20 Best Nursing Schools in Illinois – 2024 Rankings

Written By: Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH

Illinois can be divided into two parts: Chicago and everywhere else. More than 25 percent of Illinois’s nurse workforce is currently employed in Cook County. Indeed, there is presently something of a nursing surplus in Cook County. There are so many unfilled nursing jobs in more rural parts of the Prairie State, however, that some of these areas might even qualify to be dubbed medically underserved. Whatever the state-of-affairs at present, within the next 10 years, experts estimate Illinois will need an additional 20,000 nurses to keep up with the demand for quality care. There’s never been a better time to enroll in one of the accredited nursing schools in Illinois, particularly if your professional interests lie beyond working in an urban hospital or health care setting.



(After closely assessing all nursing schools approved by the Illinois State Board of Nursing, based on our Ranking Methodology, the following are the best accredited nursing schools in Illinois offering BSN programs.)

1. Illinois State University, Normal

About Mennonite College of Nursing: Mennonite College of Nursing got its start in 1919 as the Mennonite Sanitarium Training School for hospital nurses; in 1999, the training school was annexed into the Illinois State University system. Students enrolled in Mennonite’s nursing programs truly get the best of two worlds: While they enjoy all the advantages that a large university can provide, they can also blossom in the personalized atmosphere that only a small nursing college environment has to offer.

Instruction takes place in Edwards Hall, an historic building that’s been renovated to include classrooms, clinical labs and clinical simulation labs where students can develop their skills by working with high-fidelity manikins in a safe environment. Clinical rotations take place at a range of inpatient and outpatient health care facilities throughout the Bloomington and Normal metropolitan areas. To optimize learning and mentorship opportunities, the faculty-student ratio at clinical sites is kept at 1:8. Students also have the opportunity to participate in a variety of community projects such as the Change Agents to the Underserved: Service Education (CAUSE) project, which Mennonite College helms in partnership with the Chestnut Family Health Center, the Community Health Care Clinic and McLean County Health Department.

Financial Aid: This nursing school in Illinois administers more than 80 institutional scholarships. While the FAFSA form is not a prerequisite for merit-based scholarships, it is necessary to fill one out in order to qualify for any scholarship that lists financial need as one of its criteria. Additionally, the FAFSA form will allow you to apply for federal and state financial aid such as Pell Grants, work-study and loans.

2. Bradley University, Peoria

About Bradley University Department of Nursing: “U.S. News and World Report” has commended Bradley University as a school that offers great value, and that accolade certainly applies to the education its nursing department offers. The university is famous for its entrepreneurial programs, and nursing students are encouraged to think outside the box, too. An example? The Teddy Bear Clinic where nursing students give local elementary school children stuffed animals and teach the kids how to give injections, wrap bandages and listen to their animals’ heart and breath sounds. The result? A marked decrease among these children in anxiety associated with trips to the doctor!

High-tech experiential learning opportunities are incorporated into the nursing curriculum through the use of simulation scenarios based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, a spinoff from the National Academies of Science that focuses specifically on leadership in the realm of health care. Students use their new skills during clinical rotations at Peoria’s many hospitals, county health organizations, nursing homes and social service agencies.

Financial Aid: Bradley University offers a number of institutional scholarships; although none of these are nursing-specific, nursing students are invited to apply to the ones whose criteria they meet. Students may also apply for needs-based federal grants and work-study, and Illinois MAP grants by filling out and submitting a FAFSA form.

3. Lewis University, Romeoville

About College of Nursing and Health Professions: Lewis University was founded as a technical training school in 1932 by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago; and while today, the school admits students of all religious denominations, its Jesuit values are still evident in its nursing college’s holistic curriculum which emphasizes that the needs of a patient’s spirit are just as important as the needs of a patient’s body.

Nursing students have the opportunity to participate in clinical rotations with more than 50 local health care providers, including Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital, La Rabida Children's Hospital, Provena Mercy Medical Center and Loyola Medical Center. Clinical groups are never larger than eight so that students get personalized attention from their clinical instructors. Before they begin working with actual patients, students will have the chance to practice and perfect their clinical skills in three virtual patient suites equipped with high-tech manikins who can simulate a variety of chronic and acute health conditions. If you believe that patient care is as much about caring for a patient’s mind, heart and soul as it is about addressing his or her physical symptoms, then you should learn more about Lewis University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions.

