Updated December 6, 2022

Ohio is full of great schools, find the best value university or college for you on our list of the top 30.

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By Iris Stone

When you think of Ohio, there are probably a few colleges and universities that immediately jump to mind - Ohio State University, Oberlin, Case Western, Wooster, and perhaps a few others as well. But what you might not realize is that Ohio is actually overrun with great schools, each of which offers something a little different. Whether you're a jock who insists on joining a top athletic program, a creative spirit destined for the big stage, or a religious student who values spiritual introspection, Ohio has it all.

For convenient online options, see Best Value Online Colleges and Universities in Ohio.

Most students who have started the college search come to one important realization early on: it's expensive! Tuition climbs steadily from year to year, but students' (and their parents') pocketbooks aren't growing any fatter. But many are also too quick to assume that learning on a budget has to mean learning less. In reality, there are plenty of universities that seriously deliver in measures of student success (such as graduation rate and long-term return-on-investment) but won't break the bank in the process. That's what the following ranking represents - the top 30 colleges and universities in Ohio that prioritize both cost and quality in serving their students.

Our Ranking Methodology:

Graduation Rate: This indicator refers to the percentage of students who complete their degree within 150% of normal time (six years for a typical four-year degree program). Schools that perform well in this area have a track record of keeping students engaged and successful for their entire time on campus. We weighted this category 30% of the total and retrieved the information from College Navigator.

Net Price: In order to make sure that cost was still a factor in the ranking, we also considered overall net price as an indicator. Taken from data on College Navigator, "net price" is an approximate value that refers to the average amount of money a student could expect to pay each year after taking into account tuition, room and board, living expenses, scholarship awards, and financial aid packages. We weighted this category 25% of the total.

Acceptance Rate: Academically challenging, popular universities tend to be more selective and thus have a lower acceptance rate. In order to pinpoint those colleges that boast rigorous academics and also receive a large number of applications, we considered acceptance rate - the percentage of students out of the total number of applicants who receive an acceptance letter. We retrieved this information from College Navigator and weighted it 30% of the total.

20-Year Net Return on Investment: Taken from information on the website PayScale, this statistic provides a picture of how much students can expect to make after they graduate from a particular college. More specifically, the figure is calculated by taking the average income an alumnus will make over his or her first 20 years after graduation and subtracting the amount paid in tuition. Schools with a high ROI tend to be better at preparing their students for the job market. We weighted this category only 15% because data was not available for all colleges considered.

After adding all the points, we gave each university a final score out of 200. The schools below have scores ranging from 91 to 164, and each has something different to offer in terms of its cost, quality, and reputation. No one college is perfect (which is why the scores vary so much) but this ranking offers you a premier selection of universities to help get you started on your search for an education in Ohio.

#1 Ohio State University Columbus, OH
#2 University of Dayton Dayton, OH
#3 Oberlin College Oberlin, OH
#4 Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, OH
#5 Miami University Oxford, OH
#6 Kenyon College Gambier, OH
#7 Xavier University Cincinnati, OH
#8 The College of Wooster Wooster, OH
#9 Ohio Northern University Ada, OH
#10 Ohio University Athens, OH

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  1. Ohio State University

    Columbus, OH



    The #1 school in Ohio is none other than Ohio State University, a top national university and one of the largest public schools in the country. OSU climbs to the head of the ranking because of its combination of high quality classes and low costs. It maintains an 83% graduation rate and a 20-year net ROI of $360,000, and yet its annual net cost is far below the state average. Becoming a Buckeye also means opening the door to a practically endless list of degree options and special programs. In fact, there are over 200 majors and minors on offer at OSU, not to mention the research centers, student organizations, and top-rated division I sports teams. As long as students are OK with being one of nearly 65,000, this is without a doubt one of the best, affordable Ohio colleges.

  2. University of Dayton

    Dayton, OH



    The University of Dayton earns the #2 spot on this list by being a well-rounded option for well-rounded students. And although it's a Catholic university, Dayton deviates significantly from the typical liberal arts persona. In fact, it's a top-ranked religious college for both its engineering programs and STEM research. The school's commitment to science - and business and education, as well - prepare learners for the real world the way few universities can. Its 20-year return on investment approaches $400,000, which is no surprise considering the university places such an emphasis on research and leadership. On campus initiatives, like the Bombeck Family Learning Center and the Center for Strategic Energy and Environmental Informatics, give students plenty of ways to build up their résumés.

  3. Oberlin College

    Oberlin, OH



    Oberlin College is not necessarily one of the more affordable colleges in Ohio, but it deserves a spot on this list nonetheless. Like Case Western, Oberlin achieves both high selectivity and high graduation rates (88% for the latter). The college describes itself as a place of "intense energy and creativity," an "ideal laboratory" where students can channel their innovative ideas in an inclusive environment to create a world of their own choosing. Oberlin consists primarily of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Conservatory of Music, which together offer students nearly 50 degree options in areas like Comparative Literature, Archaeological Studies, Law and Society, and of course Music.

