Best Online Colleges in Illinois

Find your perfect value college is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
Best Online Colleges in Illinois

Illinois online colleges are seeing more and more students because of their advantages over a traditional college in Illinois and in general. One prime example is the benefit of an online degree for working adults. Often, people feel like they’re stuck at a job they can’t get out of because they don’t have the time to further their education. However, Illinois online colleges give students the ability to complete school work on their own time around their work schedule. 

The economy of Illinois is changing. It’s transitioning from agriculture and manufacturing to a more business-oriented economy. Jobs in finance, technology, and business are where a majority of jobs are today. This leaves people who remain in manufacturing and agriculture with the issue of job instability. These individuals may opt to earn an online degree while they work though, so they can ensure they have a job in times when the popularity of certain fields is diminishing.  

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Methodology: Ranking the Best Online Colleges in Illinois

In the list below colleges are ranked using the Value Colleges Best Value ranking system, which evaluates a university’s success by their tuition costs and returns on investment. Additionally, all universities must be fully accredited to be considered for the ranking. All colleges listed are located in the state of Illinois.

1. Southern Illinois University – Carbondale

Southern Illinois University – Carbondale’s online program prides itself in making education accessible to students around the world. Online programs follow the exact same curriculum as in-classroom programs, allowing students who solely do their coursework online to have a similar experience to students on campus. SIU offers coursework for bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, certificate programs, and non-certificate programs. This online program is ideal both for students who wish to earn a degree and for professionals who are looking to advance in their careers or move on to a new industry.

SIU prides itself on making education accessible to a wide variety of students. The school is known for its caring faculty who provide an instructional style that leaves you feeling proud of your work. When you take classes online with SIU, your professors will be just as accessible to you as they would be if you were on campus. SIU is a nationally ranked public research university, giving students access to the latest developments in their chosen field.

Number of Online Programs: 29

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2. Western Illinois University

Western Illinois University offers a number of online bachelor’s, master’s, and certificate programs. WIU’s online degree programs make learning available to students across the world. The many degree programs are as high quality as the programs you would experience if you were physically on campus. The school also offers integrated bachelor’s and master’s degree programs online, allowing students to work toward an undergraduate and graduate degree at the same time.

WIU awards more than $10 million in scholarships to students each year. If you’re curious about going back to school but not sure how you’ll be able to afford it, WIU is here to help you make away. They’ve been ranked as the best Midwestern university for the past 15 years, and for good reason. Students report feeling deeply cared about by faculty. School pride runs deep, and it’s likely that you’ll run into a fellow alum more than once throughout your professional career.

Number of Online Programs: 23

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3. Dominican University

One of the best online colleges in Illinois, Dominican University has a dedicated staff just for helping online students make the most of their education. Some students do their classes solely online, while others prefer a hybrid approach. Dominican University’s online learning system is set up so that students can take some of their classes online, while taking others in a traditional classroom setting, if they prefer.

Coursework at Dominican isn’t easy, and that’s a good thing. The university has a reputation for being rigorous, and employers know that Dominican University alums know their stuff. Faculty work close with students, and the school’s network of nearly 30,000 alumni mean that you’ll never be far from a fellow Star.

Number of Online Programs: 16

school website

4. University of Illinois – Springfield

Online learning at the University of Illinois, Springfield, caters to busy professionals and other nontraditional students. UIS understands that the needs of students who take online classes can be different from the needs of students in the traditional classroom. Students who taking online courses with UIS pay the e-tuition rate, which is much lower than the rate for traditional tuition. This applies to out of state students as well.

When you become an online student at UIS, you’re never alone. You’ll get a personal program director who will walk you through the process and be there for you every step of the way, from the day you accept your offer to the day you earn your degree. UIS offers online learners the opportunity to work toward bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, graduate degrees, and certificates.

Number of Online Programs: 14

school website

5. McKendree University

McKendree University has been serving students for over 200 years, and they’re proud to now offer online education to students who prefer a nontraditional college experience. The university sets a top limit of 20 students per online class, allowing each student plenty of time to get one on one interaction with their instructor. Many programs are offered, from bachelor’s degrees all the way up to a doctoral program.

McKendree prides itself on being affordable to all students and offers a no-fee application. Personal program advisors work with students to make sure they’re getting everything they need out of their online education in order to start or advance in their careers.