Financial Aid: Like many other nursing schools in Illinois, Lewis University administers two institutional scholarships that are specifically endowed for nursing students: the Julianne Murphy Scholarship Award and the Washington Square Health Foundation scholarship. Nursing students may also qualify for other in-house scholarships the university offers. Completion of the FAFSA form is a prerequisite for Pell Grants and other forms of state and federal financial aid.

4. Loyola University, Maywood

About Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing: In 1935, Loyola University’s nursing school became the first nursing school in IL to offer a baccalaureate in nursing. The Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing has continued its preeminence in the field of nursing education ever since. Loyola University has a reputation for turning out movers and shakers, and this is no less true of its nursing graduates than it is of its alumni in other fields. The school unfailingly places near the top of U.S. News and World Report’s annual lists of the best nursing schools in the U.S.

The 7,000-square-foot Walgreen Family Virtual Hospital, located on the sixth floor of the nursing building, contains six immersive simulation bays equipped with six realistic manikins that are programmed to imitate a variety of chronic and acute health conditions. Here, nursing students learn clinical skills and assessment techniques side by side with students at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine. When it comes time for clinical rotations, nursing students have the opportunity to work and learn at some of Chicago area’s finest health care facilities, including the Loyola University Health System, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and the Evanston Northwestern Healthcare System.

Financial Aid: Loyola endows several nursing-specific scholarships for graduate nursing students. Incoming freshmen may also be eligible for other scholarship opportunities once their Application for Undergraduate Admission has been accepted by the university. Students may also qualify for federal and state grants and loans; these awards depend upon need as identified through submission of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.

5. Northern Illinois University, Dekalb

About School of Nursing @ NIU: Do you see the delivery of health care as part of the campaign for social justice? Do you want to become a nursing leader? Then the School of Nursing at Northern Illinois University has a program you need to learn more about. The school is known for the breadth of its faculty’s research interests, which span from general investigations of pain management to more specific inquiries into predictors for success among pre-licensure nursing students. Both undergraduate and graduate nursing students have many opportunities to participate in faculty-mentored research.

The nursing school’s classrooms and laboratories are located in Wirtz Hall. The Skills Lab is a virtual five-bed setting equipped with programmed manikins that let students take blood pressures and listen to heart and lung sounds. The Human Patient Simulation Lab is a virtual hospital where students can hone their critical thinking skills in situations that replicate real life health care crises. More than 230 regional health care facilities, including hospitals, community clinics, and other agencies, partner with this nursing school as sites where nursing students develop skills and confidence further as they participate in clinical nursing rotations.

Financial Aid: More than a dozen scholarships are available to NIU nursing students through private donations to the university. The university also sponsors many other institutional scholarships for which nursing students may qualify. The Financial Aid and Scholarship Office also disburses need-based federal and state funding to students whose FAFSA forms, once submitted, indicate financial need.

6. Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville

About SIUE School of Nursing: At the SIUE School of Nursing, you’ll learn how to keep your balance in a health care environment that’s constantly evolving. The university’s satellite campus in East St. Louis (Missouri), just 20 miles away from the Edwardsville campus, is home to the WE CARE clinic operated by the nursing school; here, nursing students have opportunities to participate in providing services to the diverse client populations who rely upon the clinic as their primary health care provider. The nursing school is also a center for research and has received $4.5 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health, the Illinois Department of Public Health and other prestigious organizations.

Students learn hands-on techniques and critical problem-solving skills by practicing on high-fidelity manikins at the Simulated Learning Center for Health Sciences. Students pursue clinical rotations at a variety of hospitals, ambulatory care clinics and community agencies throughout St. Louis.

Financial Aid: Students at SIU’s School of Nursing in Edwardsville may apply for 30 scholarships that were specifically endowed for aspiring nurses. Needs-based financial aid such as federal and state grants and loans may also be available after a student submits his or her FAFSA form to the Office of Student Financial Aid.

