Best Value Colleges in Illinois

The Illinois College ROI Report makes it easy for students and their families to determine which Illinois colleges provide the highest return on investment for their educational dollars.  Read More

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1Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT)(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$655,000
Total 4 Year Cost$212,000
Grad Rate65%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$26,300
2University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$619,000
Total 4 Year Cost$115,000
Grad Rate84%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$28,700
3University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)(Out-of-State)
20 Year Net ROI$562,000
Total 4 Year Cost$172,000
Grad Rate84%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$28,700
4Northwestern University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$546,000
Total 4 Year Cost$248,000
Grad Rate93%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$22,800
5University of Chicago(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$429,000
Total 4 Year Cost$255,000
Grad Rate93%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$26,400
6University of Illinois at Chicago(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$399,000
Total 4 Year Cost$115,000
Grad Rate60%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$25,900
7Benedictine University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$377,000
Total 4 Year Cost$147,000
Grad Rate51%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$25,300
8McKendree University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$363,000
Total 4 Year Cost$151,000
Grad Rate56%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$26,800
9DePaul University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$361,000
Total 4 Year Cost$193,000
Grad Rate71%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$27,900
10University of Illinois at Chicago(Out-of-State)
20 Year Net ROI$349,000
Total 4 Year Cost$165,000
Grad Rate60%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$25,900
11Bradley University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$330,000
Total 4 Year Cost$164,000
Grad Rate74%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$29,900
12Southern Illinois University (SIU) - Carbondale Campus(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$325,000
Total 4 Year Cost$99,300
Grad Rate44%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$29,500
13Northern Illinois University (NIU)(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$322,000
Total 4 Year Cost$112,000
Grad Rate50%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$30,300
14Northern Illinois University (NIU)(Out-of-State)
20 Year Net ROI$285,000
Total 4 Year Cost$149,000
Grad Rate50%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$30,300
15Illinois State University(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$280,000
Total 4 Year Cost$104,000
Grad Rate72%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$30,200

*NOTE: Unranked schools on this list don’t have on-campus living options, so on-campus costs are not available.

Attending college in the Prairie State isn't just smart because of the high earning potential that many graduates enjoy. It's also a great choice because of the hustle and bustle of Chicago, where the majority of schools in this report are located. PayScale's data can help you identify the best value colleges in Illinois before you apply.

Illinois boasts many schools that appear within the top 200 rankings nationwide. Illinois Institute of Technology, commonly known as Illinois Tech or IIT, is of particular note. This prestigious private, not-for-profit school is ranked 41st in terms of 20-year net ROI for students without financial aid. If you are lucky enough to attend, the return on the money you spend on tuition, approximately $212,000, is considerable. IIT alums report a median return of investment of $655,000 in the 20 years following graduation. When financial aid is factored in, that figure soars to $768,000. Famous for its incredible science and engineering programs, IIT researchers were behind some of the most important technological advances in recent memory, including spacecraft re-entry technology and magnetic recording. Architects who graduated from the design school here have helped shape the iconic Chicago skyline, which you will enjoy gazing at every day as an IIT student.

If you dream of following in the footsteps of Bill Gates and other technology and business leaders, the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign should be up your alley. This well-known public university is ranked 56th nationwide for net ROI based on in-state tuition. The average cost for in-state students is $111,800, and the 20 Year Net ROI of UIUC alumni is $619,000. Throw in financial aid, and the number rises to $669,000. You'll get plenty of bang for your education buck, and you could very well land a job at Microsoft. After all, Gates himself once noted that the company hires more graduates of UIUC than any other school.

Northwestern University earns a well-deserved place near the top of the list of top college return of investment Illinois schools. This prestigious, private, not-for-profit university, which is located in Chicago's Streeterville neighborhood and is a founding member of the Big 10, counts numerous Nobel Prize winners, Pulitzer Prize laureates and other illustrious folks among its alumni. Ranked 97th nationally for 20-year net ROI, Northwestern is one of the leading research institutes in the world. The cost of an education here will set you back by $248,000. Northwestern grads report a median return of investment of $546,000 over 20 years, however, and that figure soars to $674,000 when financial aid is included. From cheering on the Wildcats to graduating from a school that produced a current U.S. Supreme Court justice (John Paul Stevens), Northwestern is a worthwhile option to consider for many reasons.

Finally, the University of Chicago offers a value of college education Illinois students and their families are sure to approve of. Founded following a generous donation by John D. Rockefeller, U of C is best known for its incredible professional schools, including the Booth School of Business and the Pritzker School of Medicine. Earning a U of C degree results in a 20-year net ROI $429,000 without financial aid and $551,000 with it, making that pricey tuition an incredible deal in the long run if you are as successful as the typical University of Chicago graduate.