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10 Popular Colleges in Illinois
Illinois has more than 70 nonprofit four-year colleges and universities. This page lists all Illinois colleges and highlights some of the most popular based on factors such as enrollment size, prestige, and overall reputation.
All school data below comes from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Tuition and fees are from 2022-2023, while acceptance rates, enrollment statistics, net prices, and number of applicants are from 2021.
1. University of Chicago
- Avg. Undergraduate Tuition & Fees: $64,260
- Acceptance Rate: 6%
- Total Student Enrollment: 18,832
UChicago's pedagogical philosophy is to teach students how — not what — to think. And this seems to have worked in students' favor, as UChicago is among the world's top producers of Nobel Prize winners.
This elite private school's philosophy even applies to its annual scavenger hunt, which held the Guinness World Record for its size from 2011-2014. At this event, students must track down quirky, strange, and sometimes impossible items.
2. Northwestern University
- Avg. Undergraduate Tuition & Fees: $63,468
- Acceptance Rate: 7%
- Total Student Enrollment: 23,409
Northwestern is known for many things, from its globally renowned journalism school to its extensive research output in nanotechnology, engineering, and management. But how about having selfless students?
The Evanston-based university's annual dance marathon is one of the country's largest student-run philanthropies, raising over $22 million in total since 1975.
3. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
- Avg. Undergraduate Tuition & Fees: $15,714 (in-state) | $33,686 (out-of-state)
- Acceptance Rate: 60%
- Total Student Enrollment: 56,607
Prestige, partying, and good food — you get to have all three at U of I. Dubbed a Public Ivy, U of I is known for offering top-tier STEM and business programs and for producing influential tech alums.
It's also one of the top party schools and is located in one of the best food towns in the Midwest.
4. University of Illinois Chicago
- Avg. Undergraduate Tuition & Fees: $14,046 (in-state) | $28,654 (out-of-state)
- Acceptance Rate: 79%
- Total Student Enrollment: 34,199
UIC is the largest and only public research institution in Chicago. Located downtown, the university is one of the country's most ethnically rich and culturally diverse campuses.
UIC has 16 academic colleges with global recognition in subjects like law, public administration, and nursing.
5. DePaul University
- Avg. Undergraduate Tuition & Fees: $42,840
- Acceptance Rate: 69%
- Total Student Enrollment: 21,670
DePaul is the largest Catholic university in the U.S., with the most professors of any private university — 97% of all classes at DePaul are taught by faculty members rather than teaching assistants.
The Chicago-based university is also known for its efforts to recruit first-generation students and others from disadvantaged backgrounds.
6. Illinois State University
- Avg. Undergraduate Tuition & Fees: $15,170 (in-state) | $27,011 (out-of-state)
- Acceptance Rate: 92%
- Total Student Enrollment: 20,233
Want to be a teacher? Then you might want to go to ISU, the country's fourth-largest producer of teachers between 2015 and 2020. Established in 1857 in the city of Normal, ISU is the oldest public university in Illinois.
Even more interesting, the institution's Watterson Towers is one of the world's tallest student residence halls.
7. Loyola University Chicago
- Avg. Undergraduate Tuition & Fees: $49,498
- Acceptance Rate: 77%
- Total Student Enrollment: 17,498
One of the largest Jesuit institutions in the country, Loyola has three campuses in the greater Chicago area. It also has three satellite campuses in Italy, China, and Vietnam, where students can study abroad.
Nursing is one of Loyola's most popular programs, as well as biology and psychology.
8. Northern Illinois University
- Avg. Undergraduate Tuition & Fees: $12,662
- Acceptance Rate: 70%
- Total Student Enrollment: 16,234
NIU is a go-to school for sports lovers — it's one of only two public universities in Illinois competing in Division I college sports.
But NIU also has prestige outside of sports. The DeKalb-based school is classified as "R2: Doctoral Universities (High Research Activity)" by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.
9. Southern Illinois University
- Avg. Undergraduate Tuition & Fees: $15,416
- Acceptance Rate: 95%
- Total Student Enrollment: 11,266
If you like riding bikes and going green, consider SIU — the flagship campus of the Southern Illinois University system. This Carbondale-based public institution is recognized as both a "bicycle-friendly university" and a "green college" due to its efforts to be more sustainable.
SIU is also among the top 4% of higher education institutions for research.
