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Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


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The 10 Cheapest Colleges in Illinois

What’s Covered:


For many, college has become exorbitantly expensive. So, it’s no surprise that when you’re deciding what school to attend, price plays a factor.


If you live in Illinois, the good news is that there are plenty of affordable colleges and universities right in your backyard. We’ve rounded up the cheapest schools in your state.


Tips for Saving Money on College


1. Apply for schools that meet 100% of demonstrated need.


The sticker price is never what the vast majority of students end up paying. In fact, some colleges have committed to meeting 100% of your demonstrated need, usually without loans, opening up an enormous number of possibilities. Focus on these schools in your search.


2. Apply for scholarships.


Colleges themselves are usually your best source of scholarships — some offer generous awards, even full rides, for students with particularly strong academic credentials. You should also search for outside scholarships, awarded by philanthropic foundations and for-profit companies, to supplement these awards — they can really add up.


3. Attend an in-state, public college.


In-state, public schools are typically significantly less expensive than private institutions or out-of-state public schools. Plus, you may be able to commute to an in-state school, rather than live on-campus, saving you money on housing.


NB: Private colleges with generous financial aid can sometimes be cheaper than public schools, but this list is based on sticker price only.


Most Affordable Colleges in Illinois


1. Chicago State University


Tuition: $7,488/$7,488

Location: Chicago

Acceptance Rate: 46%

Undergrad Enrollment: 2,000


A predominantly Black public university, Chicago State University has five degree-granting colleges, along with the Honors College and School of Graduate and Professional Studies. These colleges include: 


  • College of Arts and Sciences
  • College of Business
  • College of Education
  • College of Health Sciences
  • College of Pharmacy


One of the university’s claims to fame? There is 100% job placement rate for Pharmacy graduates.


Learn more about CSU and what it takes to get accepted.


2. Governors State University


Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $7,512/$15,024

Location: University Park

Acceptance Rate: 48%

Undergrad Enrollment: 3,200


Across four colleges — the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business, the College of Education, and the College of Health and Human Services — students may choose from 22 bachelor’s, 27 graduate, and four doctoral degree programs, along with more than 20 certificate programs. 


Governors State welcomes adult students — the average student age is 32.4 years old — and minority students, who constitute more than half of the student population.


Learn more about Governors State and what it takes to get accepted.


3. Western Illinois University


Tuition In-state: $8,883

Location: Macomb

Acceptance Rate: 67%

Undergrad Enrollment: 6,700


Innovative teaching, research, and service are the cornerstone of Western Illinois’ mission. The university offers a range of in-demand undergraduate and graduate programs, along with integrated, pre-professional, and certificate programs.


WIU has accrued a number of accolades, including “Best Bang for the Buck” (Washington Monthly) and a Military Friendly School (G.I. Jobs Magazine). 


Learn more about WIU and what it takes to get accepted.


4. Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville


Tuition: $9,123

Location: Edwardsville

Acceptance Rate: 85%

Undergrad Enrollment: 10,800


The newer of the two institutions that comprise the Southern Illinois University system, SIUE largely caters to in-state students, who constitute more than 80% of the student body. The university has earned several awards, including recognition as one of Princeton Review’s Best Business Schools. 


Learn more about SIUE and what it takes to get accepted.


5. Eastern Illinois University


Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $9,241/$11,552

Location: Charleston

Acceptance Rate: 56%

Undergrad Enrollment: 6,000


Originally a two-year teacher’s college, today, EIU is a comprehensive university offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, business, arts, sciences, and humanities, across four colleges and several additional schools, including The Graduate School. Prominent programs include Communication Disorders and Sciences and Biological Sciences. The school ranked no. 5 among Midwestern Regional public universities in US News in 2019.


Learn more about EIU and what it takes to get accepted.


6. Northern Illinois University


Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $9,464/$9,464

Location: Dekalb

Acceptance Rate: 59%

Undergrad Enrollment: 12,700


Boasting famous alumni like Joan Allen, Tammy Duckworth, Wood Harris, and Allan Cox, NIU is a comprehensive university divided into seven degree-granting colleges. It is one of just two public universities in Illinois that compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association — the Huskies play in NCAA Division I.


Learn more about NIU and what it takes to get accepted.


7. University of Illinois at Springfield


Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $9,503/$19,118

Location: Springfield

Acceptance Rate: 77%

Undergrad Enrollment: 2,800


The College of Business and Management, College of Education & Human Services, College of Liberal Arts & Studies, and College of Public Affairs & Administration comprise UI Springfield, which also offers 43 online degrees and programs. The school has a 95.9% graduate success rate, considering the number of students employed after graduation.


Learn more about UIS and what it takes to get accepted.


8. Southern Illinois University Carbondale


Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $9,638/$9,638

Location: Carbondale

Acceptance Rate: 92%

Undergrad Enrollment: 9,500


Ranked in the top 5% of higher education institutions in the US for research, SIU is a diverse university, with students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries, which offers hundreds of programs in undergraduate and graduate studies, as well as professional degree programs. 


SIU was the first school to offer a program that supports students with specific learning disabilities at the college level: Project Archive, founded in 1978. This is only part of why the university is known for its diversity of thought and unique approach to learning.


Learn more about SIU and what it takes to get accepted.


9. Northeastern Illinois University


Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $9,893/$19,786

Location: Chicago

Acceptance Rate: 61%

Undergrad Enrollment: 6,300


Founded with the mission of preparing teachers and administrations, today, Northeastern offers a wide variety of academic disciplines. Diversity is a primary focus of the university, which is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. Minority groups represent around 60% of the student body, and more than 700 faculty have experience in different countries. In fact, the institution boasts the most diverse student body in the Midwest.


The educational experience is characterized by hands-on learning, field research, and community engagement, offering plenty of opportunities for students to work closely with faculty and showcase their work.


Learn more about NEIU and what it takes to get accepted.


10. National Louis University


Tuition In-state/Out-of-state: $10,755/$10,755 

Location: Chicago

Acceptance Rate: 97%

Undergrad Enrollment: 3,000


NLU offers a well-rounded undergraduate education, offering bachelor’s degrees in areas like Education, Business Administration, Criminal Justice, Psychology, Computer Science, and more — 70 career-focused certificate, undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs in total. 


NLU has always played a critical role in the education sector, helping start the National Kindergarten Movement and promoting training in early childhood education. 


Learn more about NLU and what it takes to get accepted.


Check out our Most Affordable Colleges in Illinois List to find more colleges and universities.


How Much Will You Pay for College?


Whether you’re looking to attend college in Illinois or elsewhere, it’s important to know how much you should expect to pay for your education. Use our financial aid calculator to find out your anticipated cost of tuition and expenses and hundreds of colleges and universities across the United States.

Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.