Online Colleges in Illinois

Illinois offers a wide variety of online colleges and programs for students from all backgrounds and interests. Read the data we've gathered below to learn more about online colleges in Illinois, including a list of 10 online schools ranked by affordability.

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A study by the Illinois Department of Employment Security found that many of the 25 most-in-demand jobs require an Associate's degree or higher. That means a lot of state residents, and the Illinois economy, would benefit from increased access to higher education. Although 87 percent of the state's 12.8 million residents have earned a high school diploma, only 12 percent of those 18 to 24 years old have at least a Bachelor's degree and less than 40 percent of those residents older than 25 have some sort of college degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Fortunately, online colleges in Illinois offer working people plenty of opportunities to go to school while holding down a job or raising a family.

According to the Illinois Virtual Campus (IVC), Illinois colleges and universities reported over 715,000 online course enrollments during the 2011-2012 academic year. IVC, a virtual catalog of distance education offered by schools in the state, serves as a valuable resource for Illinois residents considering online learning. Through the site, students can browse online courses and degree programs from a variety of participating post-secondary institutions.

National online colleges provide yet another option for those interested in pursuing an online education. Some, such as DeVry University, University of Phoenix and Everest University, even have physical campuses located throughout Illinois. In addition to a broad range of fully-online degrees, these schools may offer blended learning options, which combine on-campus instruction with the added flexibility of online courses.

There are 6.6 million workers in Illinois, and they earn on average $47,680 a year, or $22.92 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The vast majority of those workers come from the Chicago metropolitan area.

There are also exactly 100 colleges and universities in the state. Twelve of those are public institutions, and 63 are private non-profit schools.

The Most Affordable Online Colleges in Illinois

The following list ranks the 10 schools in Illinois that offer online degrees at the lowest tuition costs. This ranking is based on a number of factors that are important to prospective students such as the actual degree programs that are taught online, and information on tuition fees, accreditation and notable alumni. Tuition figures are sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics and reflect in-state tuition (when in-state tuition is available) for all students, including online students. See our Methodology section for more details on the ranking methodology.

#1 - Governors State University

  • In-state Tuition: $6,120 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 2 undergraduate, 2 postgraduate and 1 doctoral
  • Notable Alumni: politician Debbie Halvorson, Inspect General Carl Hoecker, engineer Curtis J. Crawford, singer Jerry Butler

Governors State University in University Park, Ill. offers more than 120 online classes each semester, fully online degree programs are offered at the Bachelor's, Master's and doctorate level. Bachelor's degree programs are offered in Interdisciplinary Studies and Nursing. Master's degree programs are offered in Addictions Studies and Supply Chain Management Specialization. A doctorate is offered in Interdisciplinary Leadership.

#2 - University of Illinois - Springfield

  • In-state Tuition: $9,178 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 11 undergraduate and 10 postgraduate
  • Notable Alumni: politician Cheri Bustos, columnist Al Lewis, musician Bobby McFerrin Jr., author Milton J. Nieuwsma.

Illinois Springfield prides itself on ensuring its online courses are as rigorous as their in-person classes. It offers undergraduate online degrees in Business Administration; Computer Science; English; History; Information Systems Security; Liberal Studies; Management Information Systems; Mathematics; Philosophy; Political Science; and Women and Gender Studies. Its graduate online degrees include Computer Science; Environmental Studies; Human Services Administration; Liberal and Integrative Studies; Legal Studies; Management Information Systems; Political Science; Public Administration; Public Health; and Teacher Leadership.

#3 - Eastern Illinois University

  • In-state Tuition: $11,144 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 4 undergraduate and 5 postgraduate
  • Notable Alumni: Actress Joan Allen, Pulitzer Prize winner Ted Gregory, professional football player Tony Romo, pilot Charles Hall

Eastern Illinois University offers a variety of off-campus courses in various locations around the state, but it also offers a number of online degree programs leading to Bachelor's degrees. The Bachelor's online degrees are offered in General Studies; General Studies with an option in child care education; Organization and Professional Development; and Nursing. Students interested in a combination of online and in-person classes at an Eastern Illinois location can early a Master's degree in such areas as Art Education; Community Arts; Music Education; Speech Language Pathology; and Family and Consumer Sciences.

#4 - Western Illinois University

  • In-state Tuition: $11,767 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 2 undergraduate and 2 postgraduate
  • Notable Alumni: political strategist Mary Matalin, actor Michael Boatman, pro football players Bryan Cox and Rodney Harrison

Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill. offers several Bachelor's and Master's degrees online, including one program in General Studies and another in General Studies with National Fire Academy certification. In addition, it offers a Bachelor's of Science degree in Nursing. Its Master's programs include Instructional Design and Technology; and Education. It also participates in the National Fire Academy's Fire and Emergency Service's for Higher Education curriculum.

