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Why This Matters


    According to College Navigator, the four-year colleges in Illinois include 12 public and 81 private non-profit options.


    For the 2022-23 school year, the average in-state tuition for public four-year colleges in Illinois is $14,960, according to College Board.


    In the U.S., full-time undergraduate students attending college in 2021-22 received an average of $15,330 per year in financial aid.

Our Research

This list features some of the best brick-and-mortar colleges in Illinois. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality. We included liberal arts colleges and research universities as well as small, midsize, and large institutions. Next, we compared this comprehensive list to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications, such as U.S. News & World Report, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

The colleges on our list are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) — this organization examines the objectives, quality, and overall effectiveness of postsecondary education programs in the central United States.

We evaluated each school on tuition costs, admission standards, retention and graduation rates, faculty, and reputation as well as the resources and services provided for on-campus students. Then, we used this information to calculate the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Online College Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

The Top 50 Colleges in Illinois


The University of Chicago

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

University of Illinois Chicago

Wheaton College Illinois

University of St. Francis

Southern Illinois University-Carbondale

University of Illinois Springfield

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Western Illinois University

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What You Should Know About Graduating From College in Illinois

There are many considerations students should keep in mind when selecting a college. One factor that is often overlooked is the local job market. Before choosing a state in which to attend college, consider local employment opportunities. As of May 2022, the five industries that employ the most people in Illinois are office and administrative support occupations, transportation and material moving, management, sales, and food preparation and serving.

For jobseekers with a bachelor’s degree, the five fastest-growing occupations in Illinois are agents and talent managers, data scientists, logisticians, medical and health services managers, and actuaries.

Also, here are some of the companies that made the list of largest employers in Illinois: Abbott Laboratories, Allstate Corporation, Deloitte, Unity Point Optimum Health, and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

What’s Next?

While researching colleges in Illinois, it’s important to consider financial aid. Below is a list of federal and state resources that offer grants, scholarships, and other financial opportunities for undergraduate students in Illinois.

  • Illinois Student Assistance Commission. This agency administers several scholarship, grant, prepaid tuition, and student loan repayment/forgiveness programs to support the post-secondary educational goals of Illinois students.
  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Provided by the U.S. Department of Education, FAFSA is the main form students use to apply for financial aid for college. To determine if you’re eligible for aid, submit a completed FAFSA form online.
  • CareerOneStop Scholarship Finder. This tool will show you available scholarships, grants, and loans and can be filtered by state and degree type. It includes information such as dollar amounts, how to apply, qualifications, deadlines, and contact details.

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