15 Top Hidden Gem Colleges in Ohio


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15 Top Hidden Gems in Ohio

Hidden Gems in Ohio offer quality education and online programs and are some of the best small schools in the state. Ohio has a rich history of higher education, with many public colleges and universities that offer a good education with affordable tuition.

In addition to the large state schools, there are some excellent small public colleges and small private universities in Ohio. These schools offer quality education, and the ones on our list also have online degree programs. These Hidden Gems in Ohio are some of the best schools you’ve never heard of!

How We Ranked The Hidden Gems in Ohio

The editors at Online Schools Guide found smaller schools in Ohio with an excellent academic reputation that offer online degree programs. Then, we ranked the programs based on the cost of attendance and the number of online offerings.

1. Walsh University

website: Walsh University
Walsh University logo

Walsh University was founded by the Brothers of Christian Instruction in 1960 with a mission to develop leaders in service to others. The school was named after the Bishop of Youngstown at that time when the Most Reverend Emmett Walsh donated more than $300,000 to the, then, Walsh College project. Today the university attracts more than 2,400 students per year from 46 states and 35 countries to its 136-acre main campus and online. It is a Catholic university steeped in the values of faith, excellence, integrity, community, and service.  

The university offers an array of exceptional quality online accelerated degree programs for both undergraduate and graduate students. Some of the programs Walsh offers include aviation, business, actuarial science, nursing, computer science, and communications. The master’s degree programs include business counseling, education, nursing, and health sciences. Adult students can work at their own pace and complete their degrees in a time frame that works best for them while taking care of families, and still working full or part-time jobs.

Location: North Canton, Ohio

Online programs: 45

2. Ohio Christian University

website: Ohio Christian University
Ohio Christian University

Nestled in the beautiful Ohio town of Circleville, OCU is known for its annual Pumpkin Festival. This private Christian college has affiliations with the Churches of Christ in the Christian Union. But it opened in 1948 as Mount of Praise Bible College. It later became the Circleville Bible College. And in 2006, it took the name the Ohio Christian University when it received its regional accreditation. The university currently has an enrollment of about 1,448 undergraduate students.

The Ohio ChristianUuniversity offers an array of courses and fully online programs. This makes it easier for adult students of all ages to work full or part-time jobs while attending college or even finishing their coursework sooner than students who attend the university traditionally. Some fully online programs encompass theology, criminal justice, the arts, human services, nursing, business, and many others. There are also hybrid programs available where students can attend in-person classes and complete coursework online.

Location: Circleville, Ohio

Online programs: 32

3. Cedarville University

website: Cedarville University
Cedarville University

Situated in the village of Cedarville in southwestern Ohio, Cedarville University offers over 175 undergraduate and graduate programs of study. All are taught from a distinctly biblical worldview. More than 5,000 students attend classes at the university founded in 1887 on more than 700 acres of land.

The university offers high school students the opportunity to complete coursework online in ten different programs before they receive their high school diplomas. Those online programs include Cedarville Bible Minor, Cedarville Core Courses, Business and Engineering, Math and Quantitative Electives, English, Literature and Communication, Nursing for high school seniors only, Global Awareness Electives, Humanities Electives, Science, and Social Science and History.

Graduate students can earn business certificates through fully online programs in healthcare administration, cybersecurity management, nursing leadership, nurse educators, ministry leadership, and operations management. Graduate-level programs also offered at Cedarville University include 15 programs, such as a Master of Business degree, biblical leadership, athletic training, and healthcare administration.

Location: Village of Cedarville, Ohio

Online programs: 25

4. Notre Dame College

website: Notre Dame College
Notre Dame College

Founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1922, Notre Dame College is located on 48 beautiful acres of wooded land in South Euclid. This Ohio town is a suburb of Cleveland. The four-year Catholic liberal arts college offers 34 different majors to 1,100 undergraduate students. The college focuses on students’ values and career paths while providing a private Catholic education. This college offers an excellent combination of a quiet and serene campus lifestyle and nearby adventures in the much larger city of Cleveland.

Notre Dame College offers two online associate degree programs: business management and liberal studies. There are also 12 bachelor’s degree programs at this beautiful college. These include registered nursing to a bachelor of science in nursing, early childhood education, social work, criminal justice, and three different bachelors of business administration options. There are also seven online master’s degree programs. Some of these are in business administration, a master’s of national security and intelligence, and five different areas of master’s degrees that are education-related, including nursing education and educational leadership.

