students in Illinois
The tables above do not include expenses or certain fees. These costs can significantly impact the overall cost of earning a degree. While online students often save money on housing and transportation costs, some schools charge additional fees for distance learners.
Computer Fees: Many institutions charge online learners a computer or technology fee. These fees help cover the networks and technology necessary to deliver online classes.
Residency Fees: Some schools require distance learners to visit campus for orientation, certain classes, and practicums. Residency requirements can lead to additional transportation costs.
Voluntary Travel: Many schools invite distance learners to graduation and other on-campus events, which require transportation and travel costs.
Exam Proctoring: Learners attending online schools and colleges in Illinois must often take exams in the presence of an impartial overseer. These proctoring services typically require a nominal fee.
Books and Computers: Online learners need a computer that is capable of running the necessary software. Students also need to purchase physical or digital textbooks and course materials for each class.
Qualifying for In-State Tuition in Illinois
According to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, learners must physically reside in Illinois for at least one year prior to their first semester to qualify for in-state tuition rates. Students must also declare Illinois as their state of permanent residence.
Military members and foreign missionary students sent out of state or overseas to carry out their duties are an exception to this rule. Additionally, some universities offer in-state tuition rates to all online learners, regardless of residency.
Paying for College in Illinois: Scholarships and Financial Aid
Many students apply for grants and scholarships to help fund their education. These types of funding are ideal, since they do not require repayment. The grant and scholarship programs below are open to learners attending online schools and colleges in Illinois.
Scholarships for Illinois College Students
Who Can Apply: These awards help academically gifted residents of Illinois, particularly minority students, become educators. Recipients must agree to teach in Illinois for at least five years after graduation.
Amount: $2,500 to $5,000
Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports aspiring teachers planning to work in districts that serve a large percentage of minority students. If recipients do not fulfill the agreed-upon terms, the scholarship converts to a loan.
Amount: Up to $5,000
Who Can Apply: This state-funded program is designed to help offset the nursing shortage. Recipients of this need-based award agree to study nursing and work in the state upon graduation.
Who Can Apply: Administered by the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, this scholarship supports learners at public universities. Applicants must have a parent who was an active-duty service member who went missing in action, was a prisoner of war, or was disabled in the line of duty.
Who Can Apply: This program waives tuition costs for learners studying special education. Recipients must agree to work in Illinois for a certain amount of time after graduation.
Grants for Illinois College Students
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be attending a public university in Illinois and must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students must take at least three credits per semester.
Who Can Apply: Illinois residents attending approved schools in the state can apply for this need-based grant. Applicants must be enrolled full time and must not already hold a bachelor's degree.
Who Can Apply: This grant program supports students who served at least one year or currently serve in one of the branches of the American military. Recipients must attend a public school in Illinois.
Who Can Apply: This need-based grant is available to Illinois residents who attend a public university in the collegiate license plate program. Recipients must enroll at a participating school and fill out the FAFSA form.
Who Can Apply: Federal Pell Grants help undergraduate students nationwide pay for college. Students must submit the FAFSA form to apply.
Amount: Up to $6,195
The Importance of Accreditation for Online Colleges and Universities in Illinois
Learners choosing from online colleges and schools in Illinois should ensure that each prospective institution holds accreditation. The Higher Learning Commission delivers regional accreditation to Illinois schools. Regional accreditation demonstrates that the institution meets set academic and professional standards and that employers and graduate schools will recognize your degree.
Most accredited schools and programs feature their accreditation status on their website. Ensure that the school or program holds accreditation from an agency that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for HIgher Education Accreditation. Both the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation maintain accreditation databases of recognized agencies and accredited schools.\n
Online College and Adult Education in Illinois
Many states sponsor initiatives to support online and adult education. In 2018, Illinois launched an online-education initiative. The five-year Illinois Adult Education Strategic Plan is designed to improve access to education for adult learners in the state. The following sections include resources for adult learners in Illinois.
By the Numbers: Adult Education in Illinois
Illinois' adult education program served more than 64,000 learners between 2016 and 2017.
More than 40% of participants in Illinois' adult education program achieved measurable academic gains.
In 2008, over 40% of Illinois' adult learners pursued their education through a community college.Sources: U.S. Department of Education, Illinois Adult Education Enrollment Study
Adult Education Programs for Illinois Students
- Illinois Work Net: The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity maintains this website, which provides resources for adults who want to further their education and acquire job skills.
- Apprenticeship Illinois: This state-run program connects apprentices with tradesmen willing to train them. The initiative provides a pathway for individuals who want to learn a trade, which can lead to increased earning potential.
- Illinois Pathways: This career-oriented initiative helps adult learners find employers, educators, and professional organizations. Website visitors can search for opportunities in areas including business, the arts, health science, government, IT, and manufacturing.
Online College Resources for Illinois Students
Online students in Illinois can benefit from online resources and professional organizations. The resources below can help learners research schools and programs, locate funding sources, attain career goals, and arrange mentorships.
- University of Illinois System Online Course Database: The state's public university system maintains a searchable database of online courses and programs. The website also features admission assistance and frequently asked questions.
- Illinois State Board of Education: This resource from Illinois' educational administrators connects college students with academic and career opportunities. The website features links, apps, and pages related to postsecondary education in the state.
- Illinois Student Assistance Commission: The ISAC website provides resources for college-bound students. The College Match app helps learners find a program that is right for them. The commission also publishes a Handbook of Illinois Post Secondary Institutions and facilitates one-on-one mentoring opportunities.
- Illinois Scholarships: The Illinois Student Assistance Commission maintains this website, which details state funding available to college students. The website provides information about scholarships, grants, and work-study programs.
