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Types of Postsecondary Institutions

Universities:   Universities are usually large institutions that offer degrees in many different disciplines and at different degree levels. Some universities contain several colleges, such as the College of Law or the College of Education. Universities offer four-year degrees (baccalaureate or bachelor's degrees). Universities also offer master's degrees (one or two years of academic study beyond the bachelor's degree). Some universities offer doctoral (e.g., Ph.D.) degrees in various fields of study. Universities that are state supported are referred to as public institutions, while those that are privately supported are referred to as private institutions, although all universities commonly receive both public and private support. Examples of public universities are Eastern Illinois University and Illinois State University and examples of private universities include Northwestern University, DePaul University, and Bradley University.

Colleges: The word “college” commonly refers to four-year institutions that grant bachelor’s degrees. Graduate degrees (master’s and doctorate) may or may not be offered. Colleges are usually smaller than universities and frequently offer fewer majors and courses. Illinois does not have any publicly funded colleges; the state directly supports only community colleges and public universities. Many colleges are supported by endowments, alumni contributions and tuition charges. Examples of private colleges in Illinois include Wheaton College, Illinois College, and Knox College. Illinois also has some private two-year colleges such as Midstate College and Gem City College.

Community Colleges: Community colleges (sometimes referred to as “junior colleges”) are regionally accredited, two-year institutions generally supported by state funds, tuition, and local taxes. They offer associate degrees designed to transfer into a four-year institution or to lead directly to work. They also offer many occupational and technical certificate programs designed to be completed in two years or less -- practical courses that lead directly to jobs (i.e., dental hygiene, air conditioning and refrigeration, criminal justice, automotive technology, and real estate).

Illinois has 48 community colleges located across the state from College of Lake County in the far northeastern tip of the state to Shawnee Community College in southern Illinois, which borders both Kentucky and Missouri.

The tuition is generally lower at community colleges than at public or private four-year colleges and universities. However, if you attend a community college with the intention of transferring to a four-year college or university, be sure that the courses you take will be accepted by the four-year school. Discuss your plans with a counselor .

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