Online college options in Illinois abound. Illinois is the fifth most populous state in the U.S. and, for two centuries, it has been at the forefront of America’s evolution. Whether a leader in the age of agriculture, a hub for industrialization, or a thriving cluster of major metropolitan areas, the Land of Lincoln is often seen as an epicenter of American life. Certainly, its university system bears out this impression.
Four reasons to find an online college in your state:
- Guaranteed in-state tuition saves you money
- Be a part of a university or college you know and love
- Get a degree from a school employers know and trust
- Be close enough to easily visit when desired
We selected the online colleges and universities here based on the quality of their programs, types of courses and degrees offered, faculty strengths, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation, including a strong reputation for online degree programs.Note: In ranking the best online colleges in Illinois, giving attention to the variety of degree programs available at the institutions is of utmost importance. For this reason, a more prestigious school in Illinois may offer one, or a few online degrees, but that may not be enough for that school rank highly among the best online colleges in the state. In this ranking, we are dedicated to showing who’s leading the way in delivering quality online degree programs in Illinois.
- See who ranks as the best college and university in Illinois today.
- The University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and The University of Illinois all rank among The 100 Best Universities in the World.
The Best Online Colleges in Illinois
1. University of Illinois at Chicago
The University of Illinois at Chicago, a public university, established in 1982, operates one of the largest medical schools in the nation. The university offers over 200 degrees programs and accommodates over 25,000 students.
Much of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s online baccalaureate, master’s, doctoral and certificate programs involve medicine. Bachelor’s degrees available online include business and nursing. Master’s degree options include patient safety leadership and public health informatics. Doctoral degree offerings include public health in leadership. Certificate programs include assistive technology and bioinformatics.
Resources online students have access to include an online job board and an online library with librarian live chat and a scholarly article database.
The University of Illinois at Chicago is regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
2. Loyola University Chicago
The Roman Catholic Society of Jesus founded Loyola University Chicago in 1870 and the university has become one of the largest Jesuit universities in America. The university instructs over 15,000 students and offers more than 185 degree programs. There is also a sister campus in Rome, Italy.
Loyola University Chicago offers a variety of baccalaureate, master’s, doctoral and certificate programs through Loyola Online. Bachelor’s degrees include psychology and criminal justice. Master’s degree options include infection control and business law. Doctoral degree offerings include bioethics and school psychology. Certifications include computer science and oncology nursing.
Online students have access to a wide variety of resources, including technical support, academic advising, tutoring, job search assistance, veteran’s services, disability services and an online library with librarian live chat and a scholarly article database.
Loyola University Chicago is regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
3. University of Illinois at Springfield
Originally established in 1969 as Sangamon State University, the university became the University of Illinois Springfield in 1995. It was originally an upper-division university, but began accepting undergraduates in 2001. Its first permanent building was the Brookens Library, which now contains over 800,000 titles.
The university teaches over 5,000 students and offers more than 40 degree programs.
The University of Illinois Springfield offers a healthy variety of online baccalaureate, master’s and certificate programs online. Bachelor’s degree options include history and management information systems. Master’s degree offerings include law and teacher leadership. Certificate programs include business intelligence and multiple topics in education.
Resources for online students include online tutoring workshops in writing, reading, math and science, live technical support and an online library with access to ebook, media and academic journal databases.
The University of Illinois Springfield is regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
4. Southern Illinois University – Carbondale
Southern Illinois University Carbondale, a public research university, founded in 1869, provides roughly 300 degree programs.
Southern Illinois University Carbondale provides online bachelor’s degrees, online master’s degrees and online certificates. Bachelor’s degrees include radiology and industrial technology. Master’s degree offerings include architecture and medical dosimetry. Certificate programs include journalism and information system security.
Online student resources include online training for veterans, an online writing lab, career services, an online law library and online standard library with access to scholarly articles, ebooks and more.
Southern Illinois University Carbondale is regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
5. Lewis University
Lewis University is a Catholic University with a Lasallian heritage, established in 1932. The university originally offered instruction in aviation and the government relied on its expertise to train navy pilots during World War II. Lewis University offers over 100 degree programs, enrolls over 6,500 students and has 5 academic colleges on campus.
Lewis University offers a variety of online baccalaureate, master and doctoral degree programs. Online bachelor’s degrees available include business and computer science. Online master’s degrees include aviation and criminal justice. Online doctoral degree offerings include nursing.
