An Introduction to Colleges & Universities in Cincinnati

by Randy Hoffman
An Introduction to Colleges & Universities in Cincinnati

Cincinnati is a prosperous, growing, well-rounded city of almost a million people with a metropolitan area covering fifteen counties in southwestern Ohio, southeastern Indiana, and northern Kentucky. The story of its rise to prominence is fascinating.

The region that later became the state of Ohio was ceded to the United States from Britain in 1783, opened for land sale in 1785, and officially organized as an American territory in 1787. A year later, a settlement called "Losantiville" (a name awkwardly combining words from Greek, Latin, French, and the language of the Delaware tribe of Native Americans meaning "town opposite the mouth of the Licking River") was founded at the southern edge of this territory. The commander of the nearby fort changed the town's name to "Cincinnati" in honor of a Revolutionary War officers' organization inspired by Roman farmer Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus, who became a general and later a dictator in defense of the Roman Republic, but gave up those powers and returned to his plow. Cincinnati became an incorporated city in 1819, and developed rapidly after the Miami & Erie Canal linked it to other western Ohio towns and finally to the Great Lakes between 1829 and 1845. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow immortalized Cincinnati as the "Queen of the West" (or the "Queen City") in his 1854 poem "Ode to Catawba Wine."

In its early years, Cincinnati consisted largely of wooden buildings, and the city has had an abiding concern with emergency services. In 1853, the Cincinnati fire department became the first paid full-time fire department in the U.S., as well as the first fire department in the world to use steam-powered fire engines (invented in the city in the previous year). In 1865, the city became the home of the world's first ambulance service. Cincinnati has also had a healthy interest in sports. The Cincinnati Red Stockings, the world's first all-professional baseball team, were founded in 1869; they still play in the major leagues today as the Cincinnati Reds. Ninety-nine years later, the Cincinnati Bengals were charter members of the American Football League and continue to compete in the NFL. The region offers many other opportunities for sporting, recreation, and entertainment, including such destinations as the American Classical Music Hall of Fame and Museum, American Sign Museum, Carnegie Visual + Perfoming Arts Center, Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens, Coney Island Park, Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, Kentucky Speedway, Loveland Castle, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Newport Aquarium, Paramount's Kings Island Amusement Park, and Taft Museum of Art.

The city has been pioneering in education as well. It was the first in Ohio to introduce graded primary schooling in 1840. Cincinnati College was founded in 1819 and became the University of Cincinnati (UC) in 1870; one of its presidents, William Holmes McGuffey, published in 1836 the first of the McGuffey Reader textbooks for young people, which were widely used throughout the country for the rest of the 19th century. Cincinnati's St. Francis Xavier (now known just as Xavier) University was founded in 1831 as the city's first university. UC's College of Engineering established the world's first cooperative education program in 1906, and the city remains a strong co-op ed center (more on that later).

In more recent times, Cincinnati has developed into a major wholesale, retail, and manufacturing center with strong finance and healthcare sectors, exporting products that include consumer goods, financial services, jet engines and assorted machinery, paper, plastics, and software. Numerous Fortune 500 corporations are headquartered in the region, including AK Steel, American Financial Group, Cinergy, Federated Department Stores, Fifth Third Bancorp, Kroger, Omnicare, and Procter & Gamble., as well as prominent firms such as Chiquita Brands International and many smaller and startup companies. In short, Cincinnati is happening!

Going to School in Cincinnati

When asked why someone should choose a college or university in the Cincinnati region, the local education professionals have no shortage of reasons. Janet Piccirillo, Executive Director of the Greater Cincinnati Consortium of Colleges and Universities (GCCCU), immediately mentions the "variety and breadth of higher education opportunities that we offer". She points out that the Consortium's member institutions range in size from enrollments of a hundred or fewer to enrollments of scores of thousands, and that they offer "everything from specialized certificate programs to Ph.D. programs."

"Diversity of institutions" is also the first item mentioned by Thomas Canepa, Assistant Vice President for Admissions at the University of Cincinnati. He says, "The region has everything from community colleges and technically based institutions all the way to Top 25 research institutions." He goes on to talk about "diversity of experience": The area offers the best qualities of both the Midwest and the South, with many different ethnic and cultural communities, and he jokes that "unlike so much of the Midwest, it isn't flat." Canepa points out that, unlike in other cities, none of the colleges or universities in Cincinnati are downtown, "but students can easily take advantage of downtown opportunities." Within a 125-mile radius, he says -- encompassing the cities of Columbus, Dayton, Indianapolis, Louisville, Frankfort, and Lexington -- "a student could study whatever they wanted and have a path to their goal regardless of their point of entry." When pressed to name an educational shortcoming of the region, Canepa sounds almost apologetic, but professes: "I couldn't easily identify a deficiency."

