Other than the allure of the “Windy City,” the location choice is a no-brainer when it comes to a medical show. Illinois is teaming with top-ranked nursing programs. Even more, you’ll find that most of these programs are also affordable.
If you’re keeping your options open and want to explore more degrees, check out our ranking of the Most Affordable Online Schools.
What kind of Nursing Degree should you get in Illinois?
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%)?
Whatever your reason is for pursuing a nursing degree, this list will have something for you. First thing’s first: these schools value affordability. You can breathe easy knowing you’re getting the best deal. When it comes to degree options, your options include some of the following degrees:
- RN-BSN Degree Completion
- Dual Degrees
How much money do you make with a Nursing Degree in Illinois?
Nursing is a popular option for people living in the state of Illinois. There are currently around 113,040 employed registered nurses (RNs) in the state, 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. That adds up to around $69,760 per year.
What are the Most Affordable Nursing Degrees in Illinois?
The NCES (National Center for Education Statistics) database listed 35 colleges / universities as offering bachelor’s-level nursing programs in Illinois. We cover the 10 most affordable bachelor’s of nursing programs below. The main priority for this list is to narrow down affordability above all. Therefore, we’ve listed out the top schools on the basis of NCES’ published average in-state tuition. Enjoy!
See our rankings methodology page.
Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville
Average Tuition: $9,442
Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (SIUE) is part of the public Southern Illinois University System. 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, and the 2016 Military Friendly School award from Victory Media, amongst others.
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)
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.
Chicago State University
Average Tuition: $9,994
Chicago State University (CSU), located in the “Windy City,” is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. 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
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.
Governors State University
Average Tuition: $10,246
Governors State University (GSU) receives institutional accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. 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. The school also features an RN to BSN completion program. Sample courses include:
- Conceptual Basis for Professional Nursing
- Basic Nursing Informatics
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.
Eastern Illinois University
Average Tuition: $11,229
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. EIU, which has an environmental friendliness campus initiative, was ranked tops in the 2017 edition of U.S. the News & World Report list of best public regional universities in the Midwest.
EIU offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) with one entry/ completion path. Overall, 120 credits are needed for graduation from the BSN program. This is an online RN completion track designed for students who have current Registered Nurse licensure and hold an associate’s degree in nursing. Sample courses include:
- Pharmacology in Professional Nursing Practice
- Theoretical Foundations of Professional Nursing Practice
- Advanced Nursing Health Assessment
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.
Illinois State University
Average Tuition: $12,004
Illinois State University (ISU) is a public university accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. The nursing college also enjoys a ranking for Best Graduate Schools by U.S. News & World Report 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. Sample courses include:
- Public Health Nursing
- Health Assessment Across the Lifespan
- Cultural and Spiritual Dimensions in Healthcare
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). 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 percent (tops in Illinois).
Western Illinois University
Average Tuition: $12,014
Western Illinois University (WIU) offers nursing programs through its School of Nursing (SON). 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 “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 Pre-Nursing program consists of 63-65 credits of prerequisite courses taken over two academic years, which will precede the Pre-Licensure BSN track. The other track is for licensed Registered Nurses holding an associate’s degree in nursing. Sample courses include:
- Health Assessment
- Introduction to Professional Nursing
- Community Health Nursing
- Fundamentals of Nursing
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.
Northern Illinois University
Average Tuition: $13,999
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. The university has received multiple listings in college review lists by publishers such as Washington Monthly, U.S. News & World Report, Brookings Institute, Payscale.com and many more.
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. Sample courses include:
- Concepts of Professional Nursing
- Foundations of Nursing Clinical
- Health Assessment
- Alterations in Biological Systems
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.
University of Illinois at Chicago
Average Tuition: $14,626
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). 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. 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). Sample courses include:
- Health Assessment and Communication
- Concepts in Pathophysiology and Pharmacology
- Nursing Care of Adults across the Life Span
- Nursing Care in Mental and Behavioral Health
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. 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.
Lakeview College of Nursing
Average Tuition: $16,535
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 allocates 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. Sample courses include:
- Basic Concepts of Pathophysiology
- Evidence Based Practice Nursing
- Older Adult Health
- Mental and Behavioral Health
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.
Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing
Average Tuition: $19,217
Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing (SFMCCON) gets institutional accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. 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 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. Sample courses include:
- Nursing and Healthcare Ethics
- Concepts of Professional Nursing
- Promoting Healthy Communities for the RN
- Experiences in Clinical Nursing-RN
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.