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 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 has provided the region with exceptional access to higher education for more than 171 years. Founded in 1847, it’s the only private liberal arts residential institution in the Rock River Valley, and the only university in the Rockford area to offer campus-based accredited masters and adult accelerated degree completion programs.
The University is also home to the Puri School of Business and features the Bloomberg Business Lab. The lab, which opened in January, is the only one of its kind in the Rockford area. Eleven state-of-the-art terminals provide students and professors access to the lab, where they can further develop industry-leading skills for careers in finance, economics, accounting and business.
With more than 80 majors, minors and concentrations, degrees and programs are grounded in the liberal arts learning tradition and complemented by professional and practical experience. The University works with and supports several local organizations with internships, special projects, research and meaningful partnerships such as the Education Pathways program with Rockford Public School District 205. Students pursuing a career in education who qualify for the program can attend Rockford University, graduate from both the undergraduate and graduate programs and return to the district as teachers.
Faculty members, most holding the highest degrees in their disciplines, show a commitment to the individual through their expertise and personalized attention. The student-to-faculty ratio is 11 to 1, which further supports an environment where students can discover, explore and excel in academic interests.
The Princeton Review named Rockford University a “College with a Conscience” and Rockford University is one of just 11 colleges in Illinois – and 290 in the country – with a Phi Beta Kappa chapter. The university is also consistently ranked by U.S. News & World report as a Best Midwest Regional University.
Rockford University offers students many other opportunities to gain knowledge and experience. Along with study abroad opportunities, there is a diverse, international presence on campus. Students from across the world can study and share more about their cultures. More than 30 intercultural events are sponsored on campus each year.
As part of NCAA Division III, the Rockford Regents compete in 14 varsity sports for both men and women. Many social and academic clubs and organizations are also offered, along with intramural sports. Each year, the Forum Series presents a variety of thought-provoking speakers, events and performances that are open for the public to attend.
Rockford University alumni have proven themselves as 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
Online Course Options: Yes
Areas of Strength
• Quality liberal arts curriculum
• Four-year degrees and two-year graduate degrees in business and education
• Connections to Rockford and international communities
• Accelerated degree completion program in business and health administration
• Dedication to service learning and civic engagement
• Small class sizes for individual attention
• Financial/institutional aid awarded to 99 percent of students
“No matter your destination, your journey begins here.”
That is much more than a catchy tagline to the faculty and staff at Rock Valley College. They truly believe in the outcomes behind those words.
As this community’s college, it’s RVC’s mission to connect all citizens with opportunities that lead to success. For some that means earning an associate’s degree and transferring to a four-year college or university. For others, it means earning the credentials, skills and training needed to enter a career pathway right away.
RVC’s dedicated faculty members have master’s degrees, doctorates and real-life experience, and students will access that knowledge through hands-on instruction in small classrooms. The average class size at RVC is 23 students. That means students will learn in an environment that will help them become more engaged with 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. In fact, one year at Rock Valley College will cost a student approximately $3,800, compared to $12,000 at a public four-year school, $15,000 at a private for-profit institution, or nearly $30,000 for one year at a private four-year university. There are also many financial aid opportunities to help students pay for college. More than 60 percent of RVC students receive some financial assistance, and the RVC Foundation awarded over $250,000 in scholarships last year alone.
Rock Valley College is flexible to its students’ needs and can accommodate busy schedules with a variety of daytime, evening and weekend classes. The college’s beautiful main campus is 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 Aviation Maintenance Technology and NIU Engineering at RVC, the college is poised to help lead a transformation in workforce development in the region. Additionally, RVC’s state-of-the-art 110,000 square foot Health Sciences Center has united all of the college’s allied health programs under one roof, allowing for future program expansion and the establishment of new initiatives in health care education.
At Rock Valley College, staff and faculty are there for students every step of the way. Students will be prepared for the initial challenges of college through Getting Started sessions, and required student development courses that assist with academic and career planning. Skilled advisors will work closely with students to establish educational goals and develop a path for success. And if students need help with coursework, they can get the free peer tutoring they need to be a success.
The journey begins at Rock Valley College. The destination is up to you.
Enrollment: 6,081 (credit students)
Average Class Size: 23
Student/Instructor Ratio: 17:1
Programs/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
• RVC program graduates can earn $646,000 more over a 40-year career than non RVC program graduates
• 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
The UIC College of Nursing in Rockford and its campuses in Chicago, Peoria, Quad Cities, Springfield and Urbana have long been providing the highest-quality education for APRNs throughout Illinois.
The program offers 12 advanced practice specialty areas for the doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree in a hybrid format consisting of online, on-site and blended courses. Students graduate with an exceptional mix of clinical, organizational, financial and leadership skills - prepared not only to improve outcomes for their own patients, but also to contribute to the transformation of health care in both urban and rural communities.
As a UIC student, clinical rotations are arranged for you. Students are assigned highly qualified preceptors at desirable clinical sites, selected by knowledgeable program directors. By partnering with skilled preceptors in a variety of health care settings, each student is provided with the best mentorship experiences while learning the necessary clinical practice skills. These rotations, paired with high-quality simulation scenarios also included in the curriculum, combine to give students a broad range of advanced, hands-on patient-management experiences.
The Advanced Generalist Master of Science (AGMS) program provides professional nurses with the clinical leadership skills essential for integrating evidence-based practice and care coordination to improve outcomes in a fiscally responsible manner. The advanced generalist acts as the care coordinator for a group of clients while providing direct care in complex cases. Not limited to the acute care settings, advanced generalists evaluate client outcomes, assess client risks, and promote client and family advocacy.
Sharing a campus with the University of Illinois at Chicago colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy in Rockford has its interprofessional advantages, from the state-of-the-art Standardized Patient Center, to the full-service Crawford Library of the Health Sciences, from sharing a home base with the National Center for Rural Health Professions, to enjoying the stellar reputation UIC students have among the region’s health care industry.
As a regional campus of the UIC - College of Nursing, UIC experts are dedicated to providing exemplary international and nationally recognized graduate nursing education for the Rockford area. Students in all three professional programs have opportunities to work together on clinical research projects. The nursing faculty maintains active practices, working in the profession for which they are simultaneously educating students. Located on a tree-lined street with the Rock River near the doorstep, the Rockford Campus offers a beautiful, small-town setting in which to earn a nationally ranked graduate degree.
Public University Graduate Program
Degrees: Doctor of Nursing Practice, Post-DNP certificates, Advanced Generalist Master of Science
Programs: 12 Doctor of Nursing Practice focus areas, Post-Master DNP, Post-DNP certificates, Advanced Generalist Master of Science, transition program for RNs with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field, concentration in rural nursing for DNP students.
Areas of Strength
• Academic excellence.
• Flexible format.
• Arranged clinical placements.
• Ranked No. 1 among Midwestern universities for graduate programs in Colleges of Nursing.
• 99 percent of doctors of nursing practice grads pass certification exam on first attempt.
• Ranked No. 9 in the nation for National Institutes of Health research funding.
• Ranked No. 18 in the nation, our Master of Science program is tied for best in Illinois.