Rankings & Reviews
As a leader among the nation’s top residential liberal arts colleges, Denison University has earned a reputation for academic rigor that is rivaled only by its commitment to preparing students for a lifetime of personal, professional and civic success.
Denison’s abundance of wide-ranging student opportunities and experiences, including both curricular and co-curricular offerings, reflect the college’s core institutional values of community, diversity, sustainability and service.
These hallmarks of the Denison education, delivered by outstanding and enthusiastic faculty who are dedicated to teaching undergraduate students in the arts of critical thinking and original research, have not gone unnoticed by those who review and recommend institutions of higher education. The endorsements listed here are simply a sampling of the type of buzz that Denison has created with its 21st century model for academic inquiry, its creative co-curricular programming and leadership development, and its beautiful residential campus with state-of-the-art facilities for living and learning.
The most important measure of an undergraduate education, however, is in its outcomes, and it is our alumni who bring the greatest honor to our college. Whether they distinguish themselves in the professions, the arts, education, or public service, these proud and loyal Denisonians have brought about the remarkable reputation and visibility the college enjoys today. Denison’s success in capturing the attention of employers and graduate schools around the world is due, in no small part, to the extraordinary performance and leadership demonstrated by alumni of our “fair college on the hill.”
Here’s what others are saying about Denison:
“Ralph Waldo Emerson said an institution is the lengthening shadow of one person. What has happened and is happening at Denison proves it. The change in ambience and ethos is palpable. It is a place where good things are happening and a new spirit is in the air … It is first rate.”
In his quintessential book defining the true value of higher education and lauding the select group of colleges that get it right, Lauren Pope gives Denison high marks for its curriculum, its faculty, its approach to student development and the success of its alumni. Pope, a retired New York Times education editor, journalist, and highly respected student advocate, points out that Denison’s unique summer research opportunities for students, and its creative approach to career exploration and development add value to an already top-notch academic program. The book praises Denison’s faculty and administrators for their hand-crafted approach to student development, as they fill the roles of teachers, mentors and counselors with aplomb.
“Denison is a standardized test-optional school, giving applicants the choice of whether or not to submit test scores as part of their application.”
In its list of “America’s Top Colleges,” Forbes Magazine has placed Denison among the very best. Along with the school’s quality of teaching and learning, Forbes places special emphasis on the return on a family’s investment in the college education, asking such questions as: “Will my classes be interesting?”; “Is it likely I will graduate in four years?”; “Will I incur a ton of debt getting my degree?”; “And once I get out of school, will I get a good job and be a leader in my chosen profession?” In ranking Denison, Forbes notes the college’s history and some folklore that has been passed down by generations of students, and it also notes Denison’s celebrated successes in intercollegiate athletics. Forbes recently has added a more focused ranking of “America’s Most Entrepreneurial Colleges.” Denison again is listed among the best colleges in the nation that are “reinventing themselves as modern-day startup incubators.” The ranking recognizes an institution’s entrepreneurial outcomes by analyzing its alumni and students who are founders and owners of successful businesses and other enterprises. In this prestigious list, Denison ranks right behind Williams College, and ahead of schools such as DePauw, Occidental, Oberlin, Hamilton, Trinity, Kenyon, Bowdoin, Villanova, Swarthmore and Davidson.
“Our list ranks the top 100 universities and top 100 liberal arts colleges. The rankings measure academic quality and affordability.”
Denison fares particularly well in Kiplinger’s highly regarded annual ranking of its “Best College Values.” Used in Kiplinger’s methodology are measures of competitiveness, graduation rates, academic support, cost, financial aid, and student indebtedness. When this comprehensive standard is applied to form Kiplinger’s “Best Values in Liberal Arts Colleges” ranking, Denison emerges as the No. 1 school in Ohio, placing ahead of Kenyon, Oberlin and Wooster. Denison rises to 23rd among the nation’s best liberal arts schools, surpassing such schools as Lafayette, Richmond, Scripps, Macalester, Bates, Bucknell, Pitzer, Smith, Connecticut College, Sewanee, Trinity, Skidmore, Franklin & Marshall, Dickinson, and Occidental.
