2013 Guide to Colleges

It’s never an easy choice when seeking the perfect college — there are plenty of things to consider. Here are some of the top institutions right here in our region.


Choosing a college may be one of the most important life decisions you will ever make. It takes great time and consideration to find the school that best fits your needs, and there are many things to consider.

What kind of campus environment are you looking for? Do you want to live at home and commute, or stay on campus in a dormitory? What coursework strengths do you want? What can a prospective college offer in terms of career counseling and placement? Do you prefer a large university, a small private college or something in-between?

To assist you in making this meaningful choice, our college guide profiles some of the outstanding higher education options available in the Old Northwest Territory.


Northern Illinois University (Public/Four-Year)
1425 W. Lincoln Highway, DeKalb, Ill. • www.niu.edu

Founded in 1895 as a state teachers college, Northern Illinois University (NIU) in DeKalb today is a comprehensive teaching and research institution with nearly 22,000 students, located near a vibrant research and development corridor. Students can choose from 57 undergraduate majors, 71 minors and 80 graduate programs, including 20 doctoral degrees in seven colleges: Business; Education; Engineering and Engineering Technology; Health and Human Sciences; Law; Liberal Arts and Sciences; and Visual and Performing Arts.

For 2014, U.S. News & World Report ranks NIU among  the top 100 best public universities. For 2013, U.S. News & World Report named NIU among “Best Colleges” for its undergraduate business program, consistently named among the best for nearly two decades. NIU’s undergraduate engineering program was ranked 45th, and its online graduate program in education was ranked 4th out of 208.

NIU’s Department of Accountancy has consistently been ranked in the nation’s top 10 by the Public Accounting Report, while its graduate program has become a fixture in that publication’s top 20. NIU has been ranked in the top four percent of all American universities by the Carnegie Foundation, having received the agency’s highest possible designation, “Doctoral/Research University Extensive.”

From a residential renaissance to technologically advanced learning environments and expanded wellness opportunities, every student is sure to be touched by NIU’s ongoing campus transformation, which includes a new $80 million residence hall and renovation of 30 percent of on-campus housing units; construction of an outdoor recreation complex; the transformation of Fay-Cooper Cole Hall into a high-tech, high-touch lecture hall, collaborative classroom and Anthropology Museum; expansion of Wi-Fi and cloud computing; and the addition of an indoor athletic practice facility.

NIU is committed to becoming a top choice for high-performing students who desire an engaged learning experience. As a priority of its Vision 2020 Initiative, NIU set a goal to double its investment in merit-based scholarships to attract top students from across the state and beyond. NIU merit scholarship awards include University Scholars, Faculty Fund Scholars, Northern Academic Scholarships, Centennial Scholarships, Red & Black Awards, DeKalb County Scholarships, NIU Transfer Scholarships, the 4+3 Pre-Law Scholarship and Huskie Legacy Awards. Out-of-State Huskie Scholarships are also awarded to academically qualified students.

NIU offers more than 200 campus organizations and 36 Greek chapters that allow students to explore music, recreation, sports and volunteer work with hands-on practice. Many also enjoy the Study Abroad Program, which covers every major and takes students to upwards of 70 countries, for anywhere from a few days to a full year. On the field, Huskie athletes can choose from 16 NCAA Division I sports for men and women, including basketball, football, golf, gymnastics, tennis and volleyball.

Regional educational sites in Hoffman Estates, Naperville and Rockford provide working professionals with convenient access to NIU programs.

NIU prepares its students to become champions in life.

Enrollment: 21,869
Student/Teacher Ratio: 18:1
Programs: 57 undergrad, 80 grad (20 doctoral)
Degrees: Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctorate
On-Campus Housing: Yes
Weekend/Evening Classes: Yes

Areas of Strength:
Departments ranked among top in the nation
Top-ranked Master of Public Administration program
Acclaimed, dedicated international & national faculty
Off-campus and online class offerings




Western Illinois University (Public/Four-Year)
1 University Circle • Macomb, Ill. • www.wiu.edu

Established in 1899, Western Illinois University (WIU) has been committed to academic excellence for nearly 115 years.

With a population of about 20,000, the City of Macomb’s small-town atmosphere is free of distractions, allowing students to take full advantage of WIU’s supportive learning environment. Set on more than 1,000 acres, WIU’s campus supports an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 12,000. Nearly 43 percent of the student body lives on campus.

Students can pursue 66 undergraduate degrees, 37 graduate degrees and one doctoral degree, along with several professional and post-baccalaureate certifications. Some of its most popular programs are its most distinctive: the only sports broadcasting production program in the state; one of only three meteorology programs in the state, and the only one with its own radar system; one of only nine forensic chemistry programs of its kind in the nation; and the fourth-largest law enforcement and justice administration program of its kind in the U.S.