7. University of Illinois, Chicago

About UIC College of Nursing: Over the years, the annual Power of Nursing Leadership event sponsored by UIC’s College of Nursing has featured dynamic keynote speakers like poet Maya Angelou, former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher and TV producer Linda Ellerbe. What better way for this powerhouse nursing college to celebrate the nursing leaders who graduate from this school? Nursing students help staff the Mile Square Health Center, which is operated by the College of Nursing and which provides primary health care to many of Chicago’s underserved residents. The college has also been recognized by the World Health Organization and has been designated a WHO Collaborating Center for International Nursing Development in Primary Health Care.

In the fall of 2019, the college will be opening a new 15,000-square-foot simulation lab where students can develop the skills necessary for patient care in critical care, med/surg, pediatric and obstetric units by practicing those skills in a safe virtual environment. At present, students learn bedside basics in the 5,000-square-foot M. Christine Schwartz Experiential Learning Laboratory. The college’s partners for clinical rotations include Memorial Hospital, Greenville Family Wellness Center, Southern Illinois Health Care Foundation and other facilities throughout the metropolitan Chicago area.

Financial Aid: University of Illinois administers more than 40 scholarships that are specifically designed for students studying nursing. The College of Nursing also encourages students to seek scholarship funds from outside sources. In order to qualify for state and federal financial aid, students will need to submit a FAFSA form.

8. St. Xavier University, Chicago

About School of Nursing and Health Sciences @ Saint Xavier University: The School of Nursing and Health Sciences at St. Xavier University is another nursing degree provider in IL that gets plaudits from “U.S. News and World Report.” St. Xavier University was founded by the Catholic Sisters of Mercy in 1846, and the nursing school adheres closely to Mercy values such as reverence for the dignity of all people, commitment to the poor and stewardship of resources. If you attend this school, you’ll be fully prepared to meet the challenges inherent in caring for diverse populations whose health care needs to date have been underserved.

The Nursing/Health Science Learning Resource Lab is an immersive environment where clinical reasoning and decision-making skills are integrated into hands-on learning experiences. The School of Nursing and Health Sciences partners with some of Chicago’s top hospitals, community clinics and other health care facilities to provide students with clinical rotation sites where they will maximize their experiential learning.

Financial Aid: As a St. Xavier nursing student, you’re eligible to apply for 12 scholarships that are specifically endowed for nursing students. You may also meet the criteria for other university-wide scholarship opportunities. In order to be considered for scholarships as well as for federal and state needs-based funding, you will need to submit a FAFSA form.

9. Resurrection University, Chicago

About College of Nursing @ Resurrection University: Resurrection University’s College of Nursing is one of the few nursing colleges in Illinois that offers evening classes and weekend clinicals for students pursing a BSN degree. When it opened in 1914, the university was a diploma hospital nursing school affiliated with West Suburban Hospital in Chicago’s Oak Park suburb; in 2014, the school was purchased by the Resurrection Health Care System (now Presence Health), which oversees 12 hospitals and 120 other health care facilities throughout the Chicago metropolitan area.

The College of Nursing is housed in a 37,000-square-foot campus in Presence Saint Elizabeth Hospital in the heart of Chicago’s historic Wicker Park neighborhood. The Foglia Family Foundation IPE Simulation Center is located on the fourth floor of the campus. Here, students will have the opportunity to learn the clinical skills and practice the assessment techniques they will be using as they become more proficient in their nursing practice. Clinical rotations take place at Presence Holy Family Medical Center, Presence Mercy Medical Center, Presence Resurrection Medical Center, Presence Saint Francis Hospital or one of the many other hospitals and outpatient facilities associated with the Presence Health system.

Financial Aid: Resurrection University offers a dozen privately endowed scholarships to nursing students. Some of these awards are made on the basis of academic excellence or outstanding community service while others address financial need. To apply, you will need to fill out a ResU Scholarship application. Students may also be eligible for needs-based state and federal aid as determined by the FAFSA form.