Resources online students have access to include an extensive online library with access to several databases, including academic journals, government documents, streaming video, ebooks, photographs and much more.
Lewis University is regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
6. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign originally opened its doors in 1867 as the Illinois Industrial University, a name it kept until 1885. The university is one of a select few land-grant, sea-grant and space-grant universities in the country. The school is also one of the founding members of the Big Ten Conference and it is the second-oldest public university in all of Illinois. The university has over 40,000 students in attendance, 17 academic colleges and 150 programs of study.
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign offers online baccalaureate and master’s degrees. Online bachelor’s degree options include environmental sustainability and online master’s degree offerings include agriculture, tourism, engineering and translation.
Resources for online students include online test proctoring in select online courses, online disability services and an online library with librarian live chat and scholarly article database.
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
7. Lincoln Christian University
One of the best online colleges in Illinois, Lincoln Christian offers seven distance learning programs. Students may earn an associate degree in the Bible; a bachelor’s in business administration, psychology, or Christian ministry; or a master’s in intercultural studies, bible and theology, or organizational leadership. Each program is grounded in Christian doctrine, and courses commonly address topics such as scripture interpretation. Lincoln Christian offers flexible online learning with no in-person requirements, and coursework is delivered asynchronously.
Some of Lincoln Christian’s other programs, such as its divinity master’s, allow students to complete up to two thirds of coursework online. Students in these programs earn their remaining credits through intensive week-long sessions on campus.
Lincoln Christian is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Higher Learning Commission.
8. McKendree University
McKendree’s central campus is in Lebanon, just east of St. Louis. The private liberal arts school is the oldest college in Illinois and the oldest Methodist-affiliated college in the U.S. The college has catered to working students since the 1970s. It offers 17 online degrees from the associate to the doctoral levels. McKendree is one of the largest online schools in Illinois in terms of its programmatic diversity. Programs include nursing, business, psychology, criminal justice, computer information systems, and education.
McKendree delivers coursework asynchronously and never requires students to visit campus. The school distinguishes itself with small online classes, enforcing a 20-student enrollment cap for each course.
McKendree is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Higher Learning Commission.
9. University of St. Francis
The Joliet-based University of St. Francis is not only one of the most notable online colleges in Illinois, but also one of the most noteworthy online colleges nationwide. The college currently enrolls more distance learners than on-campus degree seekers, including 2,219 off-campus graduate students. The college’s online offerings include seven degree completion programs. Business programs include transportation and logistics management, marketing, entrepreneurship, management and leadership, and managing human resources. St. Francis also offers nursing and health care leadership programs.
Because St. Francis offers online degree completion programs, the school caters to transfer students. Applicants must already possess an associate degree. The college also targets working online learners, delivering coursework asynchronously and requiring no on-campus components.
St. Francis is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Higher Learning Commission.
10. Eastern Illinois University
EIU is among the most affordable online schools in Illinois, permitting distance learners to pay in-state tuition for most programs. This Charleston-based state university began as a teacher’s college but has since expanded its offerings. EIU now offers more than 20 undergraduate and graduate degrees online. Programs include a master’s in aging studies, a music education master’s, a certificate in teaching writing, a cybersecurity master’s, and a master’s in health promotion and leadership.
Mindful of the familial and professional obligations of working students, EIU delivers online coursework asynchronously and does not require any on-campus study.
EIU is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Higher Learning Commission.
11. Illinois Institute of Technology
IIT is a private university in metropolitan Chicago whose roots date back to 19th-century engineering schools. Today, IIT is one of the strongest online colleges in Illinois. The school offers more than 21 online programs, most of which award master’s degrees. Graduate programs include food process engineering, electricity markets, intellectual property management and markets, and telecommunication and software engineering.
IIT delivers online coursework asynchronously through Blackboard, steering clear of in-person and on-campus requirements. The school’s ProctorU service allows distance learners to take exams in their own communities without traveling campus. Online learners also receive a wide array of student services.
IIT is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Higher Learning Commission.
12. DePaul University
Based in the Lincoln Park and Loop neighborhoods of metropolitan Chicago, DePaul is the nation’s largest Catholic university in terms of enrollment. Although the school has a stellar location, students never need to visit campus while earning an online degree from DePaul. The school offers more than 50 online programs including IT project management, nursing, taxation, accountancy, and health informatics. Given the breadth of its programs, DePaul is one of the largest online colleges in Illinois.
