To identify the Best Colleges in Ohio for 2017-2018 we averaged the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems with thousands of real student review scores from around the web to produce a unique College Consensus rating for each school. You won’t find a more comprehensive ranking of the top colleges and universities in Ohio anywhere. Read more about our rankings methodology and sources at our about page.
Colleges & Universities in Ohio
In many Americans’ eyes, Ohio is a watchword for old-fashioned American good-heartedness – calm, thoughtful, and focused. Entering the Union in 1803 as a free state, Ohio early on picked up a reputation for Midwestern liberality and common sense, and many of its early liberal arts institutions, like Kenyon College 75 , Oberlin College 75 , and Otterbein University 64 , were founded as some of the most progressive of their time, admitting women and African-Americans on an equal basis. Many of Ohio’s colleges and universities are highly ranked for community engagement as well, providing outreach, service, health, and education beyond the buildings and landscape of campus.
Ohio’s best colleges and universities value quality and accessibility over all else; nearly all of the top 10 Consensus Ranked schools have been ranked as best values. After all, Ohio was a land of settlers and immigrants, many seeking peace and a home, from religious minorities to escaped and freed slaves. The Ohio State University 68 , in particular, has made openness and accessibility its credo, and for opening up education to as many students as possible, has become both one of the nation’s largest universities, and one of its more dynamic, earning accolades for innovation and entrepreneurship. From Christian colleges (both Catholic and Protestant) to major public research universities, legendary liberal arts colleges to STEM giants like Case Western Reserve University 66 , Ohio’s higher education landscape has it all – all the better for prospective Ohio students.
Here are the top colleges and universities of the Buckeye State.
A small, selective, and highly admired liberal arts college in Gambier, OH, Kenyon College was founded by Philander Chase, Ohio’s first Episcopal bishop, to educate future priests for the church. Named for the Lord Kenyon, a British nobleman who donated substantially to the cause, Kenyon College is the oldest private college in the state, and has educated many of Ohio’s government and business leaders, representatives, and senators. Today, Kenyon is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as a top 30 national liberal arts college, as well as a top 10 Midwestern college by Forbes. Kenyon also has the reputation of a “New Ivy” and a “Hidden Ivy” for its enviable quality.
Kenyon College is primarily a traditional liberal arts college, best known for its influential English program (including the internationally-read Kenyon Review, one of the nation’s finest literary journals). Kenyon offers students all of the benefits the liberal arts college can provide – small classes, highly-trained faculty (99% of whom have the highest degree in their field), and a 10:1 student:faculty ratio that ensures students will have close personal mentorship and exposure to research. Kenyon is also home to the Center for the Study of American Democracy, an essential political research center, and the Kenyon Institute, a haven for research and learning. Students can trust the Kenyon experience to prepare them for their professional and creative lives, and for the Kenyon name to carry them with confidence.
Founded in 1833, Oberlin College was part of the vision of two Presbyterian ministers to build a progressive, religious community around a liberal arts school Oberlin is named for an 18th century Protestant pastor who led mass improvement efforts in Alsace, France, and who is regarded as a Protestant saint. That same kind of spirit was intended to permeate Oberlin, which fought slavery, admitted the first African-American students to any American college, and sponsored pioneering missions in Asia. Today Oberlin is known for political activism, community engagement, and academic excellence, and is widely regarded as not only one of Ohio’s best, but one of the finest liberal arts colleges in the world.
Oberlin College is the oldest coeducational college in the US, and only the second in the world, and has a student body just short of 3000. Over a quarter of Oberlin students come from racial or ethnic minorities, and another tenth are international, retaining the diversity and cultural richness Oberlin has cultivated for nearly two centuries. Oberlin stays true to the traditional liberal arts, and its humanities programs (including English and History) are some of the nation’s finest. The Oberlin Conservatory of Music is the oldest remaining music school in the US, and widely regarded as one of the world’s most prestigious, with alumni ranging from world-renowned jazz and classical musicians to rock and folk music icons. For highly motivated, accomplished students, the Oberlin name is one of Ohio’s best.
Cedarville University is a small, Christian liberal arts college founded in 1887. At the time, the majority denomination was Presbyterian, but a merger with the Cleveland, OH, Baptist Bible Institute in the 1950s shifted Cedarville to Baptist control. While the college has weathered doctrinal controversies, especially in the early 21st century, it has always retained a strong, Christ-centered worldview and an emphasis on student support, success, and development. This century and a half commitment has made Cedarville a trusted name in Ohio, and U.S. News & World Report ranked Cedarville the #12 regional institution in the Midwest, a region with a lot of fierce competition.
