The 10 Best College Towns In Illinois For 2019


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Believe it or not, America has the best colleges in the world. It's been proven by data (and surveys) that the U.S. educational system is of the highest quality

It's actually not even close and Illinois is home to a handful of them.

While we could debate which colleges within the are the 'best,' that's not the goal of this post.

Instead, ride along with us as we determine which college towns in Illinois are the best.

You know, the type of places where there's energy and stimulation, but the type of place you can walk around at night. The happiest, chillest, most downright fun places where you can send your kids off to college where you won't break the bank, or worry about their well being.

Without further ado, here are the best college towns in Illinois for 2019:

  1. Champaign, IL (Photos | Homes)
  2. Charleston, IL (Photos | Homes)
  3. Normal, IL (Photos | Homes)
  4. Evanston, IL (Photos | Homes)
  5. Lisle, IL (Photos | Homes)
  6. Galesburg, IL (Photos | Homes)
  7. Macomb, IL (Photos | Homes)
  8. Greenville, IL (Photos | Homes)
  9. River Forest, IL (Photos | Homes)
  10. Edwardsville, IL (Photos | Homes)

While some of these may not seem like a 'real' college town per se, when you look at the numbers, it's hard to argue against.

And for those who live in Champaign, Charleston and Normal - we tip our hats to you and we'll schedule a tour for next week. You can see where Champaign ranks in terms of the best college town in America.

Finally, if you live in Skokie, IL - it's officially the worst college town in Illinois. Sorry, Skokie!

Read on to find out more or for more on Illinois check out:

How'd we figure out the best college towns in Illinois?

To crunch our data on Illinois's best college towns, we had to first decide which qualities (or rankings) make sense to use in the data, and then crunch the numbers for our rankings.

First off, we firmly decided that only cities with a 4 year college should make the cut -- so there has to be at least one college granting bachelors degrees in town.

You might be surprised to hear that there are only 33 places in Illinois with an institution of higher learning with that criteria.

Source of data include OpenStreetMaps, the College Scorecard, the U.S. Census, and FBI reporting data to include the following factors:

  • Students Make Up Large % of the Population
  • College-specific Factors
    • Graduation rate
    • Tuition Cost
    • Student Body Diversity
  • Town Characteristics
    • Safety
    • Affordability
    • Income and Employment Opportunities
  • Things to Do
    • Bars
    • Museums & Libraries
    • Population Density

We ranked each city across each of the criteria, with one being the best.

We rolled up the individual scores into the category and ranked them again based on the category.

Finally, we took the average rank across each category, with the city posting the lowest overall score being crowned the winner of the title "Best College Town In Illinois For 2019".

And it looks like Champaign placed Summa Cum Laude.

Champaign, IL
Overall SnackAbility
8
/10

Population: 85,710
% Undergrad Pop.: 33.2% (6th best)
Median Rent: $904 (19th best)
Unemployment Rate: 520.0% (16th best)
Crime Rank: 34th best
More on Champaign: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Champaign is a city in Champaign County, Illinois, United States. The city is 135 miles south of Chicago, 124 miles west of Indianapolis, Indiana, and 178mi northeast of St. Louis, Missouri. The United States Census Bureau estimates the city was home to 84,513 people as of July 1, 2014. Champaign is the tenth-most populous city in Illinois, and the state's fourth-most populous city outside the Chicago metropolitan area.

Colleges: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Parkland College, Regency Beauty Institute-Champaign

Charleston, IL
Overall SnackAbility
6
/10

Population: 21,202
% Undergrad Pop.: 44.1% (3rd best)
Median Rent: $648 (6th best)
Unemployment Rate: 800.0% (30th best)
Crime Rank: 4th best
More on Charleston: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Charleston is a city in and the county seat of Coles County, Illinois, United States. The population was 21,838, as of the 2010 census. The city is home to Eastern Illinois University and has close ties with its neighbor, Mattoon. Both are principal cities of the Charleston-Mattoon Micropolitan Statistical Area.

Colleges: Eastern Illinois University

Normal, IL
Overall SnackAbility
8.5
/10

Population: 54,531
% Undergrad Pop.: 33.1% (7th best)
Median Rent: $835 (17th best)
Unemployment Rate: 300.0% (2nd best)
Crime Rank: 25th best
More on Normal: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Normal is a town in McLean County, Illinois, United States. As of the 2010 census, the town's population was 52,497. Normal is the smaller of two principal municipalities of the Bloomington-Normal metropolitan area, and Illinois' seventh most populous community outside the Chicago metropolitan area. Normal's mayor is Chris Koos.

Colleges: Illinois State University, Heartland Community College, Paul Mitchell the School-Normal

Evanston, IL
Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility
9
/10

Population: 75,557
% Undergrad Pop.: 11.9% (11th best)
Median Rent: $1,296 (35th best)
Unemployment Rate: 500.0% (13th best)
Crime Rank: 28th best
More on Evanston: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Evanston is a city in Cook County, Illinois, United States, 12 miles north of downtown Chicago, bordered by Chicago to the south, Skokie to the west, and Wilmette to the north. It had a population of 74,486 as of 2010. It is one of the North Shore communities that adjoin Lake Michigan and is the home of Northwestern University. The boundaries of the city of Evanston are coterminous with those of the former Evanston Township, which was dissolved in 2014 by voters with its functions being absorbed by the city of Evanston.

