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Online Colleges in Illinois

Most Affordable Online Colleges
Article Sources

Sources:

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Everything is bigger in Illinois. The famed 108-story Willis Tower (formerly called Sears Tower) in Chicago is the second-tallest building in the United States. Illinois also boasts the country's largest bakery: the Nabisco plant in Chicago spans more than 1.8 million square feet. The state is also home to many large and well-known cities, including Chicago, and the capital city of Springfield. Following this trend, it should come as no surprise that Illinois also has a large number of colleges and universities where students can pursue online degrees.

Illinois' many online opportunities come to students through many of the public and private institution of higher learning in the state. The University of Illinois system alone is made of three major universities, including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Campaign, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Illinois at Springfield. Through a collaboration launched nearly 10 years ago, these three universities met the challenge to increase education well beyond brick-and-mortar walls. Today, these universities provide more than 1,400 courses online, along with approximately 60 degree programs and 80 certificate programs. Other online education opportunities may be available through the state's 48 community colleges, 97 non-for-profit universities and colleges and 35 private, for-profit institutions.

Best Online Colleges in Illinois

With such a big pool of possible colleges to choose from in Illinois, how are you going to find the right choice for you? Fear not: we're here to help you make a well-informed decision on the matter. The following list of the 10 best Illinois colleges and universities was ranked on data sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics, for the 2015-16 school year. Details on the methodology we used to compile this list are located at the bottom of the page.

1

University of Illinois at Springfield

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$11,413
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
63.74%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
27
School Type
4-year

At the top of our list is one of the state's biggest names: the University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS), which offers more than 50 online programs to students, including bachelor's degrees, master's degrees and graduate certificates. Interested students can peruse the school's catalog of online courses, or consider the courses the university offers online through Coursera. Not for nothing do alumni from the school comprise 28 percent of the college-educated workforce living in Springfield.

Students enrolled in University of I Online have access to a variety of services, including library resources, veteran services and disability services. Joint agreements in place with more than a dozen community colleges in the state give students access to an UIS advisor while students are still in community college. The university also offers numerous 2+2 agreements that enable students to seamlessly transfer from a community college into UIS to complete a four-year degree.

The "University of I Online" uses the Blackboard management system. If you aren't sure how to use Blackboard, don't worry: students can access Blackboard tutorials about customizing a home page, submitting assignments and joining discussion boards in order to easily get started with the system.

2

University of Illinois at Urbana

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$17,086
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
23.38%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
25
School Type
4-year

Whether you want to finish just a single course online or are looking to complete an entire online degree program, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has it covered. This university has become so fully immersed in online education that it has entered the world of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Students can find more than 80 courses, 12 specializations and two entire degrees offered online through the university in partnership with Coursera. There are undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees available online at UoI Urbana-Champaign, as well as certificates and endorsements.

The school's Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning (CITL) was established to supply guidance to students interested in online degrees or who just want to access online education for other reasons, like personal interests. UoI Urbana-Champaign also runs an online education blog that addresses specific concerns of online students, including benefits to studying online and easy ways to connect with online classmates.

3

Concordia University - Chicago

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$29,520
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
58.05%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
29
School Type
4-year

At Chicago's very own Concordia University -- which recently celebrated its 150th anniversary -- students can find degrees that are not just available online, but are offered online in an accelerated format, such as an online Bachelor's of Arts degree in Sports and Recreation.

Concordia offers its online courses in a sequential order using an eight-week format. All told, Concordia offers nearly 50 degree programs -- including MBAs, master's degrees and doctoral programs -- with majors ranging from leadership to gerontology to organizational leadership. It's also well worth noting that at the undergraduate level, credit can be granted to students for prior experience, including in some of the school's online bachelor's programs.

At the undergraduate level, students can find 3+1 programs combining associate degrees with bachelor's programs. Although these are not offered online, they do offers alternatives to local adult professionals seeking accelerated learning.