Most of DePaul’s online programs deliver coursework asynchronously. Though DePaul is a large school, the university maintains small class sizes for distance learners.
DePaul is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Higher Learning Commission.
13. Aurora University
Aurora University, a private liberal arts college based in Aurora, maintains satellite campuses in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, and Woodstock. The university also serves students far beyond its city limits through online degrees, including five bachelor’s programs and five master’s programs. Aurora offers degrees in business, criminal justice, social work, general studies, nursing, homeland security, mathematics education, and public administration. Unlike some other online schools in Illinois, Aurora offers many accelerated online programs which allow students to graduate more quickly.
Staying true to its roots as a small liberal arts university, Aurora maintains small online classes that allow students to receive individualized attention from faculty members. The university emphasizes convenience for working students, delivering coursework asynchronously. Aurora is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Higher Learning Commission.
14. National Louis University
National Louis University, established in 1886, is renowned for its top-notch education programs. The university helped establish many educational organizations we take for granted today, including the National Parent Teacher Association. One of the university’s biggest causes was the establishment of kindergarten and early childhood education. The university teaches more than 4,700 students and has additional campuses in Florida and Poland.
Despite its emphasis on education, National Louis University offers degrees in other fields. Bachelor’s degree options include communications and criminal justice, while master’s degree offerings include health services alongside its signature early childhood administration.
Student resources available online include an online job board, tutoring in writing, math, science, research and test preparation, 24/7 technical support and an online library with librarian live chat and a variety of book and article databases.
National Louis University is regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
15. Roosevelt University
Named for the former president and first lady, Roosevelt operates physical campuses in Chicago and Schaumberg. The university offers a focused slate of online programs, including seven master’s degrees and one post-baccalaureate paralegal program. Master’s programs include hospitality and tourism management, conflict and mediation, performing arts administration, and second language special education.
Roosevelt knows that many of its students are busy professionals. The school has no in-person requirements and provides asynchronous, synchronous, and hybrid coursework delivery options based on students’ scheduling needs. Students also receive support through Blackboard.
Roosevelt is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Higher Learning Commission.
16. Benedictine University
A group of Benedictine monks established Benedictine University in 1887 as St. Procopius College. It previously had a high school on the campus, but it separated from the university in 1957 as Benet Academy. The university offers over 70 degree programs. A third of its roughly 4,000 students are minorities.
Benedictine University offers several baccalaureate, master’s, doctoral and certificate programs online. Online bachelor’s degrees include management and organizational leadership. Online master’s degree options include business and public health. Online doctoral degree offerings include education, while available online certificates include disaster management and internet marketing.
Resources open to online students include 24/7 technical support, career services, academic advising and an online library with librarian live chat and article, ebook, video and academic journal databases.
Benedictine University is regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
17. Olivet Nazarene University
Based in Bourbonnais, a small village in eastern central Illinois, Olivet Nazarene is a small Christian liberal arts university that caters to distance learners far beyond Illinois through its distance learning programs. The university offers 15 online programs, which include bachelor’s, master’s, and endorsement offerings. Most of the college’s online offerings focus on business, education, and health sciences. Programs include pastoral leadership, English as a second language, and family nursing.
Olivet Nazarene distinguishes itself from other online schools in Illinois with its accelerated cohort model. Students may earn their degrees within two years by completing additional coursework and following the same course sequence as their peers. This leads to increased accountability.
Olivet Nazarene is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Higher Learning Commission.
18. North Park University
North Park University shares its campus with the only Evangelical Covenant seminary in the United States. Swedish immigrants seeking their own brand of higher education founded the university in 1891, hoping it would help their community grow. What made the campus’s location especially attractive was the close proximity to local Swedish-American communities and the Swedish Covenant Hospital. Today, the university has more than 3,000 students in attendance and offers a variety of majors.
North Park University offers a handful of baccalaureate degrees in various aspects of management.
Resources for online students include an online library with access to a variety of reference, ebook, article, video, audio and image databases.