Colleges: Northwestern University, Pivot Point Academy-Evanston, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Lisle, IL
Overall SnackAbility
9.5
/10

Population: 23,024
% Undergrad Pop.: 8.7% (16th best)
Median Rent: $1,236 (31st best)
Unemployment Rate: 610.0% (21st best)
Crime Rank: 3rd best
More on Lisle: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Lisle is a village in DuPage County, Illinois, United States. The population was 21,182 at the 2000 census, and in 2016 the population was recorded to be 22,930. It is part of the Chicago metropolitan area and the Illinois Technology and Research Corridor. It is also the headquarters of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Region III.

Colleges: Benedictine University, Universal Technical Institute of Illinois Inc, Empire Beauty School-Lisle

Galesburg, IL
Overall SnackAbility
4
/10

Population: 31,215
% Undergrad Pop.: 3.8% (23rd best)
Median Rent: $605 (3rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 780.0% (29th best)
Crime Rank: 23rd best
More on Galesburg: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Galesburg is a city in Knox County, Illinois, United States. This city is forty-five miles northwest of Peoria. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 32,195. It is the county seat of Knox County. Galesburg is home to Knox College, a private four-year liberal arts college, and Carl Sandburg College, a two-year community college.

Colleges: Carl Sandburg College, Knox College

Macomb, IL
Overall SnackAbility
6
/10

Population: 18,684
% Undergrad Pop.: 57.0% (2nd best)
Median Rent: $681 (10th best)
Unemployment Rate: 990.0% (35th best)
Crime Rank: 18th best
More on Macomb: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Macomb is a city in and the county seat of McDonough County, Illinois, United States. It is situated in western Illinois, southwest of Galesburg. The city is about 75 miles southwest of Peoria and 77 miles south of the Quad Cities. A special census held in 2014 placed the city's population at 21,516. Macomb is the home of Western Illinois University.

Colleges: Western Illinois University

Greenville, IL
Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility
6
/10

Population: 6,746
% Undergrad Pop.: 16.8% (9th best)
Median Rent: $638 (4th best)
Unemployment Rate: 580.0% (19th best)
Crime Rank: 17th best
More on Greenville: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Greenville is a city in Bond County, Illinois, United States, 51 miles east of St. Louis. The population as of the 2010 census was 7,000. It is the county seat of Bond County.

Colleges: Greenville College

River Forest, IL
Overall SnackAbility
10
/10

Population: 11,215
% Undergrad Pop.: 21.5% (8th best)
Median Rent: $1,273 (33rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 320.0% (4th best)
Crime Rank: 32nd best
More on River Forest: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Colleges: Concordia University-Chicago, Dominican University

Edwardsville, IL
Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility
9
/10

Population: 24,823
% Undergrad Pop.: 38.6% (5th best)
Median Rent: $927 (20th best)
Unemployment Rate: 670.0% (24th best)
Crime Rank: 10th best
More on Edwardsville: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Edwardsville is a city in Madison County, Illinois, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 24,293. It is the county seat of Madison County and is the third oldest city in the State of Illinois. The city was named in honor of Ninian Edwards, then Governor of the Illinois Territory.

Colleges: Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville

There You Have It -- The Best College Towns In The

If you're looking for the best college towns in Illinois, you came to the right place.

These places all have great college sports programs, tons of stuff to do, and are great places to raise a family.

If you're curious, these are the worst college towns in Illinois, starting with the absolute worst, Skokie:

  1. Skokie
  2. Decatur
  3. Rockford
  4. Joliet
  5. Peoria
  6. Carlinville
  7. Naperville
  8. Elgin
  9. Palos Heights
  10. Bourbonnais

For more reading, check out:

33 Best College Towns In Illinois

Rank City Population
1 Champaign, IL 85710
2 Charleston, IL 21202
3 Normal, IL 54531
4 Evanston, IL 75557
5 Lisle, IL 23024
6 Galesburg, IL 31215
7 Macomb, IL 18684
8 Greenville, IL 6746
9 River Forest, IL 11215
10 Edwardsville, IL 24823
11 Elmhurst, IL 46139
12 Wheaton, IL 53577
13 Monmouth, IL 9011
14 Lincoln, IL 13912
15 Chicago, IL 2722586
16 Aurora, IL 200946
17 Schaumburg, IL 74427
18 Springfield, IL 116313
19 Carbondale, IL 26196
20 Lake Forest, IL 18931
21 Bloomington, IL 78426
22 Deerfield, IL 18896
23 Jacksonville, IL 18812
24 Bourbonnais, IL 18532
25 Palos Heights, IL 12545
26 Elgin, IL 112628
27 Naperville, IL 146431
28 Carlinville, IL 5327
29 Peoria, IL 115424
30 Joliet, IL 148172
31 Rockford, IL 148640
32 Decatur, IL 73505
33 Skokie, IL 64773

Best College Towns By State

Enjoy The Snack?