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Best Online Colleges in Illinois

By OnlineU Staff | Updated 1/13/2022
2020 Best Online Colleges in Illinois Badge

High return on investment, affordability, and convenience motivate students to enroll in online colleges in Illinois. In fact, nearly 51% of students in Illinois enrolled exclusively in distance learning programs in 2020. Our ranked list of the best online colleges in Illinois features schools with low annual tuition and promising alumni salary outcomes. Programs at these schools are designed to prepare students for careers in the state's top industries, including energy, agribusiness, and life science.

Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about OnlineU.

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RankSchool Annual Tuition Mid-Career Salary
# 1 #1 University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign $12,270 $103,400
# 3 #3 St. John's College of Nursing - IL $23,850 $93,600
# 4 #4 DePaul University $23,040 $89,300
# 5 #5 Northern Illinois University $11,146 $85,000
# 6 #6 Illinois State University $11,908 $82,400
# 7 #7 Rush University $26,280 $83,600
# 8 #8 Loyola University Chicago $20,790 $82,700
# 9 #9 Southern Illinois University - Carbondale $9,637 $81,000
# 10 #10 Methodist College $19,800 $80,000
# 11 #11 Elmhurst College $20,000 $79,800
# 12 #12 Lewis University $19,200 $79,400
# 13 #13 Western Illinois University $8,883 $76,500
# 14 #14 Roosevelt University $30,876 $79,300
# 15 #15 University of St. Francis $11,970 $76,000
# 16 #16 Saint Xavier University $33,300 $78,600
# 17 #17 Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville $9,123 $75,000
# 18 #18 Dominican University $14,252 $75,400
# 19 #19 Eastern Illinois University $10,380 $74,300
# 20 #20 Aurora University $12,750 $72,100
# 21 #21 McKendree University $13,800 $71,700
# 22 #22 Quincy University $11,400 $69,800
# 23 #23 Governors State University $9,390 $68,200
# 24 #24 Millikin University $15,469 $67,700
# 25 #25 Lincoln Christian University $13,590 $66,700
Salary data provided by Payscale Logo

2020 Online Colleges in Illinois Ranking Details

For each school, we conducted manual research to provide prospective students with more details about the schools' online programs. Explore online degrees offered and accreditation information below.

#1 University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign

  • Annual Tuition: $12,270
  • Median Salary: $103,400
  • Locations: Champaign
  • Accreditation: HLC

Founded in 1867, the University of Illinois Urbana – Champaign offers a wide range of programs for all types of students. Distance learners have plenty of options, including graduate degrees and certificates, undergraduate degrees and certificates, and standalone courses on the Blackboard learning interface. For undergraduates, this school offers a bachelor’s program in earth, society, and environmental sustainability. Students seeking a graduate degree have more options, including accountancy, aerospace engineering, agricultural education, computer science, business administration, crop sciences, data science, and more. There are also more than 1,700 online courses available to allow students to blend on-campus with online courses.

#3 St. John's College of Nursing - IL

  • Annual Tuition: $23,850
  • Median Salary: $93,600
  • Locations: Springfield
  • Accreditation: HLC

Founded in 1886 as the St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing, St John’s School of Nursing remains focused on offering nursing education. Two of St. John’s nursing programs are available online: an RN to BSN, and a master’s in nursing- nursing administration and leadership degree. The RN to BSN program is five weeks long and prepares registered nurses for additional responsibilities in the office. The master’s in nursing can be completed in two years. Peer tutors, faculty-led study groups, and other student services give distance learners the tools they need to succeed before and after they graduate. With financial aid and payment plans available, St. John's has many options to meet a student’s income-related needs.

#4 DePaul University

  • Annual Tuition: $23,040
  • Median Salary: $89,300
  • Locations: Chicago
  • Accreditation: HLC

In June of 1898, St. Vincent’s College, which is now DePaul University, opened its doors to students. Today, DePaul University's online learning program offers numerous certificate, undergraduate, and graduate options that can be completed entirely online. For undergraduates, DePaul offers bachelor’s degrees in business administration, communication and media, computer science, information technology, and psychology. On the graduate side, there are master’s degree programs in accountancy, computer science, data science, game programming, information systems, software engineering, and more. DePaul University supports its online students with award-winning online faculty and state-of-the-art digital learning tools.