Number of Online Programs: 10

school website

6. Roosevelt University

Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, Roosevelt University’s online education program provides the same high-quality classroom education you’d expect from Roosevelt to nontraditional students, studying anytime, anywhere. RU provides students with both full and part-time study options to meet the needs of a nontraditional schedule. Courses run on either an 8 or 16-week schedule. At RU, students have the option of earning degrees and certificates fully online, with no in-person or in-classroom component required.

Roosevelt has been recognized by the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements. This means that Roosevelt has been proven to provide online students with an education comparable to the one they would receive in a traditional classroom setting. Roosevelt prides itself on giving students real-world educational experiences, both in the classroom and online. When students graduate from Roosevelt’s online program, they report that they feel prepared and confident in their given field. Roosevelt provides students with guidance from a personal advisor, so online students are never lost in the shuffle. Roosevelt offers zero-interest payment plans, making college a reality for all students who qualify, no matter what their financial situation.

Number of Online Programs: 9

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7. University of St. Francis

The University of St. Francis was one of the pioneers in online education, rolling out it’s first online business courses over twenty years ago. Today, USF has continued to be a leader in providing education to students around the world. The school was ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top online learning programs in the nation. USF students interact with their professors in a similar format to interaction in the classroom, via chat and discussions in their online learning forum. For students who aren’t sure if online learning is a good fit for their needs, USF offers a virtual classroom walk-through to learn more about how an online course functions.

USF offers over 120 online courses, making online learning a reality for both traditional and nontraditional students. Considered one of the best online schools in Illinois, USF offers bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, and certificate programs to online learners.

Number of Online Programs: 8

school website

8. Eastern Illinois University

Eastern Illinois University prides itself on offering a unique, well rounded learning experience to nontraditional and traditional online students. With online learning at Eastern Illinois University, students can continue to excel in their careers while also getting the education necessary to move up the ladder in their chosen field. EIU offers online degrees at the bachelor’s and master’s level. Certificate programs are also available for those wanting to continue their education without earning another degree.

Almost all of the online courses at EIU are available at the low, in state tuition rate. Financial aid and scholarships are available to those who qualify, making online learning less expensive than ever. One of the goals of online programming at EIU is to have professors available at an even higher rate than professors in the classroom, since online students aren’t getting the same face time as traditional students.

Number of Online Programs: 8

school website

9. Lewis University

Lewis University understands how hard it can be to advance your career while also pursuing higher education. The online program at Lewis University aims to make it easier for busy professionals and other nontraditional students to earn their degree. Almost all online courses are done solely from your chosen remote location, but there are a few classes that will require you to come to campus for a placement exam. If this is not a possibility for you, talk to your program advisor to ensure that the courses you need to advance your learning are doable from home.

Lewis University provides students with all of the resources they would get on campus, including tech support, library access, and access to professors. Lewis prides itself on a low faculty to student ratio- at 1 professor to every 13 students, it’s clear that you’ll get the individual attention you need while earning your degree.

Number of Online Programs: 8

school website

10. Northern Illinois University

If you want the prestige of a Northern Illinois University education, but aren’t able to make it into the classroom, good news: you can now become a Husky online. Northern Illinois University offers a number of degree programs that can be earned solely online, including bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees. If you’re undecided on whether online learning at NIU is a good fit for you, you’re able to try a sample online class to further understand how the process works.

One of the best things about online learning at NIU- whether you’re in-state or out of state, you’ll pay low in-state tuition rates when you take online classes. At NIU, faculty and staff strive to provide students with a big university education with the personal attention you’d get at a smaller school.

Number of Online Programs: 7

school website

What is the Value of Online Colleges in Illinois?

Today more than ever virtual learning is a viable source for obtaining a college degree online. With an always increasing pressure to juggle full or part time work with other commitments, like family, students are turning towards online learning in order to embrace flexibility and student-led learning opportunities. Today attending school online is considered a respected avenue for obtaining a college degree. It is additionally a way to fast track a higher education opportunity without sacrificing academically.

Not only are accredited online colleges in Illinois beneficial for those looking to prepare themselves for a career change and adults in general, but an education online works well for parents. They don’t have to choose between child care and bettering themselves. They also get to enjoy more time with their family than if they would attend a program on campus. In fact, accredited online colleges in Illinois are beneficial for any student who has other obligations besides just going to school. 

Basically, an online education is beneficial to anyone who can’t attend college in a traditional setting. 

How Do I Choose Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Illinois?

First, be sure to check the school’s accreditation. An online school without proper accreditation will not be taken seriously.

