2023 Best Undergraduate Education Schools in Illinois

2022-2023 Education Colleges of Distinction

Published: September 1, 2022

By: Colleges of Distinction Staff

Jump to: Bradley University | Concordia University Chicago | DePaul University | Elmhurst University | Illinois State University | Illinois Wesleyan University | Judson University | Knox College | Lake Forest College | Lewis University | Loyola University Chicago | North Park University | Olivet Nazarene University | Saint Xavier University | Trinity Christian College | University of St. Francis | Frequently Asked Questions

Simply put, our nation’s teachers are our future; they shape the leaders, politicians, scientists, authors, and artists of tomorrow. Surely we can all recount a few special teachers that made an impact on our lives, and we have their hard work and dedication to thank for that. That is why Colleges of Distinction is proud to share a cohort of schools that excel in their commitment to nurturing and supporting future educators. Freshly selected for the 2022-2023 year, the Education Colleges of Distinction are sure to equip students with the necessary skills and experience needed to excel. Prospective students can choose from our hand-picked list of colleges and universities that offer the following distinct qualities:

Our Illinois top colleges for education offer students an exciting place to learn and thrive, as proven by the following:

Stability and Excellence: These programs have reputations for quality and success, and students know that their degrees will be respected and desired by future employers. Institutions who have earned the education badge have the highest accreditations and have been awarding teaching degrees for at least ten years.

Multidisciplinary Exposure: One of the most important decisions a future teacher will make is what field of education they will go into. Whether it’s childhood, elementary, secondary, or special education, prospective students know there are options to explore at these schools. These well-rounded programs also allow students to earn a specialization to further define and hone their skill set.

Practical Experience: These colleges and universities go beyond the required number of hours of student teaching. They push their students to get practical experience as early and often as possible so they may be prepared and confident when they step into their first classroom.

Non-education Specializations: These programs encourage students to think and learn outside the box. Students can minor or specialize in a different discipline to round out their education and enhance their teaching.

Dedicated Advising and Counseling: The path to a teaching degree can be complex and overwhelming at times. Schools that have earned the Education badge have demonstrated a commitment to supporting students with excellent counselors and advisors.

High-Impact Practices: While all Colleges of Distinction are recognized for their high-impact practices, those with the Education badge ensure that their programs incorporate relevant and focused high-impact practices, including first-year seminars, service-learning among area schools, and collaborative projects.

Industry Connections: Students are able to forge connections for their career through internships, networking events, and alumni programs.

bradley university logo

Bradley University

Peoria, IL ‧ Private ‧ 4-year

Bradley University is a private institution in Peoria, Illinois. There are many opportunities for undergraduates on campus. Students can explore over 185 academic programs and engage with peers in more than 240 student organizations.

As the home to Bradley’s human services degrees, the College of Education and Health Sciences is dedicated to helping people learn how to help people. You encounter compassionate spirits every day as you work closely with faculty who enjoy mentoring students. That attitude extends to the local schools, hospitals and community organizations where you gain professional experience as an intern. You can be confident your experiences and knowledge will pay off when you take your professional licensing exam.

Acceptance rate 73%     •      Net price $25,850     •     SAT Range 1080-1280     •     Students submitting SAT scores 74%
Total Undergrad Population 5,855      •      Setting City: Midsize     •      Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 74%     •     Retention rate 86%     •     Student-to-faculty ratio 14:1

Learn more about Bradley’s education program

Concordia University Chicago in River Forest, Illinois

Concordia University Chicago

River Forest, IL ‧ Christian ‧ 4-year

Founded in 1864 as a college for teachers, today Concordia University Chicago is a comprehensive liberal arts-based Christian university affiliated with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Through its College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business, College of Education, College of Graduate Studies, and College of Innovation and Professional Programs, CUC offers more than 140 areas of undergraduate and graduate study in small classes taught by professors who are passionate about teaching and student success. Students choose Concordia University Chicago to open up their world and be inspired throughout their collegiate career and beyond.

