Best Public Colleges in Illinois 2022

Best Public Colleges in Illinois 2022

Public colleges and universities account for almost 75 percent of all undergraduate students in the U.S. The best public colleges in Illinois provide broad access to reputable degree programs, affordable tuition, and sprawling educational communities.

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 Urbana-Champaign and the University of Illinois at Chicago, the state’s two largest public universities, falls 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.


What are Illinois’s Colleges & Universities?

Illinois’s Best Overall

What is the difference between public and private colleges?

Public and private colleges and universities operate under different business models. Public colleges and universities are owned by the state and receive both state and federal funding to operate. Private colleges and universities are private companies with private funding. If you’re looking at the pros and cons of private vs. public colleges, consider that many public colleges provide diverse course offerings, influential professors, and an excellent return on your investment.

Public colleges are schools that receive most of their funding from tax revenues. As a result, the cost of a bachelor’s degree at a public university is often lower than the equivalent cost at a private college — especially for students attending a public school in their home state. Attending a college in-state is usually the cheapest option. Private universities and colleges can be very competitive with their funding opportunities, so do not simply believe that private colleges are always going to be more expensive. According to National Center for Educational Statistics, the average annual cost (tuition, fees, room and board for full-time students) at a public university was slightly over $20,000. In contrast, private universities cost, on average, nearly $43,000 annually. But in the end, the cost of college comes down to each student’s academic and financial situation.

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This list is composed entirely of public colleges and universities that offer bachelor’s degrees. We’ve identified 12 public universities in Illinois. To be included in our list of the best public colleges in Illinois, shcools must receive direct funding from the state, be fully accredited, and offer a broad range of bachelor’s degress.

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Best Public Colleges in Illinois 2022

  1. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    63%

    Student body

    28K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1145/24

    What is University of Illinois Chicago known for?

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

    • Mathematics
    • Philosophy
    • Physics
    • Medical
    • Chemistry
    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Psychology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    59%

    Graduation

    48%

    Student body

    14K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1055/22

    What is Northern Illinois University known for?

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

    • Mathematics
    • Anthropology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Sociology
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Physics
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #4

    Illinois State University

    Normal , IL

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    68%

    Student body

    19K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/23

    What is Illinois State University known for?

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

    • Education
    • Earth Sciences
    • Anthropology
    • Engineering
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Nursing
    • Sociology
    • Criminal Justice

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    92%

    Graduation

    48%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1140/24

    What is Southern Illinois University Carbondale known for?

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

    • Anthropology
    • Nursing
    • Philosophy
    • Engineering
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    11K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/23

    What is Southern Illinois University Edwardsville known for?

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

    • Nursing
    • Anthropology
    • Medical
    • Sociology
    • Engineering
    • Physics
    • Computer Science
    • Communications
    • Education
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1050/21

    What is Western Illinois University known for?

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

    • Business
    • Anthropology
    • Communications
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Earth Sciences
    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Criminal Justice

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    55%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1107/22

    What is University of Illinois Springfield known for?

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

    • Social Work
    • Communications
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    • Chemistry
    • Medical
    • Law
    • Sociology
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #9

    Eastern Illinois University

    Charleston , IL

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    56%

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1035/20

    What is Eastern Illinois University known for?

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

    • Psychology
    • Business
    • History
    • Biology
    • Communications
    • Nursing
    • Earth Sciences
    • Sociology
    • Chemistry
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #10

    Chicago State University

    Chicago , IL

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    46%

    Graduation

    16%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    951/17

    What is Chicago State University known for?

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

    • Education
    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Communications
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Medical
    • Chemistry
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. #11

    Governors State University

    University Park , IL

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    48%

    Graduation

    24%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    935/19

    What is Governors State University known for?

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

    • Political Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Sociology
    • Social Work
    • Psychology
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Computer Science
    • Communications
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    61%

    Graduation

    23%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1015/18

    What is Northeastern Illinois University known for?

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

    • Social Work
    • Economics
    • Education
    • Communications
    • Sociology
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Anthropology

    Most Influential Alumni

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Illinois’s Best Public College in Your Area of Interest

2021 Ranking Archive

Many of our 2022 undergraduate focused rankings look considerably different than 2021. That’s because we took a fundamentally different apporach. For 2021 we utiulized our Concentrated Influence algorithm, designed to take away the size advantage larger schools have when we rank their faculty and alumni’s academic influence. Concentrated influence highlights smaller schools that are proportionally as successful as larger universities at cultivating influential alumni and faculty.

  1. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  2. University of Illinois Chicago
  3. University of Illinois Springfield
  4. Northern Illinois University
  5. Illinois State University
  6. Southern Illinois University Carbondale
  7. Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
  8. Eastern Illinois University
  9. Western Illinois University
  10. Governors State University