Choosing a college may be one of the most important life decisions you will ever make. It takes great time and
consideration to find the school that best fits your needs, and there are many things to consider.
To assist you in making this meaningful choice, our college guide profiles some of the
outstanding higher education options available in the Old Northwest Territory.
Since 1962, Highland Community College has been committed to providing a quality education. This community college’s mission is focused on meeting the needs of the greater northwest Illinois community, including Stephenson County, Jo Daviess County, Carroll County and the northwest corner of Ogle County. In addition to its comprehensive academic programs, Highland offers enriching cultural opportunities through theatre, arts, music, literature and lectures.
Students can select from more than 60 associate degrees and certificates in areas such as accounting, chemistry, engineering, English, early childhood education, nursing and more. Class sizes average 15 students, which means that individuals receive plenty of personal attention and encouragement.
Building on the three new programs started last fall – criminal justice, hospitality management and mass communication – environmental science, mechatronics and phlebotomy have been added this academic year.
Highland is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association’s Academic Quality Improvement Program. Located in Freeport, Highland is conveniently positioned in the tri-state region, with access to several major metropolitan areas.
Students have the opportunity to participate in a variety of sports through the NJCAA Region IV athletic conference. Men can play basketball, baseball, bowling and golf, while women can participate in basketball, softball, bowling and volleyball. Students can also engage with the community through an extensive amount of clubs and organizations including agriculture club, art club, Black Student Alliance, Current Issues Club, dance team, equine club, international club, pride club and more.
Students can also take advantage of Highland’s Success Center, which is committed to promoting academic success. The Center provides tutoring, courses in developmental communication skills, a seminar on the first-year experience and support for students with disabilities.
For those interested in pursuing a higher education here, Highland encourages taking a stroll through campus and witnessing day-to-day activities and events. Find out how your degree from Highland Community College is a valuable resource for northwest Illinois.
Student/Instructor Ratio: 15:1
Programs: More than 60
Degrees: Associate, associate of applied science, certificate
On-Camps Housing: No
Evening Classes: Yes
Areas of Strength
• High-quality, affordable education
• Regionally accredited college
• Numerous HCC Foundation scholarship opportunities
Loras College is nestled high above the majestic bluffs of the Mississippi River in Dubuque, Iowa. The College, 177 years old, remains steadfast in its quest to provide students with a rich and engaging liberal arts education.
Drawing from its historic roots as Iowa’s first college, and the second-oldest Catholic college west of the Mississippi, Loras College delivers academic challenges intertwined with life-affirming experiences in a supportive, faith-centered setting.
Loras College has a long tradition of offering broad-based liberal arts education along with preparation for professions and careers.
Both are needed for an increasingly complex and rapidly changing world.
With nearly more than 40 undergraduate majors and 12 pre-professional programs, Loras College students succeed during and after their college career. Throughout the curriculum, information technologies enhance learning and provide students with knowledge acquisition skills necessary for a lifetime of learning.
Loras College students often study abroad, participate in service opportunities or take advantage of internships. Student service is a point of pride at the College, and has earned Loras a place on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll since 2008, receiving a “with distinction” notation since 2009.
Loras College was the first in the nation to receive the President’s Award for Interfaith Community Service, the highest federal honor a higher education institution can receive for its commitment to community service and interfaith efforts.
Loras College offers student-athletes 23 varsity sports. The Duhawks compete in the NCAA Division III and Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Loras is proud of its top-notch athletic facilities, including the Rock Bowl Stadium and multi-level Athletic and Wellness Center. At Loras College, student-athletes enjoy a well-rounded experience that balances challenging academics and competitive athletics.
With more than 70 clubs and organizations, the Loras College campus is overflowing with co-curricular opportunities. From academic organizations to special interest groups and student government, students can immerse themselves in activities they love while making lifelong friends along the way.
Student/Instructor Ratio: 12:1
Programs: More than 50
Degrees: Undergraduate, pre-professional and graduate programs
Since 1967, McHenry County College (MCC) has been the area’s choice for a high-quality and fully accredited education.