The College of Education is one of the oldest educator-preparation institutions in the nation. CUC was founded in 1864 as a Lutheran teacher preparation college. The College of Education is inspired by our rich past history and our mission in higher education.
The College of Education goals are to:

  • Serve long-established educational needs for degrees in higher education.
  • Initiate new educational programs serving the needs of private and public schools.
  • Fill emerging needs in the educational marketplace.
  • Continue relevant educational services through innovative programs, strong faculty instruction, and leadership in the educational field.
  • Nurture and encourage lifelong learning.

Acceptance rate 79%     •     Net price $17,363     •     SAT Range 990-1180     •      Students submitting SAT scores 67%
Total Undergrad Population 6,491      •      Setting Suburb     •      Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 51%     •      Retention rate 71%     •     Student-to-faculty ratio 12:1

Learn more about Concordia University Chicago’s education program

DePaul University

Chicago, IL ‧ Catholic ‧ 4-year

The legacies of Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Louise de Marillac are embodied in DePaul University’s approach to education and service. At DePaul, students share a common desire to serve their communities and the world with purpose. 

With over 300 undergraduate programs, the breadth of academic excellence at DePaul is vast and varied. The university’s world-class faculty are experts in their field who bring their years of experience to the classroom every day. Although DePaul’s faculty are conducting groundbreaking, award-winning research everyday, their biggest priority is the success of their students. Classes are small to maximize engagement between students and professors. Students are challenged to meet their potential and inspired to reach their goals.

For more than 50 years, this belief has inspired everything we do at DePaul’s College of Education (COE). DePaul’s history of educating teachers dates back to 1911, when the university formed a Department of Education within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. We founded the College of Education in 1962, reflecting our commitment to this fundamentally important function in society. Through authentic experiences in the classroom and out in the world, we develop difference-making educators—engaged, service-oriented citizens of our local and global communities.

Acceptance rate 70%     •     Net price $33,319
Total Undergrad Population 21,922      • Setting City: Large      •      Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 71%     •      Retention rate 83%     •     Student-to-faculty ratio 17:1

Learn more about DePaul’s education program

Elmhurst University

Elmhurst, IL ‧ Private ‧ 4-year

A private, four-year college, Elmhurst University provides a great education at an excellent value, consistently ranking among the top colleges and best values in the Midwest. In small classes throughout the liberal arts and sciences, Elmhurst students work with faculty whose top priority is teaching and mentoring. The University is located in the heart of the Chicago metropolitan area, 13 miles west of the Loop.

The academic programs at Elmhurst are characterized by their real-world connections and responsiveness to student needs. Students conduct research and defend their results, analyze data, think critically, solve problems collaboratively, study and write across disciplines, and learn to formulate new ideas. Each year, students of all majors share their original research at the University’s Undergraduate Research and Performance Showcase.

An education degree at Elmhurst University is about best practices that are grounded in research and theory. Our education undergraduates are highly sought after and their extensive school-based experience gives them a critical head start in the field. It also is about practical, hands-on experiences. Future teachers are immersed in real-world applications in schools and practicing teachers are challenged to apply new ideas and best practices in their classrooms and schools.

We offer 17 teacher education programs that lead to Illinois teacher licensure. Our graduates are teaching at every level throughout the United States and abroad. More than 1,700 Elmhurst alumni are teaching in Illinois schools alone.

Acceptance rate 66%     •      Net price $21,776     •      SAT Range 980-1170     •      Students submitting SAT scores 76%
Total Undergrad Population 3,421      •      Setting Suburb     •      Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 68%     •     Retention rate 81%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 13:1

Learn more about Elmhurst’s education program

Illinois State University

Normal, IL ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

Illinois State University serves a diverse student body through immersive, career-minded programming across a range of subjects. The university prides itself in its core values: Pursuit of Learning and Scholarship, Individualized Attention, Diversity, Integrity, and Civic Engagement. Thanks to these pillars, the university motto, “gladly we learn and teach,” truly speaks for itself.