10. University of St. Francis, Joliet

About Leach College of Nursing: The Leach College of Nursing at the University of St. Francis in Joliet is another one of those nursing programs in Illinois that got its start as a Catholic educational initiative. Compassion is as important as evidence-based science in the approach to nursing you’ll learn here. The College was founded as the St. Joseph School of Nursing in 1920; in 2011, it was renamed the John Leach College of Nursing, and in 2016, it moved to the new St. Clare campus.

Classes are taught in Guardian Angel Hall, which is an historic building that’s been remodeled into a state-of-the-art learning facility. In the simulation lab, students acquire basic assessment skills by practicing on high-tech manikins that have been programmed to display the same stress-related autonomic nervous system responses such as dilated pupils and elevated heart rates that hospitalized patients might display. Students go on to practice what they’ve learned through clinical rotations at hospitals, home health agencies, managed care environments, primary care clinics, public health clinics, hospices and skilled nursing home environments throughout Joliet and the surrounding communities.

Financial Aid: The Leach Endowed Scholarship is awarded to St. Francis University nursing students who’ve demonstrated financial need and who maintain a 2.5 GPA. The university also encourages nursing students to apply for external scholarships. Funds may also be eligible from federal and state sources upon submission of the FAFSA form.


(After closely assessing all nursing schools approved by the Illinois State Board of Nursing, based on our Ranking Methodology, the following are the best accredited nursing schools in Illinois offering ADN programs.)

1. Southeastern Illinois College - Harrisburg

If you find your calling in nursing, then becoming a registered nurse should be high on your priority list. Registered nurses are in demand across Illinois, and their employment options are diverse. Southeastern Illinois College’s ADN program is open to LPN graduates who hold an active PN license. This program starts every fall and admits a maximum of 30 students. The curriculum trains you to practice holistic nursing and mainly focuses on evidence-based practice, patient care of a culturally diverse population, development of leadership skills, and the use of healthcare informatics. With a dedicated faculty and a wide variety of clinical experiences, graduates of this program are well prepared to take the NCLEX-RN licensure exam.

2) Joliet Junior College – Joliet

Nursing education at Joliet Junior College combines the personalized attention of on-campus classes with the flexibility of online courses. The college integrates high fidelity simulations and extensive clinical experiences into the curriculum to thoroughly prepare you for real-time patient care. To kick start your career as an RN in Illinois, Joliet offers two pathways. You can either become a registered nurse by directly entering the two-year associate degree program or opt for the LPN to RN bridge program. If you take the LPN to RN bridge program, 15 credits from your previous LPN coursework are transferred towards this RN course. This way, instead of completing 23 nursing credits required in the traditional option, you complete only 7.5 semester hours and graduate sooner. Earning this degree requires that you earn a grade “C” or higher in all nursing and general education courses.

3) John A. Logan College – Carterville

John A. Logan College’s RN program in Illinois is aimed at those who want to enter the field of patient care as a registered nurse in the shortest possible time frame. This associate degree program is available with both part-time and full-time options. The full-time schedule, starting in August each year, is intensive as the entire coursework is squeezed into a period of nine months. Whereas the part-time program option, offered only in odd-numbered years, takes students 21 months to complete. To prepare you for the challenges of real-world patient care didactic courses are aptly complemented by clinical experiences at various clinical sites in Carronade, Marion, Anna, and other sites in Southern Illinois.

4) Heartland Community College – Normal

Heartland Community College prepares aspiring nurses for a promising career in healthcare with its two-year Associate Degree in Nursing. The training includes rigorous preparation for passing the NCLEX-RN, which is mandatory to obtain your nursing license. Admission into this program is selective, and a maximum of 40 students are accepted each year. You can enter this program, either as a new student or as an LPN graduate. If you enter after completing your LPN, you will bypass the first year and directly start with second-year courses. To hone practical skills, you are required to complete clinical experiences at various sites in the Bloomington/Normal area. If you plan to pursue higher education in nursing, you must know that Heartland has partnered with prominent 4-year universities and colleges across the state of Illinois, thereby facilitating an easy transfer of credits.