The average class size is 20, allowing students to take full advantage of WIU’s knowledgeable and committed faculty, 68 percent of whom hold terminal degrees in their fields. A full 94 percent of classes are taught by full-time faculty, and full-time professors have an average tenure of 16 years.

WIU has also been recognized as a “Best Midwestern College” by the Princeton Review, ranked among only 39 public universities as a top-tier “Best Regional University” by U.S. News & World Report, and designated a “Military Friendly School” by GI Jobs Magazine.

As part of the Summit League and the Missouri Valley Football Conference, the NCAA Division I school competes in 18 sports, nine for men and nine for women. In addition, there are nearly 250 student organizations, including national fraternities and sororities, athletics and intramural and club sports, academic honoraries, service clubs, specific interest clubs and more.

Students at WIU have the opportunity to study abroad, through group study options or exchange programs between the univerisity and other international institutions.

In keeping with WIU’s core values of personal growth and social responsibility, students are provided with service learning opportunities, such as tutoring at local elementary schools or participating in Habitat for Humanity. In 2012, student groups logged more than 13,000 volunteer hours and raised more than $70,000 for nonprofit and charitable organizations.

WIU also offers a cost guarantee, meaning that the rate paid when a student enters is fixed for each year of continuous enrollment, including fees and room/board. A number of scholarships are available as well. In-state tuition is provided to students from Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa and Missouri. WIU’s Student Employment, a division of financial aid, administers employment programs for approximately 2,300 students through Regular Employment and Federal Work-Study.

WIU: A cutting-edge, quality education provided by faculty at the top of their fields, pursued in state-of-the-art facilities with up-to-the-minute technology, personal growth through participation in student organizations, leadership growth through service learning opportunities, all offered in a quiet, small-town atmosphere.

Enrollment: 11,700 (Fall 2013)
Average Class Size: 20
Student/Instructor Ratio: 15:1
Programs: 130
Degrees: Undergraduate, Graduate, Doctorate, Certificate
On-Campus Housing: Yes
Evening Classes: Yes

Areas of Strength:
Long-term, dedicated faculty at the top of their fields
Small class sizes for individual attention
Unique Signature Academic Programs
Commitment to service learning
In-state tuition for Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri
Exclusive Cost Guarantee
Automatic scholarship opportunities



Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University/Rockford (Private/Four-Year)
7479 Walton St., Ste. 4 • Rockford, Ill. • www.worldwide.erau.edu

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is the world’s largest fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace. Through its Worldwide Campus, the university has provided its cutting-edge, industry-focused education in the Rockford area since 2008.

A new, larger campus location adjacent to I-90 makes earning an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree a convenient option for students working in the aerospace, aviation and engineering sectors of the region – including Rockford, Chicago and Madison.

The Rockford campus provides a variety of teaching formats, including on-site classroom instruction, online courses and virtual classrooms, which connect the Rockford campus to other Embry-Riddle campuses around the world. The campus accepts transfer credits from area community colleges, and works cooperatively with Rock Valley College’s Aviation Maintenance program.

Bachelor’s degree programs include aeronautics, aviation business administration, aviation maintenance, fire science, technical management and transportation. Embry-Riddle offers master’s degrees in aeronautical science, business administration in aviation, engineering management, leadership, logistics and supply chain management, management, occupational safety management, project management, space education and systems engineering.

Curriculum at Embry-Riddle focuses on the current demands of industry, to ensure its students an education that is relevant and applicable toward career goals. Its dedicated faculty are world-class educators with hands-on industry experience. They know what employers seek, applying classroom learning to real-world scenarios and helping their students to tap into their abilities.

To assist with curriculum, Embry-Riddle created its Industry Advisory Board in June 2008. Comprised of representatives from top aeronautical and technical institutes, the military, transportation and delivery airlines and aircraft manufacturers, its primary role is to provide advice and guidance to Embry-Riddle Worldwide on course content and programs, ensuring that they are relevant and meet the needs of today’s aerospace leaders and business professionals.

Each year, Embry-Riddle Worldwide students receive more than $30 million in financial aid, guided by its financial counselors who work with students to create a financial plan unique to their needs.

Embry-Riddle students go on to have thriving careers in the aerospace, aviation, engineering, business and tech industries, benefiting from its extensive network of alumni and corporate and professional affiliates.

Students with an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University education are well-prepared to take their careers to new heights.

