Illinois is one of the most highly educated states in the nation, and yet there's industry demand to increase the number of degree holders. By 2020, 70 percent of jobs in Illinois are expected to require at least some education after high school, according to a Georgetown University study. Earning an online degree can help you be prepared to meet that need, whether you're currently a stay-at-home parent, employed but looking for a higher-skill and higher-wage job, or ready to take your first steps toward a career.

Here's an overview of what Illinois has to offer prospective online students:

  • The Prairie State has more than 80 online colleges. 45 offer associate degree programs, and more than 50 offer bachelor's or master's degree programs.
  • Of the private nonprofit online colleges in Illinois, 25-plus are faith-based institutions.
  • Two private colleges in Illinois both offer more than 40 different online degree programs: Concordia University-Chicago and Rasmussen College-Illinois.
  • Of the public online colleges, Lincoln Land Community College, University of Illinois-Springfield, and University Urbana-Champaign offer the most degree programs via distance education.

State leaders in Illinois are working to expand access to higher education so that more high school graduates can complete college. The result of these efforts? A tremendous growth in online offerings. One example is the development of Illinois Community Colleges Online, a collective of 32 schools that share online courses and programs in order to help students anywhere in the state meet their educational goals.

In this guide, we've provided more details about online colleges in Illinois as well as rankings to help you compare schools, tips on paying for school, analysis of key industries in the state and more.

What Makes a Good Online College in Illinois?

Our rankings of top online colleges in Illinois are meant to help you make an informed decision about your future. All schools displayed in our rankings have achieved accreditation at the institutional and/or programmatic level from official accrediting agencies such as the Higher Learning Commission or the Illinois State Board of Education. Read about accreditation and why it matters on our page "What is College Accreditation?" or visit the Illinois State Board of Education's website. To learn more about the factors we chose and why we chose them, please visit the "What Makes a Good Online College?" section of our "About Us" page.

Illinois_Badge

Best Online Colleges in Illinois for 2019-20

With such a big pool of online colleges in Illinois to choose from, how are you going to find the right choice for you? Fear not: in addition to ranking these schools, we display data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) on each -- including tuition costs, school type and number of online programs offered -- so you can assess which online colleges might be best for your needs. Visit our methodologies page to learn more about how we use official data to evaluate schools.

1

University of Illinois at Springfield

Tuition & Fees
$11,813
Distance Education Participation
68%
Number of Programs Offered
31
School Type
4-year
2

University of St Francis

Tuition & Fees
$32,320
Distance Education Participation
63%
Number of Programs Offered
25
School Type
4-year
3

Concordia University-Chicago

Tuition & Fees
$32,078
Distance Education Participation
67%
Number of Programs Offered
55
School Type
4-year
4

Lewis University

Tuition & Fees
$32,450
Distance Education Participation
41%
Number of Programs Offered
24
School Type
4-year
5

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Tuition & Fees
$15,094
Distance Education Participation
35%
Number of Programs Offered
33
School Type
4-year
6

National Louis University

Tuition & Fees
$10,710
Distance Education Participation
57%
Number of Programs Offered
24
School Type
4-year
7

Lincoln Christian University

Tuition & Fees
$13,200
Distance Education Participation
45%
Number of Programs Offered
15
School Type
4-year
8

Olivet Nazarene University

Tuition & Fees
$36,070
Distance Education Participation
39%
Number of Programs Offered
26
School Type
4-year
9

Eastern Illinois University

Tuition & Fees
$11,803
Distance Education Participation
33%
Number of Programs Offered
28
School Type
4-year
10

Southern Illinois University-Carbondale

Tuition & Fees
$14,704
Distance Education Participation
36%
Number of Programs Offered
24
School Type
4-year

Affordable Online Colleges in Illinois for 2019-20

Here is a list of the most affordable two- and four-year online colleges in Illinois, ranked in order by their reported in-state tuition costs. Data was compiled by the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), part of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Financial Aid Resources in Illinois

Students who choose to study in Illinois have a number of financial aid options beyond what is offered by the federal government. With various state scholarship and grant programs, Illinois students — even those who attend school online — can reduce their total college expenses.

