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.
Loras College (Private/Four-Year)
1450 Alta Vista St. • Dubuque, Iowa • www.loras.edu
Perched on bluffs above the Mississippi River in Dubuque, Iowa, Loras College is dedicated to providing students with a rich and engaging liberal arts education. Leveraging its historic roots as Iowa’s first college, and the second-oldest Catholic college in the country, Loras delivers challenging, life-changing experiences in a supportive, residential Catholic setting.
With nearly 40 undergraduate majors and 12 pre-professional programs, Loras College has the resources to help students to succeed. More than 98 percent of Duhawks are employed or continuing their education within 12 months of graduation. With small, interactive classes, students have the opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions with professors and other students. They also receive the benefit of technology in the classroom, such as the Media Studies Lab or the on-site DNA Lab, and resources such as the Academic Resource Center where the library is housed. All provide engaging, hands-on settings where students can develop their skills and learn with and through others.
Loras students can dive into their work, with a professor one-on-one, as a group and outside of the classroom. Most Loras students study abroad, participate in service trips or service learning, or take advantage of work internships. With a strong focus on service, Loras has been recognized for its fifth straight year on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for commitment to service learning and civic engagement. Approximately 1,200 Loras students engaged in more than 82,000 hours of community service in 2013 alone.
These same students rally behind Dewey the Duhawk, who stands proudly as the Loras College mascot. Dewey supports the 23 varsity sports offered to student-athletes, who compete in the NCAA Division III and Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Loras is proud of its athletic facilities, such as the Rock Bowl Stadium and the Athletic and Wellness Center, and the fact that student-athlete programs value leadership, self-esteem, spiritual growth and physical and intellectual development. Through these programs, students build camaraderie among one another and create success not only on the field, but also within themselves.
Loras has more than 70 clubs and organizations, ranging from academics, leadership, media and publications to performing arts, spiritual life, student government, and club and intramural sports that offer more than 50 activities per year. Students can receive assistance in the Academic Success Center, which includes a supplemental instruction math lab, a writing center and tutoring services.
In addition to an education that leads to a successful future, students experience a home away from home, where they can prepare for a life they’ll love and become who they are meant to be. The opportunities available combine academic, spiritual and personal growth into a challenging, life-changing experience.
Northern Illinois University-Hoffman Estates (Public/Four-Year)
5555 Trillium Blvd. • Hoffman Estates, Ill. • www.cob.niu.edu
Northern Illinois University-Naperville (Public/Four-Year)
1120 E. Diehl Road • Naperville, Ill. • www.cob.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.
Regional educational sites in Hoffman Estates, Naperville and Rockford provide other communities with convenient access to NIU programs. Additionally, NIU Naperville and NIU Hoffman Estates allow working professionals to balance a job and graduate school through its part-time MBA programs.
All NIU MBA program formats are accredited by The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International. For the second consecutive year, NIU’s College of Business has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the best in the nation for its part-time MBA programs. Faculty in the MBA program are selected from NIU’s College of Business for their teaching ability, consulting experience and commitment to educating professionals.
The Evening MBA, offered at both NIU Hoffman Estates and NIU Naperville, allows students to immediately apply new skills and knowledge to their current job positions. Designed for maximum flexibility, the evening format allows busy adults to obtain an MBA that’s self-paced to their personal schedules, with classes held Monday through Thursday. The program is offered in spring, summer and fall semesters, and students can take one, two or three courses per semester.
At NIU Hoffman Estates, NIU’s One-Year MBA is designed for working professionals with at least three years’ work experience. The 12-month program begins in January, with classes offered two nights a week. The broad professional class makeup, the cohort experience and a rigorous curriculum delivered on an accelerated timetable offer an enhanced learning experience. Students also take part in a nine-day international trip, which helps them to gain a global perspective.
For those in senior-level management, NIU’s Executive MBA program at NIU Naperville provides a curriculum specifically designed to build on a base of managerial experience. The program begins in August, and with Saturday-only classes and the short program length, NIU EMBA students earn their degrees in 17 months, while balancing work and family commitments.
All individuals begin the program together, sharing the same educational experience and taking the same courses, in the same sequence, for the duration of the program. This cohort structure fosters valuable personal relationships and business contacts, and the Consulting Alliance Experience allows students to consult on company-related projects. Students also participate in a nine-day international trip to enhance global business perspectives, and the Capstone Project, a live case competition that uses a real company, a real business situation and real people.
NIU’s part-time MBA programs challenge students to think differently, provide the necessary tools to manage complex issues and make strategic decisions, and guide them to become leaders.
