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School Rankings

The 10 Best and Most Prestigious Universities in Illinois

Georgia Murphy - March 20, 2022


Where you go to college is important. To help prospective students in their school search, we’ve researched the best universities in Illinois and curated a list of the top 10 universities in the state. The listed universities provide programs in high-demand fields, experiential learning opportunities, and online programs.

In this article, you’ll find a list of Illinois universities ranked with respect to specific factors like their graduation, retention, and placement rates. To narrow your school search, we also discuss the most prestigious universities in Illinois and highlight relevant information about them to help you determine if they are the best fit for your college career.

How We Defined Illinois University Rankings

In arriving at these school rankings, we considered education institutes that the Higher Learning Commission accredits. Our goal was to find universities and colleges of education with a healthy balance of many factors, including high academic quality, graduation, retention, and placement rates. We also took note of their on-campus and online programs and the availability of scholarships.

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Illinois Universities Ranked: Top 10 Universities in Illinois

  1. University of Chicago
  2. Northwestern University
  3. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  4. Loyola University Chicago
  5. University of Illinois Chicago
  6. Illinois Institute of Technology
  7. Depaul University
  8. Illinois State University
  9. University of St. Francis
  10. Southern Illinois University Carbondale

The Best Colleges and Universities in Illinois, Explained

University students sitting on the grass writing and talking. Best Universities In Illinois
Prospective students can enroll in distance education courses at UChicago.

In the section below, we have listed some of the best universities in Illinois and highlighted relevant information about them. These include location, undergraduate enrollment, and graduation rate. We’ve also included a brief overview to help you judge each school’s educational programs and whether it fits in with your career plan.

1. University of Chicago

  • US News National Ranking: #6
  • Campus Location(s): Chicago, Illinois
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 7,011
  • Graduation Rate: 94%

UChicago prides itself as one of the foremost research universities in Illinois. It offers academic scholarships and research funding to students who pioneer breakthroughs in fields worldwide. Prospective students can enroll in educational programs, which include bachelor’s degrees, graduate degrees, doctoral programs, degree completion programs, and online programs.

2. Northwestern University

  • US News National Ranking: #9
  • Campus Location(s): Evanston, Illinois
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 8,606
  • Graduation Rate: 94%

Northwestern’s academic scholarships and service-learning programs make its placement rate far above the national average. It organizes opportunities for international learning experiences through field studies, cultural immersion, and study abroad programs. Prospective students have ample opportunity to explore new perspectives and collaborate across diverse fields of study at this private school.

3. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

  • US News National Ranking: #47
  • Campus Location(s): Champaign, Illinois
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 34,559
  • Graduation Rate: 85%

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign accepts aspiring first-year students and transfer students. Its faculty consists of education experts who teach on-campus courses and virtual programs across many levels of education. There are many collaborative research opportunities for undergraduate students. This university is also a great pick for international students.

4. Loyola University Chicago

  • US News National Ranking: #103
  • Campus Location(s): Chicago, Illinois
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 11,612
  • Graduation Rate: 72%

Incoming students will be amazed by the beautiful campus on the shores of Lake Michigan. Loyola University encourages its student-athletes to explore new opportunities while balancing participation in student organizations with the rigors of academic excellence. Its dedicated career coaches conduct regular career assessments to ensure every student’s career success.

5. University of Illinois Chicago

  • US News National Ranking: #103
  • Campus Location(s): Chicago, Illinois
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 22,279
  • Graduation Rate: 62%

UIC is the largest public university in Chicago. In the 2021 Fall semester, 22,279 undergraduate students and 7,789 graduate students enrolled in an undergraduate program or graduate program at its colleges. UIC has a diverse student body and faculty. It does not discriminate based on race or sexual orientation, and all prospective students are entitled to attention from faculty.

6. Illinois Institute of Technology

  • US News National Ranking: #122
  • Campus Location(s): Chicago, Illinois
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,998
  • Graduation Rate: 67%

IIT is one of the prominent research institutions in Illinois. It offers undergraduate programs and graduate programs in technology-related fields. Rohit Prasad, head scientist of Amazon’s Alexa, is one of the university’s notable alumni. Thanks to his graduate school adviser, he pursued an advanced degree in AI and made lasting contributions in that field of study.

