Illinois’s Most Affordable Colleges and Universities of 2021

Here are the most affordable colleges and universities in llinois. Our list will help you find the right kind of school for you, at a price you can afford.

Illinois’s Most Affordable 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.


What are Illinois’s Colleges & Universities?

Illinois’s Best Overall


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We’ve identified 14 affordable colleges and universities in Illinois with stated tuitions and fees below the national average of $16,000/year.

  1. It must be fully accredited.
  2. It must offer a broad range of bachelor’s degrees
  3. Its stated tuition and fees must be under $16,000/year.

How do we determine Illinois's most affordable 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.

Most Affordable Colleges in Illinois

  1. #1

    Chicago State University

    #1168 institution's historical influence
    #857 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    46%

    Graduation

    16%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    951/17

    Chicago, IL

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    What is Chicago State University known for?

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

    • Education
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • History
    • Computer Science
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Nursing
    • Psychology
  2. #2

    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
  3. #3

    Northeastern Illinois University

    #1997 institution's historical influence
    #597 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    61%

    Graduation

    23%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1015/18

    Chicago, IL

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    What is Northeastern Illinois University known for?

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

    • Education
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Business
    • History
    • Computer Science
    • Philosophy
    • Medical
    • Social Work
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  4. #4

    Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

    #1391 institution's historical influence
    #562 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    11K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/23

    Edwardsville, IL

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    What is Southern Illinois University Edwardsville known for?

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

    • Education
    • Medical
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Computer Science
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #5

    St. Augustine College

    #13174 institution's historical influence

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    <1K

    Chicago, IL

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    What is St. Augustine College known for?

    St. Augustine College ’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Computer Science
    • Social Work
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #6

    Eastern Illinois University

    #1704 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
    • Education
    • History
    • Biology
    • Communications
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Engineering
  7. #7

    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

  8. #8

    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
    • Engineering
    • Literature
    • Business
    • History
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Psychology
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  9. #9

    Western Illinois University

    #971 institution's historical influence
    #642 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1050/21

    Macomb, IL

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    What is Western Illinois University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  10. #10

    National Louis University

    #2535 institution's historical influence
    #496 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    97%

    Graduation

    22%

    Student body

    6K

    Chicago, IL

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    What is National Louis University known for?

    National Louis University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Sociology
    • Social Work
    • Communications
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #11

    Southern Illinois University Carbondale

    #725 institution's historical influence
    #326 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    92%

    Graduation

    48%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1140/24

    Carbondale, IL

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    What is Southern Illinois University Carbondale known for?

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

    • Medical
    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • Literature
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Law
    • History
    REQUEST INFO
  12. #12

    Northern Illinois University

    #626 institution's historical influence
    #1145 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    59%

    Graduation

    48%

    Student body

    14K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1055/22

    Dekalb, IL

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    What is Northern Illinois University known for?

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

    • Education
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Literature
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Law
    • Chemistry
    • Philosophy
    REQUEST INFO
  13. #13

    University of Illinois Chicago

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

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    63%

    Student body

    28K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1145/24

    Chicago, IL

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    What is University of Illinois Chicago known for?

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

    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Philosophy
    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
    • Literature
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. #14

    Midstate College

    #11614 institution's historical influence
    What is Midstate College known for?

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

    • Education
    • Business
    • Engineering
    • Literature
    • History

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