#5 Northern Illinois University

  • Annual Tuition: $11,146
  • Median Salary: $85,000
  • Locations: Dekalb
  • Accreditation: HLC

Northern Illinois offers a wide range of fully online programs, including certificates, undergraduate degrees, and graduate degrees. On the undergraduate side, NIU offers online bachelor’s degrees in general studies, health sciences, applied management, marketing, and more. Its online graduate programs are even more robust and include master’s degrees in public health, data analytics, digital marketing, nursing, and industrial management. They also offer doctor of nursing programs that are available online. NIU supports its distance learners through online access to library resources, online writing assistance, and a career-development center. Distance learners at NIU also receive the same tuition rates as in-state residents.

#6 Illinois State University

  • Annual Tuition: $11,908
  • Median Salary: $82,400
  • Locations: Normal
  • Accreditation: HLC

Established in 1857, Illinois State University was Illinois’ first public university. The school now offers both partially and fully online undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Fully online master's degrees are available in subjects such as chemistry education, physical education pedagogy, teaching and learning, nursing systems administration, and music education. There is also a doctorate available: the Doctor of Nursing Practice. Two more graduate degree programs are available partially online: family nurse practitioner and nursing.

#7 Rush University

  • Annual Tuition: $26,280
  • Median Salary: $83,600
  • Locations: Chicago
  • Accreditation: HLC

A medical-centered university founded in 1972, Rush University offers distance learners a collection of online undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs. Certificate program options include acute care pediatric nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology acute care, neonatal nurse practitioner, and specialist in blood bank technology. This college supports distance learners through instructional videos and the learning management system, Blackboard. Online students can also access databases, e-journals, and e-books through the university's library and technology center from home.

#8 Loyola University Chicago

  • Annual Tuition: $20,790
  • Median Salary: $82,700
  • Locations: Chicago
  • Accreditation: HLC

Loyola University Chicago was founded in 1909 and remains an innovative Jesuit college. Loyola Online offers an advanced online system for distance learners, with options at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Bachelor's degrees are offered in fields such as criminal justice, nursing, applied studies, and psychology. Master’s degrees are offered in a variety of fields, including law, Christian Spirituality, pastoral studies, nursing, and social work. There are also doctoral programs in bioethics and nursing that can be completed entirely online. Distance learners can choose traditional semester-based programs, accelerated degree programs, or evening options. Loyola supports distance learners through its off-campus library access, online tutoring, and career-development center.

#9 Southern Illinois University - Carbondale

  • Annual Tuition: $9,637
  • Median Salary: $81,000
  • Locations: Carbondale
  • Accreditation: HLC

Southern Illinois University offers undergraduate and graduate programs for distance learners using the D2L learning interface. Its fully online undergraduate options include accounting, aviation technologies, dental hygiene, health care management, journalism, mortuary science and funeral service, and public safety management. Students seeking a graduate degree can enroll in master’s programs in architecture, behavior analysis and therapy, health informatics, medical dosimetry, radiologic sciences, and more. Students can also choose to combine online classes with on-campus courses to create a hybrid program that meets their needs. SIU supports its distance learners with a career development center to help place recent and past graduates.

#10 Methodist College

  • Annual Tuition: $19,800
  • Median Salary: $80,000
  • Locations: Peoria
  • Accreditation: HLC

Methodist College began in 1900 as a nurse training program and is now a four-year private institution with a continued focus on nurse training. There are several online bachelor’s and master’s programs to choose from, and distance learners can take advantage of fully and partially online options to fit their scheduling needs. For students seeking a bachelor’s degree, a bachelor of science in nursing is offered in three formats: nursing, nursing-accelerated prelicensure, and nursing-second degree. For those seeking a graduate degree, a master's in nursing – prelicensure program is available online. Methodist College supports its distance learners through its online tutoring program and career services.

