Most Affordable Nursing Schools in Illinois

There are and have been a fair number of medical TV dramas, and arguably one of the most popular was ER, which was filmed and took place in Chicago, Illinois. It starred George Clooney, Julianna Margulies, and others, and was created by native son Michael Crichton, also know for writing the Jurassic Park and The Lost World novels, which inspired the mega-popular dinosaur movies of the same name.

A similar TV show, Chicago Hope, started around the same time as ER but didn’t last as long. Newer shows in a similar vein — that is, cover the idea of wellbeing — include Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD and Chicago Justice. Clearly a popular city in the state of Illinois, even if in fiction.

If you’re wondering, there are are 113,040 employed registered nurses (RNs) in the state (data valid as of May 2015), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also predicts a 16% growth in jobs, just for RNs alone, in the years 2014 through 2024. The hourly mean wage for registered nurses working in the state is $33.54 ($69,760/ year).

Are you thinking of pursuing a career in nursing? Or just upgrading your existing nursing education, to be in alignment with the Institute of Medicine (IOM) initiative urging an 80% rate of American registered nurses holding a nursing bachelor’s degree (from an initial 40%)?

What Are the Most Affordable Nursing Degrees in Illinois for 2017?

The NCES (National Center for Education Statistics) database listed 35 colleges / universities as offering bachelor’s-level nursing programs in Illinois. (Note: some may programs may currently be suspended or closed since NCES published their latest data.) We cover the 10 most affordable bachelor’s of nursing programs, below, on the basis of NCES’ published average in-state tuition. (Programs listed below were verified as active at publication time.)

1

Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville

Average Tuition: $9,442

Program Website

Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (SIUE) is part of the public Southern Illinois University System. It receives institutional accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. Undergraduate nursing programs at SIUE are offered through the School of Nursing and have additional accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The university enjoys a number of rankings, including a Top 15 spot in U.S. News & World Report’s 2017 Best Regional Universities Midwest list, a 2015 HEED (Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award) award from “INSIGHT into Diversity” magazine, 2106 Military Friendly School award from Victory Media (7th straight MF award), amongst others. The city of Edwardsville also ranked as a Top 30 “safest college town” by Safewise, a home security and safety advice site.

SIUE offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) with three entry/ completion paths. One track is a traditional pre-licensure program for new first-degree nursing students. Another track is also for new nursing students, but who hold a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. The third track is a completion program for licensed registered nurses holding an associate’s degree or diploma in nursing. The latter two programs are both designated as “accelerated.”

Degrees and concentrations offered at this school include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing – Traditional Option
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing – Accelerated Option
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Accelerated RN to BS in Nursing (BSN) Option (online)

The “new nursing” tracks prepare students to sit for the NCLEX-RN professional licensing exam after graduation and seek entry-level nursing roles. The RN track allows experienced Registered Nurses to advance in their careers. For either type of student, there are potential nursing careers in home health agencies, hospitals, outpatient clinics, public health departments, schools and other health care settings.

Students in the RN to BSN track will be focused on upper division courses, particularly in nursing. Credits granted towards the BSN will vary by student. Students in the other two tracks will have taken no nursing courses, and must complete any necessary lower-division courses (general education, electives, nursing, etc.) Total required credits is 121 for graduation. Online courses for the RN track are eight weeks in length. Students can take the Traditional track at either the SIUE or flagship Carbondale campus.

Sample courses include:

  • Pharmacology for Nurses-Adult Medicine
  • Adult Health
  • Pharmacology for Nursing
  • Care of Women and Childbearing Families
  • Care of Children and Adolescents

Campus or HQ: Edwardsville, Illinois.

2

Chicago State University

Average Tuition: $9,994

Program Website

Chicago State University (CSU) is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. Undergraduate nursing programs are offered through the Department of Nursing (College of Health Sciences), and have additional accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). CSU is a member of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) and claims to be the leader amongst Illinois colleges and universities for the number of African American students graduating from STEM programs.

