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2021 Best Colleges for the Money in Illinois

52 Colleges
$28,141 Avg Cost*
4.3 Years Avg Time to Graduate*

Trying to decide what college is best for you is no easy matter. College Factual has developed its Best Value Illinois Schools ranking as one tool you can use to help make this decision.

We analyzed 52 colleges and universities to determine which were the best for overall value in Illinois. This ranking isn't just a listing of 'cheap' schools. Instead, it is noting which schools offer a high quality education for a reasonable price. So it is possible that College A may rank better than College B, while College B is less expensive to attend.

See what other factors we include in our ranking methodology.

Our average cost calculation adds up all expenses, such as tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, and other expenses, and then subtracts the average financial aid awarded to a student. This gives a rough estimation of how much money you can expect to pay out-of-pocket or through loans each year.

Custom Rankings

We've developed a number of other tools and rankings to help you make your college decision. Start by filtering this list by location or field of study and then explore our other rankings that feature schools great for different groups of students such as veterans or returnings adults.

We've created a tool called College Combat that lets you create your own customized comparisons based on the factors that matter the most to you. Test it out by comparing your favorite schools against others you are considering!

Top Colleges for the Money in Illinois

Learn more about these excellent schools below:

#1

Principia College

Elsah, Illinois

Our analysis found Principia College to be the best school for overall value in Illinois in this year’s ranking. Principia College is a small private not-for-profit school located in Elsah, Illinois that handed out 119 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The average student at Principia graduates in less than 4.2 years, and the yearly average cost to attend the school is $17,395. This makes the estimated cost of a bachelor’s degree from Principia be around $73,233. When you graduate sooner, you can save a lot of money.

The student-to-faculty rate of 6 to 1 is a sign that students will have more opportunities to engage with their professors one-on-one. Principia also claimed a spot on our Best Colleges in Illinois list. It’s in the top 15% of all schools in this category.

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The excellent bachelor’s degree programs at University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign helped the school earn the #2 place on this year’s ranking of the best schools for the money in Illinois. UIUC is a public institution located in Champaign, Illinois. The school has a large population, and it awarded 8,983 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

It takes the average student at UIUC about 4.2 years to graduate, and it costs about $25,337 per year to attend the school. This means that the average student pays around $106,415 to get a bachelor’s degree from UIUC. If you can shave even one term off your degree, you can save a substantial amount of money.

The student loan default rate at the school is 1.9%, which is quite low when compared to the national default rate of 10.1%. UIUC did well in our quality rankings, too. It placed #3 on our Best Colleges in Illinois list.

Full University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign Report

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#3

Eastern Illinois University

Charleston, Illinois

A rank of #3 on our Best Colleges for the Money in Illinois list means Eastern Illinois University is a great place for students working on their bachelor’s degree. EIU is a medium-sized public school situated in Charleston, Illinois. It awarded 1,244 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

It takes about 4.4 years for the average student at EIU to complete their degree, and the yearly average cost to attend the school is $18,150. Putting this cost and the average time to graduate together, we find that the average amount you’ll pay to get a bachelor’s degree from EIU is $80,223. Graduating sooner can prevent you from having to pay more money out of pocket.

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#4

University of Illinois at Springfield

Springfield, Illinois

A rank of #4 on our Best Colleges for the Money in Illinois list means University of Illinois at Springfield is a great place for students working on their bachelor’s degree. Located in Springfield, Illinois, the small public school awarded 680 diplomas to qualifed bachelor’s degree students in 2018-2019.

It takes the average student at UIS about 4.4 years to graduate, and the average full-time cost to attend the school is around $19,435. This makes the estimated cost of a bachelor’s degree from UIS be around $85,320. The sooner a student graduates, the more money they can save.

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#5

Illinois College

Jacksonville, Illinois

You’ll join some of the best and brightest minds around if you attend Illinois College. The school came in at #5 in Illinois on this year’s best value ranking. Illinois College is a small private not-for-profit school situated in Jacksonville, Illinois. It awarded 256 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The average student at Illinois College graduates in less than 4.1 years, and the yearly average cost to attend the school is $20,712. This makes the estimated cost of a bachelor’s degree from Illinois College be around $84,298. The sooner a student graduates, the more money they can save.