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 167th year in 2014. 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 11 years running, a “Best in the Midwest” college. For five consecutive years, 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 13 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 different and complex perspectives, thus ultimately 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 their communities. Among its graduates are chiefs of police, captains of industry, champions of justice, Teachers of the Year, doctors who tested the first artificial heart valve in humans, scientists who invented fiber optics and LEDs, the current president of a national television network and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jane Addams.
The legacy of Rockford University can be found in nearly two centuries of graduates and more than 16,000 current alumni, taking lessons learned here out into the world.
Northern Michigan University (Public/Four-Year)
1401 Presque Isle Ave. • Marquette, Mich. • www.nmu.edu
Established in 1899, Northern Michigain University (NMU) has grown and diversified to become a comprehensive educational institution of 9,000 students, with cutting-edge technology initiatives and nationally recognized academic programs.
More than 75 percent of NMU’s 300-plus full-time faculty members have doctorates or the highest degree in their fields. A hallmark of the NMU experience is that full-time faculty members teach at all levels, freshmen through graduate courses.
NMU is the first public university in Michigan dedicated to enhancing students’ learning experience, through its Teaching, Learning and Communication Initiative. All full-time students are issued notebook computers as part of their tuition and fees, giving them faster, more complete access to instructors, fellow students, even class notes. President Barack Obama chose NMU as the site to announce his Wireless Innovation and Infrastructure Initiative in 2010. He held up Northern’s WiMAX network as a leading example of broadband’s capabilities.
Undergraduates have access to important research opportunities, from testing a new class of drugs that treat attention/memory problems caused by schizophrenia to researching genes that may play critical roles in brain tumor formation and growth. It is one of only two Michigan universities to have an entrepreneurship major, and has one of the few programs in the country for both ski management and wildland firefighting. NMU has programs in 42 of the 50 fastest growing job occupations from the “Training for Michigan’s Hot Jobs” report, and boasts 90 percent placement rate or higher in numerous programs.
A recent survey revealed that 85 courses in 35 majors employed some aspect of academic service learning methodology. NMU earned the Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. NMU students and staff volunteer more than 100,000 hours in the community each year and partner with local organizations through service learning courses.
NMU offers a number of student/faculty exchanges, faculty-led study abroad programs, semester- or yearlong study abroad through partner organizations and international volunteer/internship opportunities. NMU was among 16 U.S. institutions initially granted a license for study abroad programs in Cuba, and the first to go beyond Havana.
Students can explore financial aid opportunities, scholarships and funding options with knowledgable counselors at NMU’s Financial Aid Office. The university also provides accessible student support services, including free counseling and information services, a writing lab, a tutoring lab and an all-campus tutoring program in most areas of study.
NMU student-athletes compete in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Conference in 12 sports, six for men and seven for women. In addition, students can participate in about 325 student organizations representing a wide range of academic interests, hobbies, personal interests and causes. Further, NMU has the only residential program at a university that allows athletes to pursue degrees while training for world-class competitions.
At Northern Michigan University, natural curiosity and intellectual challenge meet in stimulating classes grounded in the liberal arts. Wherever curiosity leads them, students can count on the support they need to take the next step, ask the next question and propose the next hypothesis.
Upper Iowa University-Rockford (4-year, nonprofit, private)
1161 Tebala Blvd. • Rockford, Ill. • www.uiu.edu
Upper Iowa University-Blackhawk Center (4-year, nonprofit, private)
Blackhawk Center • 6004 S. County Road G • Janesville, Wis. • www.uiu.edu
Since 1857, Upper Iowa University has been preparing students to succeed – in the classroom and in the world. That rich history, coupled with a student-centered mission, has created a springboard for Upper Iowa University to become a recognized innovator in offering accredited, quality programs through flexible, multiple delivery systems, including online and self-paced study.
The Upper Iowa University Center in Rockford, which opened in 2008, has a current enrollment of approximately 100 students. The 13,000-square-foot building includes eight classrooms and a cutting-edge computer lab. Courses, held primarily in the evening, are offered during six eight-week terms, and taught by instructors who bring practical work experience to the classroom.
Upper Iowa University opened the Blackhawk Center at Blackhawk Technical College, Janesville, Wis., in 1994; it serves about 200 students. Courses here are also offered during six eight-week terms and held in the evening. Many are taught by full-time Upper Iowa University faculty members, and others by adjunct faculty who draw on their practical experiences in the field.
The Upper Iowa University’s Center for Distance Education offers online courses for associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees as well as post-graduate certificates. Its online undergraduate bachelor’s program has been ranked among the best in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report, which also ranked its online MBA program among the top 100 for 2014.
Further, its online MBA has been recognized as a best value by GetEducated.com, and Upper Iowa University has been named a top military-friendly school by Military Advanced Education for the seventh consecutive year.
Upper Iowa University works with students to keep their college education affordable. Students are encouraged to contact its financial aid department, where counselors will assist them in looking for any possible means of financial assistance.
