2023 Best Undergraduate Nursing Schools in Illinois

2022-2023 Nursing Colleges of Distinction

Published: September 1, 2022

By: Colleges of Distinction Staff

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

The path to becoming a nurse is undoubtedly a long and arduous process that requires hard work and dedication. With a shortage in capable and compassionate nurses, it is becoming increasingly important that nursing programs are well rounded, highly accredited, and focused on student success. Colleges of Distinction is proud to recognize schools with these very programs, ones that fully support future nurses along (and beyond!) their undergraduate journey. These institutions, already highly regarded for their commitment to the Four Distinctions, go the extra mile with their cutting-edge nursing degrees.

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

Stability and excellence as core tenets of these nursing programs. Not only have these programs been awarding degrees for more than 10 years, but faculty are continually recognized for their impressive experience and research.

Validation from the ACEN (Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing) and/or CCNE (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education) for their commitment to quality and student success.

Practical experiences that provide ample opportunities for students to apply their knowledge to the real world through internships, mentorship programs, and volunteer opportunities.

High mastery rates in such standardized exams as the NCLEX and HESI A2.

Dedicated advising and counseling available specifically for nursing students.

Liberal arts exposure to make students culturally competent, well-rounded individuals with superior critical thinking and leadership skills.

High-impact practices embedded into the curriculum.

Industry connections cultivated by faculty and staff to help students build their network and find meaningful work.

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.

Bradley’s nursing degrees give you confidence in your caregiver abilities through challenging classes and diverse clinical settings. You can enter Bradley’s direct-admit undergraduate programs with no college background, as an RN, or as an LPN. You also can earn graduate nursing degrees on campus or online.

Your education takes advantage of Peoria’s thriving medical community. With two major hospital systems, multiple public health facilities and several nursing homes in the area, you explore every medical niche in your clinicals. You start clinical experiences as a sophomore, which means you have extra time to find your preferred area. Graduate degrees also send you to clinicals shortly after class starts.

Faculty and clinical supervisors guide you through your experiences. They are knowledgeable, experienced educators who enjoy mentoring students on campus and online. As a result, you will leave Bradley with a strong network of professional connections.

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

Read more about Bradley’s nursing 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.

Whether you are a practicing nurse or a college graduate looking to pursue nursing as a new career, DePaul offers the right degree program—and a caring, personal approach—to help you achieve your goals.

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

Read more about DePaul’s nursing 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.

At Elmhurst University, you will find the real-world experience and personal mentoring you need to launch a professional career in this dynamic field.

The Department of Nursing and Health Sciences offers six programs of study—three at the undergraduate level and three graduate programs. Whichever you choose, you will:

  • Work closely with faculty who are highly qualified professional nurses
  • Get hands-on practical experience at our state-of-the-art Simulation Center
  • Enjoy abundant opportunities to participate in the real-life work of nursing and health care
  • Prepare to reach your full potential as a nurse and as an individual in a vibrant career

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

Read more about Elmhurst’s nursing 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.

Mennonite College of Nursing offers the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree for Prelicensure B.S.N. nursing students. The traditional nursing curriculum extends over four semesters of full-time study. Each semester of the academic year provides for the practice of skills and the application of knowledge through a variety of classroom, laboratory and clinical experiences.

Nursing is a rewarding career that combines science and technology with the desire to help people. Students of this highly competitive program gain hands-on experience in a variety of patient scenarios using state-of-the-art equipment, including high-fidelity manikins and virtual reality. These experiences prepare students for clinical practice, providing care to patients in hospitals and clinics. Educating nurses who lead is also important to us. All students learn leadership as part of their curriculum at Illinois State, and peer mentorship is emphasized throughout the 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

Read more about Illinois State’s nursing 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.

The School of Nursing at Illinois Wesleyan extends the University’s liberal arts tradition to prepare exceptional thinkers, compassionate professionals and leaders for nursing and global health care.

Nursing students have the opportunity to conduct collaborative research with nursing faculty, pursue internships in a chosen healthcare field, and – unusual for a nursing program – study abroad. Students are able to begin clinical experience in their sophomore year. They may choose to pursue a minor, including Hispanic StudiesHuman Services Management, or Health.

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

Read more about Illinois Wesleyan’s nursing 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.

Lewis faculty will work with you to develop a compassionate, holistic approach to patient care – it is about addressing physical symptoms while caring for the heart, mind and soul. You will become an expert practitioner and innovative leader who will transform practice in an increasingly complex healthcare system.

You will work one-on-one with faculty who have real world experience in our state-of-the art simulation hospital rooms and acute care labs with Sim Manikins. Students learn the latest techniques, practice problem-solving and develop clinical judgment based on patient symptoms in a safe, supportive environment. Our Oak Brook location offers graduate nursing students the ideal setting to advance their knowledge to become nurse practitioners. Many of our MSN specializations and DNP are offered online for the convenience of working adults.

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

Read more about Lewis University’s nursing 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.

Grounded in Loyola University Chicago’s rich Ignatian heritage, the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing takes an integrated approach to nursing education, practice, and research by uniquely shaping our students to serve humanity.