MCC was recently named among Aspen Institute’s top 150 community colleges in the nation, and CNN Money & College Measures reported that MCC is ranked fourth in the state for student success rates and affordability. MCC also was voted a “military friendly” institution by G.I. Jobs magazine.
More than 90 percent of MCC’s full-time faculty hold a master’s or doctorate degree, as do 68 percent of its adjunct instructors. But the heart of MCC is its students, whether they come to start a new educational path, finish a dream that was sidetracked or try something new. Faculty and staff are dedicated to assisting students to success, so that they are prepared to move into a new career or transition smoothly to a four-year institution.
This student-focused approach is paying off. According to recent statistics compiled by the Illinois Board of Higher Education for its Illinois Shared Enrollment and Graduation database, MCC students who transfer to a four-year institution do just as well as, or better than, students who started as freshmen.
As part of the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference, affiliated with the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), MCC men’s and women’s intercollegiate athletics teams have earned 36 conference championships and produced more than 25 NJCAA All-Americans. In addition, MCC offers on-campus activities and more than 25 student clubs.
The honors group Phi Theta Kappa helps MCC students to develop leadership skills. Through the College Consortium of International Students and the Illinois Consortium for International Studies and Programs, MCC students may participate in study-abroad programs in more than 30 countries.
From the low student-to-teacher ratio in classes to flexible course offerings, MCC’s focus is always on helping each student to complete his or her degree. The college’s engaging environment stimulates more critical thinking and sharpens decision-making skills, better preparing students for a bright future. Learn what’s new at MCC by following the college on social media at mchenry.edu/social.
Enrollment: 7,100 credit; 6,800 noncredit
Student/Teacher Ratio: 20:1
Programs: 7 associate, more than 50 certificates
Degrees: Associate, Professional
On-campus Housing: No
Evening/Weekend/Online classes: Yes
Areas of Strength
• Award-winning, nationally recognized faculty
• New, state-of-the-art Liebman Science Center and Planetarium
• Workforce, community and business programs
• Adult credit degree programs through Fast Track, with cohort and flexible delivery formats
• Competitive tuition rate
• Individualized attention to students from faculty
• Extensive student services
• Robust Adult Education program, including GED and ESL courses
At Northern Illinois University (NIU), students are offered the best of both worlds. They have the resources and breadth of a large university with the culture, mindset and accessibility of a smaller college. NIU takes a student-centered approach that provides students with the resources, tools and guidance they need to build an educational experience that is rewarding, transformative and often as unique as the individual learner. Through internships, mentorships, research and artistry opportunities, study abroad, more than 200 student organizations and more, the faculty and staff work hard to provide students with life-changing opportunities.
Additionally, 240,000 alumni worldwide (more than half of whom live in the Chicagoland area), help drive the success of NIU students. Through job shadowing, internships, mentorships and careers, NIU alumni take an active role in facilitating real-world, engaging experiences that help ensure that students succeed.
The main campus in DeKalb – 65 miles west of Chicago and 45 miles southeast of Rockford – offers more than 100 options in undergraduate, graduate- and doctoral- level programs within seven colleges (Business, Education, Engineering and Engineering Technology, Health and Human Sciences, Law, Liberal Arts and Sciences and Visual and Performing Arts). NIU also offers programming at regional centers in Hoffman Estates, Naperville, Oregon and Rockford, where working professionals can access programs at convenient times and locations.
Students can take advantage of a new program known as NIU PLUS (short for Progressive Learning in Undergraduate Studies). NIU PLUS allows students to customize their learning experience in three areas: general education requirements, hands-on learning experiences outside the classroom, and the student’s on- or off-campus job.
Within NIU PLUS, Academics PLUS allows students to blaze their own trail by customizing general education courses according to personal interests, career aspirations or major areas of study. Secondly, Engage PLUS ensures that students are recognized for their experiential-learning activities that take place outside the classroom. Working with faculty or staff mentors, or career supervisors, students can create a structured experience unique to their goals and interests. Finally, Jobs PLUS is designed to help students build a bridge between their college job and post-graduation career. Jobs PLUS regularly hosts professional development events open to all NIU students.