#11 Elmhurst College

  • Annual Tuition: $20,000
  • Median Salary: $79,800
  • Locations: Elmhurst
  • Accreditation: HLC

Elmhurst College began as the Elmhurst Proseminary in 1871, but it took on the Elmhurst College name in 1924 when it began offering degrees. Today, students can complete undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs online. The master’s in business administration can be completed entirely online in as little as one year through the Blackboard interface, or through a combination of online and on-campus courses. This school also offers an online bachelor’s in information technology and an RN to BSN; both are degree completion programs. A variety of certificates are offered in fields including geographic information systems and data science.

#12 Lewis University

  • Annual Tuition: $19,200
  • Median Salary: $79,400
  • Locations: Romeoville
  • Accreditation: HLC

Founded in 1932 as the Holy Name Technical School, Lewis University has come into the 21st century with a wide array of online programs to support distance learning. This school offers fully online programs, delivered through the Blackboard learning interface, for those seeking undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates. Undergraduate degrees are available in fields such as computer science, criminal justice, nursing, and professional studies. Graduate students can take online programs in business, computer science, data science, criminal justice, public safety administration, nursing, and more. Fully online graduate certificates are available in subjects like data science, higher education leadership, and organizational leadership. Resources for distance learners include technical support, the online library, and direct communication with instructors.

#13 Western Illinois University

  • Annual Tuition: $8,883
  • Median Salary: $76,500
  • Locations: Macomb
  • Accreditation: HLC

Western Illinois University offers a wide variety of online programs, some offered fully online and some partially online. Online bachelor's degree programs are offered in fields such as economics, sociology, nursing, communication, anthropology, and accountancy. Master’s degree programs include business administration, education, and music. Certificate programs round out this school’s offerings for distance learning; subjects include health services administration, instructional design and technology, police executive administration, and supply chain management. WIU supports its distance learners through online tutoring and consultations.

#14 Roosevelt University

  • Annual Tuition: $30,876
  • Median Salary: $79,300
  • Locations: Chicago
  • Accreditation: HLC

Roosevelt University was founded in 1945 with the vision of providing education for all students, regardless of their background. It expanded its reach with Roosevelt Online, the university’s collection of fully online programs for distance learners. Some of the online bachelor’s programs offered at Roosevelt University include criminal justice, health science administration, organizational leadership, psychology, and sustainability studies. Students seeking a master’s degree can study accounting forensics, organizational development, second language special education, teaching and learning, training and development, and more. Roosevelt University offers its courses in 8- to 16-week formats to accommodate busy schedules. This college also provides online tutoring and career development.

#15 University of St. Francis

  • Annual Tuition: $11,970
  • Median Salary: $76,000
  • Locations: Joliet
  • Accreditation: HLC

As one of the largest providers of online education in Illinois, the University of St. Francis offers an extensive list of online bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and certificate programs that can generally be completed in 12 months. For students seeking a bachelor’s degree, the online programs include six business administration offerings, one in health care management, and one in nursing (RN to BSN). There are 24 master’s degree programs available online, including nine business administration options, and a master's in education – reading. Students pursuing a doctoral degree can accomplish this through the online nursing practice program. USF supports online students through value-based lessons, individual mentoring, and small class sizes.

#16 Saint Xavier University

  • Annual Tuition: $33,300
  • Median Salary: $78,600
  • Locations: Chicago
  • Accreditation: HLC

Saint Xavier University supports its online students through an off-campus library program and career services. Distance learners will find fully online undergraduate programs in communication, business, leadership and public administration, and nursing. Graduate programs are more robust and include master's degrees in business, web development, data science, networking and security, elementary education, digital marketing, project management, clinical leadership, and family nurse practitioner. There are also certificate programs in fields such as education, project management, nursing, and health administration.

