Best Colleges in Illinois in 2024

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Illinois universities offer impressive academics, as well as flourishing student life and other attractive qualities, drawing applicants from across the nation and international students from around the globe. In terms of world report rankings, many Illinois colleges and universities are among the top schools nationwide and globally. Many of the best colleges in Illinois offer both bachelor's degrees and graduate programs, catering to students at every stage of their educational journeys.

With so many top schools to choose from, you can narrow down your list of schools by comparing your academic and professional goals and core values to the available college data. Do you want to prioritize rigorous academics and research opportunities? Are post-graduate earnings potential most important to you, or are you looking to pivot from your current career with a master's degree? Do you want to enjoy a beautiful campus or the flexibility of online programs? Is a diverse student body most important?

Here at Bold.org, we are committed to furthering education while helping to eliminate student debt. Apply for scholarships today!

Best Public Colleges in Illinois

University of Illinois--Urbana-Champaign

Location: Urbana-Champaign, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 35,000

Acceptance rate: 43.7%

This flagship location of the University of Illinois is one of the top public schools in Illinois. The school prides itself on longstanding academic excellence and alumni achievement, boasting multiple alumni and faculty that are Nobel prize laureates or Pulitzer prize winners. The net price of attending this institution is $32,200 for in-state students and $50,100 for out-of-state students. The campus is located in the two small cities of Urbana and Champaign and is known for its distinctive landscape and architecture.

University of Illinois--Chicago

Location: Chicago, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 21,807

Acceptance rate: 79%

University of Illinois Chicago is Chicago's largest and most diverse university and is Illinois's only university ranked in the top 10 best value in the national ranking. It offers highly-ranked bachelor's degree programs in economics, engineering, and nursing. The net price of attending this institution is $38,000 for in-state students and $50,500 for out-of-state students. The campus is located in the Near West Side community area of Chicago, next to the Chicago Loop.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Location: Carbondale, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 11,359

Acceptance rate: 91%

Southern Illinois University Carbondale is among the best universities in Illinois, ranked in the top 5% of all US higher education institutions for research. Southern Illinois University Carbondale offers programs from bachelor's degrees to doctorates in their College of Engineering, Computing, Technology, and Mathematics. The campus is located in the large suburb of Carbondale, Illinois. The tuition is $9,638, and the estimated cost of attendance is $29,409. The tuition rate is guaranteed for four years, and this school also offers a discounted legacy rate.

Find out the ideal time to visit colleges, allowing you to experience campuses firsthand and make an informed decision about where you want to pursue your education.

private colleges in illinois

Best Private Colleges in Illinois

The University of Chicago

Location: Chicago, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 7,653

Acceptance rate: 6%

The University of Chicago is a top private school in Illinois. 99 Nobel laureates are affiliated with this institution, the largest number out of any American university. The University of Chicago is ranked as the #12 best college in the nation. The graduation rate at this institution is 95%. The campus is located in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. The tuition is $63,801, with a total cost of $89,040.

Northwestern University

Location: Evanston, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 8,659

Acceptance rate: 7%

Northwestern University is another top private school in the state and is consistently ranked among the top schools in the nation. Northwestern University's business programs for undergraduate students include a variety of majors, minors, and certificates. The campus is located in the suburb of Evanston, just north of Chicago, and is known for its blend of modern and historic gothic architecture. The tuition is $64,887, and total expenses are estimated at $91,290.

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Illinois Institute of Technology

Location: Chicago, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 3,125

Acceptance rate: 61%

Illinois Institute of Technology is the only technology-focused university in Chicago and one of the top schools for STEM degrees in the state. The Illinois Institute of Technology was founded in 1890 with the mission of lifting up people of all backgrounds in order to help them meet the needs of the age. This institution offers many different concentration programs for STEM-focused bachelor's degrees. The tuition is $49,643, with a total estimated cost of $74,047.

Lake Forest College

Location: Lake Forest, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,727

Acceptance rate: 64.4%

Lake Forest College is the top liberal arts school in the Midwest and consistently ranks in the top 100 national liberal arts colleges. This Illinois college is ranked highly for social mobility as one of the best-value schools in America. Its large campus is set in the suburban city of Lake Forest, north of Chicago and adjacent to Lake Michigan. The net price of attending this institution is $66,682.

best community colleges in illinois

Best Community Colleges in Illinois

Harper College

Location: Palatine, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 4,010

Acceptance rate: 100%

Harper College is one of the largest community colleges in the nation, serving a student body of four thousand. The college offers a number of two-year degrees, certificates, and more and is an excellent option for working adults. The tuition at this institution is $135.50 per credit hour for in-district residents and $392.50 per credit hour for out-of-district students.

Lake Land College

Location: Mattoon, IL

Total enrollment: 3,644

Acceptance rate: 100%

Lake Land College is an excellent community college with a number of highly rated programs. The college has had its medical billing and coding program ranked first in the nation, its nursing program ranked third in the state, and its vocational school ranked fourth in the state. The net price of attending this institution is $3,965.