An NIU education is nationally recognized in quality, nationally ranked in value and aimed at providing students with personal, career and life success. When you become a Huskie, you have the opportunity to build your own life while you’re here – and create the foundation for achieving career success when you graduate.
Enrollment: More than 21,000
Student/Instructor Ratio: 18:1
Programs: 57 undergrad, 80 grad (20 doctoral)
Degrees: Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate
On-Camps Housing: Yes
Evening Classes: Yes
Areas of Strength
• Departments ranked among top in the nation
• Top-ranked Master of Public Administration program
• Acclaimed, dedicated international & national faculty
• Off-campus and online class offerings
Northern Illinois University - Graduate School
Main Campus: 1425 W. Lincoln Hwy. • DeKalb • cob.niu.edu
Naperville Campus: 1120 E. Diehl Road • Naperville • cob.niu.edu
Chicago Campus: 105 W. Madison St. • Chicago • cob.niu.edu
The graduate school program at Northern Illinois University offers more than 80 graduate degree programs and 50 specializations. In addition to master’s and doctoral degrees at its seven colleges, NIU offers graduate certificates in more than 65 courses of study.
The school’s robust offering of graduate programs enables students to earn their degrees either in-person or online.
There are five Master of Business Administration options that can be earned in-person: executive, 12-month, evening, global and international. Other in-person degrees include a Master of Public Administration, Master of Accounting Science, Master of Science in industrial and systems engineering, and a Doctor of Education: Adult and Higher Education – Adult Continuing Education.
NIU Online graduate programs allow students to further their education and understanding of their field while being flexible enough to help students balance their personal obligations.
No matter where they live, students pay the same cost per credit hour as an Illinois resident.
Online degrees include a Master of Science in digital marketing, data analytics, industrial management and engineering management. Other degrees include a Master of Public Health, Doctor of Nursing Practice and a Doctor of Education: Adult and Higher Education – Community College Leadership.
The online program provides access to an assortment of services, including the library and its collections, disability and technology resources, career development programs and the University Writing Center, which offers online sessions designed to help students develop their writing skills.
Regional educational sites in Hoffman Estates, Naperville and Rockford provide convenient access to NIU programs. Additionally, NIU Naperville and NIU Hoffman Estates allow working professionals to balance a job and graduate school through its part-time MBA programs.
Designed for maximum flexibility, the evening format allows busy adults to obtain a ranked and accredited MBA that’s self-paced to their personal schedules. The program is offered for spring, summer and fall semesters. Classes are held one night a week, Monday through Thursday, and students can take one, two or three courses per semester.
The Fast-Trak MBA, offered on NIU’s main campus in DeKalb, is designed for students who want to continue their education directly out of their undergraduate program. The Fast-Trak is a full-time, daytime program that allows students to complete their MBA in just 12 months. Students may earn a second degree in Master of International Business through study abroad experiences in the fall and spring semesters.
NIU’s One-Year MBA, offered at NIU Hoffman Estates, is designed for the working professional with a minimum of three years’ experience and an undergraduate business degree. The 12-month program begins in January, with classes offered two nights a week. It provides enhanced learning through the broad professional class make-up, the cohort experience and a rigorous curriculum delivered on an accelerated timetable.
The College of Business introduced the Chicago MBA in Fall 2016, offered in Chicago’s Loop. Similar to the One-Year MBA, the Chicago MBA is a 12-month program designed for working professionals with an undergraduate business degree.
For those in senior-level management, NIU’s Executive MBA program at NIU Hoffman Estates provides a curriculum that’s specifically designed to build on a base of managerial experience. Key elements include a balanced mix of professional peers – all students have 10 to 15 years’ work experience – and a broad representation of industries.
MBA faculty are selected from the nationally recognized College of Business for their teaching ability, consulting experience and commitment to educating professionals. Many hold doctorates in their field of expertise. The faculty’s knowledge of business management principles and current business practices combine to create a stimulating and challenging classroom experience.
Established in 1899, Northern Michigan University (NMU) has grown and diversified to become a comprehensive educational institution of 7,800 students, with cutting-edge technology initiatives and nationally recognized programs.