For example, the University of Illinois provided $13.4 million in institutional merit scholarships and $11.2 million in need-based grants and scholarships in 2014-2015. That represents 53 percent of the school’s financial aid offerings, with loans and work-study comprising the rest.

Considering that the average debt for graduating Illinois students is $28,984 according to the Institute for College Access and Success, finding ways to offset the cost of college is necessary to help make degree programs more affordable.

That being said, here are some Illinois-based financial aid programs to explore if you're considering a program of study in the Prairie State.

What Grants and Scholarships are Available in Illinois?

Illinois scholarship programs are open to a wide array of students. Here are a few examples:

Be sure to read the Ultimate Guide to Grants for advice and strategies on finding grants.

Student Loans in Illinois

Although Illinois did have the Capstone Loan Program at one time, there is no longer a state-based student loan program. Students seeking loans are encouraged to fill out the FAFSA to qualify for federal loans.

Learn more about student loans in the Ultimate Guide to Student Loans.

Additional Resources for Financial Aid in Illinois

  • The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) is the state financial aid organization committed to helping make college more affordable for Illinois students. It offers free resources to help families navigate the financial aid process.

Costs for Out-Of-State Students in Illinois

If you have your eye on an online college in Illinois but live out of state, you may be worried about paying non-resident tuition rates. To pay lower in-state tuition rates, you generally have to live in Illinois for 12 consecutive months prior to applying for admission at a state institution.

You could move to the state prior to taking classes if you have a job that allows you to easily relocate. Otherwise, look for one of the many ways out-of-state students can get reduced tuition at Illinois schools. For example, Illinois State University gives in-state tuition to students who are:

  • From bordering states
  • Freshmen with a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale and an SAT score of at least 1200
  • Transfer students with a 3.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale

Other schools, such as the University of Illinois at Chicago, don't take residency into consideration for online programs. Residents and non-residents pay the same price for online courses.

The Midwest Student Exchange Program is another way to reduce out-of-state tuition. Participating public schools in 10 states agree to cap non-resident tuition at 150 percent of in-state rates for eligible students. Meanwhile, private schools may offer a 10 percent discount for eligible out-of-state students.

Learn more about residency and out-of-state tuition at the links below. And talk to your admissions counselor to find out what other scholarships and resources might be available to you.

Best Careers In Illinois

EmploymentEmployment GrowthMedian High School SalaryMedian Bachelor's Salary
6,365,0605.8%$30,506$54,646

Top Illinois Industries

*Industry rankings determined by annual mean wage, employment, projected growth and location quotient. Data sourced from the BLS, 2019 dataset.

Top IndustriesEmploymentProjected GrowthAverage Salary
Lessors of nonfinancial intangible assets (except copyrighted works)1,791,3605%$72,744
Postal service1,839,9705%$68,979
Monetary authorities-central bank1,337,9906%$77,784
Air transportation2,422,6106%$66,450
Ambulatory healthcare services4,403,6606%$64,572
Rail transportation2,558,0705%$67,659
Broadcasting (except Internet)2,225,9104%$67,110
Data processing, hosting, and related services2,478,3504%$69,894
Hospitals; state, local, and private4,782,8205%$63,836
Securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments and related activities2,329,4604%$68,189

Illinois has a reputation as a state full of innovation and entrepreneurs, being the birthplace of inventions such as the zipper and the cellphone, as well as the origin of companies such as Crate & Barrel, Discover Card and Kraft Foods. With blossoming entrepreneurial minds flocking to Chicago and other areas of Illinois, eager to turn their ideas into reality, it's no surprise that lessors of intangible assets -- professionals who can assign patents, trademarks and other rights to their asset holders -- makes the top of our list of best industries in Illinois.

Many other industries find fertile ground in Illinois thanks to the state's creative spirit. Monetary authorities are needed to arrange loans for new businesses; data processing and hosting is a must in the age of the global economy; and securities and commodity contracts work to combat cybercrime, protecting businesses both new and old.

That being said, an education is becoming a necessity in order for people to fill many of the jobs in the large sectors of the state. As stated above, 70 percent of jobs in Illinois may soon require a college education. This has made it important for the state to help workers earn the training they need to keep up with job market shifts.