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#6

Illinois State University

Normal, Illinois

Illinois State University did quite well in the 2021 Best Value Colleges in Illinois ranking, coming in at #6. Illinois State University is a large public school located in Normal, Illinois that handed out 4,822 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

It takes the average student at Illinois State about 4.4 years to graduate, and on average, the annual cost to attend the school is $23,823. This means that the average student pays around $103,868 to get a bachelor’s degree from Illinois State. If you can shave even one term off your degree, you can save a substantial amount of money.

The student loan default rate at the school is 3.9%, which is quite low when compared to the national default rate of 10.1%.

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With a ranking of #7, University of Illinois at Chicago did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges for the Money in Illinois list. Chicago, Illinois is the setting for this large institution of higher learning. The public school handed out bachelor’s degrees to 4,524 students in 2018-2019.

The average student at UIC graduates in less than 4.5 years, and on average, the annual cost to attend the school is $24,726. Thus, the average cost to get a bachelor’s degree from the UIC is $111,514. When students graduate in a lesser amount of time, they can save thousands of dollars.

The low student loan default rate of 3.1% is a good sign that students have an easier time paying off their loans than they might at other schools. For comparison, the national default rate is 10.1%.

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Southern Illinois University Edwardsville landed the #8 spot on the 2021 Best Value Colleges in Illinois ranking. SIUE is located in Edwardsville, Illinois and has a fairly large student population. In 2018-2019, this school awarded 2,607 bachelor’s degrees to qualified undergradutates.

It takes the average student at SIUE about 4.5 years to graduate, and the estimated yearly cost for the school is $20,336. This makes the estimated cost of a bachelor’s degree from SIUE be around $91,919. Graduating sooner can prevent you from having to pay more money out of pocket.

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#9

Knox College

Galesburg, Illinois

Knox College came in at #9 in this year’s edition of the Best Colleges for the Money in Illinois ranking. This small private not-for-profit school is located in Galesburg, Illinois, and it awarded 367 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

It takes about 4.1 years for the average student at Knox to complete their degree, and the average full-time cost to attend the school is around $28,574. Putting this cost and the average time to graduate together, we find that the average amount you’ll pay to get a bachelor’s degree from Knox is $117,439. If you can shave even one term off your degree, you can save a substantial amount of money.

The student loan default rate at the school is 3.7%, which is quite low when compared to the national default rate of 10.1%. As a testament to the quality of education it offers, Knox also is in the top 20% of our Best Colleges in Illinois ranking.

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#10

Augustana College

Rock Island, Illinois

Augustana College ranked #10 on this year’s Best Colleges for the Money in Illinois list. Augustana is located in Rock Island, Illinois and has a small student population. In 2018-2019, this school awarded 855 bachelor’s degrees to qualified undergradutates.

It takes the average student at Augustana about 4.1 years to graduate, and it costs about $29,752 per year to attend the school. When we combine these numbers, we estimate that the cost to get a bachelor’s degree from Augustana is $120,793. When you graduate sooner, you can save a lot of money.

Students who start out at the school are likely to stick around. The freshman retention rate is 87%. In addition to its great value ranking, Augustana is in the top 20% of all schools on our Best Colleges in Illinois list.

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#11

Western Illinois University

Macomb, Illinois

Western Illinois University landed the #11 spot on the 2021 Best Value Colleges in Illinois ranking. WIU is located in Macomb, Illinois and has a medium-sized student population. In 2018-2019, this school awarded 1,785 bachelor’s degrees to qualified undergradutates.

The average student at WIU graduates in less than 4.4 years, and the estimated yearly cost for the school is $19,252. Putting this cost and the average time to graduate together, we find that the average amount you’ll pay to get a bachelor’s degree from WIU is $85,479. Graduating sooner can prevent you from having to pay more money out of pocket.

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#12

Monmouth College

Monmouth, Illinois

Monmouth College landed the #12 spot on the 2021 Best Value Colleges in Illinois ranking. Located in Monmouth, Illinois, the small private not-for-profit school awarded 238 diplomas to qualifed bachelor’s degree students in 2018-2019.

The average student at Monmouth graduates in less than 4.2 years, and the average full-time cost to attend the school is around $22,828. When we combine these numbers, we estimate that the cost to get a bachelor’s degree from Monmouth is $96,106. If you can shave even one term off your degree, you can save a substantial amount of money.

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#13

Blackburn College

Carlinville, Illinois

Blackburn College ranked #13 on this year’s Best Colleges for the Money in Illinois list. Blackburn is located in Carlinville, Illinois and has a small student population. In 2018-2019, this school awarded 120 bachelor’s degrees to qualified undergradutates.