The College of Education is the oldest college in the University and enrolls more than 3,000 students across its doctoral, master’s, and undergraduate education programs. The College of Education has been continuously accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) or the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) since 1954.

Educator preparation is a university-wide effort that includes five colleges and enrolls more than 4,000 students. More than one-fifth of Illinois State students are enrolled in an educator preparation program. 

Acceptance rate 81%     •     Net price $20,933     •     SAT Range 1020-1220     •      Students submitting SAT scores 79%
Total Undergrad Population 20,720      •      Setting Suburb      •      Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 68%     •      Retention rate 84%     •     Student-to-faculty ratio 19:1

Learn more about Illinois State’s education program

Illinois Wesleyan University logo stacked

Illinois Wesleyan University

Bloomington, IL ‧ Private ‧ 4-year

This is a true renaissance university at which students are encouraged to explore all of their interests. Double majors in diverse subjects like physics and music are common. Students have a host of compelling opportunities to enrich their education with off-campus experiences that might involve spending a year at Pembroke College/Oxford University or perhaps a semester in Washington D.C. through American University.

Navigating your teaching journey through the guideposts of reflection, resourcefulness and responsiveness. These are the qualities cultivated through the Educational Studies Department at Illinois Wesleyan University. Why do these qualities matter? Because together, they create teachers who are committed to social justice in their classrooms and schools so that the democratic ideals of equity and opportunity are realized for all students.

At Illinois Wesleyan University, we strive to prepare teachers who understand, appreciate, and are responsive to students from diverse backgrounds, and who have the knowledge, skills and dispositions to foster learning among all children regardless of culture, race, ethnicity, language, class, gender and/or ability.

Acceptance rate 57%     •     Net price $32,545     •     SAT Range 1100-1300     •     Students submitting SAT scores 65%
Total Undergrad Population 1,636      •      Setting City: Small      •      Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 82%     •     Retention rate 87%     •     Student-to-faculty ratio 11:1

Learn more about Illinois Wesleyan’s education program

Judson University

Elgin, IL ‧ Christian ‧ 4-year

At Judson University, students thrive within an active campus community, creating friendships and experiences that go on to last a lifetime. Incredible facilities provide abundant resources for research, internships, and exploration among the many avenues of each student’s desired path.

As a teacher, every day you walk into a classroom you’ll have the opportunity to make a difference. At Judson University, we can give you the skills you need to make the most of those opportunities. You’ll find our teacher education graduates in almost every school in the northern Fox River Valley and in many schools across the country.

Judson’s education curriculum’s emphasis on extensive field experience and commitment to Christian ethics keeps graduates in high demand. Unlike many teacher education programs, students get the chance to begin practicum experiences your freshman year, so you can decide early on if teaching is right for you. By the time you graduate, you’ll have a ton of experience in diverse public and private classroom settings.

Acceptance rate 57%     •     Net price $16,039     •     SAT Range 870-1130     •     Students submitting SAT scores 57%
Total Undergrad Population 1,173      •      Setting City: Midsize     •      Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 61%     •     Retention rate 55%     •      Student-to-faculty ratio 10:1

Learn more about Judson’s education program

Knox College

Galesburg, IL ‧ Private ‧ 4-year

We aren’t a college of education. And we think that’s a good thing. We study the world through a liberal arts framework, focusing on all parts of the world around us in intense, worthwhile ways—from science to languages, history to the arts. We prepare students to see all sides of the equation, to ask questions, and to communicate clearly.

What separates good educators from great educators is an extensive knowledge of the theories, philosophies, and history of education. We offer courses that meticulously examine how behavior, technology, and society influence education. Our students work to understand the rapidly changing communities around them, and are expected to be a step ahead of those changes—both in and out of the classroom—and come up with real-world solutions to better our classrooms and communities.