CSU offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) with three entry/ completion paths. One is a basic track that is intended for new pre-licensure nursing students. A second track is for currently licensed Registered Nurses having an associate’s degree in nursing. A third track is for Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs). A fourth track, CSU’s LPN to BSN program for Licensed Practical Nurses, has been suspended for the present time.

Degrees and concentrations offered at this school include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (Basic to BSN)
  • CNA to BSN
  • RN-BSN

These BSN tracks prepare students to by nursing leaders who can function as “compassionate, caring professionals” who can handle the health care needs of a community as well as individuals. CSU’s NCLEX-RN pass rate for first-time test takers was 71%-85% for the years 2013 to 2015.

Students need 120 credits to graduate from the BSN program regardless of track. Students in the CNA and RN tracks will be granted advanced-standing credit for relevant, previously-completed courses.

Sample courses include:

  • Nursing Pathophysiology
  • Nursing Process in the Administration of Pharmacologic Agents
  • Fundamentals of Nursing
  • Mental Health Nursing
  • Comprehensive Care of Adults

Campus or HQ: Chicago, Illinois.

3

Governors State University

Average Tuition: $10,246

Program Website

Governors State University (GSU) receives institutional accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. The Department of Nursing (DON) in the College Of Health and Human Services (CHHS) offers undergrad nursing programs, which have additional accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Campus attractions include Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park and the Center for Performing Arts, amongst others. Amenities include childcare and health and counseling services at the Family Development Center. The campus is entirely smoke-free, including any vehicles on the property.

GSU offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) with two entry/ completions path. The RN track is for students who are licensed Registered Nurses who have an associate’s degree in nursing. Students who have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree or have completed all prerequisite courses should apply for the accelerated option. A second dual degree track allows associate’s nursing students at Prairie State College to also earn a BSN at GSU. See site for specific details of how this works.

Degrees and concentrations offered at this school include:

  • RN to BSN (Completion program)

The RN to BSN program is fully online, providing convenience for students who are working nurses. The program’s scope includes not just local health care reform issues but also regional, national and global. The curriculum and clinical experiences are designed to produce nurse leaders.

The timeline for this program depends on whether a student has completed prerequisite courses. Both part- and full-time study options are available. Total required credits number 120, with 30 transfer credits granted for an associate’s degree. Remaining credits include required courses (55cr) and 35 credits of upper-division courses (including 27cr for nursing).

Sample courses include:

  • Conceptual Basis for Professional Nursing
  • Pathophysiology
  • Basic Nursing Informatics
  • Health Assessment
  • Gerontological Nursing

Campus or HQ: University Park, Illinois.

4

Eastern Illinois University

Average Tuition: $11,229

Program Website

Eastern Illinois University (EIU) receives institutional accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. Undergraduate nursing programs are offered by the Nursing department, which is part of the College of Sciences. These programs have additional accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). EIU, which has an environmental friendliness campus initiative, was ranked tops in the 2017 edition (published Sep 2016) of U.S. the News & World Report (USNWR) list of best public regional universities in the Midwest. This is the second time at #1. USNWR also listed EIU on their Best College for Veterans list.

EIU offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) with one entry/ completion path. This is an online RN completion track designed for students who have current Registered Nurse licensure and hold an associate’s degree in nursing.

Degrees and concentrations offered at this school include:

  • RN to BSN (Completion Program)

The BSN program at EIU prepares students for nursing roles as leaders, as well as for advanced programs such as master’s degree in nursing. While online classes are taught in real time, they are also archived for later review. For clinical experiences and practicums, students can select locales close to their work or home, subject to department approval.

Students earn 41 credits towards their BSN for holding an associate’s degree or diploma in nursing. An additional 42 credits or more of upper division nursing courses are required. Overall, 120 credits are needed for graduation from the BSN program.