The college only offers one graduate certificate program that is entirely online, which will allow students majoring in education to earn their teaching license certificate. The online programs fit with students’ busy schedules and offer them the opportunity to complete their degree programs in only one year, depending on whether or not they are full or part-time students.

Location: South Euclid, Ohio

Online programs: 21

5. Muskingum University

website: Muskingum University
Muskingum University

Muskingum University opened in 1837. This was not long after Ohio’s statehood and when covered wagons brought new settlers to the area. The university embraces its Native American name and views it as a source of pride that honors its history of frontier America beyond the Allegheny Mountains. Muskingum University offers more than 60 academic majors and is in the small Ohio town of New Concord.

Students can take courses in various bachelor’s degree programs online, including accounting, business management, child and family studies, communication studies, criminal justice, marketing, and health care majors. In addition, several bachelor’s degree programs in nursing, Health Science, medical laboratory studies, and sports and fitness science have accelerated options. So students can complete them in a much shorter amount of time than traditional students since they can work at their own pace anytime, day or night.

Location: New Concord, Ohio

Online programs: 19

6. Union Institute & University

website: Union Institute and University
Union Institute & University

Since the Union Institute and University’s founding in 1964, more than 20,000 students have earned college degrees. This adult-focused school is also very diverse. UIU is a nonprofit that offers an array of bachelor, master, and doctoral degree programs and certificates in leadership, education, social justice, mental wellness, public service, health care, and several others.

All of the programs at this university are entirely online. This flexibility helps students achieve their educational goals while they work full or part-time jobs, take care of other commitments, and even raise a family. Some bachelor’s degree programs online offer business management, criminal justice, early childhood education, adolescent development, psychology, emergency services management, maternal child health, and human lactation.

Some Master of Arts degrees online include clinical mental health counseling, applied nutrition and dietetics, and a concentration in cyber security. The college also provides a variety of doctorate-level degree programs that are entirely online, such as a Doctor of Education and a Ph.D. in educational studies and ethical and creative leadership. In addition, several graduate certificate programs are available online for students, from cannabis studies to health and wellness and health education.

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Online programs: 17

7. Shawnee State University

website: Shawnee State University
Shawnee State University

Shawnee State University opened in 1986 and is in Portsmouth along the Ohio River. The university serves 3,250 full and part-time students with over 70 associate, bachelor, and graduate degree programs. Many programs have a 100 percent job placement rate after students graduate from their respective programs. There are a variety of two-year degrees to choose from, such as dental hygiene, nursing, associate of arts degree, accounting technology, an associate of science, and respiratory therapy degrees, as well as bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and graduate certificates. Shawnee State University is a public university and has an open admissions policy. It is also the southernmost member of the entire University System of Ohio.

Shawnee State University offers various degree programs that students can complete entirely online. When it comes to associate degrees, there is one degree available that students can earn online: an associate degree in general studies. There are also eight different Bachelor of Science and bachelor of art degrees that are part of the college’s online program. Some of those include a Bachelor of Arts degree in criminal justice, a Bachelor of Science in business administration for the accounting field degree, a Bachelor of Science in business administration for health care administration, and a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Health Science.

The university also offers master’s degrees online, including master’s degrees in mathematics, curriculum and instruction, intervention specialist, and composition and rhetoric. In addition, certificate programs offered online include a graduate certificate in composition and rhetoric, criminal justice certificate, and a certificate in mathematical science.

Location: Portsmouth, Ohio

Online programs: 14

8. Mount Vernon Nazarene University

website: Mount Vernon Nazarene University
Mount Vernon Nazarene University

Mount Vernon Nazarene University opened in 1968 and is a coeducational liberal arts university with a Christian foundation and mission in line with the Nazarene religion. As the name suggests, it is located in Mount Vernon, Ohio. However, the university does serve students of other faiths, including non-denominational ones. The college has accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission in Chicago, Illinois. Additionally, the university offers an array of traditional undergraduate programs and graduate studies.

The university offers traditional bachelor’s and graduate programs but understands that those are only sometimes compatible with working adults who have other obligations outside the classroom. Therefore, the university has designed online degree programs around the needs of working adults. For example, one associate degree program in general studies is online. And there are more than ten bachelor’s degree programs online. Christian Ministry, Criminal Justice, Business Administration, Elementary Education, Emergency Management, and Homeland Security are some of these.