North Park University is regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
19. Greenville University
Greenville University, a Methodist university, has a long history stemming from Almira College, a Baptist women’s college established in 1855. It later changed from Baptist to Methodist when leadership changed hands in 1892. Like other Christian universities, Greenville University requires its students to adhere to a code of conduct which includes, among other things, abstaining from drug and alcohol abuse, dishonesty, gambling and general immorality. Students are also required to fulfill 36 “chapel credits” every semester, which include Bible studies and attending church.
Greenville University offers a variety of online baccalaureate and master’s degrees online. Online bachelor’s degrees include criminal justice and organizational leadership, while online master’s degree offerings include management and special education.
Online students have access to several resources, including online tutoring, academic coaching, an online job board and an online library with librarian live chat and scholarly article database.
Greenville University is regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
20. Quincy University
A private Catholic and Franciscan-affiliated university, Quincy is one of the smallest online colleges in Illinois, though the university has expanded in recent years. Distance learning has grown at Quincy during this expansion, and the university offers three online programs including bachelor’s degrees in business administration and human services and a master’s in business administration. Though Quincy maintains a beautiful campus in its eponymous city, distance learners can complete these programs without visiting campus.
Quincy delivers all online program asynchronously with working students in mind. The university is also amenable to students who have previously studied elsewhere, as many of its online learners are degree completion or transfer students. Quincy does not distinguish between in-state and out-of-state students for tuition purposes.
Quincy is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Higher Learning Commission.
21. Western Illinois University
Based in Macomb, WIU is a public university established at the turn of the 19th century. Today, the school serves students far beyond the Illinois border through its 14 online undergraduate and graduate programs. Distance degrees include fire protection services, anthropology, accountancy, law enforcement and justice administration, and special education. The college also offers a nursing degree completion program.
WIU delivers all online coursework asynchronously, and most programs do not require students to visit campus. Incoming students who hit certain standardized test and GPA benchmarks can earn automatic scholarships.
WIU is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Higher Learning Commission.
22. Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville
SIUE operates out of Edwardsville, within 30 minutes of St. Louis. Though SIUE is smaller than its parent institution in Carbondale, the college is among the stronger online schools in Illinois, offering online programs that include two bachelor’s degrees, six master’s degrees, and one doctorate. Distance degrees include nursing, criminal justice, education, and healthcare administration.
Striving for flexibility, SIUE typically delivers online coursework asynchronously. Students may also opt for blended learning options in most programs. SIUE supports distance students by offering counseling, tutoring, technology support, and online library access.
SIUE is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Higher Learning Commission.
23. Judson University
Based in Elgin, Judson is a small evangelical Christian school with a liberal arts focus. As such, Judson is one of the smaller online schools in Illinois. The university offers seven entirely online programs. Bachelor’s degrees include applied psychology, organizational leadership, human services, and business administration. Master’s programs include business administration, military leadership, and organizational leadership. The college also offers various individual courses online.
Due to its religious roots, Judson approaches coursework from a Christian perspective. The college aims for flexibility, delivering most online coursework asynchronously. The school is also transfer-friendly, and students may enroll within 10 business days of applying.
Judson is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Higher Learning Commission.
24. Trinity International University-Illinois
A small evangelical Christian university based in Deerfield, TIU operates a seminary, a law school, and undergraduate and graduate schools throughout the U.S. The university also maintains one of the smallest and most focused online colleges in Illinois. It offers bachelor’s degrees in Christian ministries, business, psychology, and criminal justice. Each program requires students to complete 124 credits, which usually requires four years.
TIU delivers all distance coursework asynchronously, and its four online degrees do not include on-campus requirements. TIU does not distinguish between out-of-state and in-state students, charging all distance learners the same per-credit tuition. The school also offers significant military discounts.
TIU is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Higher Learning Commission.
25. Saint Xavier University
Chicago-based SXU is a Catholic and Sisters of Mercy-affiliated four-year university with deep roots in the Windy City. SXU was originally a women’s college. The school’s first campus burned down in the Chicago Fire, so it has developed through many iterations. SXU has continued to evolve and is now one of the most focused online schools in Illinois. Its distance programs include an educational technology integration certificate, an ESL certificate, and an RN to BSN. Each program operates within the framework of the Catholic liberal arts tradition.
SXU caters primarily to working students, delivering online coursework asynchronously. This private university does not distinguish between out-of-state and in-state students for tuition purposes.
SXU is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Higher Learning Commission.