Elgin Community College

Location: Elgin, IL

Total enrollment: 8,050

Acceptance rate: 100%

Elgin Community College prides itself on being an institution of higher education that has something for everyone. It has been ranked as one of the top 150 community colleges in the United States. Additionally, the college has high and improving levels of student success and equitable outcomes for Black and Hispanic individuals and those from lower-income backgrounds. The net price of attending this institution is $12,585.

colleges in illinois for business

Best Colleges in Illinois for Business

Northwestern University

Location: Evanston, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 8,659

Acceptance rate: 7%

Northwestern University is among the best colleges and universities in the state. Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management is recognized as one of the top business schools nationwide. Northwestern University's business bachelor's degree programs for undergraduate students include a variety of majors, minors, and certificates. The institution offers a number of master's degree business programs as well.

University of Illinois--Urbana-Champaign

Location: Urbana-Champaign, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 35,000

Acceptance rate: 43.7%

Of the public colleges and universities offering business degrees, the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign is the best. The school boasts multiple alumni and faculty who have been Nobel laureates or Pulitzer prize winners. Its bachelor's degree program for undergraduate students seeking careers in business is one of the Top 10 business schools in the nation and offers multiple majors and minors.

Loyola University Chicago

Location: Chicago, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 11,703

Acceptance rate: 77%

IL Loyola University Chicago is an excellent university, reporting a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio and 98% of incoming freshmen receiving financial aid. Their freshman retention rate is 87.5%. The University's business program is the best program in Chicago, and they are rated among the best business schools in the US. The tuition is $50,270, with an estimated cost of attendance of $68,600.

Augustana College Illinois

Location: Rock Island, IL

Total enrollment: 2,537

Acceptance rate: 69.1%

Augustana College is among the top 100 liberal arts colleges in the national ranking. Their bachelor's degree programs in business often see student outcomes of graduation in four years with a job offer. 90% of their business students complete an internship, they often add a second major or a minor, and the institution often offers monetary awards for original business plans. The tuition is $49,674, with a cost of attendance of $62,000.

engineering colleges in illinois

Best Engineering Colleges in Illinois

Illinois Institute of Technology

Location: Chicago, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 3,125

Acceptance rate: 61%

Illinois Institute of Technology is the only tech-focused university in Chicago. The Illinois Institute of Tech was founded in 1890 with the mission to uplift a diverse student body in order to meet the tech needs of the future. Their vibrant engineering college offers many different concentration programs for bachelor's degrees.

University of Illinois--Urbana-Champaign

Location: Urbana-Champaign, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 35,000

Acceptance rate: 43.7%

University of Illinois Urbana Champaign is one of the top public universities in Illinois. The school boasts multiple alumni and faculty who have been Nobel laureates or Pulitzer prize winners. Their engineering department is the #6 overall bachelor's degree program; 50% of undergraduates participate in research, and 23% of the undergraduate class is women. The student body

Northwestern University

Location: Evanston, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 8,659

Acceptance rate: 7%

Northwestern University is among the top universities in Illinois, with an extremely competitive acceptance rate. Northwestern's engineering programs all emphasize the idea of Whole Brain Engineering, which is unique to the university. This school of thought emphasizes being able to think and work across disciplines in order to have a broad body of knowledge and be able to solve complex solutions.

University of Illinois--Chicago

Location: Chicago, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 21,807

Acceptance rate: 79%

University of Illinois Chicago is Chicago's largest and most diverse university and is Illinois' only university ranked in the top 10 best value in the national ranking. Their bachelor's degree engineering programs include concentrations in mechanical and industrial engineering, electrical and computer engineering, civil and materials engineering, and chemical engineering.

nursing colleges in illinois

Best Nursing Colleges in Illinois

University of Illinois--Chicago

Location: Chicago, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 21,807

Acceptance rate: 79%

University of Illinois Chicago is one of the best colleges in Illinois, home to Chicago's largest and most diverse student body. Their nursing department is one of the top colleges of nursing in the US and is renowned for its nursing leadership. Rankings place this school among the top 50 public schools and in the top 20 nursing programs nationwide.

Loyola University Chicago

Location: Chicago, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 11,703

Acceptance rate: 77%

Loyola University Chicago is one of the best colleges in Illinois, reporting a 14:1 student-faculty ratio and 98% of incoming freshmen receiving financial assistance. Their freshman retention rate is 87.5%. Their undergraduate nursing program is ranked #31 in a national ranking.

Illinois State University

Location: Normal, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 18,055

Acceptance rate: 91.5%

Illinois State University is one of the best colleges in Illinois, ranked the #3 public institution in Illinois, and has a graduation rate of 73%. The school is also ranked in the top 10% of Best Colleges for return on investment. Their Nursing programs include an online program that was ranked as one of the Best Online Nursing Programs.

colleges in illinois for social work

Best Colleges in Illinois for Social Work

The University of Chicago

Location: Chicago, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 7,653

Acceptance rate: 6%

The University of Chicago is one of the best universities in Illinois. Their Social Work program allows undergraduates to complete both their bachelor's degrees and master's degrees in a single five-year program. Rankings consistently place this school among the best colleges in the nation.