More than 75 percent of NMU’s 300-plus full-time faculty members have doctorates or the highest degree in their fields. A hallmark of the NMU experience is that full-time faculty members teach at all levels, freshmen through graduate courses.
NMU is the first public university in Michigan dedicated to enhancing students’ learning experience, through its Teaching, Learning and Communication Initiative. All full-time students are issued notebook computers as part of their tuition and fees, giving them faster, more complete access to instructors, fellow students – even class notes. President Barack Obama chose NMU as the site to announce his Wireless Innovation and Infrastructure Initiative in 2010. He held up Northern’s WiMAX network as a leading example of broadband’s capabilities.
Undergraduates have access to important research opportunities, from testing a new class of drugs that treat attention/memory problems caused by schizophrenia to researching genes that may play critical roles in brain tumor formation and growth. It is one of only two Michigan universities to have an entrepreneurship major, and has one of the few programs in the country for both ski management and wildland firefighting. NMU has programs in 42 of the 50 fastest-growing job occupations from the “Training for Michigan’s Hot Jobs” report, and boasts 90 percent placement rate or higher in numerous programs.
A recent survey revealed that 85 courses in 35 majors employed some aspect of academic service learning methodology. NMU earned the Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. NMU students and staff volunteer more than 100,000 hours in the community each year and partner with local organizations through service learning courses.
NMU offers a number of student/faculty exchanges, faculty-led study abroad programs, semester- or yearlong study abroad through partner organizations and international volunteer/internship opportunities. NMU was among 16 U.S. institutions initially granted a license for study abroad programs in Cuba, and the first to go beyond Havana.
Students can explore financial aid opportunities, scholarships and funding options with knowledgable counselors at NMU’s Financial Aid Office. The university also provides accessible student support services, including free counseling and information services, a writing lab, a tutoring lab and an all-campus tutoring program in most areas of study.
NMU student-athletes compete in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Conference in 12 sports, six for men and seven for women. In addition, students can participate in about 325 student organizations representing a wide range of academic interests, hobbies, personal interests and causes. Further, NMU has the only residential program at a university that allows athletes to pursue degrees while training for world-class competitions.
At Northern Michigan University, natural curiosity and intellectual challenge meet in stimulating classes grounded in the liberal arts. Wherever curiosity leads them, students can count on the support they need to take the next step, ask the next question and propose the next hypothesis.
• Technology initiatives and infrastructure/support for that technology
• Personal attention: Students are a name, not a number
• Named a military-friendly institution by G.I. Jobs
• Amazing four-season outdoor recreational opportunities and scenic environment on the south shore of Lake Superior
Aurora/Naperville, Mokena/Tinley Park, Rockford, Romeoville/Joliet • rasmussen.edu
Rasmussen College is a regionally accredited private college with 22 campuses across the Midwest and Florida, including four campuses in Illinois: Rockford, Romeoville/Joliet, Mokena/Tinley Park and Aurora/Naperville. More than 14,000 students are enrolled in total.
Founded in 1900, with the Rockford campus opening in 2006, Rasmussen strives to: provide education for growing careers; impact lives both inside and outside the classroom; and remain dedicated to the growth and development of its students, employees and the communities it serves.
Rasmussen College offers bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, associate degrees, certificates and diplomas in more than 50 programs, including business, justice studies, technology, design, education, nursing and health sciences. It’s committed to helping students gain the practical and relevant skills they need for career success, as well as providing flexible and affordable learning options. One example is Flex Choice, a learning option that allows students to take self-paced, competency-based courses alongside their faculty-led courses. Rasmussen College also provides a classroom experience that includes employer-based internship/externship opportunities, hands-on learning delivered through industry-experienced faculty with real-world insight, and new, technologically advanced learning platforms.
Rasmussen College is committed to providing strong support services that go above and beyond traditional offerings. This includes one-on-one support with a student advisor, free tutoring, and access to hundreds of thousands of free digital resources, such as e-textbooks, scholarly articles and videos. Once students are ready to graduate, the college works closely to connect them with local employers that are hiring. A career services department is available to all students.