Enrollment: N/A
Programs: More than 20, including online
Degrees: Certificate, Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s
On-Campus Housing: No
Evening Classes: Yes

Areas of Strength
Curriculum based on up-to-the-minute industry trends to deliver relevant, marketable knowledge and skills
World-class faculty with real-world experience
Extensive worldwide network of alumni and corporate and professional affiliates
Various teaching methods, including classroom, online and virtual classroom opportunities
Guidance from Embry-Riddle’s financial counselors
Easy credit transfer from area community colleges



University of Wisconsin-Platteville (Public/Four-Year)
1 University Plaza • Platteville, Wis. • www.uwplatt.edu

The University of Wisconsin (UW)-Platteville is located in the southwest corner of Wisconsin, just 20 miles east of the Mississippi River. UW-Platteville offers an affordable, accessible, high-quality education to more than 8,600 Pioneers from across the tri-state area and beyond.

With the Tri-State Initiative, eligible students from nearby Illinois and Iowa receive a savings of approximately $4,000 on out-of-state tuition rates, making UW-Platteville tuition comparable to rates at public universities in their home state.  Additional savings can be found through the textbook rental system, already included in the tuition and fees.

Originally founded in 1866 to prepare students in the field of education, and later, in mining, UW-Platteville has grown and evolved in its nearly 150 years. With 41 majors and 77 minors, academic programs range across a broad spectrum of disciplines, with top programs in agriculture, biology, business, criminal justice, education, engineering and industrial technology.

Program strengths include a modernized 400-acre Pioneer Farm, cadaver lab for undergraduate students, business classrooms with the latest Enterprise Resource Planning software, nationally recognized criminal justice internship programs, student teaching opportunities close to home and across the globe, more than 30 specialized engineering laboratories, and the latest industry technology.

While well-known in many of these areas, UW-Platteville is continually making exciting advancements in technology and academic program alternatives that will prepare students for careers in the 21st century.

Unique offerings include the foremost university-level forensic investigation program in the Midwest, with one of only three Crime Scene Houses in the U.S.; one of only a handful of schools with a major in Microsystems and Nanotechnology; and a major in Sustainable and Renewable Energy Systems for future careers in the green technology sector.

At UW-Platteville, classes are taught by faculty, not teaching assistants. Faculty and staff are committed to student engagement, both in and out of the classroom. Students are encouraged to practice what they learn through collaborative projects, undergraduate research and creative endeavors, study-abroad opportunities, and real-world experiences. Students can also practice skills learned in the classroom and develop leadership capacity through involvement in more than 200 active student clubs and organizations.

As part of the NCAA Division III Conference, UW-Platteville offers 16 competitive intercollegiate athletic teams for men and women, as well as cheer and dance teams.

UW-Platteville provides comprehensive classroom and experiential learning opportunities, from expert faculty to a diverse student population, in a friendly, comfortable environment

Enrollment: 8,624
Student/Instructor Ratio: 25:1
Programs: 41
Degrees: Associate’s, Undergraduate, Graduate
On-Campus Housing: Yes
Evening/Weekend Classes: Yes

Areas of Strength:
Affordable tuition and fees
TSI tuition savings for Illinois & Iowa students
Accessible faculty
Small class sizes
Undergraduate research possibilities
Real-world learning opportunities
State-of-the-art facilities
Diverse choices for student involvement



McHenry County College (Public/Two-Year)
8900 U.S. Highway 14 • Crystal Lake, Ill. • www.mchenry.edu

Since 1967, McHenry County College (MCC) has been the area’s choice for a high-quality and fully accredited education. MCC was recognized for having the highest enrollment and growth rate in the state, and in fall 2010, was voted a “military friendly” institution by G.I. Jobs magazine.

MCC boasts an award-winning teaching staff. A master’s or doctorate degree is held by nearly 91 percent of the college’s full-time faculty hold, and by 68 percent of its adjunct instructors.

The heart of MCC is indeed its students, whether they come to start a new educational path, finish a dream that was sidetracked or try something new. Faculty and staff are dedicated to assisting students with the completion of degrees or certificates, so that they are prepared to move successfully into a new career or transition smoothly to a four-year institution.

At MCC, excellence is the goal. According to recent statistics compiled by the Illinois Shared Enrollment and Graduation database, MCC students who move on to a four-year institution are often better prepared than those from other schools.

As part of the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference, affiliated with the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), MCC men’s and women’s intercollegiate athletics teams have earned 34 conference championships and produced over 20 NJCAA All-Americans and 10 professional players. In 2011, 2006 and 1996, MCC’s women’s tennis, women’s basketball and baseball teams were recognized as NJCAA National Academic Teams of the Year. In addition, MCC offers on-campus activities and more than 25 student clubs.