#17 Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville

  • Annual Tuition: $9,123
  • Median Salary: $75,000
  • Locations: Edwardsville
  • Accreditation: HLC

Using the Blackboard delivery system, Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville offers prospective students a large selection of fully online accelerated programs. Students have a variety of online graduate programs to choose from, including business administration, criminal justice, healthcare and nursing administration, and physical education and coaching pedagogy. This college offers two fully online bachelor's degree programs as well: leadership in organizations and an accelerated RN to BS in nursing. Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville also offers blended programs that require some online courses and some in-classroom courses. This university supports its distance learners through online tutoring programs and 24-hour technical help.

#18 Dominican University

  • Annual Tuition: $14,252
  • Median Salary: $75,400
  • Locations: River Forest
  • Accreditation: HLC

Dominican University offers a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate programs, and its recent focus on online courses has brought distance and hybrid learning into the fold. Distance learners can get their bachelor’s degree entirely online in professional studies in human services, professional studies in legal studies, and nursing. Students seeking a master’s degree have even more options, including business administration, library and information science, accounting, information management, and social work. Several hybrid options are also available that allow busy professionals to take select courses online and others on campus. Students may be able to earn college credit for previous work and life experience, expediting their education. Dominican offers distance learners innovative education-delivery technology and a vested career placement center so they get the support they need throughout their program.

#19 Eastern Illinois University

  • Annual Tuition: $10,380
  • Median Salary: $74,300
  • Locations: Charleston
  • Accreditation: HLC

Eastern Illinois University offers over 30 online programs through the D2L learning interface. These online programs include certificates, master’s degrees, and bachelor’s degrees. There are more than 15 fully online master’s degree programs, including those in aging studies, art education, community arts, cybersecurity, talent development, special education, and communication studies. Students seeking an online bachelor’s degree have several options, including general studies, communication in organizations, nursing, business administration, and health. There are also certificate programs available in subjects such as public planning and communication processes.

#20 Aurora University

  • Annual Tuition: $12,750
  • Median Salary: $72,100
  • Locations: Aurora
  • Accreditation: HLC

After booming enrollment through the 1970s and '80s, Aurora College became Aurora University in 1985. Today, Aurora offers plenty of online programs for distance learners, including a wide range of undergraduate, graduate, and endorsement programs. Online courses are delivered through the Moodle learning interface. Bachelor’s degrees are available in business administration, criminal justice, general studies, and social work. Master’s degrees can be pursued in mathematics education, business administration, exercise science, social work, and more. Post-graduates with a social work degree can also earn their PEL endorsement online at Aurora. In order to provide affordable education to distance learners, AU offers select classes with entirely digital materials so students don't need to purchase a textbook.

#21 McKendree University

  • Annual Tuition: $13,800
  • Median Salary: $71,700
  • Locations: Lebanon
  • Accreditation: HLC

McKendree University offers fully online courses through the Blackboard learning interface, allowing distance learners to earn their associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees without visiting campus. Students pursuing an associate degree can enroll in the college’s business administration program. Bachelor’s degrees include psychology, sociology- criminal justice, business administration, computer information systems, and nursing. Graduate programs include master’s degrees in criminal justice, education, business administration, and nursing. Rounding out the online program is a doctoral degree in nursing practice. Once a student’s online degree is complete, McKendree University’s career services can help them apply their degree to the workforce. They also provide free online peer tutoring.

#22 Quincy University

  • Annual Tuition: $11,400
  • Median Salary: $69,800
  • Locations: Quincy
  • Accreditation: HLC

First founded as St. Francis Solanus College in 1860, Quincy University today offers more than 50 degree programs and a growing selection of online options. Students can get their bachelor’s degree fully online in business administration, human services, or writing. Those seeking a master’s degree in business administration can choose Quincy University’s program, with one- to five-year options in health care administration, organizational leadership, general, and operations management. There is also an online Master of Science in education with a concentration in curriculum/instruction-bilingual/ESL. Quincy University supports its distance learners with off-campus access to select materials at its Brenner Library.