With roots in the traditional liberal arts, and a view toward modern, 21st century professions and careers, Cedarville works to bring together the past and the future. Cedarville is particularly known for nursing and pharmacy, as well as its religious and ministry-preparation programs. Cedarville is a conservative, bible-based Christian institution; all students are governed by a common set of values, and all disciplines are rooted in Christ-centered teaching and worldview. All students are required to complete a 5-course minor in the Bible, and daily chapel is mandatory. Cedarville’s regional reputation gives graduates a strong advantage on the job market, earning a 97% placement rate in employment or graduate school, making Cedarville University one of Ohio’s top colleges.
John Carroll University
A small, highly respected private Catholic institution in the Cleveland, OH University Heights suburb, John Carroll University was founded in 1886 as St. Ignatius College, a Jesuit men’s school. It was renamed in 1923 to honor the first American archbishop (and Georgetown University founder) John Carroll, and became coed in 1968, gradually expanding into one of the most influential and service-oriented institutions in the Cleveland area. JCU has been ranked in the top 10 Midwestern regional universities by U.S. News & World Report for 25 years, as well as earning accolades as a U.S. News best undergraduate educator, and a best value, bringing together academic excellence and robust financial support to make an elite Catholic education accessible for all.
JCU is primarily an undergraduate institution in the liberal arts tradition, but the Boler School of Business is Bloomberg Businessweek’s #30 national graduate business school, and #1 in undergraduate business. In keeping with Jesuit philosophy, which emphasizes development of the whole person (physical, intellectual, and spiritual) in community, John Carroll retains a Core Curriculum in the liberal arts that leads students to develop their sense of self, culture, heritage, and community. Jesuit tradition puts social justice and service in the forefront of values, and JCU has been commended by the Carnegie Foundation for Community Engagement Classification, and named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, demonstrating why John Carroll University is one of the best colleges in, and for, Ohio.
Founded by Jesuits in 1831, Xavier University was the first Catholic university in the former Northwest Territory (the region made up of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin) and only the sixth Catholic college in the nation. At that time, Cincinnati was a prominent boom town, as well as the first major city not founded by European colonists, and Xavier helped develop the culture and leadership of the region. Today Xavier is a top 10 regional college in the Midwest, according to U.S. News & World Report, and recognized by the same publication for having the highest graduation rate in the region.
The Xavier mascot is the Musketeer, and the familiar motto, “All for one, one for all” sums up the university’s philosophy toward learning and service. Xavier’s curriculum is built around the traditional liberal arts, with a Great Books-based core that expects every student to develop familiarity with classical Greek and Roman, Renaissance, and Bible texts by graduation. Xavier is also known for their NCAA Division I men’s basketball team, one of the most successful and recognizable in the nation. Kiplinger’s has named Xavier a best value, bringing together academic excellence and reputation with affordable tuition and top student support, and altogether, Xavier University demonstrates all the qualities of Ohio’s best universities.
Ohio State University-Main Campus
One of the nation’s most recognizable universities, the Ohio State University is a major public research institution. Founded on a federal land-grant in 1870, Ohio State began as an agricultural and mechanical college, designed to make learning in the most current, up-to-date technology accessible to ordinary citizens. Ohio State didn’t stay within those confines for long, however, growing into Ohio’s leading public research university and eventually growing to the 3rd-largest student body in the nation. Ohio State has been named a Public Ivy (a public institution with the quality of the Ivy League) and ranked by U.S. News & World Report as a top 20 public university nationally, as well as earning a reputation as one of the most innovative, entrepreneurial institutions in America.
With its roots in agriculture and mechanics – the 19th century start of modern-day engineering – Ohio State is nationally known for its STEM research and teaching, including world-class research centers in biomedical sciences, bioengineering, aeronautical and astronomical research, and more. But OSU is also home of the Fisher College of Business, one of Bloomberg Businessweek’s top undergraduate business and MBA schools, and one of the world’s most important security research centers, the Mershon Center for International Security Studies. OSU has found success by giving the most students possible the chance to show what they’re made of, and the result is a revolutionarily modern public university, one that easily qualifies as one of Ohio’s top universities.
