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For college-bound students and their families who are concerned about taking on student loan debt, researching your options can minimize the debt burden that often comes with a degree.

Before choosing a college, high school seniors and their families should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and apply to multiple colleges. The next step is to compare financial aid offers from each school that accepts you.

Every school’s financial aid offer should make it clear how much a student’s first year of college will cost. For most students, it will also show how much they’ll need to borrow. But the financial aid offer won’t tell students what they can expect to earn after graduation, or how much debt might be reasonable to take on.

The burden that debt creates depends not just on how much you borrow, but how much you earn after they graduate. To help students and their families evaluate their options, Credible has ranked 71 Illinois four-year universities by analyzing recent students’ debt-to-income (DTI) ratios. The lower the DTI ratio, the better.

Here are the charts and data you’ll find below:

Main findings

When borrowing for college, an old rule of thumb is not to take on more debt than your expected annual salary at graduation. So graduating with a student loan DTI above 1.0 could be problematic.

Some key takeaways from 71 schools analyzed:

  • Average student loan DTI: 0.66
  • Percentage of schools with below-average DTI: 44%
  • Number of schools with a DTI of 1.0 or higher: 6

Another widely tracked metric is the percentage of students who are able to repay at least $1 in loan principal within three years of leaving school. At schools with higher DTIs, a smaller proportion of students are able to repay at least $1 in student loan debt within 3 years of graduation.

Lowest debt-to-income ratio*

1. Moody Bible Institute: 0.2
2. Northwestern University: 0.25
3. Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing: 0.29
4. Rush University: 0.30
5. Blessing Rieman College of Nursing and Health Sciences: 0.31
6. University of Chicago: 0.31
7. Lakeview College of Nursing: 0.32
8. Chamberlain University-Illinois: 0.33
9. National University of Health Sciences: 0.35
10. Resurrection University: 0.38

Highest debt-to-income ratio*

62. Lincoln Christian University: 0.93
63. Columbia College Chicago: 0.95
64. DeVry University-Illinois: 0.96
65. School of the Art Institute of Chicago: 0.99
66. Chicago State University 1.06
67. University of Phoenix-Illinois: 1.16
68. American InterContinental University: 1.22
69. Midstate College: 1.28
70. American Academy of Art: 1.29
71. East-West University: 1.38

Lowest median debt at graduation

1. Moody Bible Institute: $5,500
2. National University of Health Sciences: $10,938
3. Northwestern University: $15,000
4. Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing: $15,000
5. Blessing Rieman College of Nursing and Health Sciences: $15,000
6. Northeastern Illinois University: $15,000
7. University of Chicago: $17,000
8. University of Illinois at Chicago: $17,400
9. University of Illinois at Springfield: $18,532
10. Lakeview College of Nursing: $18,750

Highest median debt at graduation

62. Millikin University: $27,000
63. Illinois College: $27,000
64. Knox College: $27,000
65. American Academy of Art: $30,125
66. DeVry University-Illinois: $31,206
67. Chicago State University: $31,250
68. University of Phoenix-Illinois: $32,813
69. American InterContinental University: $33,677
70. Midstate College: $35,837
71. Methodist College: $36,314

Highest median earnings 6 years after enrollment

1. Chamberlain University-Illinois: $67,100
2. Resurrection University: $65,300
3. Rush University: $63,500
4. Northwestern University: $58,900
5. Lakeview College of Nursing: $58,800
6. Illinois Institute of Technology: $55,800
7. University of Chicago: $54,300
8. Saint Anthony College of Nursing: $54,100
9. Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing: $51,900
10. Methodist College: $51,500

Lowest median earnings 6 years after enrollment

62. University of Phoenix-Illinois: $28,400
63. Blackburn College: $28,200
64. Midstate College: $27,900
65. American InterContinental University: $27,700
66. Moody Bible Institute: $27,000
67. Columbia College Chicago: $26,900
68. School of the Art Institute of Chicago: $26,200
69. Lincoln Christian University: $25,300
70. American Academy of Art: $23,300
71. East-West University: $18,700

Highest percentage of students repaying at least $1 in debt within 3 years of graduation

1. Wheaton College: 91.7%
2. Northwestern University: 91.3%
3. Saint Anthony College of Nursing: 90.6%
4. Illinois Institute of Technology: 89.9%
5. University of Chicago: 89.6%
6. Illinois Wesleyan University: 88.5%
7. Trinity Christian College: 85.5%
8. Resurrection University: 85.3%
9. Bradley University: 84.8%
10. Lake Forest College: 84.7%

Lowest percentage of students repaying at least $1 in debt within 3 years of graduation

62. DeVry University-Illinois: 55.4%
63. Governors State University: 51.9%
64. National Louis University: 50.0%
65. National University of Health Sciences: 47.5%
66. Robert Morris University Illinois: 47.3%
67. University of Phoenix-Illinois: 42.1%
68. Midstate College: 40.7%
69. American InterContinental University: 35.7%
70. Chicago State University: 34.3%
71. East-West University: 24.5%

*Methodology: This analysis is based on data collected by the Department of Education and made available to the public through College Scorecard. To calculate DTI ratios for each school, Credible divided median student loan debt at graduation by the median earnings of all students who were working and not enrolled in school six years after starting college, including those who did not earn a degree. Data on debt at graduation was collected in 2017 and 2018. Earnings data was collected in 2014 and 2015, and adjusted by the Department of Education to 2017 dollars to account for inflation. Data is for schools that predominantly grant bachelor’s degrees. Schools that did not provide data necessary to calculate debt-to-earnings ratio were excluded. Because earnings also depend on the field of study, students should also use College Scorecard to research debt and earnings by major.
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Keep reading: These Michigan Colleges Have the Lowest and Highest Student Loan Debt-to-Income Ratios

About the author
Matt Carter
Matt Carter

Matt Carter is an expert on student loans. Analysis pieces he’s contributed to have been featured by CNBC, CNN Money, USA Today, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.

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