#23 Governors State University

  • Annual Tuition: $9,390
  • Median Salary: $68,200
  • Locations: University Park
  • Accreditation: HLC

Governors State University allows distance learners to complete their education through its selection of fully online degrees at various levels. Using the Blackboard interface, this school offers online master's degrees in addiction studies, business-general management, and business- supply chain management. There are also bachelor’s programs in business and applied sciences, interdisciplinary studies, and nursing, and a doctoral degree in education- interdisciplinary leadership. A certificate in online teaching and learning is also available. GSU supports its distance learners with career services and online tutoring.

#24 Millikin University

  • Annual Tuition: $15,469
  • Median Salary: $67,700
  • Locations: Decatur
  • Accreditation: HLC

Through its more than 110 years in existence, Millikin University has held the same ethos of learning through doing. It has also moved into the 21st century by offering online programs to distance learners. Millikin University's online catalog includes several bachelor's degrees in fields such as accounting, organizational leadership, education and nursing. Online courses are delivered through the Moodle learning interface. Distance learners at Millikan receive the support of the Center for Academic & Professional Performance, which is a combination of the career services center and office of student success. This center supports students throughout their program and after they graduate.

#25 Lincoln Christian University

  • Annual Tuition: $13,590
  • Median Salary: $66,700
  • Locations: Lincoln
  • Accreditation: HLC

Lincoln Christian University was founded in 1944 as Lincoln Bible Institute and became Lincoln Christian University in 1961. This college offers six fully online degree programs: one associate degree, three bachelor’s degrees, and two master’s degrees. Students seeking an entirely online experience for an associate program can choose the associate of arts in bible. Students who want to pursue a bachelor's degree have options in business administration, Christian ministry, and psychology. For those seeking a master’s degree, there are two fully online programs at Lincoln Christian University: an MA in bible and theology and an MA in organizational leadership. Students in programs without fully online options can choose a blended format by mixing online courses with in-class work.

Online Higher Education in Illinois

Illinois' higher education system consists of nine public universities across 12 campuses and 48 private institutions. These schools serve more than 725,000 students and in 2019, awarded more than 200,000 associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. Demographic figures show women outnumber men and over 58% of students identify as white, followed by Hispanic at 16%, Black at 11%, and Asian at 7%. While the exact number isn't known, many of these students attend online, earning popular bachelor's degrees in nursing, liberal arts, and business administration.

Attending an online school in Illinois is appealing because of the state's commitment to increasing college accessibility for low-income students. For example, the University of Illinois system has a free tuition program called Illinois Commitment for qualified students and has increased the amount of financial aid awarded. They also set tuition rates in the first year for Chicago, Urbana-Champaign, and Springfield students, guaranteeing rates won't change for four years once enrolled.

Attending an online school in Illinois is appealing because of the state's commitment to increasing college accessibility for low-income students.

What to Look For in an Online College

Accreditation is one of the most important factors when considering an online degree. Accreditation ensures that an institution consistently meets high academic standards. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education recognize 19 national and seven regional accreditation boards. Most non-profit universities are regionally accredited, preferred over national accreditation because of its prestige and longevity.

The Higher Learning Commission accredits Illinois' non-profit colleges and universities. Visit the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs to verify an online school's accreditation status.

There are several other factors to consider when choosing an online school:

  • Is the program affordable while still meeting your educational needs?
  • Does the curriculum meet industry demands?
  • Are there additional admissions requirements for your major?
  • Is the program 100% online or are there on-campus requirements?
  • How do you access online support services, including instructors and advisors?
  • Are faculty members credentialed, and are they the same instructors who teach on-campus classes?

Tuition For an Online Degree in Illinois

The average in-state tuition and fees for residents at Illinois' public four-year colleges were $14,455 in the 2019-2020 school year, higher than the $9,349 national average. You are a resident if you have lived in Illinois for 12 consecutive months before the first day of classes. This tuition is also significantly higher than in other midwest states, such as neighboring Wisconsin where average tuition and fees are $8,764. The average tuition for non-residents of Illinois was $29,515 during that same time period, just slightly higher than the national average of $27,023.