Also look for what kinds of specialization you want. Some of the most popular online programs for distance learners are:

  • criminal justice
  • social work
  • health sciences
  • computer science
  • business administration

With specializations and concentrations, you can target your preferred career.

If you already have an associate degree from a community college, you may choose a degree completion program instead of a traditional four-year liberal arts program. That way, you can study full-time and finish in as little as two years. You may look for an asynchronous program so you can work in your own time.

Other considerations for enrollment include cost. A nonprofit state university is a public school, and public universities are almost always cheaper than private.

There are many reasonably priced private colleges in Illinois as well, including:

  • Olivet Nazarene University
  • National Louis University
  • Loyola University Chicago
  • Concordia University Chicago

What Kinds of Degrees Can I Earn Online in Illinois?

Prospective students may choose to earn undergraduate degrees, including both associate’s and bachelor’s. Those who already have an associate’s degree may further their education and earn a bachelor’s. Some fields require that a person has at least a bachelor’s degree. It’s still beneficial for people to earn a higher degree, even if it’s not necessary. For instance, there are more opportunities for a registered or licensed practical nurse to gain management positions if they obtain at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Obtaining a doctorate is beneficial for some fields because having the highest level of education shows companies a person is dedicated to that field and has an expert-level of knowledge about a subject. 

For students who already possess at least an undergraduate degree, it’s possible to advance and earn a master’s degree or doctorate. Certain careers require a person to possess a master’s degree, such as a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant. Plus, it heightens a person’s earning potential and prospective job opportunities when a person completes one of the online graduate programs in Illinois. For some, online graduate programs in Illinois are their only option to obtain a degree and continue working. It’s also possible to earn a second degree or attend a dual-degree program online while continuing to work. This could also improve a person’s potential in a certain field.

Illinois online degrees aren’t limited to standard degree programs, either. Prospective students may opt to complete certificate programs, which can open up the doors to new opportunities as well. For example, people who possess a degree in a certain subject may earn a teaching certificate, so they have the ability to educate the future generation about their area of expertise. Moreover, they don’t take as long to complete as an entire degree program. Some certificate programs take a few weeks or months to complete. Students may also consider taking individual courses to work toward a degree. 

Nowadays, the majors students may opt to earn an online degree in are vast and include everything from healthcare to science to engineering to accounting. Plus, it’s possible to earn credits to complete a degree in almost any subject besides the clinicals or what must be done on campus. 

Are There Online Colleges in Chicago?

Chicago is the most populous city in Illinois, so it’s not a shock that there are many students in this area who want to attend college. It’s also not a surprise that not all of them can earn a traditional degree on campus due to their current obligations. Therefore, online colleges in Chicago are a popular search topic for students in the area.  

Not to mention, since Chicago is such a well-recognized city, many students would rather attend a college that’s based in this city, even if they enroll in a distance-learning program. Plus, the city is a major area in terms of commerce for the state of Illinois, making the need for workers in the area vital. It helps to have a degree from a school in the city where potential internships are available. Additionally, it could be advantageous for people in other areas to relocate to Chicago because of all the school and job opportunities available. 

Some of the most well-known online colleges in Chicago include public educational institutions like UI Chicago and Illinois Tech. Some private colleges also qualify as online colleges in Chicago, such as DePaul, Lewis, Loyola, and St. Francis.

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Aya Andrews


Aya Andrews is a passionate educator and mother of two, with a diverse background that has shaped her approach to teaching and learning. Born in Metro Manila, she now calls San Diego home and is proud to be a Filipino-American. Aya earned her Masters degree in Education from San Diego State University, where she focused on developing innovative teaching methods to engage and inspire students.

Prior to her work in education, Aya spent several years as a continuing education consultant for KPMG, where she honed her skills in project management and client relations. She brings this same level of professionalism and expertise to her work as an educator, where she is committed to helping each of her students achieve their full potential.

In addition to her work as an educator, Aya is a devoted mother who is passionate about creating a nurturing and supportive home environment for her children. She is an active member of her community, volunteering her time and resources to support local schools and organizations. Aya is also an avid traveler, and loves to explore new cultures and cuisines with her family.

With a deep commitment to education and a passion for helping others succeed, Aya is a true inspiration to those around her. Her dedication to her craft, her community, and her family is a testament to her unwavering commitment to excellence in all aspects of her life.

Find your perfect value college is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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