It takes about 4.4 years for the average student at Blackburn to complete their degree, and the yearly average cost to attend the school is $16,002. Thus, the average cost to get a bachelor’s degree from the Blackburn is $70,409. When you graduate sooner, you can save a lot of money.

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With a ranking of #14, Southern Illinois University Carbondale did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges for the Money in Illinois list. SIUC is located in Carbondale, Illinois and has a fairly large student population. In 2018-2019, this school awarded 3,120 bachelor’s degrees to qualified undergradutates.

It takes the average student at SIUC about 4.5 years to graduate, and it costs about $21,114 per year to attend the school. Putting this cost and the average time to graduate together, we find that the average amount you’ll pay to get a bachelor’s degree from SIUC is $94,168. If you can shave even one term off your degree, you can save a substantial amount of money.

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#15

Bradley University

Peoria, Illinois

Bradley University did quite well in the 2021 Best Value Colleges in Illinois ranking, coming in at #15. Located in Peoria, Illinois, the medium-sized private not-for-profit school handed out 1,048 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

At Bradley, the average time it takes a student to graduate is 4.3 years, and the average full-time cost to attend the school is around $31,921. When we combine these numbers, we estimate that the cost to get a bachelor’s degree from Bradley is $135,983. If you can shave even one term off your degree, you can save a substantial amount of money.

The school has an impressive student loan default rate. It’s only 2.7%, which is much lower than the national rate of 10.1%. On top of its placing in our value rankings, Bradley also did well on our Best Colleges in Illinois list. It’s in the top 15% of all schools reviewed in this analysis.

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#16

Northern Illinois University

Dekalb, Illinois

Northern Illinois University ranked #16 on this year’s Best Colleges for the Money in Illinois list. Northern Illinois University is a fairly large public school located in Dekalb, Illinois that handed out 3,441 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The average student at NIU graduates in less than 4.6 years, and the estimated yearly cost for the school is $22,638. This means that the average student pays around $103,456 to get a bachelor’s degree from NIU. When students graduate in a lesser amount of time, they can save thousands of dollars.

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#17

Lincoln Christian University

Lincoln, Illinois

With a ranking of #17, Lincoln Christian University did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges for the Money in Illinois list. Located in Lincoln, Illinois, the small private not-for-profit school handed out 77 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

At Lincoln Christian College and Seminary, the average time it takes a student to graduate is 4.5 years, and the yearly average cost to attend the school is $21,652. This means that the average student pays around $97,651 to get a bachelor’s degree from Lincoln Christian College and Seminary. Graduating sooner can prevent you from having to pay more money out of pocket.

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#18

Lake Forest College

Lake Forest, Illinois

With a ranking of #18, Lake Forest College did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges for the Money in Illinois list. Lake Forest, Illinois is the setting for this small institution of higher learning. The private not-for-profit school handed out bachelor’s degrees to 453 students in 2018-2019.

It takes about 4.2 years for the average student at Lake Forest to complete their degree, and on average, the annual cost to attend the school is $32,355. This means that the average student pays around $134,273 to get a bachelor’s degree from Lake Forest. When students graduate in a lesser amount of time, they can save thousands of dollars.

The student loan default rate at the school is 1.8%, which is quite low when compared to the national default rate of 10.1%.

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#19

Wheaton College Illinois

Wheaton, Illinois

Wheaton College Illinois landed the #19 spot on the 2021 Best Value Colleges in Illinois ranking. Wheaton College Illinois is a private not-for-profit institution located in Wheaton, Illinois. The school has a small population, and it awarded 720 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

At Wheaton College Illinois, the average time it takes a student to graduate is 4.1 years, and the average full-time cost to attend the school is around $38,129. Putting this cost and the average time to graduate together, we find that the average amount you’ll pay to get a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College Illinois is $157,091. The sooner a student graduates, the more money they can save.

Students who start out at the school are likely to stick around. The freshman retention rate is 93%. In addition to its best value ranking, and one of the reasons why the school is on the list, Wheaton College Illinois is ranked #4 for overall quality in Illinois.

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#20

Illinois Wesleyan University

Bloomington, Illinois

With a ranking of #20, Illinois Wesleyan University did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges for the Money in Illinois list. This small private not-for-profit school is located in Bloomington, Illinois, and it awarded 434 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The average student at Illinois Wesleyan graduates in less than 4.1 years, and the yearly average cost to attend the school is $37,862. Putting this cost and the average time to graduate together, we find that the average amount you’ll pay to get a bachelor’s degree from Illinois Wesleyan is $153,720. Graduating sooner can prevent you from having to pay more money out of pocket.