4

Lewis University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$29,040
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
30.77%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
17
School Type
4-year

Located in Romeoville, Lewis University prides itself on its "practical" degree options, covering disciplines such as computer science, data science and organizational leadership. The degrees available through Lewis University are available fully online, meaning distance students never have to worry about scheduling a trip to campus or paying for travel. Online graduate-level certificates also are available in many of the same subjects as the degree options. Among the university's more unique online offerings is a Master of Science degree in Aviation and Transportation, which offers courses in eight-week formats and has fewer than 15 students per class.

To assist students in their academic career, this Catholic university provides a personal Student Services Coordinator to every online student. In case issues arise with learning platforms or online communication, the school further provides around-the-clock technical assistance through its Personal Support Center.

5

University of St. Francis

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$29,950
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
59.84%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
25
School Type
4-year

Fifth on our list of best online colleges in Illinois is the University of St. Francis (USF), in Joliet. This Catholic university focuses on sustainability, offering students the opportunity to take the USF sustainability pledge, and to become a graduate who provides leadership and service to the world. USF offers more than 150 classes online, as well as bachelor's degree programs in business administration and health care leadership and an RN-to-BSN completion degree.

The liberal-arts university has offered online education for more than 15 years, which started with the decision to make a business program available via distance learning. In fact, students pursuing that online business administration degree now have the option of choosing one of five unique tracks, including entrepreneurship, marketing and transportation and logistics management.

If you shy away from online classes due to concern about your technological skills, USF understands and anticipates your concerns. Should distance-learning technical problems arise, students can contact the university's help desk during normal business hours or send an email any time of the day.

6

Lincoln Christian University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$12,900
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
59.45%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
13
School Type
4-year

Founded as a bible college in 1944, Lincoln Christian University ranks sixth on our list of best online colleges in Illinois. Although many university students live on the school's 140-acre campus, others enroll for the university's online degree programs. These programs currently include seven degrees, starting at the associate level and rolling all the way up to master's degrees.

Several of Lincoln Christian University's online offerings are unique. Student enrolled in public institutions are unlikely to find the opportunity to pursue majors like the Bible, Christian Ministry, and the Bible and Theology online, as students at Lincoln Christian can! The university also offers more traditional disciplines through online learning, such as business administration and organizational leadership.

Of course, online students can head to campus to take advantage of some of the activities there. The university is home to six varsity sports, and its Red Lions team competes in Division I play with the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCAAA).

7

Illinois State University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$12,004
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
15.88%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
5
School Type
4-year

Illinois State University, in Normal, offers a broad range of learning opportunities online, including a master's degree program in physical education pedagogy, which was created specifically for adults who are interested in K-12 physical education. The university also offers an online RN-to-BSN degree, which can be completed on a full- or part-time basis and has been offered for the past 14 years.

Additionally, the university provides more than 300 courses through distance learning. Covering subjects such as marketing, business organization and even the history of jazz, these courses can be located through an online search of the school's course catalog. Online courses can be ideal for either degree seeking or non-degree seeking students.

Of note, the university mascot is the Redbird, or cardinal. Transfer students can become part of campus life by joining the Transfer Redbirds student club, and online students who do not live too far away can become engaged in campus life by heading to campus to catch a Redbird game.

8

Olivet Nazarene University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$32,790
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
26.84%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
10
School Type
4-year

At Olivet Nazarene University, students can pursue online education through the university's "Olivet Online." More than a dozen degree programs are available online, including undergraduate and graduate degrees. Like many other online degree programs, the university's RN-to-BSN online degree uses a cohort model. Students also have the opportunity to opt for a hybrid model, which intertwines online and campus-based learning into one grand educational experience.

The university, located in Bourbonnais, was founded in 1907 and follows a Christian philosophy. Its School of Graduate and Continuing Studies (SGCS) focuses on adult learners and non-traditional students.

