Illinois’s Best Colleges and Universities of 2021

Here are the best colleges and universities in Illinois. Our list will help you find the right kind of school for you.

Illinois’s Best Colleges and Universities of 2021

Colleges and Universities in Illinois

Illinois offers over 130 higher education institutes throughout the state. More than half of those schools are private, including the well-known DePaul University, Northwestern University, and Loyola University Chicago. While tuition at these three private schools can be costly, ranging from $44,000 to $55,000, graduation rates are high. Tuition at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Illinois State University, the state’s two largest public universities, however, is lower, falling in the range of $13,000 to $15,000.

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While some of these universities have large student populations, Illinois is also home to many small schools, including Benedictine University and National Louis University. Students choosing to study at one at an Illinois college can pursue degrees in areas like criminal justice, social work, nursing, education, religious studies, communications, and medicine. Additionally, Illinois offers several loan forgiveness program for qualifying students pursuing careers as teachers, public defenders or prosecutors, or nurses.

From the skyscrapers in Chicago to the vast prairie lands in the north, Illinois is a place where city meets country. Students can grab a Chicago-style hotdog on the way to a Cubs game, explore the ancient sandstone cliffs in the Shawnee National Forest, or admire an exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago, all while attending one of The Prairie State’s universities or colleges.

The higher education institutes in Illinois have also produced many prominent alumni, including Stephen Colbert, Hugh Hefner, and Kurt Vonnegut. Students hoping to walk the same streets as these well-known individuals can check out some of the state’s top programs and universities.

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What are Illinois’s Colleges & Universities?

Illinois’s Best Overall

Related: Differences between research universities and teaching colleges

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How do we determine Illinois's best colleges and universities?

The best colleges pound for pound!

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why, at the undergraduate level, we rank the best colleges and universities based on what we call Concentrated Influence. Concentrated Influence takes the combined influence score of a college or university’s top academic influencers (including faculty and alums) and divides it by the school’s total number of undergraduates.

Using concentrated influence gives small and mid-sized schools an opportunity to shine by taking away the size advantage of larger universities. A small school with proportionately more influential faculty than a large school, whose influence in absolute terms may be bigger, will nonetheless score higher in a concentrated influence ranking. Our approach highlights undergraduate schools that truly rank for excellence, regardless of size.

If you are serious about finding the best colleges and universities for a bachelor’s degree, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching and whether their graduates are themselves advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence.

Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Concentrated Influence provides a ranking that is free from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

Find out more about our ranking methodology here.

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Every fall, more than 2 million high-school graduates will enroll in colleges and universities across the United States. Finding the best college for your educational, personal, and professional goals may be challenging. The purpose of this ranking is to help you manage this challenge with an accurate, objective, and up-to-date ranking of the best colleges and universities in Illinois for earning a bachelor’s degree.

We’ve identified a total of 56 colleges and universities in Illinois, 41 of which meet our criteria. The list below of the top 25 schools focuses on those that offer four-year undergraduate degrees, includes both public and private colleges and universities, and also meet the following two conditions:

  1. It must be fully accredited.
  2. It must have a graduation rate of greater than 50%.

25 Best Colleges & Universities in Illinois

  1. #1

    University of Chicago

    #7 institution's historical influence
    #8 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $59K

    Acceptance

    7%

    Graduation

    96%

    Student body

    13K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1535/34

    Chicago, IL

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    What is University of Chicago known for?

    University of Chicago’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Mathematics
    • Economics
    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Law
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

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  2. #2

    Northwestern University

    #30 institution's historical influence
    #24 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    95%

    Student body

    19K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1495/34

    Evanston, IL

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    What is Northwestern University known for?

    Northwestern University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Medical
    • Mathematics
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Economics
    • Law
    • Communications
    • Engineering
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    Illinois Institute of Technology

    #203 institution's historical influence
    #1135 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $49K

    Acceptance

    61%

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1295/29

    Chicago, IL

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    What is Illinois Institute of Technology known for?

    Illinois Institute of Technology’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Business
    • Law
    • Physics
    • Chemistry
    • Economics
    • Education
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    Wheaton College

    #362 institution's historical influence
    #1019 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $38K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    88%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1330/29

    Wheaton, IL

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    What is Wheaton College known for?

    Wheaton College ’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Education
    • Communications
    • History
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

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  5. #5

    University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

    #50 institution's historical influence
    #162 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $17K

    Acceptance

    63%

    Graduation

    86%

    Student body

    52K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1340/29

    Champaign, IL

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    What is University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign known for?

    University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • Business
    • Physics
    • Chemistry
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #6

    University of Illinois at Chicago

    #196 institution's historical influence
    #795 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    63%

    Student body

    27K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1145/24

    Chicago, IL

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    What is University of Illinois at Chicago known for?

    University of Illinois at Chicago’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Engineering
    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Literature
    • Education
    • Physics
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #7

    Knox College

    #752 institution's historical influence
    #388 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $48K

    Acceptance

    71%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1220/27

    Galesburg, IL

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    What is Knox College known for?