Sample courses include:

  • pathophysiology and Pharmacology in Professional Nursing Practice
  • Theoretical Foundations of Professional Nursing Practice
  • Advanced Nursing Health Assessment
  • Leadership and Management in Nursing
  • Nursing, Health Care, Policies, and Politics

Campus or HQ: Charleston, Illinois.

5

Illinois State University

Average Tuition: $12,004

Program Website

Illinois State University (ISU) is a public university accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. Nursing programs are offered by ISU’s Mennonite College of Nursing (MCN). MCN currently receives undergrad nursing program accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), and is expecting a renewal visit in early April 2017. In this same month, MCN is running a Nurses Week celebration of the profession (Apr 18-22). The nursing college also enjoys a ranking for Best Graduate Schools by U.S. News & World Report (USNWR) for their 2018 edition. Other accolades for the university including a spot in USNWR’s “Top 100 Public Colleges” college review list, and a spot in Washington Monthly’s “Top 50 Best Bang for the Buck Colleges” list.

ISU offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) with three entry/ completion paths. One track is traditional and intended for new pre-licensure nursing students (which includes eligible transfer students without a nursing background). Those already holding a non-nursing bachelor’s degree should apply to the Accelerated 2nd-degree track. Students who are currently licensed as a Registered Nurse and who hold an associate’s degree in nursing can take the RN completion track. ISU also has a dual-degree Pathways program that allows students at any of four select ADN (Associate Degree in Nursing) programs — based in the central Illinois region — to transition easily into the RN track.

Degrees and concentrations offered at this school include:

  • Traditional BSN
  • Accelerated BSN
  • Online RN to BSN

ISU has been offering nursing education for close to a century. The younger RN track itself is nearly 30 years old (14 years in online format). (BSN students who are interested in pursuing graduate studies such as an MSN or FNP degree should be comfortable in knowing that those advanced programs have been highly ranked by USNWR.) Students have access to a Nursing Simulation Lab, to supplement class and clinical learning. Graduates of the traditional track are readied for sitting in the NCLEX-RN professional licensing exam. MCN’s first-time NCLEX pass rate for 2016 is 94% (tops in Illinois), compared to state and national averages of 85% each. Additional credentials eligibility, post-graduation, includes Magnet certification, granted by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The IOM has proposed changes in nursing education to increase the number of practicing nurses who hold a bachelor’s degree to 80% by 2020, amongst other initiatives.

In the Traditional track, there are eight courses with a clinical requirement, which can be fulfilled 2-3 days per week (incl. evening and weekend), at health care settings roughly 75 miles from the Bloomington-Normal (illinois) region. The RN track offers the flexibility of part- or full-time study, and courses are online. Students take 31 credits of nursing courses plus remaining general education, etc., courses as necessary. Accelerated track students need to complete 65 credits of nursing courses over four semesters (two summer).

Sample courses include:

  • Public Health Nursing
  • Health Assessment Across the Lifespan
  • Cultural and Spiritual Dimensions in Healthcare
  • Pathophysiology and Pharmacotherapeutics
  • Leadership Dimensions in Nursing

Campus or HQ: Normal, Illinois.

6

Western Illinois University

Average Tuition: $12,014

Program Website

Western Illinois University (WIU) offers nursing programs through its School of Nursing (SON). WMU is institutionally-accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. SON undergrad nursing programs have additional accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The university has ranked on U.S. News & World Report’s (USNWR’s) “Best Midwestern University” list for 12 straight years, plus the 2017 edition of USNWR’s “Best Regional Universities” list. Princeton Review ranked WIU in their “Best in the Midwest” list.

WIU offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) with two entry/ completion paths. One track is for new pre-licensure nursing students. In this case, students first enter the Pre-Nursing program and complete requirements before applying for the Pre-licensure track. The other track is for licensed Registered Nurses holding an associate’s degree in nursing.