The honors group Phi Theta Kappa and the Leadership Education and Development (L.E.A.D.) program help MCC students to develop leadership skills. Through the College Consortium of International Students and the Illinois Consortium for International Studies and Programs, MCC students may participate in study-abroad programs in more than 30 countries. Through service learning, MCC students also learn about civic responsibility while participating in community programs.

From the low student-to-teacher ratio in classes to flexible course offerings, MCC’s focus is always on helping each student to complete his or her degree. The college’s engaging environment stimulates more critical thinking and sharpens decision-making skills, better preparing students for a bright future.

Enrollment: 7,100 credit; 6,800 noncredit
Student/Teacher Ratio: 23:1
Programs: 7 Associate’s, More than 50 Certificates
Degrees: Associate’s, Certificate, Professional
On-Campus Housing: No
Evening/Weekend/Online Classes: Yes

Areas of Strength:
Award-winning, nationally recognized faculty
Strong, varied distance education
Workforce, community and business programs
Adult credit degree programs through Fast Track, with cohort and flexible delivery formats
Competitive tuition rate
Individualized attention to students from faculty
Extensive student services
Robust Adult Education program, including GED and English-as-a-Second Language courses



Rockford University (Private/Four-Year)
5050 E. State St. • Rockford, Ill. • www.rockford.edu

Rockford University, nestled on 150 park-like acres in the heart of Rockford, marks its 166th year in 2013. It’s the only private liberal arts institution in the Rock River Valley, and the only college in the Rockford area to offer a campus-based accredited MBA degree and a Master of Arts in Teaching.

The philosophy at Rockford University is that a liberal arts education prepares students not only for a solid career but also for a journey of lifelong learning. Its distinctive degrees and programs are grounded in liberal arts learning and complemented by professional and practical experience. An education from Rockford University involves challenging and interdisciplinary coursework both inside and outside the classroom. Its students develop critical-thinking skills, intellectual curiosity and self-guidance, in order to live within and adapt to a changing, global society.

Faculty members, most holding the highest degrees in their disciplines, show a commitment to the individual through their expertise and caring nature. Rockford University offers more than 80 majors, minors and concentrations, and students can pursue bachelor’s and master’s degrees, along with various licensure and endorsement tracks through the Master of Arts in Teaching program.

Student/faculty research is an important component of the learning environment, and one-on-one learning opportunities abound.

The Princeton Review named Rockford University a “College with a Conscience” in 2005, and for 10 years running, a “Best in the Midwest” college. For the fifth consecutive year, it has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, and it is one of just 11 colleges in Illinois – and 283 in the country – with a Phi Beta Kappa chapter.

Rockford University offers its students many other opportunities  to gain knowledge and experience. As part of NCAA Division III, the Rockford Regents compete in 16 men’s and women’s varsity sports. Many social and academic clubs and organizations are offered, along with intramural sports. Each year, the Forum Series presents a variety of thought-provoking speakers, events and performances.

The Jane Addams Center for Civic Engagement provides many service-learning options, and the Alan Hutchcroft Alternative Spring Break allows students and faculty to spend their spring break taking part in Habitat for Humanity projects. All such moments open students’ minds to understanding dif- ferent and complex perspectives, thus ul- timately broadening their horizons.

The learning expectations of students – knowledge for understanding the world, values for envisioning the world, and skills for shaping the world – guide the purpose of Rockford University’s academic programs. Thus, the Rockford University experience leads to a life of active learning, personal development, professional growth and informed citizenship.

Rockford University alumni are exemplary leaders and shapers of the communities in which they live. Among its graduates are chiefs of police; captains of industry; Illinois Teachers of the Year; doctors who have tested the first artificial heart valve in humans; scientists who have invented fiber optics and LEDs; the current president of a national television network; the creator of kids’ meals toys; and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jane Addams.

The legacy of Rockford University can be found in nearly two centuries of graduates and more than 14,500 current alumni, taking lessons learned here out into the world.

Enrollment: 1,250 (degree and community programs)
Student/Instructor Ratio: 11:1
Programs: 80
Degrees: Undergraduate, Graduate, Certification
On-Campus Housing: Yes
Evening Classes: Yes

Areas of Strength:
Quality liberal arts curriculum
Four-year degrees and two-year graduate degrees
Connections to Rockford and international communities
Accelerated degree completion program in business
Dedication to service learning and civic engagement
Small class sizes for individual attention
Financial aid awarded to more than 90 percent of students