Otterbein University is a small, private liberal arts institution noted as one of the most prestigious in the Midwest. Founded in 1847, Otterbein was originally a Church of the United Brethren college, and named for the Brethren founder Philip William Otterbein, but since the mid-20th century Otterbein has been associated with the United Methodist Church instead. Barring some tongue-in-cheek conflict over the mascot (officially the Cardinal, though a sizable minority support the Otter), Otterbein has grown steadily into a trusted name in higher education, known throughout the Midwest for their educational excellence and community engagement. Otterbein is ranked #11 among regional Midwestern universities by U.S. News & World Report, and Westerville has been named one of the happiest and friendliest suburbs in the nation by Movoto.
Otterbein has always been known for its inclusion and diversity; it was one of the first coed universities in the nation, admitted African-American students before the Civil War, and even protected Japanese-American students from internment during WWII. As a traditional liberal arts college, Otterbein students learn across the humanities, social sciences, and sciences, gaining a foundation of knowledge that can transfer into a variety of fields, while an 11:1 student:faculty ratio provides for excellent mentorship. Graduate programs in nursing, allied health, business, and education are also available. In central Ohio, Otterbein is particularly known for service, having been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, and ranked in Washington Monthly’s top 50 community service universities. No wonder Otterbein University is among Ohio’s top universities.
Ohio’s second-oldest liberal arts college, Denison University was founded in 1831 as part of a plan to bring Ivy League-style classical education (like Brown University, alma mater of Denison’s first president) to the settlers of the Northwest Territory. Denison’s original mission was literary and theological training, though today the university is non-sectarian and secular. A boldly abolitionist institution, Denison was a safe haven on the Underground Railroad, and developed an important role in the community as a center of support and diversity. Denison has been named one of the Colleges That Change Lives, and is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top regional Midwestern institutions.
Denison is proudly one of the most diverse colleges in Ohio, with a third of the student body made up of minority students, and acclaim from the New York Times as one of the most economically diverse colleges in America. Seventeen percent of Denison students are first-generation college students, and financial support is generous, ranked #5 by Money magazine for financial aid. Denison’s traditional liberal arts curriculum is supplemented by top-tier professional learning, and Denison has made news in recent years with the Big Data and Global Commerce programs that link liberal arts learning to the most modern careers. With a reputation for value, service, and excellence, Denison University is an easy choice for students, and for the top colleges in Ohio.
The College of Wooster
Founded in 1866, the College of Wooster is a member of the Five Colleges of Ohio, a consortium (including Kenyon, Oberlin, and Denison as well) of the most elite, prestigious liberal arts colleges in the state. Wooster’s Presbyterian founders intended the college to be open to any and all, regardless of sex, race, or background, which at the time meant women and African-American students were admitted. The college’s commitment to scholarship was tested in the 1920s, when Wooster was forced to defend the teaching of evolution, but throughout its century and a half, Wooster has remained dedicated to student learning. Wooster has been named one of the Colleges That Change Lives, and is a fixture on U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of the top national liberal arts colleges.
As a traditional liberal arts college, Wooster’s curriculum is dedicated to the adaptable, transferrable skills of the humanities and sciences, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and interpretation. Wooster has been named by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top institutions for undergraduate research alongside Princeton University, citing the college’s rigorous senior capstone project. Each student completes a self-directed, intensive research project under the guidance of a faculty member, developing their independent scholarship and communication skills along with time management and self-motivation. For their trouble, Wooster’s graduates have a 92% job and grad school placement rating, earning their slot among Ohio’s best colleges.
Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland, OH, became home to one of the most prestigious private research universities in the nation when Western Reserve University (founded in 1826) and Case Institute of Technology (founded in 1881) merged in 1967 to form Case Western Reserve University. Case Western has long been considered a national leader in both undergraduate teaching and high-level scholarly research, especially in STEM fields, a rare combination that underscores the university’s excellence. U.S. News & World Report ranks Case Western in the top 40 national universities, while other observers, like Washington Monthly, place them in the top 10.
Case Western is particularly known for their education and research in science, particularly in engineering; the Case School of Engineering is widely considered one of the nation’s best, and bioengineering and mechanical engineering are among the university’s most popular majors. Case is also a national leader in sending engineering undergrads to PhD programs. In addition, Case Western’s School of Medicine, Dental School, and Bolton School of Nursing are all considered standout, with the Medical School ranked the best in Ohio. Furthermore, the Weatherhead School of Management is a globally-recognized business school, and the home of the interdisciplinary Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit, dedicated to the power of business to change the world for the better. With so much excellence, Case Western Reserve University is not just one of Ohio’s best, but one of the world’s best universities.