Many of the online programs at Olivet Nazarene University have ongoing start dates. Consider, for example, the school's online Bachelor's of Science degree in Applied Management, which has a start date every month or every other month of the year. The university also uses an accelerated format and has designed many of its online programs so that they can be completed in two years or fewer.

9

Southern Illinois University - Carbondale

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$12,761
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
16.41%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
13
School Type
4-year

Southern Illinois University (SIU), in Carbondale, is ninth on our list of the best online colleges in Illinois. The university offers 11 bachelor's degree and 10 master's programs online, including bachelor's completion degree programs in the fields of accounting and business and administration. Prospective students seeking more rigorous, graduate-level education may want to look into the university's online MBA, which can be completed in as little as 23 months.

Founded in 1869 as a teacher's college, the university has grown both in the number of degrees that it offers and enrollment. Along with that growth have come more offerings in online education, which now includes diplomas and certificates through extended studies. In fact, students can now pursue professional development online, including coursework in Lean Six Sigma or event planning and management. Students just log on to SIU Online to get started and to check their browser for proper configuration.

10

DeVry University - Illinois

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$17,132
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
91.85%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
36
School Type
4-year

Convenience is the focus at DeVry University, in Chicago, with classes starting every eight weeks whether students are enrolled in online education or on-campus coursework. Associate, bachelor's and even master's degrees are offered online, all through one of the university's six different colleges. In fact, the university's Keller Graduate School of Management provides not only online master's programs in accounting, human resource management and more, but also graduate-level certification programs in similar fields.

DeVry University also allows students to receive credit for prior experience through its Prior Learning Assessment Program. And, when students have completed their online degree or online program, they can turn to the university for support with career advising, job listing access and other tools. Offerings such as Compass to My Career and HireDeVry have been created by the university to provide students with more opportunities to build connections for potential employment.

Affordable Online Colleges in Illinois

There are many affordable online colleges in Illinois. Here are some of the top five two- and four-year affordable online colleges in Illinois. Data was compiled by the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, part of the National Center for Education Statistics.

For a comprehensive ranking of the top online colleges in Illinois by quality, affordability, and/or several other factors, please use our Top Colleges tool.

Affordable Two-Year Online Colleges in Illinois

The following are a handful of the lowest-cost two-year online colleges in Illinois.

College NameTuition & Fees/Year
Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Distance Education Participation
Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Number of Online Programs Offered
Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics..
School Type
Rend Lake College$4,60519.71%N/A2-year
Southeastern Illinois College$4,80051.97%112-year
Shawnee Community College$5,01037.00%12-year
Highland Community College$5,18431.37%12-year
Lincoln Land Community College$5,54424.01%142-year

Affordable Four-Year Online Colleges in Illinois

The following four-year universities are notable for their low tuition costs.

College NameTuition & Fees/Year
Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Distance Education Participation
Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Number of Online Programs Offered
Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics..
School Type
American Islamic College$7,550N/AN/A4-year
Northeastern Illinois University$8,74911.04%N/A4-year
Pacific College of Oriental Medicine-Chicago$9,043N/AN/A4-year
Rasmussen College-Illinois$9,360N/A594-year
Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville$9,44213.05%114-year

College Accreditation in Illinois

Students who attend online colleges in Illinois want to ensure their degree is valid and comes from an institution that's accredited by an organization approved by the Department of Education. One organization is responsible for accrediting schools in the state's main university, community college and technical college systems:

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

The Higher Learning Commission is one of six regional accrediting bodies in the U.S. and accredits colleges in 19 states in the North Central region.

Students can check with the Department of Education to make sure their college is accredited by a nationally recognized body and that their degree meets common standards of educational quality.

School Interviews

Below are interviews with leading educators in the state of Illinois. They provide unique insight into attending college in Illinois.

Dr. Mary Herrington-Perry
Online courses are as tough as -- and in some cases tougher than -- their face-to-face equivalents, and they require substantial self-motivation and time management.