In fall 2014, Upper Iowa University launched a retooled curriculum that offers new majors, additional certificate programs and new emphasis areas in existing majors. New undergraduate majors include:
Public Administration (with a new Emergency Management emphasis area)
Upper Iowa University offers 40 majors in all modalities; for a complete listing, visit www.uiu.edu. Whether at its traditional campus in Fayette, Iowa, or one of its 19 educational centers in the U.S., students will find a professional faculty and staff that care about their success and work hard to provide the education they desire.
University of Wisconsin-Rock County (Public/Two-Year)
2909 Kellogg Ave. • Janesville, Wis. • www.rock.uwc.edu
University of Wisconsin-Rock County is a liberal arts transfer campus that has been providing students with solid foundations for academic success and educational and personal growth since 1966.
It is an institution of the University of Wisconsin (UW) System, which maintains 13 two-year liberal arts transfer campuses located throughout Wisconsin. At UW-Rock County, students can prepare for, or fulfill general education requirements in, more than 200 majors, and be guaranteed transfer to any of the UW System’s 13 four-year schools, including UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee and UW-Whitewater.
In addition, UW-Rock County offers an Associate of Arts and Science degree and more than 20 associate degree emphases, including computer science, engineering, pre-nursing and health science.
Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, UW-Rock County offers all of the benefits of larger colleges, while providing the close-knit community atmosphere of smaller institutions. Set on 50 rolling acres just blocks from the beautiful Rock River, its Janesville campus includes a fine arts center, a state-of-the-art engineering center, computer labs, sciences labs, a new library, a student help center, a bookstore and a commons area.
Students learn from a committed and accessible faculty, 96 percent of whom hold terminal degrees in their fields. Students also benefit from small class sizes that allow for individual attention. UW-Rock County students are well-prepared to transfer into the new Bachelor of Applied Arts & Sciences degree completion program or to transfer into other institutions.
Credits earned here will be accepted by other colleges and universities in Wisconsin and throughout the country. In fact, once a student has met transfer requirements at UW-Rock County, transfer to any school within the UW System is guaranteed. UW-Rock County graduates have the highest graduation rate among all transfer students at UW institutions.
As part of the Wisconsin Collegiate Conference, UW-Rock County student athletes compete in men’s basketball, women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, co-ed soccer, co-ed tennis and fencing club. Campus government and dozens of clubs allow students to develop socialization and leadership skills while pursuing personal interests. Phi Theta Kappa and Sigma Kappa Delta honor societies have campus branches.
Short-term study abroad opportunities available through UW Colleges include Ghana, Argentina, Germany and Belize. UW-Rock County employs work-study students in various areas of the campus, like the library and Student Services.
UW-Rock County is also a welcoming place for adult students and veterans returning to school, who have a dedicated advisor and extracurricular clubs. The Continuing Education Office offers non-credit courses, trips and individualized and custom-made tutorials and training courses for workers and employers in the region.
Rock Valley College (Public/Two-Year)
3301 N. Mulford Road • Rockford, Ill. • www.rockvalleycollege.edu target=”_blank”>www.rockvalleycollege.edu
For more than 45 years, Rock Valley College (RVC) has been the Rockford area’s first choice for high-quality, affordable, fully accredited and transferable education. No matter where students want to go, RVC can help them to get there.
Whether taking credit classes at RVC for transfer to a four-year university or entering a career program designed for immediate entry into the workforce, RVC can help students to achieve their goals. The dedicated faculty members have master’s degrees, doctorates and real-life experience, and the students access that knowledge through hands-on instruction. The average class size is 24 students. That means RVC students learn in an environment that helps them to become more engaged with their classmates and instructors.
The cost of attending RVC is about $91 per credit hour, significantly less than what the cost would be at most private colleges or state universities. There are many financial aid opportunities to help students to pay for college. More than half of all RVC students receive some financial assistance. This year, the RVC Foundation awarded nearly $215,000 in scholarships to RVC students.
RVC is flexible to students’ needs and accommodates their busy schedules, with a variety of daytime, evening and weekend classes, with easy access at three convenient locations. The main campus is 217 wooded acres located on the northeast side of Rockford; the Stenstrom Center for Career Education is located in south Rockford, and RVC’s Learning and Opportunity Center is located in the Supply Core building, 303 N. Main St. in downtown Rockford. RVC’s new Aviation Maintenance facility at Chicago Rockford International Airport will triple its current student capacity when it opens in August 2015. Many classes are also available online.
RVC is there for its students every step of the way. It prepares them for the initial challenges of college, through Educational Planning Sessions and First Year Experience programs. Skilled advisors will work with students to establish educational goals and develop a path for success at RVC. And if they need help with coursework, they can get the free tutoring they need to be a success.