Even an RN to BSN nursing program is available online, along with social work and public administration. In addition, students can take many master’s degree programs online, such as health care administration, human resource management, accounting, business administration, and marketing. Students will even have the opportunity to earn dual degrees, such as a master’s degree in ministry with a Master of Business Administration degree, which is just one of several examples.

Location: Mount Vernon, Ohio

Online programs: 14

9. Ohio Dominican University

website: Ohio Dominican University
Ohio Dominican University

The Ohio Dominican University is central Ohio’s only Catholic University. It opened in 1911 under the College of Saint Mary of the Springs. It was initially an all-women’s school but became coeducational to include male students in 1964. The college’s name changed to the Ohio Dominican College in 1968 and became a university on July 1, 2002. The university has small classes for more one-on-one instruction and has an enrollment of around 1,280 students.

To make it easier for working students with families or other commitments, the university offers a variety of master’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, certificates, professional development programs, and associate degrees online. For example, the associate degree program that is available online is a business degree, while certificate programs include topics such as accounting, data science, and supply chain management.

When it comes to bachelor’s degree programs, students can earn a degree in accounting, business administration, risk management insurance, or cross-disciplinary studies online. Students wishing to further their education beyond a bachelor’s degree can earn a master’s in business administration, sport management, English, education, and even theology entirely online.

Location: Columbus, Ohio

Online programs: 12

10. Tiffin University

website: Tiffin University
Tiffin University

As its name suggests, Tiffin University is a private university in the small Ohio town of Tiffin. It opened in 1888 and has accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The school offers more than 40 online and on-campus traditional programs to provide students with the opportunity to earn bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and even a doctorate and global leadership in change degree. The university also offers several certificate programs to its more than 3,000 enrolled students each year. And it is known for its vital academic programs and caring and kind staff members.

Students who want to continue working full or part-time jobs, raising a family, or have other commitments in addition to pursuing a degree program can take various classes and programs entirely online, such as the associate to bachelor’s degree completion program. Four bachelor’s degree programs are offered online, including a Bachelor of Arts in business administration, a bachelor of criminal justice, and a Bachelor of Science degree.

In addition, there are five master’s degree programs, such as business administration, education, science, criminal justice, and humanities, as well as a doctorate program in global leadership and change, in addition to several graduate certificate programs that students can complete online.

Location: Tiffin, Ohio

Online programs: 12

11. Baldwin Wallace University

website: Baldwin Wallace University
Baldwin Wallace University

The Baldwin Wallace University started in 1845 with a financial gift from a Methodist businessman named John Baldwin. The first graduate of the college was a woman named Maria Poe. Now, the university serves around 4,000 students each year with more than 90 different undergraduate and graduate programs. The school offers classes on its 125-acre campus in Berea and through online and hybrid programs.

Baldwin Wallace University offers an array of online, flexible, and hybrid programs to meet the needs of its diverse enrollment of students. For example, students can earn master’s degrees online, such as a Master of Arts degree and literacy and reading endorsement, or a master’s of education degree and school leadership and principals license.

Students can also earn seven bachelor’s degrees online, such as a bachelor’s degree in health care management, sport management, and business analytics, as well as an array of graduate business certificates, including enlightened leadership and human resource management.

Location: Berea, Ohio

Online programs: 12

12. Franciscan University of Steubenville

website: Franciscan University of Steubenville
Franciscan University of Steubenville

The Franciscan University of Steubenville is a private Catholic University in the beautiful Ohio city of Steubenville. The university currently serves over 3,000 students, with about 2,300 traditional students learning on campus. The school has more than 40 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Additionally, its faculty is about 94 percent Catholic. Forbes magazine ranks its top 10 percent of America’s top colleges. In addition to traditional classroom environments, the university offers several fully online programs so students can work at their own pace while earning their degrees.

Students can choose from associate degree programs that are entirely online in philosophy anthology or earn their bachelor’s degrees in business management, business administration, philosophy, and theology. In addition to several graduate certificate programs offered online, students can work towards their master’s degree in psychology, education, and several others online.

Location: Steubenville, Ohio

Online programs: 11

13. University of Findlay

website: University of Findlay
University of Findlay

The University of Findlay is about 30 minutes from Toledo in the Ohio town of Findlay. It was established in 1870 through a partnership between the general conference, the city of Findlay, and the churches of God. Today, the university has excellent programs in the healthcare professions, animal science, equestrian studies, and science programs. Findlay prepares graduates to be tomorrow’s business leaders, innovative thinkers, and educators.