Dr. Mary Herrington-Perry

Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs and Enrollment Management

Eastern Illinois University

Q. What can you tell us about the online programs offered at Eastern Illinois?

Because EIU is primarily a residential university, it is important that our online programs augment on-campus enrollment. This is why our focus has been on developing online programs that serve 1) nontraditional students (i.e., those whose work and family responsibilities make it difficult for them to take classes on campus on a regular basis); and 2) new markets off campus.

EIU offers three wholly online programs designed for nontraditional students interested in earning a baccalaureate degree:

  • General Studies
  • Nursing (RN to BS Completion program)
  • Organizational and Professional Development

We also offer low-residency programs that combine online coursework with some face-to-face courses offered at times convenient for nontraditional students (evenings, weekends, summers). For undergraduate transfer students, these include:

  • Family and Consumer Sciences
  • Psychology
  • Recreation Administration
For graduate students, these include: 
  • Art Education
  • Communication Disorders and Sciences
  • Community Arts
  • Family and Consumer Sciences
  • Music Education

Our second focus is on developing online programs for new markets. This fall we will inaugurate low-residency graduate programs in Aging Studies and Health Promotion and Leadership, and we plan to offer both our MBA and Financial Planner programs wholly online. Next year, we plan to offer a new graduate program in Cyber Security as well as online versions of our Master Teacher and Natural Sciences programs.

Q. What advice would you give to students interested in an online degree program?

First, be sure that online learning is right for you. Online courses are as tough as -- and in some cases tougher than -- their face-to-face equivalents, and they require substantial self-motivation and time management. You can't just "show up" and expect to pass. Instead, you have to complete some activity virtually every day -- read assignments, post answers to questions about them, critique others' responses, take quizzes/tests, participate in group conversations and projects, write papers, etc. If you have questions about whether you're up to the challenge, read the Illinois Online Network's advice for prospective online students at http://www.ion.uillinois.edu/resources/tutorials/pedagogy/StudentProfile.asp.

Second, if you're considering enrolling in online courses in a state other than the one in which you reside, be sure that state has approval to offer courses in yours. Not all of them do. At EIU, we keep online students apprised of these authorizations at http://www.eiu.edu/adulted/applicants-outside-il.php. (FYI, state authorization is a federal requirement tied to federal financial aid rules.)

Third, be sure your online courses are being taught by faculty members who have been trained to teach online, as all of EIU's are. (This information should be available on the instructor's course website or syllabus.) Not only does teaching online require special knowledge of technology and how to use it to engage students in the learning process, it also requires excellent writing skills, since this is the teacher's primary means of communicating with students. Teachers (like students) also need to have excellent time management skills: Students have access to the Internet and thus to their online courses 24-7; teachers need to recognize that students may ask important questions at any time of the day or night, and that they expect a prompt response.

Q. Will online learning change much in the future?

There already is some evidence that the online market is glutted -- at least, enrollments have stopped growing. This complicates enrollment management efforts, especially in Illinois, which is seeing a dwindling supply of high school and community college students to fill face-to-face classes. If the supply of online learners also is diminishing, institutions will need to ensure that their online programs truly are competitive -- that is, that they are producing high quality graduates who not only secure employment but also know and can do what employers expect. At EIU, all students complete the same requirements and learning outcomes, whether they are taking their courses in a classroom at 10 a.m. or at home at 2 a.m. But this is not the case at all institutions. What this means for online students is that they should expect their courses and programs to define learning and program outcome measures more explicitly. Their knowledge and skills will be assessed more frequently, and their post-program success will be tracked more carefully.

As Illinois higher education continues to see reduced funding, institutions also may begin rethinking their investments and their students' investments in remedial education, which potentially could be provided to students for free via online solutions such as Khan Academy and MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching).

