Online Degree Programs in Illinois

Illinois is not lacking in higher education offerings. The state is home to nearly a dozen national universities, more than 20 four-year public and private institutions, dozens of small liberal arts colleges, and nearly 50 public community colleges, which include some of the best online degree programs around. More than 77,000 students are enrolled through the University of Illinois system, which consists of three campuses at Urbana-Champaign, Chicago, and Springfield, making it the largest educator in the state. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the flagship and the second oldest public university in the state, after Illinois State University. It is a "Public Ivy" and ranks No. 46 among national universities by U.S. News & World Report.

Notable private schools and research institutions in the state include Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, both of which U.S. News ranks among the top 15 universities in the nation. Northwestern has graduated such notable alum as Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago and former White House Chief of State to President Barack Obama, U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, comedian Stephen Colbert, musician Andrew Bird, and tennis player Todd Martin. The University of Chicago has graduated more than over 85 Nobel Prize-winners, more than 200 Guggenheim fellows, 30 Macarthur "genius" fellows, and 20 Pulitzer Prize winners. Notable alum include former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, and author Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education administers public education in the state, making recommendations to state leaders involving education spending and policies, and auditing the performance of public schools. Its major goals concerning higher education include increasing educational attainment to match the best-performing states and world countries; ensuring college affordability; increasing the production of high-quality postsecondary credentials to meet the demands of the economy and an increasingly global society; and better integrating the state’s educational, research, and innovation assets to meet the economic needs of the state.

Illinois Distance Learning Initiatives

In an effort to help students find reputable online degree programs, the Illinois Board of Higher Education points students toward the Illinois Virtual Campus, a database of institutions that offer online degree programs in Illinois. For students interested in online college degree programs, the board advises that students take classes and programs from those Illinois colleges and universities that are members of the Illinois Virtual Campus to avoid potential diploma mills. Students can find online bachelor degree programs, online masters degree programs, and online doctoral degree programs, as well as associate degrees, certificate programs, and non-credit courses to take. There are 47 schools with online degree programs included in the Illinois Virtual Campus, including the three campuses of the University of Illinois, which are ranked by U.S. News as among the best online programs for bachelor’s and graduate-level study.

In addition to accredited online degree programs, Illinois is also home to one of the few colleges in the country that offer free online college courses through Coursera. The innovative company provides students with access to college-level course materials at no cost, with the mission that everyone has access to a world-class education for free. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is one of nearly 20 universities worldwide that participates and provides materials to classes on sustainability, Android apps, programming, organic chemistry, microeconomics, and planet Earth.