Degrees and concentrations offered at this school include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (pre-licensure)
  • RN-BSN (completion program)

Graduates of the WIU BSN program have a range of possible nursing careers they can pursue after graduation and earning NCLEX-RN licensing (as necessary). This includes nursing roles in the following areas and more: ER, flight, forensics, hospice, ICU, long-term care, managed care, military, OR, public health, travel, etc.

The Pre-Nursing program consists of 63-65 credits of prerequisite courses taken over two academic years, which will precede the Pre-Licensure BSN track. Once the student enters the upper-division program, they complete 65 credits of nursing courses over four more semesters.

Sample courses include:

  • Health Assessment
  • Introduction to Professional Nursing
  • Community Health Nursing
  • Fundamentals of Nursing
  • Pathophysiology and Psychopathology

Campus or HQ: Macomb, Illinois.

7

Northern Illinois University

Average Tuition: $13,999

Program Website

Northern Illinois University (NIU) is public institution offering nursing programs through its School of Nursing and Health Studies (SNHS), which is hosted by the College of Health and Human Sciences. Institutional accreditation comes from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. Undergraduate nursing programs have additional accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The university has received multiple listings in college review lists by publishers such as Washington Monthly (WM), U.S. News & World Report (USNWR), Brookings Institute, Payscale.com and many more. This includes WM’s 2015 National Universities; USNWR’s Top Public Schools and Top National Universities; plus various earnings-power and military-friendly designations.

NIU offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) with two entry/ completion paths. New nursing students take the traditional prelicensure track, which requires completion of prerequisite courses for entry. Students who are licensed Registered Nurses and have an associate’s degree take the RN completion track.

Degrees and concentrations offered at this school include:

  • B.S. in Nursing
  • RN-B.S. in Nursing

This BSN program prepares students to be leaders in patient care after graduation, once you’ve earned your NCLEX -RN licensure. This includes patient care of individuals, families, groups, etc. NIU has partnerships with over 230 health care providers, giving students ample clinical experience opportunities.

Students need to complete 61-65 credits are upper-division nursing courses to graduate in this BSN program. Pre-requisite courses take up another 31-33 credits, which are completed before entry into either BSN track.

Sample courses include:

  • Concepts of Professional Nursing
  • Foundations of Nursing Clinical
  • Health Assessment
  • Alterations in Biological Systems
  • Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice

Campus or HQ: Dekalb, Illinois.

8

University of Illinois at Chicago

Average Tuition: $14,626

Program Website

University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) offers nursing programs through its College of Nursing (CON), which receive program accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Institutional accreditation is provided by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. UIC lays claim to being the only public research university in Chicago, as well as the largest university in the area. UIC is also home to a number of centers, including a hospital, and the Great Cities Institute. The latter has a global initiative to “improve the quality of life in cities around the world.”

UIC offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) with two entry/ completion paths. One is a four-year pre-licensure track for new nursing students. Currently licensed Registered Nurses can take the other track, which is an RN completion program.

Degrees and concentrations offered at this school include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (pre-licensure)
  • RN-BSN (completion program)

In the BSN program at UIC, nursing students learn through a combination of courses, labs and clinical experiences. Students have the added benefit of access to an on-campus hospital (aka UI Health), which in turn is part of the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System. UI Health is ranked in the Top 10 Hospitals list for Chicago metro area (#8) and Illinois (#8) by U.S. News and World Report (USNWR). The hospital was ranked by USNWR the previous year at #23 and #27, respectively. Yet another bonus is that the online RN track can also be completed via three of five regional campuses. The Springfield and Urbana campuses offer the pre-licensure BSN. The Rockford campus boasts a Health Sciences library.

Pre-licensure track students will take 63 credits of nursing courses over four semesters (Spring and Fall). RN track students take 30 credits of online nursing courses, and receive 33 credits awarded for RN licensure (e.g., 63 credits in total, as well). Clinical course sequence is determined for each student in discussion with an advisor

Sample courses include:

  • Health Assessment and Communication
  • Foundations of Nursing
  • Concepts in Pathophysiology and Pharmacology
  • Nursing Care of Adults across the Life Span
  • Nursing Care in Mental and Behavioral Health

Campus or HQ: Chicago, Illinois.