Last, I think you'll also see institutions rethinking their online program inventories. Some of them may begin to retrench and refocus their offerings on programs that support their missions and address truly unmet needs in the higher education marketplace -- which is what EIU's plan for online programs has called for all along. In the long run, online programs likely will get better, though there may be fewer of them.


Dr. Vickie S. Cook
Online learning will continue to mature. More universities are looking to add additional and new online options to their current program offerings.

Dr. Vickie S. Cook

Director of Center for Online Learning, Research and Service

University of Illinois Springfield

Q. Can you tell us a little about the online programs offered at the University of Illinois-Springfield?

The University of Illinois Springfield is both a mature online course provider and a leader in the field of online learning. UIS faculty began teaching online in 1998. Thirty students were enrolled in the initial programs. Today, over 1,700 students are majors in online programs. This deliberate and slow growth has allowed UIS to continue to offer high quality, high touch programs to students through online media.

Q. What advice would you give to students interested in an online degree program?

My best advice would be for students to do diligence in finding out about a university and the program of study they are interested in pursuing. Here is a list of items I think are important to potential students:

  1. Find out as much as possible about an institution -- its on-ground offerings, as well as online programs and supports.
  2. Talk to the program coordinator -- not just an admission staff member who likely won't be with the student throughout the program.
  3. Talk with faculty and other students in the programs they are interested in pursuing.
  4. Explore what types of supports are available for tutoring in a content area, math, writing, etc.
  5. Ask if there is an orientation available for online students.
  6. Determine if the school is accredited by a regional accrediting agency such as the Higher Learning Commission.
  7. If there is any pushback from the university regarding the questions being asked, it might not be the best place to consider enrolling.

If the university seems like a good fit for the student, then the student should address his or her ability to excel in an online program. Here are some additional components that students should consider when thinking about enrolling in an online program:

  1. Be prepared to work diligently toward completion of a degree plan.
  2. Be self-disciplined in completing work in a timely manner including vacations and holidays depending on the program they may be enrolled in. Know that you must have access to stable WiFi even if that is through a local library or a restaurant and a computer to do your work.
  3. Feel confident in their reading and writing ability at the university level.
  4. Identify a support system of family or friends who can assist with life issues that may occur during their program of study.
  5. Be prepared to contact their faculty members and program coordinator or other offices on campus when information is needed, connection to an on campus office is necessary, or finding assistance through the university support offices.
  6. Be familiar with and prepared to purchase or use both hardware and software requirements for the particular program your university offers. Always check with the university for any student discount programs that might be available, especially for software used by a program study.
  7. Students must be self-determined in their approach to their degree program and advocate for a high quality learning experience whether on campus or online.

Q. How do you anticipate online learning might evolve in the coming years?

Online learning will continue to mature. More universities are looking to add additional and new online options to their current program offerings. We will also see more technologies being added as learning options in online courses. Perhaps the most important aspect of online learning is that course work be available through use of any device. Mobile technologies in online classes will continue to develop and be a strong influence on the future development of apps for learning.

Financial Aid 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.

Illinois Scholarships

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

All high school seniors in the state of Illinois who have taken the ACT or SAT are eligible for this one-year scholarship. The AMVETS offer several other trade-specific scholarships as well.

  • Application deadline:  March 2017
  • Award amount: $1,000
  • Number of scholarships awarded: Not specified
  • Renewable:  No
  • Minimum GPA:  Not specified
  • Merit vs. need-based: Merit
  • Ethnicity: All
  • Academic status:  High school senior
  • Residency required: Yes
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity awards financial assistance to low-income students. Candidates need to be seeking formal education or occupational training at an accredited Illinois institution. Completed application, essay, letters of reference and proof of income are all required to determine eligibility.