Whether you are just beginning your nursing education or a working nurse seeking to expand your career options, the School of Nursing offers a wide-range of high-quality and accessible programs to meet your needs. As a Loyola Nursing graduate, you will be equipped with the competencies, knowledge, and ethical foundation to deliver top-notch care for patients and shape the future of health care.

On each of Loyola Nursing’s three campuses, faculty engage in research focused on improving health care and health outcomes. Many are certified in their areas of clinical expertise and serve in leadership positions for regional and national nursing organizations.

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

Read more about Loyola Chicago’s nursing 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 Nursing and Health Sciences at North Park University integrates dynamic teaching and clinical best practices into educational experiences that develop ethical and compassionate graduates committed to patient-centered care, clinical expertise, and skillful practice. Our caring and dedicated faculty lead by example in the classroom and clinical practice, and infuse the curriculum with a values-centered model grounded in Christian principles.

The School of Nursing and Health Sciences at North Park University is committed to preparing health professionals for lives of significance and service through baccalaureate and graduate education. Learn more about our mission, vision, and student learning outcomes.

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

Read more about North Park’s nursing program

Olivet Nazarene University

Bourbonnais, IL ‧ Christian ‧ 4-year

The School of Nursing at Olivet prepares students to practice nursing with competence and excellence from a Christian perspective, from entry to advanced practice.

Olivet nursing students prepare for careers with an aim to serve God and humanity in diverse roles and settings. Olivet graduates integrate faith and lifelong learning as they demonstrate the development of leadership skills and understanding of the dynamic healthcare environment. In an effort to stimulate constructive change, students apply ethical, moral, spiritual and professional concepts into their daily nursing practice.

Students, employers and society can be confident that Olivet’s accredited nursing programs meet the quality standards of the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation. Coursework also covers each essential of learning, as defined by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). Olivet graduates enrolled in the pre-licensure program consistently exceed the national average pass rate for the NCLEX-RN, the required licensing exam for registered nurses.

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

Read more about Olivet Nazarene University’s nursing 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.

Through excellence in education, scholarship and community engagement, the School of Nursing and Health Sciences embodies the Mercy mission in preparing individuals to engage in high quality, compassionate, and professional practice within the health sciences. Both the University and the Nursing program remain dedicated to promoting the values of the Sisters of Mercy, founded upon the ideals of education, service and compassion.

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

Read more about Saint Xavier University’s nursing program

University of Illinois Chicago wordmark and logo

The University of Illinois at Chicago

Chicago, IL ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

Located in one of the most vibrant cities in the world, UIC helps students unleash their potential. Students enjoy 87 bachelor’s programs, a low student-to-faculty ratio, and award-winning professors who are regarded as experts in their field. The University of Illinois at Chicago is proud to support one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse campuses in the nation, so every member of the community has a place in which to learn and thrive.

Students in the Honors College receive the personal benefits of a small college with the vast resources of a larger university. UIC’s Honors College is a community of students, faculty, and advisors who are committed to academic excellence. Those who participate are pushed with greater academic challenges as well as additional extracurricular opportunities.

As Chicago’s only public research university, UIC presents students unique opportunities for innovation and discovery. Some notable initiatives include re-shaping educational policy; developing cleaner, more sustainable energy; driving economic development; and more. Undergraduate students are encouraged to participate in as many research opportunities as possible. The Office of Undergraduate Research is ready and happy to help students with every step of the process from finding a faculty mentor to securing funding for travel to research conferences.

A BSN degree from UIC will provide you with the strongest possible foundation for a fulfilling career as a nurse

Acceptance rate 73%      •      Net price $12,614      •      SAT Range 1030-1250      •      Students submitting SAT scores 82%
Total Undergrad Population 33,518      •      Setting City: Large      •      Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 63%      •      Retention rate 82%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 18:1

Read more about UIC’s nursing 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 nursing department prepares generalists at the baccalaureate level for beginning practice in all areas of clinical nursing. Because classes are taught from a Christian perspective, the nursing program prepares academically and clinically excellent professional nurses to serve with care and compassion. With a nursing degree from Trinity Christian College, you will be prepared academically to care for client’s physical, spiritual, and mental needs and minister to souls.

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

Read more about Trinity Christian College’s nursing 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 University of St. Francis provides one of the finest nursing educations available, preparing you to be a competent clinician and an advocate for your patients. USF nursing students learn to work with state-of-the-art technology and equipment. Small classes mean you also will receive a high level of personal attention and individual guidance while enjoying a close-knit environment with your classmates.

Nursing is an important, lively, dynamic profession. The USF Nursing program prepares you with up-to-date skills, critical thinking, cultural awareness and experiential learning. You will learn to succeed in an evolving nursing profession with classes, labs, simulations, and clinical experiences.

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

Read more about USF’s nursing program

What it’s like to attend nursing 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.

Cheapest nursing degree program in Illinois

North Park University has an average net price of $19,320 making it the least expensive nursing degree program in Illinois that made our list.

Easiest nursing degree program to get into in Illinois

Illinois State University has an acceptance rate of 81%, with an SAT range of 1020-1220, making it the least exclusive college with a nursing program on our list.

Nursing degree program with lowest student debt in Illinois

University of Illinois at Chicago has a median total debt after graduation of $17,250. This is the typical debt for a student who completed their undergraduate degree.

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