    Knox College ’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Education
    • Computer Science
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Philosophy
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #8

    University of Illinois at Springfield

    #1707 institution's historical influence
    #1369 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    55%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1107/22

    Springfield, IL

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    What is University of Illinois at Springfield known for?

    University of Illinois at Springfield’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Communications
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Law
    • Computer Science
    • Medical
    • History
    • Literature
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #9

    Trinity International University

    #1494 institution's historical influence
    #1355 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $33K

    Acceptance

    86%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1045/22

    Deerfield, IL

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    What is Trinity International University known for?

    Trinity International University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • Literature
    • History
    • Business
    • Medical
    • Psychology
    • Communications
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  10. #10

    DePaul University

    #444 institution's historical influence
    #308 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $41K

    Acceptance

    70%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    19K

    Chicago, IL

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    What is DePaul University known for?

    DePaul University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Law
    • Religious Studies
    • Education
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

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  11. #11

    Principia College

    #2121 institution's historical influence

    Tuition + fees

    $30K

    Acceptance

    92%

    Graduation

    75%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1114/24

    Elsah, IL

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    What is Principia College known for?

    Principia College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Communications
    • Sociology
    • Anthropology
    • Education
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. #12

    Loyola University Chicago

    #346 institution's historical influence
    #254 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $46K

    Acceptance

    71%

    Graduation

    76%

    Student body

    15K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1225/27

    Chicago, IL

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    What is Loyola University Chicago known for?

    Loyola University Chicago’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Business
    • Law
    • Philosophy
    • Religious Studies
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  13. #13

    Monmouth College

    #1932 institution's historical influence
    #444 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $39K

    Acceptance

    69%

    Graduation

    58%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1080/22

    Monmouth, IL

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    What is Monmouth College known for?

    Monmouth College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • History
    • Physics
    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • Chemistry
    • Political Science
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. #14

    Illinois Wesleyan University

    #1254 institution's historical influence
    #1079 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $49K

    Acceptance

    57%

    Graduation

    82%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1220/26

    Bloomington, IL

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    What is Illinois Wesleyan University known for?

    Illinois Wesleyan University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Education
    • Business
    • Chemistry
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Nursing
    • Anthropology

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. #15

    Lake Forest College

    #1189 institution's historical influence
    #790 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $48K

    Acceptance

    58%

    Graduation

    75%

    Student body

    2K

    Lake Forest, IL

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    What is Lake Forest College known for?

    Lake Forest College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Literature
    • History
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  16. #16

    Illinois State University

    #765 institution's historical influence
    #834 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    68%

    Student body

    19K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/23

    Normal, IL

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    What is Illinois State University known for?

    Illinois State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • History
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  17. #17

    Illinois College

    #1220 institution's historical influence
    #256 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    68%

    Student body

    1K

    Jacksonville, IL

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    What is Illinois College known for?

    Illinois College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Education
    • Biology
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Religious Studies
    • Computer Science
    • Chemistry
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  18. #18

    Bradley University

    #1109 institution's historical influence
    #344 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    76%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1170/25

    Peoria, IL

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    What is Bradley University known for?

    Bradley University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Engineering
    • Literature
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Political Science
    • Physics
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  19. #19

    Dominican University

    #4084 institution's historical influence
    #371 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    63%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1100/22

    River Forest, IL

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    What is Dominican University known for?

    Dominican University ’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Business
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Law
    • Medical
    • Sociology
    • Psychology
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

  20. #20

    Eastern Illinois University

    #1697 institution's historical influence
    #915 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    56%

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1035/20

    Charleston, IL

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    What is Eastern Illinois University known for?

    Eastern Illinois University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • History
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Psychology
    • Communications
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  21. #21

    North Central College

    #1784 institution's historical influence
    #442 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $40K

    Acceptance

    53%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1145/24

    Naperville, IL

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    What is North Central College known for?

    North Central College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Biology
    • Education
    • Medical
    • History
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
  22. #22

    Augustana College

    #1332 institution's historical influence
    #1061 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $44K

    Acceptance

    57%

    Graduation

    77%

    Student body

    3K

    Rock Island, IL

    View profile

    What is Augustana College known for?

    Augustana College ’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Religious Studies
    • Education
    • History
    • Medical
    • Physics
    • Sociology
    • Political Science
    • Engineering
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  23. #23

    Elmhurst University

    #2309 institution's historical influence
    #625 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $38K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    68%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1100/23

    Elmhurst, IL

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    What is Elmhurst University known for?

    Elmhurst University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science
    • Sociology
    • Business
    • Education
    • Medical
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  24. #24

    Olivet Nazarene University

    #2944 institution's historical influence
    #759 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $37K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/22

    Bourbonnais, IL

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    What is Olivet Nazarene University known for?

    Olivet Nazarene University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Religious Studies
    • Psychology
    • Biology
    • Business
    • Medical
    • Literature
    • History
    • Philosophy
    • Nursing

    Most Influential Alumni

  25. #25

    Millikin University

    #2257 institution's historical influence
    #630 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $37K

    Acceptance

    71%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1075/23

    Decatur, IL

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    What is Millikin University known for?

    Millikin University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Education
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science
    • Sociology
    • Medical
    • History
    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO

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