10. Northeastern Illinois University
- Avg. Undergraduate Tuition & Fees: $12,101
- Acceptance Rate: 62%
- Total Student Enrollment: 6,440
NEIU is a Hispanic-serving institution with four campuses in Chicago. The university is one of the most diverse public institutions in the Midwest — around 60% of the student body identifies as Hispanic, Black, Asian, and/or Indigenous American.
NEIU students also run one of the country's longest-running freeform community radio stations, WZRD Chicago 88.3 FM, which was founded in 1974.
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List of All Illinois Colleges and Universities
The following table contains all four-year nonprofit colleges in Illinois. For each school, you'll find information on enrollment, net cost, acceptance rate, and number of applicants.
|School||Total Student Enrollment||Avg. Annual Net Price||Acceptance Rate||Number of Applicants|
|American Islamic College||19||N/A||100%||1|
|Blessing Rieman College of Nursing and Health Sciences||157||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Chicago State University||2,366||$4,846||47%||4,805|
|Columbia College Chicago||6,736||$25,262||96%||7,218|
|Eastern Illinois University||8,608||$13,669||72%||7,145|
|Governors State University||4,395||$9,943||52%||1,168|
|Hebrew Theological College||170||$3,914||80%||5|
|Illinois Institute of Technology||6,486||$26,789||66%||6,521|
|Illinois State University||20,233||$21,033||92%||11,913|
|Illinois Wesleyan University||1,653||$30,610||45%||4,543|
|Lake Forest College||1,690||$25,126||64%||4,358|
|Lakeview College of Nursing||152||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Lincoln Christian University||537||$17,595||N/A||N/A|
|Loyola University Chicago||17,498||$29,371||77%||37,824|
|Moody Bible Institute||2,606||$21,399||98%||298|
|National Louis University||7,315||$14,665||97%||1,518|
|National University of Health Sciences||466||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|North Central College||2,728||$26,207||68%||4,551|
|North Park University||2,749||$20,260||67%||4,053|
|Northeastern Illinois University||6,440||$14,133||62%||3,399|
|Northern Illinois University||16,234||$13,265||70%||16,234|
|Oak Point University||566||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Olivet Nazarene University||3,462||$20,431||61%||5,881|
|Saint Anthony College of Nursing||262||N/A||100%||2|
|Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing||431||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Saint Xavier University||3,749||$13,419||85%||7,780|
|School of the Art Institute of Chicago||3,559||$50,214||81%||5,835|
|Southern Illinois University-Carbondale||11,266||$15,976||95%||6,987|
|Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville||13,010||$15,519||98%||8995|
|St. Augustine College||737||$15,337||N/A||N/A|
|St. John's College-Department of Nursing||108||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Chicago||1,297||N/A||<1%||20|
|Trinity Christian College||985||$14,700||76%||1,048|
|Trinity College of Nursing & Health Sciences||133||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Trinity International University-Illinois||1,330||$20,328||91%||373|
|University of Chicago||18,832||$33,727||6%||37,974|
|University of Illinois Chicago||34,199||$10,725||79%||22,791|
|University of Illinois Springfield||3,944||$11,965||79%||2,496|
|University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign||56,607||$14,272||60%||47,593|
|University of St. Francis||3,426||$16,949||68%||1,574|
|VanderCook College of Music||252||$20,855||100%||26|
|Western Illinois University||7,455||$11,666||72%||7,156|
Frequently Asked Questions About Colleges in Illinois
What is the No. 1 college in Illinois?
A world-renowned private research institution, the University of Chicago consistently ranks as one of the top schools in both Illinois and the country. The university is known for helping to advance academic fields like economics and law. It's also famous for its contributions to marine biology, energy, and nuclear research.
Northwestern University is similarly considered one of the best universities in Illinois. A private research institution based in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Northwestern is renowned for its highly ranked McCormick School of Engineering and Medill School of Journalism.
What is the safest college town in Illinois?
Naperville was ranked the safest city in America in a 2023 analysis by MoneyGeek, a personal finance website. The Illinois city is home to North Central College, a private college affiliated with the United Methodist Church.
MoneyGeek's analysis used FBI data from 2021 and calculated the cost of crime in 263 cities. Naperville had the lowest crime cost per capita at $156.
What is the hardest university to get into in Illinois?
The University of Chicago is one of the hardest institutions to get into in Illinois. According to NCES, the elite private university accepted just 6% of nearly 38,000 applicants in fall 2021. UChicago is widely considered one of the most prestigious schools in the country.
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