“Denison isn’t only wired: it’s green, having taken a number of steps to reduce its carbon footprint.”
In its list of the “10 Most Wired Colleges In The Country,” the Huffington Post has placed Denison at No. 7, between Carnegie Mellon (No. 6) and Wake Forest (No. 8). Defining these 10 schools as being “on the cutting edge of technology,” the Huff Post declares, “some colleges do it better than others.” The review also states that, “Denison has branded its own web-based suite of applications powered by Google. Students use Denison Apps for emailing, maintaining a calendar, and sharing all major documents throughout the university,” and “utilizes a customizable service to keep students and faculty on the same page. Through the use of ‘channels’ the administration, clubs, athletics, etc., can broadcast announcements to the entire student body or within their own groups within this closed network.”
“What makes a college ‘the best?’ The Daily Beast set out to answer this question, ranking colleges and universities based on what students say are the most important factors when it comes to choosing a school.”
The Daily Beast ranks public and private colleges in a combined listing, according to factors from UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute survey of incoming first-year students. According to this survey, these students choose a college based primarily on three major factors: academic quality, the “good jobs” offered to graduates, and the cost of attendance. In a national survey of college students, Denison students rank the college at the top with regard to academics, saying they are more prepared than many of their non-Denison peers for graduate school. Denison also is committed to helping its students move forward into their careers quickly, with programs specifically addressing important private-sector skills, as well as continuing post-graduate support. Within the first six months after commencement, 84 percent of Denison graduates were employed, in graduate school, or working for a competitive nonprofit service organization such as Teach for America or the Peace Corps. And Denison provides need-blind financial aid, which helps its students graduate with one of the lowest average debt rates in the country, in fact, even well below most public colleges and universities.
“These colleges emphasize undergraduate studies in the arts, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. Most are small, with class sizes typically under 20 students, which fuels learning and forges close relationships with peers and professors.“
Business Insider has ranked what it calls the “Smartest Liberal Arts Colleges in America,” listing Denison as No. 43. BI’s methodology analyzes the average standardized test scores of the 242 top national liberal arts colleges as ranked by U.S. News & World Report, and Denison’s average SAT scores tie it with Bucknell University. In the ranking, Denison places ahead of Centre College, Gettysburg College, the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Navel Academy, Dickinson College, Lafayette College, Bard College, and University of the South. Students agree that academics are at the center of the Denison experience and have gone on record — “The faculty and staff at this institution genuinely care about the well-being and scholastic excellence of each student.” A recent national study notes that Denison professors are scholars in their fields but also are masters in the crafts of teaching and advising. Seniors here rated the quality of their interactions with their faculty advisor significantly higher than students at other Carnegie peer classified institutions.
“The Washington Monthly rankings have always rejected the idea that expense, luxury and exclusivity should be held up as the highest values to which colleges and students aspire. Instead, this ranking asks a different question: ‘What are colleges and their graduates doing to make the country better?’“
Washington Monthly digs deep into what colleges are doing in response to social inequalities. Schools are rated based on their contribution to the public good in three broad categories: social mobility, research and service. Denison, with 19 percent of its students receiving Pell Grants and a graduation rate of almost 85 percent, ranks high for social mobility, which encompasses recruiting, retaining and graduating low-income students. Just after graduation, about 20 percent of our students attend graduate school and Denison’s acceptance rates to law and medical schools stand well above national averages. Denison also ranks highly in national surveys of undergraduate service community hours as well as postgraduate service opportunities with Peace Corps, Teach for America and City Year.
“The President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll has announced that Denison University has been recognized for its estimable community service.”
