Illinois College -> About Us
About Us

Preparing students to Graduate READY

Ready for 21st-century careers, learning, and life.

Illinois College is a small residential liberal arts college offering exceptional education at an affordable cost on a safe and beautiful campus. For over 180 years, Illinois College has prepared young men and women for lives of leadership and service.


With an enrollment of 1,000, Illinois College launches students into thriving careers in public service, medicine, law, education and other professions. Our students earn their degrees through a demanding residential liberal arts curriculum of more than 45 majors in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences.
Sturtevant HallOur 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio ensures intense focus on and comprehensive guidance for each student. A rich array of experiential learning opportunities including Study Abroad, student-faculty research, internships, community service projects and Division III athletics complement the academic program. The unique College-funded BreakAway program enables students to travel and study in the U.S. and beyond. Our students discover their talents at Illinois College, and our graduates carry with them skills that enable success anywhere in the world.


Our remarkable academic program, extracurricular opportunities and outstanding facilities represent one of the best values in higher education today. Our more than $140 million endowment allows us to keep our tuition lower than many comparative institutions. We also award millions of dollars in financial aid each year to ensure that deserving students reap the many benefits of an Illinois College education.

Illinois College’s Remarkable History

Illinois College, the first college in the state to conduct classes and grant a baccalaureate degree, sustains a 180-year heritage of excellence in the liberal arts.
The events and characters that tell our story are extraordinary. The Rev. John M. Ellis, a Presbyterian missionary in the East, saw the need for a “seminary of learning” in the new state of Illinois. His plans drew the attention of Congregational students at Yale University, and seven of them, in one of the famous “Yale Bands,” came westward to help found the College. The first president of Illinois College was Edward Beecher who left his position at the Park Street Church in Boston and firmly imbued the new College with New England traditions and academic foundations. His sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the influential anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, visited the campus, and his brother, Henry Ward Beecher, preached and lectured here. Beecher Hall, the first college building in Illinois, was built in 1829 and is still used today. 

Lincoln StatueThe first two college graduates in the state received their degrees from Illinois College in 1835. The best-known alumnus, William Jennings Bryan, Class of 1881, was a three-time candidate for president of the United States, secretary of state and congressman. U.S. senators, congressmen, state governors and federal judges are among the many Illinois College graduates who have gone on to influential careers in public service.

Among the visitors and lecturers on campus during the early years were Abraham Lincoln, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott, Mark Twain, Horace Greeley and Wendell Phillips. Many speakers, including Lincoln, were sponsored by literary societies, unique traditions that continue today on campus as centers for literary debate and criticism.

Illinois College was a center of the abolitionist movement. President Beecher was an outspoken opponent of slavery. A grand jury indicted a group of students for harboring runaway slaves, and two campus houses are believed to have been part of the Underground Railroad.

The College became co-educational in 1903 by incorporating the Jacksonville Female Academy. In 1932 the society of Phi Beta Kappa established a chapter at Illinois College, and it remains one of only 11 in the state.

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