  • Application deadline:  April 2017
  • Award amount: $500-$3,000
  • Number of scholarships awarded: Not specified
  • Renewable:  No
  • Minimum GPA:  Not specified
  • Merit vs. need-based:  Mostly need-based but merit is considered
  • Ethnicity: All
  • Academic status:  Must be enrolled full-time in the upcoming fall semester
  • Residency required:  Yes
The Golden Apple Foundation is a Chicago, not-for-profit organization promoting excellence in Pre-K to 12th grade education. Recipients of the Golden Apple Scholar award are expected to obtain their bachelor's degree at one of 53 approved Illinois institutions, earn their Illinois teacher certification and teach at an Illinois school of need for five years.

  • Application deadline:  January 2017
  • Award amount: $2,500-$5,000
  • Number of scholarships awarded: Not specified
  • Renewable: Not specified
  • Minimum GPA: 2.5
  • Merit vs. need-based:  Merit
  • Ethnicity: All
  • Academic status:  Working toward a teacher certification
  • Residency required:  Yes

To gain an edge when it comes to finding and scoring scholarships, don't miss our Ultimate Guide to Scholarships.

Illinois Grants

In addition to money earmarked for dependents of law enforcement officers, over 100,000 grants are available to those attending Illinois-based programs of study who have financial need.

All Illinois students attending approved in-state colleges are eligible for a Monetary Award Program grant through the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC). Over 100,000 grants are awarded strictly based on financial need each year. Though high school grades and test scores are not required to be submitted, students do need to apply by submitting the FAFSA to the federal government beginning on October 1st of each year.

  • Application deadline:  N/A, but March 2017 is FAFSA priority date, so earlier is best
  • Award amount:  Varies based on annual funding
This grant is offered to the spouses and children (natural, adopted or under legal custody) of police or fire officers who have died or become disabled during service. Recipients must be enrolled at least half-time at a two- or four-year ISAC-approved Illinois institution and maintain good academic standing.

  • Application deadline:  October 2016 for full-year consideration; March 2017 for 2nd term
  • Award amount:  Varies based on annual funding
This grant is offered to the spouses and children (natural, adopted or under legal custody) of correctional officers who have died or become disabled during service. Recipients must be enrolled at least half-time at a two - or four -year ISAC-approved Illinois institution and maintain good academic standing.

  • Application deadline:  October 2016 for full-year consideration; March 2017 for 2nd term
  • Award amount:  Varies based on annual funding

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

Illinois Loans

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 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.

Featured Cities in Illinois

Illinois has a large and diverse economy, and students who successfully complete degree requirements from online schools in Illinois may face strong job prospects in many different industries. Here are three of the largest cities in Illinois, along with information that is helpful to online students, sourced from the 2015 American Community Survey (census.gov).

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

Total Population

9,534,008

Median salary for high school grads

$29,623

Median salary with a bachelor's degree

$53,906

% of the population enrolled in college or grad school

27.1%

Median rent

$984

Fun Facts

Chicago is a hub of cultural diversity and entertainment. There are more than 200 theaters and nearly 200 art galleries in the city, the City of Chicago reports -- none more famous that the Art Institute of Chicago. With 26 miles of lakefront and 15 miles of beaches, students also have many options to take well-earned breaks from their studies.

Rockford, IL Metro Area

Total Population

344,290

Median salary for high school grads

$28,800

Median salary with a bachelor's degree

$48,201

% of the population enrolled in college or grad school

21.1%

Median rent

$745

Fun Facts

Beginning in 1943, the Rockford Peaches women's baseball team played for 12 seasons. The team was featured in the 1992 movie A League of Their Own. Rockford has more than 10,000 acres of parks and forest preserves and more than 12 golf courses.

Peoria, IL Metro Area

Total Population

379,947

Median salary for high school grads

$27,352

Median salary with a bachelor's degree

$51,978

% of the population enrolled in college or grad school

24.6%

Median rent

$701

Fun Facts

Peoria is home to Caterpillar Inc.'s new $250 million global headquarters. The machine manufacturer's massive campus covers six blocks and encompasses more than 1.9 million square feet of office space.

 
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