As it prepares students for professional success, Rasmussen College instills in them the knowledge and skills they need to better their lives and have a profound influence in their communities. This is what defines Rasmussen College as a Public Benefit Corporation. The College focuses on connecting its students to local employers and expanding community initiatives through business partnerships, workforce insights and service opportunities for its employees.
Private/Two-Year, Four-Year & Graduate
Enrollment: 14,000 nationwide
Degrees: Associate, bachelor’s, master’s, certificates and diplomas
Weekend/Evening classes: Yes
Areas of Strength
• 118-year history of providing exceptional career-focused education
• Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and carries several programmatic accreditations
• Leader in innovation in learning, such as Flex Choice, the College’s competency-based education model
• Provider of flexible learning options
• Increased focus and commitment to providing affordable learning opportunities
Rockford University, nestled on 150 park-like acres in the heart of Rockford, marks its 168th year in 2015. It’s the only private liberal arts institution in the Rock River Valley, and the only college in the Rockford area to offer a campus-based accredited MBA degree and a Master of Arts in Teaching.
The philosophy at Rockford University is that a liberal arts education prepares students not only for a solid career but also for a journey of lifelong learning. Its distinctive degrees and programs are grounded in liberal arts learning and complemented by professional and practical experience.
An education from Rockford University involves challenging and interdisciplinary coursework both inside and outside the classroom. Its students develop critical thinking skills, intellectual curiosity and self-guidance, in order to live within and adapt to a changing, global society.
Faculty members, most holding the highest degrees in their disciplines, show a commitment to the individual through their expertise and caring nature. Rockford University offers more than 80 majors, minors and concentrations, and students can pursue bachelor’s and master’s degrees, along with various licensure and endorsement tracks through the Master of Arts in Teaching program. Student/faculty research is an important component of the learning environment, and one-on-one learning opportunities abound.
The Princeton Review named Rockford University a “College with a Conscience” in 2005, and for 11 years running, a “Best in the Midwest” college. For five consecutive years, it has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, and it is one of just 11 colleges in Illinois – and 283 in the country – with a Phi Beta Kappa chapter.
Rockford University offers its students many other opportunities to gain knowledge and experience. As part of NCAA Division III, the Rockford Regents compete in 13 men’s and women’s varsity sports. Many social and academic clubs and organizations are offered, along with intramural sports. Each year, the Forum Series presents a variety of thought-provoking speakers, events and performances.
The Jane Addams Center for Civic Engagement provides many service-learning options, and the Alan Hutchcroft Alternative Spring Break allows students and faculty to spend their spring break taking part in Habitat for Humanity projects. All such moments open students’ minds to understanding different and complex perspectives, thus ultimately broadening their horizons.
The learning expectations of students – knowledge for understanding the world, values for envisioning the world, and skills for shaping the world – guide the purpose of Rockford University’s academic programs. Thus, the Rockford University experience leads to a life of active learning, personal development, professional growth and informed citizenship.
Rockford University alumni are exemplary leaders and shapers of their communities. Among its graduates are chiefs of police, captains of industry, champions of justice, Teachers of the Year, doctors who tested the first artificial heart valve in humans, scientists who invented fiber optics and LEDs, the current president of a national television network, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jane Addams.
The legacy of Rockford University can be found in nearly two centuries of graduates and more than 16,000 current alumni, taking lessons learned here out into the world.
Enrollment: 1,250 (degree and community programs)
Student/Instructor Ratio: 11:1
Degrees: Undergraduate, Graduate, Certification
On-Campus Housing: Yes
Evening Classes: Yes
Areas of Strength
• Quality liberal arts curriculum
• Four-year degrees and two-year graduate degrees
• Connections to Rockford and international communities
• Accelerated degree completion program in business
• Dedication to service learning and civic engagement
• Small class sizes for individual attention
• Financial aid awarded to more than 90 percent of students
For more than 50 years, Rock Valley College (RVC) has been the Rockford area’s first choice for high-quality, affordable, fully accredited and transferable education. No matter where students want to go, RVC can help them to get there.
Whether taking credit classes at RVC for transfer to a four-year university or entering a career program designed for immediate entry into the workforce, RVC can help students to achieve their goals. The dedicated faculty members have master’s degrees, doctorates and real-life experience, and the students access that knowledge through hands-on instruction. The average class size is 24 students. That means students learn in an environment that helps them to become more engaged with their classmates and instructors.