5) Kaskaskia College – Centralia

A stellar faculty, engaging clinical experiences, and a world-class Nursing Education Center that includes simulation learning; are some of the reasons that make Kaskaskia College one of the most sought-after two-year nursing programs in Illinois. This RN program starts four times a year and admits up to 40 students. The coursework is designed to teach you evidence-based nursing care, clinical reasoning, effective patient communication, and employable skills, little wonder that the college boasts an impressive 100% job placement rate. With clinical experiences starting during the first week of classes itself, you are-able-to grasp theoretical concepts better as you can simultaneously apply them to practice. Furthermore, you will graduate from this program with a spirit of lifelong learning, an attitude that propels you to grow in this profession.

6) Oakton Community College - Des Plaines

Oakton Community College addresses the looming nursing shortage in Illinois with its two-year traditional RN degree. Once enrolled in this program, you will take sequential classes at the college’s Des Plaines campus. To earn this associate degree, you must complete general education and nursing courses with a minimum grade “C.” Nursing courses mainly cover nursing concepts and nursing pharmacology. Additionally, you will perfect patient bedside skills through clinical experiences in various kinds of healthcare settings. The college also offers an LPN-RN bridge program. What’s more, Oakton has transfer agreements with 12 major colleges and universities in the state, offering a smooth transition from your RN to online and on-campus BSN programs.

7) William Rainey Harper College – Palatine

A two-year associate degree in nursing at William Rainey Harper College will prepare you to provide competent patient care for a diverse population across the lifespan. This program combines didactic sessions with simulated learning at its state-of-art lab where bedside scenarios are replicated. This way, you practice professional skills without jeopardizing a patient’s health. The 68-credit coursework spans across four semesters and includes both nursing and general education courses. Upon graduating, most students immediately start working, while some choose to transfer to a four-year university; either way, the program serves you well.

8) Lincoln Land Community College – Springfield

Known for its consistently high NCLEX-RN pass rates, Lincoln Land Community College offers a traditional ADN as well as an LPN to ADN bridge option. The hybrid format of both these programs makes it convenient for working students to pursue this degree while continuing with their current job. Nevertheless, you must be prepared to travel for some on-campus classes and clinical experiences. To ensure optimum student success post-graduation, LLCC incorporates QSEN’s nursing competencies of patient-centric care, teamwork, evidence-based practice, quality improvement, patient safety, and healthcare informatics into its nursing education.

9) Kishwaukee College – Malta

If you are exploring nursing schools in Illinois, then Kishwaukee College strives towards providing a firm grounding in nursing with its two-year RN degree. Its small-sized classes and a dedicated team of faculty help students reach their academic and career goals. The program is well rounded and centers on communication, sciences, behavioral sciences, and nursing concepts. A maximum of 40 students enter the program each year and progress through it, completing a rigorous 66-credit hour curriculum. The nursing coursework includes courses in fundamentals of nursing, orientation to pharmacology, adult health nursing, maternal-child health nursing, pediatric health nursing, mental health nursing, and professional nursing. Upon completion of the program, you will be skilled and knowledgeable to practice evidence-based nursing, use technology, and collaborate as an efficient member of a healthcare team.

10) Illinois Valley Community College – Oglesby

If working in diverse settings such as community health, correctional facilities, public and private schools, nursing schools, hospitals, and clinics excites you, then you can consider the two-year associate degree in Nursing at Illinois Valley Community College. The college is known to be one of the affordable options in the region to pursue a degree in nursing. Furthermore, with the college offering financial aid opportunities, you can graduate with much lesser debt. The degree takes you through general education and nursing courses, on completion of which you will be well-prepared to take the NCLEX-RN. The college recommends that you complete most non-nursing courses before you start with your first nursing course. This ensures your focus stays solely on nursing courses, classes for which are offered 4 days a week.


Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH
Pattie Trumble is a nurse who worked in both California and New York for many years as an emergency room nurse. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and an Associate Degree in Nursing from the Samuel Merritt Hospital School of Nursing. After 10 years of providing direct care, she went back to school and earned concurrent Master’s degrees in both public policy and public health from the University of California, Berkeley. Thereafter, she worked for various public health agencies in California at both the community and state levels providing economic and legislative analysis.

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