Acceptance rate 71%     •      Net price $23,266     •      SAT Range 1080-1320     •     Students submitting SAT scores 50%
Total Undergrad Population 1,154      •      Setting Town      •      Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 71%     •     Retention rate 82%     •     Student-to-faculty ratio 10:1

Learn more about Knox College’s education program

Lake Forest College

Lake Forest, IL ‧ Private ‧ 4-year

Lake Forest College students ‘make it happen,’ achieving their goals with skill-building, hands-on experiences throughout all four years. The College’s proximity to Chicago enables both students and faculty to network and thrive in every field. Growing together in scholarship, all students enjoy an education that is engaging, pragmatic, and forward-thinking.

Education students graduate from Lake Forest College with two majors and abundant classroom experience that prepares them for a successful teaching career. Lake Forest education graduates go on to make a difference in children’s lives with jobs as educators. Our students learn to become confident in their classrooms, responsive to their students, deeply knowledgeable about subject matter, and committed to their own growth as lifelong learners.

Study general methods of teaching to learn how to plan and teach lessons across disciplines and appropriate age groups. Take discipline-specific seminars to gain skills targeted to teaching a variety of academic subjects. Our students are mentored closely by full-time faculty members throughout their four years.

Acceptance rate 58%     •     Net price $26,968
Total Undergrad Population 1,583     •     Setting Suburb     •     Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 75%      •      Retention rate 84%     •     Student-to-faculty ratio 12:1

Learn more about Lake Forest College’s education program

Lewis University

Romeoville, IL ‧ Catholic ‧ 4-year

Lewis University, guided by its Catholic and Lasallian heritage, provides students a liberal and professional education, grounded in the interaction of knowledge and fidelity in the search for truth. Lewis promotes the development of the complete person through the pursuit of wisdom and justice. Fundamental to its Mission is a spirit of association, which fosters community in all teaching, learning, and service.

Lewis University was founded in 1932 under the direction of the Chicago Archdiocese and Bishop Bernard J. Sheil. It began as the Holy Name Technical School for boys. Aviation technology became the special emphasis of instruction and the origin of today’s highly regarded Department of Aviation and Transportation Studies. In 1960, the De La Salle Christian Brothers, a religious order devoted exclusively to teaching, assumed direction of the institution. Lewis University as  known today, was established in 1973.

Faculty are committed to De La Salle’s purpose and vocation, in creating graduates who are critical thinkers and passionate about social justice. You will learn with your peers in classrooms and in field-based experiences. You will be exposed to a variety of cultures and communities. Lewis has a strong reputation of working with school districts and law enforcement in the greater Chicago region.

The College of Education and Social Sciences prepares students for careers in education, law enforcement and public safety, political science, sociology, psychology and social work.

Acceptance rate 66%     •     Net price $20,022     •      SAT Range 1010-1220     •      Students submitting SAT scores 73%
Total Undergrad Population 6,437      •      Setting Suburb      •      Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 70%     •      Retention rate 80%     •      Student-to-faculty ratio 14:1

Learn more about Lewis University’s education program

Loyola University Chicago logo with school seal

Loyola University Chicago

Chicago, IL ‧ Catholic ‧ 4-year

Superior education in a world-class city. An outstanding, nationally lauded institution, Loyola University Chicago continues to advance the 450-year-old Jesuit tradition of rigorous academic study grounded in the liberal arts. Loyola helps students prepare for meaningful careers with top programs in business, the sciences, and other disciplines, along with opportunities for internships in Chicago and beyond. Loyola’s well-rounded, transformative education will help each student develop as a whole person—intellectually, physically, socially, and spiritually.

In the School of Education we offer a wide range of degrees including undergraduate, master’s, doctoral, as well as certificate and endorsement programs. You can explore all of our program offerings below to find the perfect fit your academic, personal, and professional goals.