Canepa also singles out the city's beautiful Ohio River waterfront as a selling point, and so does Debora DelValle, Media Relations Specialist for Xavier University. She enthuses that Cincinnati has a great location in the "heart of the Midwest" and it's "easily accessible"; it has major employers and pro sports teams; it's "family-friendly" and has "art, culture, music, theater, and outdoor recreation"; in short, it's just a "very nice city."

Piccirillo agrees that the city is a "nice place to live". It has a "fairly low cost of living," employment is "not an issue," and it's "an attractive place to settle down and have a career." She also identifies the many collaborative agreements between the Consortium's institutions and the area's high schools and technical schools as one of the region's nice features. "The last census highlighted that the people in the region aren't taking full advantage of the higher education," she says, "so the Consortium's member schools are making an effort to address that need," working with the state's Department of Education, the local Chambers of Commerce, Cincinnati Public Schools, and other agencies. One result of that effort are the Consortium's College Access Partnerships, "supporting collaboration between members and public schools in Ohio and northern Kentucky, to improve access to higher education and to provide information to middle- and high-school students, their parents, etc., about their opportunities." She urges people, whoever and wherever they are, to seek out information and be open to all of their options: "Even if you feel that you might not be quite ready for a four-year liberal-arts school, [there are] community and technical colleges you can consider."

The Cincinnati area is home to many schools of higher education, including:

*Member of the Greater Cincinnati Consortium of Colleges and Universities (GCCCU)
**Associate member of GCCCU

According to The Princeton Review's website, among reporting schools in the area, average student/faculty ratios range from 5 to 1 at the Art Academy of Cincinnati to 25 to 1 at CSTCC, with most schools having a ratio from 11 to 1 to 19 to 1. The schools tend to be one of three sizes: very small, with enrollments under 200 (Art Academy, Athenaeum, Chatfield); midsize, with enrollments from 1200 to 5000 (Miami, Union, Wilmington, Xavier, and most others); and very large, with enrollments over 11,000 (CSTCC, NKU, UC). (Cincinnati Christian is an exception, with an enrollment in the high three digits.)

Be careful to choose an "accredited" institution whose facilities, faculty, finances, and procedures are regularly investigated and approved by an educational standards organization. In the Cincinnati area, colleges and universities are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Some of the region's colleges and universities have particularly strong specialties. Thomas Canepa touts several of these at UC, including the perenially top-two-ranked architecture and interior design programs and the highly ranked paleontology program. Debora DelValle runs through a litany of these at Xavier: Their business school is highly ranked; it offers an Executive Mentoring Program in which each participating student is mentored by a successful businessperson, as well as an interdisciplinary Professional Program that probes the intersection of business and culture. (For example, students go to an art museum and learn not only the business skills it takes to run a museum, but also the importance of art to the business world and how the two fields are connected.) MIDAS (Master's of Science in Nursing - Direct Entry As a Second Degree) is a two-year master's degree at Xavier in which people who already have a bachelor's degree can quickly prepare themselves for RN board exams and prepare for leadership in nursing, including how to evaluate patients' needs and better coordinate their care. This is the 40th anniversary of the school's Master's in Montessori Education, one of the oldest such programs in existence; Cincinnati is a center of the Montessori movement. As a Jesuit university, Xavier stresses the importance of service throughout the world; for example, participants in its Service Learning Semesters study and serve in Nicaragua and Ghana as well as in the local community itself.


The costs of going to school in Cincinnati vary as widely as the schools themselves do. Tuition at community colleges such as Cincinnati State Technical and Community College will be lower than at residential colleges and universities; Cincinnati State charges (as of 2005) $75.65 per credit-hour for Ohio residents, twice that for out-of-state residents, for an annual out-of-state tuition of about $3,631 for two full-time (12-credit-hour) semesters. As for the residential schools, here are some of their annual full-time tuition costs for sample schools/programs, taken or calculated (as two semesters of 12 credit hours each) from the 2005 tuition schedules on their Web sites:

  • Raymond Walters College (career-oriented undergraduate school) of the University of Cincinnati: $3,292 for Ohio residents, $8, 534 for out-of-state residents
  • Miami University - Hamilton: $6,216 for Ohio residents, $17,748 for out-of-state residents1
  • College of Medicine (graduate) of the University of Cincinnati, non-M.D. programs: $6,984 for Ohio residents, $13,054 for out-of-state residents
  • Cincinnati Bible College of Cincinnati Christian University: $9,120 for all students
  • Wilmington College: $9,240 for Cincinnati campuses, $19,206 elsewhere
  • Salmon P. Chase College of Law of Northern Kentucky University: $10,128 for Kentucky residents, $17,328 for Metro residents2, $22,104 for out-of-area residents
  • Master of Science graduate program at Xavier University: $11,952 for all students
  • Mount St. Mary's Seminary of The Athenaeum of Ohio: $15,180 for all seminarians studying on campus
  • Professional law program of the University of Cincinnati: $16,210 for Ohio residents, $29,284 for out-of-state residents
  • Thomas More College: $17,600 for all students
  • Art Academy of Cincinnati: $18,500 for all students
  • Master of Nursing graduate program at the College of Mount St. Joseph: $33,600 for all students

1These figures are for "upper tier" students who have accumulated at least 68 credit-hours at Miami University - Hamilton; tuition for "lower tier" students with fewer credits is slightly less.