University of Illinois--Urbana-Champaign

Location: Urbana-Champaign, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 35,000

Acceptance rate: 43.7%

University of Illinois Urbana Champaign is one of the top colleges in Illinois. The school boasts multiple alumni and faculty who have been Nobel laureates or Pulitzer prize winners. Their Bachelor of Social Work program prepares graduates for both seeking careers in the professional world and entering a Master's program.

Loyola University Chicago

Location: Chicago, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 11,703

Acceptance rate: 77%

Loyola University Chicago is an excellent institution of higher learning, reporting a 14:1 student-faculty ratio and 98% of incoming freshmen receiving financial assistance. Their school of social work was founded in 1914 and offers bachelor's degree programs as well as programs for graduates. Their Master's of Social Work program is ranked the #28 best graduate school for social work.

colleges in illinois for education majors

Best Colleges in Illinois for Education Majors

Northwestern University

Location: Evanston, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 8,659

Acceptance rate: 7%

Northwestern University is a prestigious university with an extremely competitive acceptance rate. Their bachelor's degree programs at the School of Education and Social Policy go beyond school-based learning and teacher training, also focusing on larger societal problems affecting contemporary education. Rankings place this school at ninth in the nation.

University of Illinois--Urbana-Champaign

Location: Urbana-Champaign, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 35,000

Acceptance rate: 43.7%

University of Illinois UC is one of the top public schools in Illinois. The school boasts multiple alumni and faculty who have been Nobel laureates or Pulitzer prize winners. The school's education program manages teacher licensure for the state of Illinois in cooperation with your degree program.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Location: Carbondale, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 11,359

Acceptance rate: 91%

Southern Illinois University Carbondale is among the best universities in Illinois, ranked among the top 5% of all US higher education institutions for their research. Southern Illinois University Carbondale's School of Education has nearly 150 years of experience in training educators and is a leader in innovative off-campus and online education.

colleges in illinois to apply for

Best Colleges in Illinois for Special Education

DePaul University

Location: Chicago, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 14,134

Acceptance rate: 69.4%

DePaul University offers more than 300 undergraduate majors and graduate programs to choose from, with an excellent overall quality. DePaul University also has study abroad programs in more than 30 countries. DePaul University prepares special education bachelor's degree students for the Illinois Learning and Behavior Specialist License, provided additional requirements are completed.

Illinois State University

Location: Normal, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 18,055

Acceptance rate: 91.5%

Illinois State University is one of the best colleges in Illinois, ranked the #3 public institution in Illinois, and has a graduation rate of 73%. Their comprehensive education programs include three different special education majors to choose from, depending on your interests.

Loyola University Chicago

Location: Chicago, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 11,703

Acceptance rate: 77%

Loyola University Chicago is an excellent university, reporting a 14:1 student-faculty ratio and 98% of incoming freshmen receiving financial assistance. Their freshman retention rate is 87.5%. Their school of education offers two undergraduate majors in special education, one in general special education and one in early childhood special education.

illinois college girl studying

Best Colleges in Illinois for Art

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Location: Chicago, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,819

Acceptance rate: 81%

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago is a historically significant school of art and design. According to numerous national rankings, it is consistently listed as one of the top fine arts schools in the nation. There are a number of majors and concentrations available at the school, and all degrees emphasize studying across multiple disciplines. The student body is 75% female and 25% male. Tuition is $1785 per credit hour, with an estimated cost of attendance of $54,530 before housing.

American Academy of Art

Location: Chicago, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 145

Acceptance rate: 100%

The American Academy of Art is a school intended for professional artists, with a traditional emphasis on preparing students for a career in art. The school offers six Bachelor of Fine Arts degree programs. The student body is very small, offering a personalized educational experience. Tuition is $19,320 per semester for full-time attendance.

apply for colleges in illinois

Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Colleges in Illinois

Is community college free in Illinois?

No, however, there is a program in Illinois that helps students pay tuition. The Illinois Commitment program supports students in the Illinois University system with tuition costs. The program generally covers all tuition costs for in-state students whose household income is less than $67,100 annually, but no additional fees or housing, books, and supplies costs. To lower college costs, you can apply for scholarships just for Illinois students by signing up at Bold.org.

How much is college in Illinois?

The average undergraduate tuition & fees for colleges in Illinois is $10,439 for in-state students and $20,099 for out-of-state students. Private institutions in Illinois cost significantly more than public colleges and universities. Applying for scholarships can lower the cost of attendance at these schools.

How can I pay for college in Illinois?

While tuition for public and private schools can be steep, scholarships and grants can lower the net price of attending college in Illinois. You can hone your scholarship research to those most relevant to your goals and background by searching for scholarships by major or searching by state, age, and demographic information. To begin your scholarship search, check out these top Illinois scholarships!

Here at Bold.org, we are committed to helping students eliminate student debt. Check out our Scholarship Blog for more information and learn how to apply for scholarships today!