Acceptance rate 71%     •      Net price $37,731     •     SAT Range 1130-1330     •      Students submitting SAT scores 100%
Total Undergrad Population 16,893      •      Setting City: Large     •      Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 76%     •     Retention rate 85%     •     Student-to-faculty ratio 14:1

Learn more about Loyola University Chicago’s education program

north park university chicago logo

North Park University

Chicago, IL ‧ Christian ‧ 4-year

Founded in 1891, North Park University prides itself on its deep Christian roots and its commitment to providing a world-class education in the liberal arts, professional studies, and theology. North Park’s location in Chicago offers students a unique opportunity to learn, serve, and develop their faith in an increasingly diverse community.

The School of Education at North Park University transforms communities through advancing the effective teaching, leadership, and learning practices of dedicated professionals who are committed to serving a diverse and ever-changing society. We prepare our graduates for meaningful impact and success through collaborative partnerships and real-world, hands-on application.

Acceptance rate 44%     •     Net price $19,320     •     SAT Range 940-1122     •     Students submitting SAT scores 77%
Total Undergrad Population 2,831      •      Setting City: Large      •      Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 59%     •     Retention rate 75%     •     Student-to-faculty ratio 10:1

Learn more about North Park’s education program

Olivet Nazarene University

Bourbonnais, IL ‧ Christian ‧ 4-year

At Olivet, students don’t sit passively listening to lectures. The University offers a dynamic, engaging, interactive experience designed to empower students to achieve their life goals — getting into an elite graduate or medical school, being offered a dream job, and more.

The Olivet Nazarene University School of Education prepares students for success in their chosen career of teaching. No small assignment, given the changing landscape of education. Responsiveness in keeping programs current is one of the many distinctions of Olivet’s programs. Education courses focus on teaching the whole child — meeting their academic, social and emotional needs. Teacher candidates graduate with more than knowledge. As professionals, they enter their own classrooms as Christ-like examples and role models.

Service to the local and global community is a central theme in many Olivet academic programs. Social work students organize an annual Christmas party and toy drive for children of jail inmates. Business students have created integrated marketing plans for small businesses in Swaziland and Haiti and raised thousands of dollars in disaster relief for Haiti. Senior engineering students have traveled to South America and installed water purification systems they designed themselves, to provide clean drinking water for impoverished, remote villages. Physical science students conduct interactive astronomy shows in Olivet’s all-digital planetarium for hundreds of elementary students every year.

Acceptance rate 67%      •      Net price $20,006     •      SAT Range 970-1190     •      Students submitting SAT scores 70%
Total Undergrad Population 3,764     •     Setting Suburb      •      Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 65%     •      Retention rate 75%     •     Student-to-faculty ratio 14:1

Learn more about Olivet Nazarene University’s education program

Saint Xavier University

Chicago, IL ‧ Catholic ‧ 4-year

Celebrating 175 years in 2021, Saint Xavier University is a distinguished four-year private institution founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1846. Chicago’s oldest Catholic university and the first Mercy college in the United States, Saint Xavier provides a transformative educational experience to 3,600 students at its Chicago campus with more than 40 undergraduate programs and nearly 30 graduate program options in the College of Arts and Sciences, Graham School of Management (GSM), and School of Nursing and Health Sciences (SONHS) as well as a variety of program options in Continuing and Adult Education. SXU is consistently recognized as one of the best in the Midwest.

The faculty in the Education Department, in keeping with the founding vision of the Sisters of Mercy, have a long and successful history of preparing individuals for careers in teaching at every age level from birth to age 21.

The content of the teacher preparation programs aligns with best practice and is informed by research. Teacher candidates study human development, instructional strategies, assessment techniques, standards for learning, and ways to motivate and engage learners.

The Education Department has developed strong relationships with every type of school in the area, including public, private, urban, suburban, and charter schools. Teacher candidates benefit from field experiences and student teaching at a wide range of schools, serving students who are themselves diverse in culture, language, community, socioeconomic status, and prior experience. These valued partnerships provide candidates with the best opportunities to participate in meaningful field experiences as they prepare to become classroom teachers.