The college is one of only 61 institutions of higher education nationwide that has earned the designation of Honor Roll with Distinction for “the extraordinary and exemplary community service contributions of its students, faculty, and staff in meeting critical community and national needs.” In addition, Denison is the only independent college or university in Ohio to gain the “With Distinction” honor. The prestigious designation is based on the community service of students in the Denison Community Association, service learning courses, athletic teams, Greek organizations and Community Service Interns America Reads literacy tutors. Eighty-six percent of Denison students perform some form of service each year, during which they contribute some 45,000 hours of service. Denison has been acknowledged every year since 2009 for its support of community service programs as a member of the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor, and this is the second time that the college’s recognition has been elevated to the exclusive “With Distinction” classification.
“This education gap is a problem not only for the teenagers on the wrong end of it. It’s a problem for the American economy. The economic differences between college graduates and everyone else have reached record levels.”
The New York Times debuted a ranking in 2014, which measures efforts to enroll lower-income students. Denison was ranked 11th among all top colleges in the country, tied with Columbia, and just ahead of Stanford, Brown and Williams. This high ranking by the Times reflects Denison’s earnest and persistent efforts to recruit, enroll, and retain the kind of talented students who have traditionally excelled in secondary school, but have not gone on to top colleges because of financial obstacles. Denison’s dedication to these individuals is supported by a high percentage of students who receive Pell Grants, which are awarded to families with lower incomes. Denison’s substantial and well-managed endowment allows the college to support these economically disadvantaged students even further. The net price for these students is among the very lowest nationwide, and their graduation rate is among the highest.
“Money ranks Denison fifth among the nation’s top private colleges in financial aid for the best and brightest students.”
Denison is perennially listed among the leaders in Money’s ranking of its “Best Colleges for Your Money.” Denison’s strength in measures of educational quality, affordability, and alumni earnings, as well its superior retention and graduations rates, earn it consistently high marks from Money. The ranking also considers colleges’ endowments and financial ratings, which is another area where Denison stands out from the crowd. A unique “value added” score considers how well graduates fare compared to what would be expected given their economic and academic backgrounds — another area where Denison shines. Among other factors where Denison earns distinction are its generous merit aid, low parent and student borrowing, and minimal tuition increases. In addition, on its list of “The 25 Best Private Colleges for Merit Aid,” Money ranks Denison fifth among the nation’s top private colleges in awarding financial aid for the best and brightest students. The list includes the leading colleges “where smart students can earn the most financial assistance.”
“If you combine the information in U.S. News Best Colleges with college visits, interviews and your own intuition, our rankings can be a powerful tool in your quest for the right college.”
Possibly the best known magazine that engages in the college rankings game, U.S. News and World Report, consistently places Denison in the top tier of its Best National Liberal Arts Colleges list. U.S. News claims to put high value on retention rates, average class size and financial resources — all areas in which Denison excels. The signature of the U.S. News rankings is its “reputation index,” an assessment of one school’s academic status as rated by senior administrators from other schools, and Denison’s academic reputation is another major factor that strengthens its position as national leader in the overall U.S. News rankings. In addition, important measures such as the quality of professors, selectivity for admission, and total financial resources give Denison a big boost among the elite schools in the U.S. News Best Colleges list.
More recently, U.S. News has ranked the nation’s top colleges on how successful they are at graduating their low-income students compared with their overall student bodies. On this important list, Denison again rises to the top and is called an “overperformer” by the study. This indicates that Denison is actually graduating its students from economically disadvantaged settings at a rate even higher than its exceptional overall graduation rate. Denison prides itself in being accessible and affordable to high-achieving students from all backgrounds, and equal attention is given to supporting their academic journey, regardless of means.
“Denison has signed the Presidents’ Climate Commitment, awarded grants to student sustainability projects, and made efforts to reduce dining hall waste.”