2"Metro" students are those living in selected nearby counties in Ohio and Indiana.

Besides tuition-related expenses, students will need to be prepared for application, registration, lab, and activity fees, among others, as well as books, parking permits, room and board if they will be living on campus, and other costs. Some programs will also require students to pay special costs or purchase special equipment. Fortunately, a large majority of students at most area schools receive some kind of financial aid, as discussed in the next section.

Financial Aid

According to The Princeton Review's website (among reporting Cincinnati-area schools) the percentage of undergraduate students receiving need-based financial aid ranges from a low of 49% at the University of Cincinnati and 50% at Xavier University all the way to 99% at Thomas More College, with the average need-based aid received by freshmen ranging from $1,500 at Cincinnati Christian to over $12,000 at Wilmington College. But almost all students in the region receive some aid, need-based or not; Debora DelValle reports that 95% of students at Xavier get financial aid of some kind. At her school, she says, five students a year that demonstrate leadership in academics and service are awarded the Xavier Service Fellowship which covers the students' full tuition and room and board. Similarly, Thomas Canepa says that UC is celebrating the 10th year of its Cincinnatus scholarships, whose awards start at $2,000 and go up to full tuition and room and board (which can amount to $64,000); the university awards an astounding $12 million in scholarships annually.

US citizens attending almost any Cincinnati college or university will probably qualify for the standard federal low-interest student loans such as the Stafford and PLUS programs. Many schools, corporations, organizations, and foundations offer scholarships based on need, merit, or other criteria. Lots of these are specifically for students from the Greater Cincinnati region; see the list maintained by the Cincinnati Scholarship Foundation.

Students who don't already have a job might be able to commit to working at a company in certain fields (notably business and healthcare) for a period of time after they graduate in return for a scholarship or loan forgiveness. If a student is already employed, a talk with their employer's human resources department may lead to tuition coverage for a field of study that will enhance the student's current job skills.


In addition to grants, loans, and scholarships, students can often pay for school (and get real-world professional experience) by working as an intern or as part of a program of cooperative education. Cooperative higher education, in which a company partners with a university to employ a student in their field of study, was conceived by UC's Professor Herman Schneider and first attempted on an experimental basis by UC's College of Engineering in 1905, with the program gaining permanent approval in 1906. The concept spread to Northeastern University, Antioch College, and others, then throughout the country. Today Cincinnati is still a co-op hotbed and, according to Thomas Canepa, UC is still in the top 5 of co-op institutions. UC's Division of Professional Practices works with students to place them in co-op positions; in a typical five-year co-op undergraduate program, students take classes for all of their first year and the first three quarters of the second year, then work and study in alternate quarters. He says many students earn enough in co-op to pay for their education, without having to worry about borrowing or working part-time; during the 2004-05 academic year, UC co-op students earned a staggering $30 million in total.

>Employment in Cincinnati

According to the International Visitors' Council of Cincinnati, the region supports companies in a vast array of industrial and service sectors. Canepa identifies three sectors in which Cincinnati shares a nationwide demand for qualified professionals: education, healthcare (especially nursing staff), and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). According to Debora Delvalle, at least 200 different companies recruit graduates from Xavier, and that's just one school among many.

Once you've graduated and and if you want to stay in the Cincinnati area, there are many websites advertising local positions, including Cincinnati.Com from CareerBuilder, - Cincinnati, Queen City Jobs, and the Cincinnati Employment Guide, to name just a few. The most important thing you can do, though, is to network: Make sure that your family and friends (and any professional contacts you have) know what kind of job you're looking for. The fact remains that, even in the Information Society, most jobs are filled as a result of personal ties and interactions.


In its early days, pioneers came to Cincinnati from New England; later, they came from Germany and Eastern Europe, chasing a beacon of opportunity. Although its frontier days are long gone and it has reigned as the Queen City of the West for over a century, Cincinnati is still a place where opportunity reigns, and its educators are working hard to keep it that way. With some honest work, pioneer style, you can do more than just get a diploma or degree, land a job, and find a career; you can bring your dreams to life.

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