Several federal and state programs can help make college more affordable. Completing the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) determines eligibility for federal grants, scholarships, work-study programs, or low-interest federal loans. State aid programs include the Illinois Monetary Award Program, which awards grants based on need, and the Illinois Student Assistant Commission's loan repayment programs designed to ease the financial burden of college. The Illinois Commitment program pays tuition for qualified students whose families earn less than $67,000 a year.

For college options in other locations, view OnlineU's best online college rankings by state or best online colleges by degree level.

Scholarships for Illinois Students

Private scholarships and grants provide an additional resource if you need help paying for college. Scholarships and grants don't have to be repaid. Your school's financial aid office may be able to direct you to additional aid once you've completed the FAFSA.

There are also scholarships specifically for Illinois residents, including those awarded to both on-campus and online students:

Chicago Engineers Foundation Awards

The CEF supports Chicago high school students who intend to pursue engineering degrees. Awards start at $1,200 to $1,500 and may increase when renewed each year during a four-year undergraduate degree program.

Illinois American Veterans Scholarships

Illinois AMVETS awards several scholarships to veterans and the children and grandchildren of honorably discharged veterans. Awards range from $500 to $2,000 and include high school seniors and second-year nursing students.

Illinois CPA Society Scholarships

The ICPA offers three scholarship programs for students interested in pursuing an accounting career and one internship preparation program that includes a scholarship. Scholarships are worth $500 to $4,000.

Illinois Student Assistance Commission Scholarships

The state sets aside federal funds for five ISAC scholarships. There are three teaching scholarships available, one POW/MIA scholarship and one nursing scholarship. ISAC gives priority to minority students and in some cases, are only for undergraduates. Award amounts vary.

For more information on funding an online degree, see our Guide to Financial Aid for Online Students.

Careers and Employment in Illinois

Illinois is home to 34 Fortune 500 companies. More specifically, Chicago has a large concentration of corporate headquarters and is also considered the transportation and distribution center of the Midwest. Key industries include advanced manufacturing, biotechnology, transportation distribution and logistics, and professional services. Illinois also has a burgeoning tech industry that may attract college graduates.

Key industries in Illinois include manufacturing, biotechnology, transportation distribution and logistics, and professional services.

The unemployment rate in Illinois is 6%, higher than the 4.6% national average as of October 2021. However, the rate is steadily decreasing from the mid-pandemic highs of 2020. The Chicago metro area's unemployment rate is 5.4%. In Champaign-Urbana, the unemployment rate is relatively low at 4.1% because of the University of Illinois' Research Park and employment opportunities in healthcare and government.

The need for information security analysts is expected to grow the fastest of all occupations requiring a bachelor's degree in Illinois at 23% through 2028. These professionals keep an organization's computer infrastructure safe from hackers and cyberattacks. They earn an annual median salary of $108,850 in Illinois.

There are several other high-growth and lucrative careers requiring a bachelor's degree projected in Illinois:

Financial Managers
Median Annual Salary: $134,180
Job Growth Rate: 17%

Financial managers direct the economic activities of an organization. They develop long-term financial plans and help manage and make financial decisions.

Management Analysts
Median Annual Salary: $87,660
Job Growth Rate: 14%

Management analysts review and evaluate an organization's systems and policies. They often prepare policy and procedure manuals to improve business operations.

Operations Research Analysts
Median Annual Salary: $86,200
Job Growth Rate: 25%

Operations research analysts collect and analyze data to assist business leaders. They use mathematical modeling to develop and interpret information.

Software Developers
Median Annual Salary: $110,140
Job Growth Rate: 22%

Software developers design and implement computer applications and operating systems. They analyze user needs to develop software solutions or enhance existing software capabilities.

This website offers school details to prospective students as an informational resource. The appearance of a school listing on this website should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the school by this site.

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