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.
Colleges in Illinois are well-known for a variety of characteristics, from the University of Illinois Medical School location in the heart of Chicago’s medical district to DePaul University’s highly-competitive theater school. But understanding what makes each Illinois college and university unique may not get you any closer to choosing the best school for your degree goals. To start narrowing your search, it’s important to pinpoint the schools who provide the best mix of important, baseline factors: quality online curriculum and a solid reputation for online student support. We’ve highlighted the online colleges in Illinois we believe are providing the best educational experience for their students.
Most major colleges and universities in Illinois offer online education for various undergraduate and master's degrees as well as doctoral programs. For example, the University of Illinois at Springfield offers more than 20 online advanced degrees, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers a collaborative learning approach in its partnership with MOOC-magnate Coursera. Check for a directory of online programs on each school’s website for the most up-to-date information.
Our database allows you to customize your prospective program based on courses or your life experiences. Whether you're transferring credits from another institution or anticipate having to do so, there's an online school in Illinois prepared to accommodate your situation.
Distill our rankings by those institutions that accept credit for experience or those that take transfer credits from other colleges. DePaul University, for example, offers four bachelor's programs designed for transfer students with credit hours.
According to the Illinois Public Agenda for College and Career Success, nearly half of all Illinois jobs require an education beyond a high school diploma. Moreover, Georgetown University found that high school-educated people earn, on average, $1 million less than college graduates in lifetime wages. In Illinois, there are clear gaps in earnings between occupations that require a college education and those that require a high school diploma or less. Take a look at how much more a job with the following degree requirements pays, on average.
Mean Annual Salary for All Occupations in Illinois, by Degree Level:
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017
Looking at the data in the chart above, you can see that on average, employees working in positions that require a bachelor's degree in Illinois make nearly $31,000 more than those whose jobs require no college education.
According to the Illinois Board of Education, Illinois has more than 270 accredited colleges and universities. Earning a degree from an accredited institution tells potential employers and other colleges your program has been recognized for its high-quality education. Accreditation also means your degree is constantly being improved to fit workplace and real-world demands. Also, keep this in mind: many employers will only offer reimbursement options if the online university is accredited.
In short, ensuring the institution you've selected is accredited means you'll have access to an education that has passed the rigorous evaluation of regionally and nationally recognized accrediting bodies approved by the U.S. Department of Education. Regionally, online colleges in Illinois are all accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Online colleges and universities in Illinois each charge students a little differently. Generally, tuition rates in the state of Illinois are higher than the national average.
In-State Tuition, Public Colleges & Universities: $13,387
Change from 2015 $303
In-State Tuition, Private Colleges & Universities: $25,754
Change from 2015 $1,261
Source: National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
Tuition Discount Programs: One option to reduce tuition costs is to identify the online colleges in Illinois that qualify for the Midwest Student Exchange Program. This tuition discount partnership allows out-of-state students from Exchange Program states to receive a reduced tuition rate if attending a school based in a participating state. These states include Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Every school has different requirements that dictate how much to charge for tuition. Some charging residents less for online credits than non-residents, others may charge online students the same rate, no matter what state they are from. But the difference between resident and out-of-state tuition at the University of Illinois at Chicago, for example, can be almost $60,000 over a four-year period, which could make changing residency to the state of Illinois could be appealing.
Residents of Illinois who choose to attend a college in-state may also benefit from state-sponsored financial aid offerings, like the Monetary Assistance Program. Check the in- and out-of-state classifications (e.g., dependent, independent, or member of U.S. Armed Forces) at the schools that interest you before making any decisions, and carefully review the state’s residency requirements and frequently asked residency questions.
Online tuition rates and rules are different at nearly every online college in Illinois. The best way to understand if credits are more affordable here or elsewhere is to look at costs side by side. Take a look at the following tuition rates, comparing online programs in Illinois with other institutions nearby; see which undergraduate programs are the least/most costly for online students for 2018-2019.
Columbia College (Missouri)
Every online college and university in the state of Illinois offers some form of financial aid including federal assistance, scholarships and grants. But beyond federal and instituional aid, and nationally competitive scholarships, there are state-specific scholarship resources available for online students. Here are a few examples:
Carle Auxiliary Scholarship – Designated for aspiring healthcare professionals who are residents of one of the 21 participating Illinois counties. Awards are given based on academic achievements, financial need, life and work experience, references and more.
Golden Apple Scholars – This award is open to high school seniors as well as first- and second-year college students pursuing a degree in teacher education. The financial award isn’t the only desireable feature of this scholarship—winners also receive summer access to institute classes where they may gain their teaching experience.
Herman J. Neal Accounting Scholarship – Awarded by the Illinois CPA Society, the Neal Scholarship is given to a college junior, senior or graduate-leel student in Illinois. This scholarship is one of many from the group.
In early 2018, the Illinois Community College Board released its five-year strategic plan for adult education, intended to create more educational and career opportunities for adult learners in the state. Whether you're changing careers or wanting to learn new skills to grow within your existing job, adult education programs can provide the necessary stepping stones to feel confident and prepared to go out and earn a college education.
During the 2016–17 academic year, Illinois saw more than 64,000 adult learners participate in meaningful skill building programs, with participants ranging from age 19 to over 60.
- U.S. Department of Education, 2017
Programs designed to help Illinois residents prepare for college:
Adult Education programs can be useful for:
GED Prep and Testing – For students who have would like to complet high school equivalency.
Adult Literacy and ESL – Students who are learning the English language can get comprehensive training through Illinois adult education.
Bridge Programs – College and career preparation programs for specific industires of need in Illinois, such as manufacturing and healthcare.