The school has an impressive student loan default rate. It’s only 2.5%, which is much lower than the national rate of 10.1%. In addition to its great value ranking, Illinois Wesleyan is in the top 10% of all schools on our Best Colleges in Illinois list.

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#21

Illinois Institute of Technology

Chicago, Illinois

Illinois Institute of Technology landed the #21 spot on the 2021 Best Value Colleges in Illinois ranking. Illinois Institute of Technology is a medium-sized private not-for-profit school located in Chicago, Illinois that handed out 600 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

It takes about 4.5 years for the average student at Illinois Tech to complete their degree, and the estimated yearly cost for the school is $37,431. Putting this cost and the average time to graduate together, we find that the average amount you’ll pay to get a bachelor’s degree from Illinois Tech is $169,562. When you graduate sooner, you can save a lot of money.

The school has an excellent freshman retention rate of 90%, which means students like the school well enough to return for a second year. Illinois Tech did well in our quality rankings, too. It placed #5 on our Best Colleges in Illinois list.

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#22

Dominican University

River Forest, Illinois

Dominican University landed the #22 spot on the 2021 Best Value Colleges in Illinois ranking. Located in River Forest, Illinois, the small private not-for-profit school awarded 500 diplomas to qualifed bachelor’s degree students in 2018-2019.

The average student at Dominican U graduates in less than 4.2 years, and the average full-time cost to attend the school is around $29,011. This makes the estimated cost of a bachelor’s degree from Dominican U be around $123,297. The sooner a student graduates, the more money they can save.

The low student loan default rate of 4.9% is a good sign that students have an easier time paying off their loans than they might at other schools. For comparison, the national default rate is 10.1%.

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#23

North Central College

Naperville, Illinois

North Central College landed the #23 spot on the 2021 Best Value Colleges in Illinois ranking. North Central is a small private not-for-profit school situated in Naperville, Illinois. It awarded 872 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

It takes the average student at North Central about 4.2 years to graduate, and it costs about $32,920 per year to attend the school. Thus, the average cost to get a bachelor’s degree from the North Central is $138,264. Graduating sooner can prevent you from having to pay more money out of pocket.

The school has an impressive student loan default rate. It’s only 3.2%, which is much lower than the national rate of 10.1%.

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#24

Northwestern University

Evanston, Illinois

Northwestern University did quite well in the 2021 Best Value Colleges in Illinois ranking, coming in at #24. Northwestern U is a large private not-for-profit school situated in Evanston, Illinois. It awarded 2,770 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

It takes about 4.1 years for the average student at Northwestern U to complete their degree, and it costs about $55,450 per year to attend the school. Putting this cost and the average time to graduate together, we find that the average amount you’ll pay to get a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern U is $229,008. The sooner a student graduates, the more money they can save.

The impressive student-to-faculty rate of 6 to 1 means that students may have more opportunities to work more closely with their professors than they would at other schools. Northwestern U not only placed well in our value rankings, but it is also #1 on our Best Colleges in Illinois list.

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#25

University of Chicago

Chicago, Illinois

University of Chicago landed the #25 spot on the 2021 Best Value Colleges in Illinois ranking. UChicago is a fairly large private not-for-profit school situated in Chicago, Illinois. It awarded 2,024 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The average amount of time it takes for a student to receive their degree at UChicago is 4.1 years, and the estimated yearly cost for the school is $56,722. This makes the estimated cost of a bachelor’s degree from UChicago be around $230,859. Graduating sooner can prevent you from having to pay more money out of pocket.

The student loan default rate at the school is 1.5%, which is quite low when compared to the national default rate of 10.1%. In addition to its best value ranking, and one of the reasons why the school is on the list, UChicago is ranked #2 for overall quality in Illinois.

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Notes and References

Footnotes

*These averages are for the top 25 schools only.

  • For our state-specific rankings, we use in-state tuition to calculate average cost. For our national and regional rankings, we use a weighted average of in-state and non-resident tuition.

References

  • The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a branch of the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) serves as the core of our data about colleges.
  • Some other college data, including much of the graduate earnings data, comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s (College Scorecard).
  • Information about the national average student loan default rate is from the U.S. Department of Education and refers to data about the 2016 borrower cohort tracking period for which the cohort default rate (CDR) was 10.1%.

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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