Illinois’s Best Small Colleges of 2021

Small colleges in Illinois are a great option for students interested in a more intimate campus experience, more personal attention from excellent professors, and more immediate access to support services. Whether the focus is on the technical or on the liberal arts, small colleges give you the chance to pursue a well-rounded education while working closely with classmates and professors in a dynamic community atmosphere.

Illinois’s Best Small Colleges 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.


What are Illinois’s Colleges & Universities?

Illinois’s Best Overall


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The following list of the best small colleges and universities in Illinois is composed mainly of four-year undergraduate schools (though a handful also offer graduate programs). There are 38 small colleges in Illinois; 28 of which meet our criteria. The list below of the 25 best small colleges in the state satisfies the following four conditions:

  1. It must be a non-profit institution.
  2. It must be fully accredited.
  3. Its student body must consist of 5,000 or fewer students.
  4. Its graduation rate must be greater than 50%.

How do we determine Illinois's best small 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.

25 Best Small Colleges in Illinois

  1. #1

    Wheaton College

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

    Tuition + fees

    $39K

    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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  2. #2

    Knox College

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

    Tuition + fees

    $50K

    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
    • Psychology
    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • Religious Studies

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    University of Illinois Springfield

    #1952 institution's historical influence
    #1369 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    55%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1107/22

    Springfield, IL

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    What is University of Illinois Springfield known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    Trinity International University

    #1523 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
    • History
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Medical
    • Psychology
    • Communications
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

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  5. #5

    Principia College

    #2459 institution's historical influence

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    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:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #6

    Monmouth College

    #1933 institution's historical influence
    #444 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $41K

    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
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • History
    • Physics
    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • Chemistry
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #7

    Illinois Wesleyan University

    #1231 institution's historical influence
    #1079 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $51K

    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:

    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Business
    • Chemistry
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Nursing
    • Anthropology
  8. #8

    Lake Forest College

    #1167 institution's historical influence
    #790 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $50K

    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
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    • Communications
  9. #9

    Illinois College

    #1175 institution's historical influence
    #256 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    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:

    • Education
    • Medical
    • Business
    • Biology
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Religious Studies
    • Computer Science
    • Economics
  10. #10

    Dominican University

    #3802 institution's historical influence
    #371 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #11

    North Central College

    #1762 institution's historical influence
    #442 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $41K

    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
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Mathematics
  12. #12

    Augustana College

    #1372 institution's historical influence
    #1061 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $45K

    Acceptance

    57%

    Graduation

    77%

    Student body

    3K

    Rock Island, IL

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    What is Augustana College known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

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  13. #13

    Elmhurst University

    #2357 institution's historical influence
    #625 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $39K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    68%

    Student body

    4K

    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
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. #14

    Olivet Nazarene University

    #3097 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:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. #15

    Millikin University

    #2227 institution's historical influence
    #630 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $40K

    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
    • Medical
    • Sociology
    • History
    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • Nursing
    REQUEST INFO
  16. #16

    Benedictine University

    #2298 institution's historical influence
    #672 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    61%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    4K

    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
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Criminal Justice
    • Psychology
    • Physics
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  17. #17

    Trinity Christian College

    #4842 institution's historical influence
    #859 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    64%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1060/23

    Palos Heights, IL

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    What is Trinity Christian College known for?

    Trinity Christian College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Religious Studies
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Computer Science
    • Business
    • Philosophy
    • Communications
    • Chemistry
  18. #18

    Quincy University

    #3032 institution's historical influence
    #1067 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/22

    Quincy, IL

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    What is Quincy University known for?

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

    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Biology
    • History
    • Chemistry
    • Medical
    • Communications
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  19. #19

    Governors State University

    #2222 institution's historical influence
    #828 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    48%

    Graduation

    24%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    935/19

    University Park, IL

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    What is Governors State University known for?

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

    • Education
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Biology
    • Communications
    • History
    • Mathematics
  20. #20

    Saint Xavier University

    #3768 institution's historical influence
    #937 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1050/21

    Chicago, IL

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    What is Saint Xavier University known for?

    Saint Xavier University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  21. #21

    McKendree University

    #2157 institution's historical influence
    #1222 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    70%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1063/23

    Lebanon, IL

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    What is McKendree University known for?

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

    • Education
    • Business
    • Nursing
    • Computer Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Psychology
    • Medical
    • History
    • Sociology
    • Political Science
  22. #22

    North Park University

    #2631 institution's historical influence
    #735 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    44%

    Graduation

    59%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1075/22

    Chicago, IL

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    What is North Park University known for?

    North Park University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Education
    • Business
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Medical
    • Philosophy
    • Mathematics
    • Social Work

    Most Influential Alumni

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  23. #23

    Eureka College

    #2560 institution's historical influence
    #980 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $28K

    Acceptance

    61%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1040/20

    Eureka, IL

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    What is Eureka College known for?

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

    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • Sociology
    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Criminal Justice
    • Psychology
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

  24. #24

    Robert Morris University Illinois

    #7027 institution's historical influence

    Acceptance

    63%

    Graduation

    76%

    Chicago, IL

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  25. #25

    University of St. Francis

    #6627 institution's historical influence
    #1266 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    60%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1125/23

    Joliet, IL

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    What is University of St. Francis known for?

    University of St. Francis’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Medical
    • History
    • Education
    • Nursing
    • Communications
    • Social Work
    • Psychology
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

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