Illinois’s Best Research Universities of 2021

Interested in attending a STEM school in Illinois? Our ranking of top research universities for bachelor’s degrees displays schools that will best prepare you for STEM careers.

Illinois’s Best Research 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

A research university is a great option for students interested in obtaining STEM degrees. Research universities invest heavily in research, which consequently provides meaningful and extensive opportunities for its students and faculty to participate in research. There are 17 research universities in Illinois, 12 of which meet our criteria. The list below of the 10 best research universities in the state satisfies the following four conditions:

  1. It must be a fully accredited university.
  2. It must offer doctoral degrees across the range of STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).
  3. It must report high levels of research activity based upon the number of research and/or practice doctorates awarded each year.
  4. It must have a graduation rate of greater than 50%.

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

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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10 Best Research Universities in Illinois for Undergraduates

  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

    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

  5. #5

    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

  6. #6

    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

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  7. #7

    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

    REQUEST INFO
  8. #8

    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
  9. #9

    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
  10. #10

    Benedictine University

    #2384 institution's historical influence
    #672 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $33K

    Acceptance

    61%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1076/22

    Lisle, IL

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    What is Benedictine University known for?

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

    • Business
    • Education
    • Computer Science
    • Medical
    • Religious Studies
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Psychology
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

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