7. Depaul University

  • US News National Ranking: #127
  • Campus Location(s): Chicago, Illinois
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 14,294
  • Graduation Rate: 70.7%

DePaul University stands to be one of the largest Catholic institutions in America. It offers more than 130 undergraduate programs and 175 graduate programs with an option for online programs. It has two campuses, each with a residence hall, one in Chicago’s business district and another in Lincoln Park. It also provides alumni mentors and internship opportunities for its students.

8. Illinois State University

  • US News National Ranking: #202
  • Campus Location(s): Normal, Illinois
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 18,250
  • Graduation Rate: 68%

ISU prides itself on maintaining a small college atmosphere, even with a student body well over 20,000. Its student retention rates are well above the national average, and its college environment is famed for its high quality of life and art programs. ISU students gain hands-on experiences through internships and other experiential learning opportunities.

9. University of St. Francis

  • US News National Ranking: #249
  • Campus Location(s): Joliet, Illinois
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,572
  • Graduation Rate: 62%

USF is a Christian school and offers incoming first-year students a Christian-based education. It offers life experience as well as academic studies in its degree programs. Students can take on-campus courses or online programs to earn their undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral degree on time. The convenience of distance education is particularly appealing to its graduate students.

10. Southern Illinois University Carbondale

  • US News National Ranking: #263
  • Campus Location(s): Carbondale, Illinois
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 8,147
  • Graduation Rate: 46%

SIU is one of the country’s prominent research institutions. It offers over 100 undergraduate degrees, 80 master’s degrees, and about 30 doctoral degrees. Interestingly, it is one of the few universities to abolish out-of-state tuition. Its student body shows its community involvement and commitment to service by donating time to at least one community service project.

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Is a University in Illinois Right for You?

Yes, it is. Some of the world’s biggest companies are in Chicago , making Illinois universities perfect for students who want to gain hands-on experience to supplement their educational experience. There is the additional draw of the vibrant Illinois art scene promoted and developed by the Illinois Arts Council Agency for incoming students in the arts fields.

If you’re unsure about enrolling in university, there are other degree options like online degrees that you can explore to broaden your knowledge. In Chicago alone, there are tons of data analysis, tech sales, and coding bootcamps that you can attend. They teach practical skills in high-demand fields, and you can complete them much faster than you would an undergraduate program.

Best Universities in Illinois FAQ

What is the largest university in Illinois?

The University of Illinois Urbana Champaign is the biggest in Illinois, with more than 48,000 students , the widest faculty diversity, and a combined landmass of 6,370 acres. The University of Illinois Chicago is second, with more than 34,000 students.

What Ivy League school is in Illinois?

There is no Ivy League school in Illinois. The Ivy League is a collegiate conference in the northeast of America. Over the years, the Ivy League has become associated with a unique education standard. Illinois is a midwestern state, so none of its universities are Ivy League. However, there are many prestigious universities in Illinois, such as the ones we’ve listed above.

Is UChicago a prestigious school?

UChicago is one of the most prestigious universities in Illinois. The US News & World Report ranks it at number six , tied with Stanford. Its acceptance rate is low since it only accepts incoming students with an outstanding high school GPA. Education experts teach undergraduate students lucky enough to get in and they enjoy competitive scholarships and multiple career options.

What is the number one university in Illinois?

The US News & World Report ranks the University of Chicago as number one in Illinois . However, this is a general ranking, and other universities may do better when ranked on different metrics, such as access to student loans.

About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.

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Georgia Murphy

About the author: Georgia is an Australian editor currently based in Cambodia. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Tasmania and a Master of International Development from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. As a multiple business owner and entrepreneur, Georgia is knowledgeable about everything from web design to branding to project management. She is currently studying UX design on Udemy with the goal of becoming a freelance UX designer, and her time at Career Karma has helped her learn more about opportunities in the field. Along with her own career in tech, she wants to help others explore and succeed in new pathways. In her spare time, Georgia enjoys boxing, climbing, weightlifting, and dancing.

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