#5 - Southern Illinois University Carbondale

  • In-state Tuition: $12,093 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 8 undergraduate and 6 postgraduate
  • Notable Alumni: Actor James Belushi, activist Dick Gregory, comedian Bob Odenkirk, musician Shawn Colvin, musician Jason Ringenberg, pro baseball player Steve Finley

Southern Illinois University Carbondale offers its online undergraduate and Master's degree programs to students who have previously completed much of the course work, but have been away from school for a time and need to finish their degree at either an accelerated pace of with a flexible schedule. Bachelor's degree programs including Accounting; Business Administration; Healthcare Management; Industrial Technology; Information System Technologies; Mortuary Science and Funeral Service; Fire Service Management; Technical Resource Management; and University Studies. Its Master's degree programs include Business Administration; Fire Service and Homeland Security; Architecture; Quality Engineering and Management; Medical Dosimetry; and Rehabilitation Administration and Services.

#6 - University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign

  • In-state Tuition: $14,750 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 1 undergraduate and 18 postgraduate
  • Notable Alumni: Nobel Prize winner Phillip Sharp, Pulitzer Prize winnder James Reston, actresses Barbara Bain and Betsy Brandt, actor Jerry Orbach, astronaut Michael S. Hpkins

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign teams up with its sister campuses in Springfield and Chicago to offer a different array of online degree programs. Urbana-Champaign offers a Bachelor's degree in Earth, Society, and Environmental Sustainability, and Master's degrees in Agricultural Education; Civil and Environmental Engineering; Computer Science; Crop Sciences; Diversity and Equity Issues in Education; Evidence-Based Decision Making; Food Science and Human Nutrition; Global Studies in Education; Health Communication; Human Resource Development; Learning Design and Leadership; Library and Information Science; Translation and Interpreting; Teaching of Biological Science; Mechanical Engineering; Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences; Recreation, Sport and Tourism; and Teacher Leader Specialization.

#7 - DeVry University (Visit School Site)

  • Tuition: $16,010 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: Numerous degrees from five subject areas.

DeVry is a national college with physical campuses all over the United States, including several locations in Illinois. DeVry pulls from its national faculty to build a robust selection of online degree programs from its various colleges. The schools offering degrees include the College of Business and Management; the College of Engineering and Information Sciences; the College of Health Sciences; the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and the College of Media Arts and Technology.

#8 - Chamberlain College of Nursing

  • Tuition: $17,280 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 1 undergraduate
  • Notable Alumni: Nonprofit founder Jennifer Krassinger, brain injury expert Rachel Anderson.

Chamberlain has campuses in several states and offers many face-to-face degree programs. However, it's popular RN to BSN program is also offered in an online format for residents in most states. This program features entirely online coursework with experiential learning activities. Registered nurses can earn their Bachelor's of Science in Nursing in as few as three semesters.

#9 - Greenville College

  • Tuition: $23,612 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 2 undergraduate and 5 postgraduate
  • Notable Alumni: Bishop William G. Black, TV producer Bob Briner, Jars of Clay founder Matt Bronleewe, astronomer Alfred Harrison Joy.

Greenville College touts its fully supported online environment, which includes a collaborative learning experience and instruction by the same faculty who teach on campus. Greenville offers Bachelor's degrees in Organizational Leadership and Healthy Psychology, and Master's degree programs in Business Administration; Management; Coaching; Special Education; English as a Second Language; and Curriculum and Instruction.

#10 - Trinity International University-Illinois

  • Tuition: $26,830 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 3 undergraduate programs and 1 postgraduate
  • Notable Alumni: Conductor Alan Heatherington, biblical scholar Lincoln Hurst, radio host Ravi Zacharias

Trinity, a Christian school with over 100 faculty and 3,000 students, offers three Bachelor's degree programs online: Business; Christian Ministries; and Psychology. Its graduate level online degree programs are offered through its Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and features a Master of Arts in Theological Studies, as well as a certificate in Christian studies.

Snapshot of Illinois Cities

Geographically, Illinois is not a particularly large state by Midwestern standards, but its population of 12.8 million makes it the fifth most populous state in the country. It is a land of contrasts, from the great metropolitan area of Chicago, the third most populous city in the country with 2.7 million residents, to the vacant prairie and farmlands of the central section of the state. After Chicago, the next largest metropolitan area in Illinois is the Davenport-Moline-Rock Island area, followed closely by Peoria.

The following is a closer economic and demographic look at Illinois, with economic data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the 2014 Cost of Living Index published by The Council for Community and Economic Research. All demographic data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau and the latest Labor Force Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. All data in the Facts for Online Learners section comes from the region's various tourism websites.

There are nearly 5 million workers living in the large metropolitan area that includes Chicago, Joliet and Naperville, Ill., comprising about 75 percent of the entire state's workforce. Workers in the metropolitan area earn an average annual salary of $49,820, for an average hourly wage of $23.95. Chicago has a very diversified economy, leading to more stability than most large cities that are dependent on a handful of industries. Chicago's Cost of Living Index is 117.5, and average home prices are $422,337.