The university offers more than 90 degree program options, which include 80 bachelor’s degree programs, 11 master’s degree programs, and four doctorate-level degree programs, to serve more than 4,500 students. US News and World Report have ranked it for the past 12 years as one of America’s best colleges, and it offers traditional learning and degree programs entirely online.

A Bachelor of Science in a business management degree program is online. Additionally, the school has seven online master’s degree programs. These include a Master of Arts in Education and a Master of Science in Health informatics. In addition, students can earn a Doctor of Education or a Doctor of Education in school psychology entirely online or make one of many certificates online, such as middle childhood education generalist endorsement and a superintendent’s license.

Location: Findlay, Ohio

Online programs: 10

14. Wilmington College

website: Wilmington College
Wilmington College

Local Quakers formed Wilmington College in August of 1870. The college graduated its first class in 1875, consisting of only four students. The university’s campus is in the cozy little Ohio town of Wilmington. However, it is between the much bigger cities of Cincinnati and Columbus. The college serves more than 1,100 students each year and offers 25 majors, 27 minors, 32 concentrations, and two graduate programs. While most of these classes are in the traditional learning environment on campus, several are online.

Wilmington College offers seven bachelor’s degree programs online, including accounting, three different business administration concentrations, liberal studies, strategic human resources management, and organizational leadership. A master’s degree in organizational leadership is also offered online.

Location: Wilmington, Ohio

Online programs: 8

15. Malone University

website: Malone University
Malone University

Malone University opened on Saint Patrick’s Day in 1892 by Walter and Emma Malone. Today, the university offers more than 83 undergraduate majors and minors, six graduate programs, and eight pre-professional programs, so there is something for everyone. It is a private Christian university located in Canton, Ohio, and was once referred to as the Cleveland Bible college.

The university offers an array of classes and bachelor’s degree programs that are entirely online, such as business management, psychology, biology, and theology. When it comes to graduate programs that are available online, students can opt to earn a master’s degree in counseling, education, business administration, and a variety of others, as well as graduate certificate programs.

Location: Canton, Ohio

Online programs: 6

What is a Hidden Gem in Ohio?

A Hidden Gem in Ohio is a college or university with a smaller student body. Many of these schools are private religious schools. However, small liberal arts colleges in Ohio and smaller state schools also fit into this category.

What are the Benefits of Attending a Small College or University in Ohio?

A small college and a large university can be very different and significantly impact your college experience. Of course, you will earn an excellent education at any established institution. But what about other factors that will make your college experience the best it can be?

Hidden Gems in Ohio are small colleges and universities where students thrive. Many of these schools have a lower student-to-faculty ratio. So students can get more direct attention from instructors. In addition, reduced class size means professors, not TAs, usually teach the course. And overall, students get a more personal education and feel like a part of a community.

Why Do Students Attend Small Colleges or Hidden Gems in Ohio?

Students attend small colleges and universities for many reasons. A lot of students like the idea of a smaller campus and community. A university the size of your small town can seem overwhelming after high school with a class of 500.

This idea of a community also extends to values. Many students, especially those attending a religious institution, want to live and go to school with other students with the same values. One of the Hidden Gems in Ohio may be a great fit for these students!

Are Small Colleges and Hidden Gems in Ohio More Expensive?

Public colleges and universities receive significant funding from the state and federal governments. Since private institutions don’t have the same access to government funding, they have to charge more. Therefore, private college tuition is almost always more expensive than state-supported schools.

However, many students must realize that most private schools have additional student funding. The money comes from school endowments and gifts. This school-based aid considerably reduces what a student pays when calculated into the total cost. Therefore, the final price of private school tuition can be less than what you read on a website.

Furthermore, the cost will differ for each student since the financial need is part of the calculation. It surprises many students when they learn that private schools can be less expensive than state schools. So, it is worth going through the steps to learn about the Hidden Gems in Ohio you want to attend.

Are Smaller Colleges Better?

The best college or university for you is the one that meets your needs. Only you know the right fit for you because everyone is different. So, it is essential to understand where you will grow and thrive. 

Larger universities are great for independent learners who don’t need much help from professors. However, students who need more individualized attention may find smaller classes, and a smaller school is a better fit for them. And one of our Hidden Gems in Ohio may be the place for you!


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