The cost of attending RVC is just $115 per credit hour, significantly less than what the cost would be at most private colleges or state universities. There are many financial aid opportunities to help students to pay for college. More than half of all RVC students receive some financial assistance, and the RVC Foundation awards thousands of dollars in scholarships each year.
RVC is flexible to students’ needs and accommodates their busy schedules, with a variety of daytime, evening and weekend classes, with easy access at three convenient locations. The main campus is 217 wooded acres located on the northeast side of Rockford; the Stenstrom Center for Career Education is located in south Rockford, and RVC Downtown is located in the Rockford Register Star building in the heart of downtown Rockford.
Many classes are also available online.
With programs like the Aviation Maintenance Technology and Northern Illinois University at RVC Engineering, RVC is poised to help lead a transformation in workforce development in the region. In addition, the newly opened, 110,000-square-foot Health Sciences Center has united all of RVC’s allied health programs under one roof. Housing those programs in one facility forms an interdisciplinary learning environment that will facilitate collaborative learning.
RVC is there for its students every step of the way. It prepares them for the initial challenges of college, through Educational Planning Sessions and First Year Experience programs. Skilled advisors will work with students to establish educational goals and develop a path for success at RVC. And if they need help with coursework, they can get the free tutoring they need to be a success.
Enrollment: 6,256 (credit students)
Average Class Size: 23
Student/Instructor Ratio: 19:1
Programs: More than 60
Degrees: Three transfer degrees and 82 career and technical education degrees and certificates
On-Camps Housing: No
Evening/Weekend/Online Classes: Yes
Areas of Strength
• Associate degree increases lifetime earnings by $400,000
• Career paths in Aviation Maintenance, Engineering, Computer Technology & Healthcare
Since 1857, Upper Iowa University has been preparing students to succeed – in the classroom and throughout the world. A rich history, coupled with a student-centered mission, has created a springboard for Upper Iowa University to become a recognized innovator in offering accredited, quality programs through multiple flexible delivery systems, including online and self-paced studies.
The Upper Iowa University Center in Rockford opened in 2008 and is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year. The 13,000-square-foot building includes eight classrooms and a cutting-edge computer lab. Courses, held primarily in the evening, are offered during six 8-week terms and are taught by instructors who bring practical work experience to the classroom.
In 1994, Upper Iowa University opened the Blackhawk Center at Blackhawk Technical College, Janesville. Courses, held primarily in the evening, are offered during six 8-week terms.Adjunct faculty draw on their practical experiences in the field. All BTC student transfers receive a 10-percent grant on their UIU tuition and, if they have a completed associate degree and a GPA of 3.0, they get a 20-percent tuition scholarship.
The Upper Iowa University’s Center for Distance Education offers online courses for associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as post-graduate certificates. Its online undergraduate bachelor’s program has been ranked among the best in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report, which also ranked its online MBA program among the top 100 for 2015. Rockford will offer the MBA face-to-face in the fall of 2019.
In addition to its MBA program being recognized as a Best Value by GetEducated.com, Upper Iowa University has been named a Top Military-Friendly School by Military Advanced Education.
Upper Iowa University works with students to keep their college education affordable. Students are encouraged to contact its financial aid department, where counselors will assist them in looking for any possible means of financial assistance.
Upper Iowa University offers 40 majors in all modalities; for a complete listing, visit uiu.edu. Some majors include:
Health Services Administration
Human Resources Management
Whether at its traditional campus in Fayette, Iowa, or one of its 25 educational centers in the U.S., students will find professional faculty and staff who care about their success and work hard to provide the education they desire.
Degrees: Associate, Bachelor of Arts, program certificates and master’s; 40 degrees available
On-campus Housing: No
Evening Classes: Yes
Class Size: 15 to 20
25 satellite campuses
Areas of Strength
• World-class faculty with real-world experience
• Manageable eight-week terms
• Flexible scheduling, with evening classes offered Monday-Thursday
• High-quality education, close to home, with affordable tuition rates