In its latest College Sustainability Report Card, the Sustainable Endowments Institute has commended Denison as not only a school that’s already employing cutting-edge sustainability strategies, but also one that is serious about striving to further improve its efforts in this realm. Denison gets A’s in six of nine discrete categories of green practices, those being administration; climate change and energy; food and recycling; student involvement; and investment priorities. In addition, Denison earned B’s in the report’s green building and transportation categories. Student groups earn particular kudos, having “worked on initiatives such as a bike-sharing program, clothing swap events, and an on-campus garden.” The report also notes, “To reduce energy use, the university has taken a variety of measures, including installing energy management systems in 81 percent of buildings and steam line insulation in all buildings. Timers and motion sensors for temperature control and electric metering are utilized in nearly all buildings.”
“We are so privileged to be surrounded by scholars who are passionate about teaching and learning what they love.”
The Princeton Review bases its ratings of America’s “Best Colleges” on institutional data and on extensive on-campus interviews with students, presidents, deans and staff. The publication gives Denison high marks for its academics, the quality of student life and its selectivity. The guide notes Denison students “are involved in community service, student government, varsity and intramural sports, honor societies and social groups. Denisonians develop leadership skills through some 180 student-run organizations.” About the faculty, its states, “The faculty, who are brilliant scholars, teachers and mentors, thrive on collaboration with their students through joint research, small seminars and lively discussions in and outside the classroom.” Another distinction describes Denison’s Office of Career Exploration and Development, which it says “helps to prepare students for a wide range of careers and advanced study following graduation. In addition, the college’s acclaimed internship program and its impressive alumni network allow students to choose from hundreds internship opportunities in real-world settings.”
“Students say that the environment is more collaborative than competitive, and the key to success is effective time management.”
“Classes are small, individual attention is the norm,” says Fiske’s Guide to Colleges about Denison. Fiske also holds up Denison’s internship and off-campus programs, and it praises the college’s generous financial aid, pointing out that “the average non-need-based scholarship award is more than $20,000.” Fiske also notes that some of the more interesting courses of study, such as the major offered in “Philosophy, Political Science and Economics,” are unique to Denison. Fiske also remarks about the quality of the physical sciences and modern languages, programs that offer loads of experiential learning and close collaboration with faculty at Denison. Fiske also gives Denison superior ratings for its selectivity, its highly effective career development, and its setting in Granville, including the beautiful campus and the expansive biological reserve.
“Each year, the College Choice rankings are based on three equally weighted factors: academic reputation, overall value, and success of graduates in the post-college job market.”
College Choice ranks colleges and universities according to the factors first-year college students said were most important to their college decision, according to the most recent nationwide survey published by the Higher Education Research Institute. Denison ranks among the top 40 liberal arts colleges in the country with respect to these factors, which include academic position, visibility, and reputation; generosity of both need- and merit-based financial aid; overall net cost; and demonstrated professional success and income for alumni. In the College Choice ranking, Denison places ahead of such respected institutions as Oberlin College, Mount Holyoke College, Dickinson College and Union College. Denison’s rigorous curriculum, strong faculty mentorship, and high gradation rate are factors earning it a top academic rating. The college’s large and intelligently managed endowment, and the ability to provide generous student financial support, make Denison both accessible and affordable for families of all economic backgrounds. And with a strong commitment to professional preparation and career-launch programs, nearly all of Denison’s recent graduates report that they are employed, attending graduate or professional school, or pursuing service opportunities, proving that the college’s mission of equipping students with the skills and knowledge needed to achieve their post-graduation goals is both effective and successful.
“The higher education experts at BestColleges.com reviewed more than 130 public and private four-year colleges in Ohio.”
After taking into account key performance indicators such as academic profile, acceptance rate, net tuition, financial aid, retention rates, graduation rates and return on investment, Denison ranked among the very best. In addition, as one of the top three private colleges in the state, Denison boasts the best and most comprehensive financial aid program, the lowest loan default rate, and the lowest debt following graduation. With an enviable student/faculty ratio of just over 9 to 1, all of Denison’s professors, who pride themselves in teaching and advising undergraduates in an engaging and personal manner, hold a Ph.D. or equivalent in their field. As a residential college located on a stunning hilltop campus with top-notch facilities and accommodations, both the learning environment and quality of student life at Denison are hailed as being superlative.