With this in mind, the state has created initiatives designed to help people meet employment requirements. For example, the Employment Opportunities Grant Program (EOGP) is offering grants for educational institutions and community organizations to provide training for careers in building trade occupations, which can be the foundation for further educational and career advancement. Illinois is also creating college-level bridge programs that can help people more easily complete their higher education, helping them to learn academic and technical skills that can help them be successful.

To learn about the high-performing careers in Illinois based on specific metro areas within the state, read on.

Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI Metro Area

Total Population
9,549,229
Median salary for high school grads
$30,926
Median salary with a bachelor's degree
$56,748
% of the population enrolled in college or grad school
26.8%
Median rent
$1,048

The Chicago-Naperville-Elgin metropolitan area has several thriving key industries, including the financial services sector. With companies like Morningstar, Avant, Braintree, and CapitalOne expanding in the city, there is plenty of potential for Chicago's financial managers to find opportunities. Also, with some of the employers in the city including huge companies like FedEx, Leo Burnett Group, Ernst & Young, and Takeda Pharmaceuticals, there are many employment possibilities for all kinds of managers, including sales managers, marketing managers, and advertising and promotions managers.

Best CareersMinimum EducationAverage SalaryEmployment
Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight EngineersBachelor's degree$193,8007,260
Financial ManagersBachelor's degree$151,86032,640
Marketing ManagersBachelor's degree$132,17018,270
Advertising and Promotions ManagersBachelor's degree$124,7201,980
Sales ManagersBachelor's degree$134,84021,310

*Career rankings determined by annual mean wage, employment, projected growth and location quotient. Data sourced from the BLS, 2019 dataset.

Rockford, IL Metro Area

Total Population
341,150
Median salary for high school grads
$30,295
Median salary with a bachelor's degree
$50,266
% of the population enrolled in college or grad school
21.7%
Median rent
$762

The Rockford area has many opportunities for nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and family and general practitioners, thanks to the strong local health care sector. This region has organizations such as Beloit Health System, OSF Healthcare, University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford, and Mercyhealth, so people interested in the health care field have no shortage of options.

Rockford's manufacturing industry has also been growing in recent years. In fact, according to the Rockford Register Star, the manufacturing jobs that have been created since 2010 have helped to lower the unemployment rate of the area. As a result, general and operations managers and industrial production managers may want to consider their options at places like Specialty Screw Corp., Fiat Chrysler Automotive and Woods Equipment.

Best CareersMinimum EducationAverage SalaryEmployment
Nurse PractitionersMaster's degree$105,940250
Family and General PractitionersDoctoral or professional degree$281,470290
Industrial Production ManagersBachelor's degree$95,190530
Physician AssistantsMaster's degree$120,920110
General and Operations ManagersBachelor's degree$103,1602,520

*Career rankings determined by annual mean wage, employment, projected growth and location quotient. Data sourced from the BLS, 2019 dataset.

Peoria, IL Metro Area

Total Population
377,258
Median salary for high school grads
$29,166
Median salary with a bachelor's degree
$53,592
% of the population enrolled in college or grad school
24.1%
Median rent
$739

With so many industrial companies in Peoria, it's no surprise that this area lends itself well to opportunities in management. Caterpillar Inc., Keystone Steel and Wire and O'Brien Steel are located in Peoria, which makes it a great place for general and operations managers who are looking for jobs. Also, Citizens Equity First Credit Union and RLI Corp. are headquartered here, so financial managers may be able to find positions available at these organizations.

However, Rochester is also packed with tech startups, including CloudCheckr, OLEDWorks, and Token. These startups utilize systems software developers to make their impact on the market, making the software development field one of the best jobs in Rochester.

Best CareersMinimum EducationAverage SalaryEmployment
Industrial EngineersBachelor's degreeN/A1,050
Transportation, Storage, and Distribution ManagersHigh school diploma or equivalent$120,330310
Financial ManagersBachelor's degree$128,790950
General and Operations ManagersBachelor's degree$113,7403,190
Purchasing ManagersBachelor's degree$131,200160

*Career rankings determined by annual mean wage, employment, projected growth and location quotient. Data sourced from the BLS, 2019 dataset.

Sources