  4. Case Western Reserve University

    Cleveland, OH



    They say numbers don't lie, and Case Western Reserve University is fortunate enough to claim some numbers that clearly define it as one of the best colleges in Ohio. With a mere 38% acceptance rate but a lofty 81% graduation rate, CWRU succeeds in both selectivity and student engagement. It also earns a top spot when it comes to alumni satisfaction; the average 20-year net ROI for the university is more than $580,000! Case Western has achieved this status through the help of its mantra to "think beyond the possible." Serious students typically split their time between lecture halls and research labs, working to solve problems that touch on everything from biology and medicine to technology and engineering.

  5. Miami University

    Oxford, OH



    Despite the somewhat confusing name, which connotes images of beaches and palm trees over modest Midwestern living, Miami University is indeed in Ohio. The midsized university holds a national reputation for its commitment to undergraduate education, and it intentionally employs professors who make teaching and mentoring their number one priority. Degree options range from Biological Physics and Software Engineering to Business Economics and Diplomacy and Global Politics. But life at Miami isn't all about classwork - the university encourages it students to have fun, too, whether its by joining one of the more than 650 campus organizations or cheering on the university's dozen+ sports teams.

  6. Kenyon College

    Gambier, OH



    Kenyon College sports some particularly impressive statistics, even when compared to all the other top colleges in Ohio. Kenyon is incredibly selective (only a quarter of applicants are approved for admission) and touts a graduation rate that grazes 90%. Why? Because Kenyon combines enriching liberal arts degrees with unique interdisciplinary programs, an intimate campus environment, and plenty of support from faculty. The beautiful campus houses just 1,600 students but employs almost 200 professors, setting up students for a collegiate experience that will include plenty of one-on-one time with teachers. Students also enjoy the opportunity to learn 11 different foreign languages, access millions of items from the Olin and Chalmers libraries, and work on the prestigious Kenyon Review literary journal.

  7. Xavier University

    Cincinnati, OH



    A premier Jesuit Catholic university in Cincinnati, Xavier is a top choice for religious students who value both small schools and city living. Students gain access to plenty of top corporations in the area (perfect for internships and eventual jobs - and Xavier has a job placement rate of 91%!) and community service initiatives with more than 60 local agencies. And although Xavier's price tag is a bit higher than other private colleges in Ohio, XU students enjoy some serious perks. This includes free tickets to athletic events, vegetarian and gluten-free meal options, and even HBO on Demand! Plus, financial aid and scholarships can bring down the cost of education considerably.

  8. The College of Wooster

    Wooster, OH



    Plenty of schools advertise their serious academics, sports teams, and student activities, but it's not so common to see a college that places a priority on undergraduate research. And yet that's exactly what The College of Wooster does. The school realizes that research not only looks attractive to employers, but is also one of the best ways to help students learn to think critically, manage projects, develop their creativity, and communicate effectively. Special centers like the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Summer Research Scholars Program help undergrads soar past the competition, and in fact every senior completes an independent study initiative with a faculty mentor. This approach to education is part of the reason Wooster boasts a graduation rate of nearly 80%.

  9. Ohio Northern University

    Ada, OH



    Students who are hoping to see a return on investment of nearly $300,000 over 20 years should consider Ohio Northern University, one of the best universities in Ohio when it comes to academic excellence and student success. ONU has long been influenced by its affiliation with the Methodist Church, which in turn has inspired its adherence to the values of goodness, truth, and beauty. Students can choose from any number of traditional and uncommon majors, such as Advertising Design, Forensic Biology, International Theatre, Manufacturing Technology, and Multimedia Journalism. ONU sports plenty of pre-professional options as well, from Optometry to Physical Therapy.

  10. Ohio University

    Athens, OH



    Ohio University welcomes new students to campus with a litany of opportunities and ways to get involved. The university accepts only the best students - the average undergrad GPA of incoming freshmen is a 3.4 - and maintains a moderate population of about 17,000. Like some of the larger schools in Ohio, OU provides more than 250 areas of study, from Acting to Wildlife and Conservation Biology. And at this university (a cheap Ohio college by most standards) special programs abound; the Career and Leadership Development Center helps empower students in the job search, while the Education Abroad opportunities whisk adventurous learners to far-off locales like Austria, Ghana, and Singapore.

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About the Author:
Iris Stone began her writing career as a freelance writer and researcher. She now owns and operates a writing and editing firm that works with clients all across the country. Her work has included articles related to education policy, colleges and universities, academic programs, and careers.

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