Chicago has always enjoyed a diverse population of residents. There was a great influx of immigrants to the area in the 19th century, and the city's African-American population doubled from 1910-1920 and again during the next decade as many blacks moved north from the American South for better jobs. Although unemployment all over Illinois soared during the Great Recession, it has declined significantly in recent years in Chicago, even though it remains stubbornly high in some parts of the state.

Fun Facts for Online Learners
Chicago is known for its food, nightlife, waterfront, museums and sporting events. It's home to both the Chicago White Sox and the Cubs, and fans also flock to football games played by the Bears and basketball games featuring the Chicago Bulls. The city is also renowned for its theater companies.

Davenport-Moline- Rock Island
This region of Illinois, located along its western border along the Iowa state line, is considered the Quad Cities Metropolitan Area, and its economy combines the strength of Davenport, Iowa, with Moline, Rock Island and some other medium-sized municipalities along this stretch of the Mississippi. Workers here earn significantly less than workers in Chicago, pulling down $40,800 on average annually, for an hourly wage of about $19.61. Average home prices in this area are $308,369, and the Cost of Living Index is 95.9.

There are nearly 205,000 workers in the Davenport-Moline-Rock Island metropolitan area, or roughly 3 percent of the state of Illinois' entire workforce. The unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the state.

Fun Facts for Online Learners
Moline is the home of John Deere tractors, so there are historical spots, factories and memorabilia to see about those famous green and yellow tractors. There is also a wealth of outdoor and cultural activities, including the Family Museum, the Niabi Zoo, the Putnam Museum and the Figge Art Museum.

Workers in Peoria earn on average $47,400 per year, for an average hourly rate of $22.79. Its unemployment rate is the seventh-lowest among Illinois' metropolitan areas. Its labor force of 197,000 workers is about 2 percent of the state's total workforce.

Peoria, founded in 1691 and still the largest city on the Illinois River, is the center of a metropolitan area of 373,590 people. It is the headquarters for Caterpillar Tractor Co., and is a world leader in the manufacture of earth-moving equipment. Caterpillar is one of the top employers in the area.

Fun Facts for Online Learners
There are 20 registered historic places in Peoria, making it a popular destination for history buffs. It also boasts a vibrant cultural scene, with museums, a symphony and a downtown area that has been revitalized with riverfront lofts, artists studios and a dining and entertainment district.

Helpful Resources

Illinois students interested in pursuing an online degree must first meet certain entry requirements, which differ from one institution to the next. For more information about a specific school or program, prospective students should consult an admissions counselor. Many nationally-accredited online colleges have advisors available to answer questions online via email or instant messaging.


1. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/metro.t01.htm
2. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Economic News Release, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/metro.t01.htm
3. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_19340.htm#00-0000
4. Chamberlain College of Nursing, http://www.chamberlain.edu/admissions/undergraduate/rn-to-bsn
5. Chamberlain College of Nursing Alumni Association, http://alumni.chamberlain.edu/s/1629/start.aspx
6. City Population, USA: Illinois, www.citypopulation.de/USA-Illinois.html
7. DeVry University, http://www.devry.edu/
8. Eastern Illinois University, http://www.eiu.edu/adulted/offcampus.php
9. Eastern Illinois University Alumni Links, http://www.eiu.edu/notablealumni.php
10. Governors State University, http://www.govst.edu/Academics/Colleges_and_Programs/College_of_Education/Special_Programs_and_Services/Center_for_Online_Teaching_and_Learning/Online_Courses_and_Programs/
11. Governors State University Alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Governors_State_University
12. Greenville College, http://www.greenville.edu/admissions/online_programs/
13. Greenville College Alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenville_College
14. List of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign People, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_University_of_Illinois_at_Urbana%E2%80%93Champaign_people
15. List of Western Illinois University People, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Western_Illinois_University_people
16. National Center for Education Statistics, College Navigator, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=MI&l=92+93+94&ct=3&pg=2
17. Peoria Area, http://www.peoria.org/events
18. Southern Illinois University Carbondale,http://extendedcampus.siu.edu/programs-courses/online-degrees.html
19. Southern Illinois University Carbondale Almuni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Southern_Illinois_University_alumni
20. Trinity International University-Illinois, http://tiuonline.tiu.edu/
21. Trinity International University Notable Alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity_International_University
22. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, http://www.online.uillinois.edu/
23. University of Illinois Springfield, http://www.uis.edu/online/
24. University of Illinois Springfield Notable Alumni, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Illinois_at_Springfield
25. The U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_12_5YR_S1501
26. The U.S. Department of Education, The Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs, http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/Index.aspx27. Western Illinois University, http://www.wiu.edu/online_learning/

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