Acceptance rate 79%      •      Net price $13,326     •     SAT Range 950-1120     •     Students submitting SAT scores 79%
Total Undergrad Population 3,764      •      Setting City: Large     •      Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 55%     •      Retention rate 78%     •     Student-to-faculty ratio 16:1

Learn more about SXU’s education program

trinity christian college logo

Trinity Christian College

Palos Heights, IL ‧ Christian ‧ 4-year

Trinity Christian College has been changing students’ lives since 1959, having been begun by a group of entrepreneurs who wanted to develop Chicago-area Christians who would put their faith into action, not just believe. As a smaller college, Trinity provides students with individualized attention, harnessing an extensive network throughout Chicago in order to make a difference in the world. Trinity faculty help students discover their passion and develop it into incredible achievement. Through a Biblically informed liberal arts education, the College community endeavors to provide an environment of Christian integrity and love, enhancing and supporting the entire learning experience.

The education program at Trinity produces incredible teachers—because it’s more than just pedagogy and the classroom. The Christian perspective prepares teachers to cultivate relational peace, educational equity, and justice for all children and to impact every student’s life through excellence in teaching.

Earning a degree in education allows students to combine their passions for specific subject areas with their love of learning—and of helping others learn. Education majors have a unique opportunity to meaningfully impact the lives of their students while enjoying a work schedule that allows for work/home life flexibility.

Educators, regardless of their specialty area, are generally in high demand—creating a sense of job security not available in every industry. Trinity’s graduates work as teachers in elementary, middle, and high school settings—as well as in roles as administrators, school counselors, business education instructors, and more.

Acceptance rate 64%     •     Net price $23,177      •     SAT Range 980-1180     •      Students submitting SAT scores 75%
Total Undergrad Population 1,086      •      Setting Suburb     •      Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 64%     •     Retention rate 80%     •     Student-to-faculty ratio 10:1

Learn more about Trinity Christian’s education program

University of St. Francis logo

University of St. Francis

Joliet, IL ‧ Catholic ‧ 4-year

The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, IL, is a Catholic university rooted in the liberal arts. As a welcoming community of learners who are challenged by Franciscan values, everyone at USF is mindful of the compassionate, peacemaking tradition that encourages the pursuit of knowledge, faith, wisdom, and justice. USF strives for academic excellence in all programs, preparing women and men to contribute to the world through service and leadership.

The College of Education at the University of St. Francis has been educating teachers since 1925 and remains committed to providing engaging and high-quality programs designed to meet the ever-changing role of today’s educators. 

The College of Education is committed to providing engaging and high-quality educational programs that prepare educators to meet the challenges in today’s schools. The programs are rooted in the Franciscan values of respect, compassion, service, and integrity and our faculty are devoted to providing learning experiences that will allow educators to realize their fullest potential as they develop an understanding of students, serve the community, and grow professionally.

Acceptance rate 60% • Net price $16,761 • SAT Range 970-1180 • Students submitting SAT scores 76%
Total Undergrad Population 3,529 • Setting Suburb • Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 60% • Retention rate 81% • Student-to-faculty ratio 13:1

Learn more about University of St. Francis’ education program

What it’s like to attend education schools in Illinois and other FAQ:

What are average tuition costs in Illinois?

The average undergraduate tuition & fees for colleges in Illinois is $6,389 for in-state students at public institutions, $19,374 for out-of-state students at public institutions, and $22,171 for students at private institutions.

Most popular education degree programs in Illinois

The largest share of education degrees awarded in Illinois in 2020 were specialized by the following:
Elementary Education and Teaching
Early Childhood Education and Teaching
Special Education and Teaching – General
Physical Education Teaching and Coaching
Music Teacher Education

Cheapest education degree program in Illinois

Saint Xavier University has an average net price of $13,326 making it the least expensive education degree program in Illinois that made our list.

Easiest education degree program to get into in Illinois

Illinois State University has an acceptance rate of 81%, making it the least exclusive college with an education program on our list.

Education degree program with lowest student debt in Illinois

Illinois State University has a median total debt after graduation of $20,000. This is the typical debt for a student who completed their undergraduate degree.

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