Best Online Colleges in Illinois 2020
In 2008, the state's department of education implemented the Illinois Public Agenda for College and Career Success, an initiative to promote higher education and career readiness. Today's students reap the benefits of the program's success. According to Digital Learning Compass, the number of Illinois students taking at least one online course increased 31% from 2012 to 2015, almost three times the national average of 11%.
Nearly 200,000 students in the Prairie State take some online courses. Dozens of schools in Illinois offer online programs, including some of the top colleges in the nation. This comprehensive guide can help you navigate the state's growing online education options. The information below can help you explore the best schools, find scholarships and grants, learn how to transfer credits, and locate resources for learners attending online schools and colleges in Illinois.
4 - Year Colleges
Moody Bible Institute, accredited by both the Higher Learning Commission and the Association for Biblical Higher Education, has several online bachelor's degree programs for those planning to work in ministry upon graduation while also providing a foundation for Moody's graduate programs. Its 120-credit bachelor of science degrees are offered in biblical studies, ministry leadership, theological studies and theological and cultural engagement.
Students can choose 8-week, 16-week self-paced, 6-month independent study and blended courses, or a combination of these formats to complete their degrees. Another bonus for online students is lower tuition, as online credit hours cost less than on-campus credit hours.
Currently, 12 fully online bachelor's degree programs are offered at theUniversity of Illinois at Springfield(UIS). Programs are typically 4 years in length, but transfer students and those coming from nearby community colleges with accepted associate degrees can finish in 2 years.
Programs vary in structure, depending on the major; some may be self-paced while others are are synchronous. Some programs, such as liberal studies, combine online and on-campus courses; some employ independent study and service learning. UIS also offers 13 online graduate degrees and a wide selection of online certificates.
At theUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, online programs are available at the bachelor's and master's degree levels. The university also offers serveral online certificate and continuing education programs in a range of subject areas and a limited selection of doctorate degrees in education. Tuition varies based on type of program and degree level, but online students pay the same tuition rates as on-campus students.
Students must meet UI admission requirements, along with specific program requirements. For example, online Earth, Society & Environmental Sustainability (ESES) students must apply as transfer students with at least one semester of prior college experience, while online psychology students have prerequisite requirements and must demonstrate inability to attend an on-campus program.
Elmhurst College is a private, 4-year liberal arts institution affiliated with the United Church of Christ, and located in the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst, Illinois. Students interested in earning a degree throughonline study at Elmhurstare limited to 2 bachelor degree options: a bachelor's in applied psychology, with courses offered in an online/on-campus hybrid format; and a bachelor's in information technology, with some courses that can be completed online.
Both options are presented in a degree-completion format only, meaning that students complete their major subject coursework through the degree-completion program after earning their general education credits elsewhere. Additionally, Elmhurst offers an undergraduate certificate in cyber security, and a graduate certificate in Geographic Information Systems, both of which can be earned fully online.
Aurora University is a private, independent, nonprofit, liberal arts university whose main campus located 40 miles west of Chicago in the city of Aurora. Aurora's distance-learning program,AU Online, offers several bachelor's and master's degrees that can be earned through distance learning in subjects such as business administration, criminal justice, mathematics, public administration and social work. A general studies BA is also available, which allows students to maximize their transfer credits and course options.
One AU Online program of particular interest is its Master of Arts in homeland security, which is designed for both government and private officials, including law enforcement professionals, emergency managers, firefighters, corporate security personnel and others.
Established in 1920, the University of St. Francis is a Catholic Franciscan university located in the city of Joliet. USF is one of the largest online education providers in Illinois, currently serving more than 1,500 students each semester.
A substantial number ofundergraduate and graduate degrees can be earned through online studyat St. Francis, in a wide range of disciplines that includes business administration, education, health care management and administration, nursing and many others. Of particular interest are St. Francis' two online doctorate programs in Educational Leadership (Ed.P) and Nursing Practice (DNP).
Located on two campuses in Chicago, DePaul University is the largest Catholic university in the United States. Through DePaul'sOnline Learningportal, students can pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates in a wide range of subject areas, including business administration, communication and media, computer science and software engineering, education leadership, nursing, psychology and many others.
DePaul online courses feature small class sizes and emphasize one-on-one interaction between students and professors. Most degrees and certificates can be earned entirely through online study. Some, however, are offered in a degree-completion format only, meaning the students complete their general education requirements elsewhere before pursuing their major subject courses online.
Lewis University is a private Catholic university sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, located in Romeoville, Illinois, approximately 35 miles from downtown Chicago. A number of master's degrees and graduate certificates are available throughdistance learning at Lewis, in major fields that include computer and data science, criminal justice, public safety, nursing and organizational leadership.
Master's degree programs are designed with adult learners in mind and can normally be completed within 2 years while working full time. All degrees and certificates can be earned 100% online.
Western Illinois University offers severalbachelor's and master's degrees that can be earned onlinein major subjects that include accountancy, anthropology, business administration, economics, education, geography, instructional design and technology, law enforcement and justice administration, nursing and more.
Of particular note is WIU's National Fire Academy Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education Curriculum for firefighters, which offers two online degree options: a Bachelor of Science in fire protection services and a Bachelor of Arts in general studies that includes firefighter training. Four post-baccalaureate certificate programs (police executive administration, supply chain management, teaching English as a second language and health services administration) can also be earned through online study at WIU.
Fully online bachelor's degrees atOlivet Nazarene Universityare accelerated programs that can be completed in 2 years or less, and are geared towards working professionals with college experience seeking career changes or advancement. The management and business programs require 128 credits, and up to 82 credits can be awarded as elective credits to those with approved AS or AAS degrees.
Master's path courses are also offered as electives and serve as dual credit courses towards a master's degree. The nursing program is a 15-month program and requires an associate or diploma in nursing for admission.