9

Lakeview College of Nursing

Average Tuition: $16,535

Program Website

Lakeview College of Nursing (LCN) is institutionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. It is a nursing-only institution, with undergraduate nursing programs. These programs are additionally accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The college is over a century old and has been dedicated solely to nursing education. In addition to this main campus, LCN has another in Charleston, Illinois.

LCN offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) with five entry/ completion paths. Students new to nursing and who are first-degree seekers take the pre-licensure track, once they have completed preliminary coursework. Otherwise, if they have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, they take the Accelerated track (also after completing prerequisite courses), although other students may qualify. A paced track is similar to the traditional track, but allotts more time to complete. An LPN completion track is designed for current Licensed Practical Nurses with a diploma in nursing. Students who are already licensed as Registered Nurses and hold an associate’s degree take the RN completion track.

Degrees and concentrations offered at this school include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • BSN Accelerated Track
  • BSN Paced Track
  • LPN to BSN
  • RN to BSN

LCN students have the benefit of a simulation lab with both adult and infant life-sized interactive mannequins that mimic a heartbeat and pulse, breathing, blinking, speaking, etc., and respond to procedures. The curriculum prepares students to sit for the NCLEX-RN professional licensure exam, as well as entry-level nursing positions, which can lead to management and leadership roles. Graduate studies are a subsequent option after the BSN, either in an MSN or FNP degree program.

The Accelerated track typically takes 16 months (including a Summer term), after prerequisite courses. The Traditional track takes 21 months (no Summer term). The Paced track takes 21-23 months and might have a Summer term, depending on start date. Timeline and requirements for students in the LPN track vary on whether or not they hold a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. RN track students require four terms and may receive some credit for experience in lieu of clinical hours. Where relevant, students will be granted credits for previous nursing coursework and licensure.

Sample courses include:

  • Basic Health Assessment
  • Basic Concepts of Pathophysiology
  • Evidence Based Practice Nursing
  • Older Adult Health
  • Mental and Behavioral Health

Campus or HQ: Danville, Illinois.

10

Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing

Average Tuition: $19,217

Program Website

Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing (SFMCCON) gets institutional accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. Undergraduate nursing programs are additionally accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). SFMCCON has been offering dedicated nursing education for over a hundred years and boats an affiliated medical center with 600+ beds. U.S. News & World Report (USNWR) ranked them #61 on their 2017 edition of Best Online Graduate Nursing Program college review list.

SFMCCON offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) with two entry/ completion paths.The traditional track is for pre-licensure students, although it requires preliminary pre-nursing coursework be completed at another institution before acceptance into nursing coursework. The RN completion track is for post-licensure students who are current Registered Nurses and hold an associate’s degree in nursing.

Degrees and concentrations offered at this school include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • RN to BSN Accelerated Pathway

Students in this BSN program are prepared for nursing roles as leaders. In addition to coursework. labs and clinical experiences round out the learning process. Clinical work will be done primarily at the OSF Saint Francis medical center, which is affiliated with the University of Illinois College of Medicine (Peoria, Illinois). It has a Trauma Center (Level I) and Children’s Hospital. Other clinical experiences take place at health departments and other facilities in the area.

BSN track students are required to complete 124 credits for graduation. Of this, 65 credits of nursing major courses are completed at SFMCCON. The other 59 credits of liberal arts and sciences pre-nursing coursework can be completed at any accredited institution, before the nursing major. RN track students need 123 credits and will receive 33 transfer credits for previous nursing coursework and licensure, once all pre-nursing requirements are satisified.

Sample courses include:

  • Nursing and Healthcare Ethics
  • Concepts of Professional Nursing
  • Promoting Healthy Communities for the RN
  • Experiences in Clinical Nursing-RN
  • Pharmacological Basis of Nursing Practice

Campus or HQ: Peoria, Illinois.

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