Some schools live for basketball or football season; others trade on their centuries-old legacies. At the University of Denver, however, the defining college experience is study abroad. More than 74 percent of DU students study overseas. "We want to show it's not necessary to be located on the coast to be a great international school," says Chancellor Robert Coombe.
Most students travel overseas through the school's Cherrington Global Scholars program. Upperclassmen with a 3.0 GPA or better can choose from about 40 countries and 100 cities. The study-abroad office ensures that credits seamlessly transfer over, assigns at least one study-abroad adviser in each academic department, and takes care of tuition, transportation, housing, visa fees, and insurance so that students pay the same amount that they would if they had stayed on campus. This works out well for students in pricier locales, but there's no break for those going to more affordable sites such as South America or parts of Asia. DU pays $10 million a year to keep the program going. The global theme carries over to the school itself. DU is actively boosting its language offerings, particularly Italian, Chinese, and Arabic.
The entire campus has been designated an arboretum. Located 7 miles south of downtown, it has recently undergone a striking $475 million construction overhaul, adding 19 buildings and renovating seven others. The changes have not only modernized the campus but have emphasized its global ambitions. They include a hotel management building reflective of Old World Europe (complete with a Tuscan wine cellar) and a building addition styled as a pagoda.
Having famous alumni doesn't hurt DU's international cause, either. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice received her undergraduate degree and doctorate from DU, where she studied under Josef Korbel, namesake of the university's school of international studies and father of another secretary of state, Madeleine Albright.
About 60 percent of DU's student body is from outside Colorado—mostly the West, Midwest, and Northeast. To help capture this out-of-state audience, DU offers optional admissions interviews that are held either on campus or in 30 other cities. The process, which allows DU to sell its international offerings as much as students are selling themselves, is a nod to the school's aspirations. DU likens itself to a classic East or West Coast liberal arts school—albeit with much better skiing.
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Plus factor: Going from one side of the campus to the other? Borrow a ride from the bike library, which is set to expand to the city itself.
Undergrad enrollment, fall '08: 5,324
Est. annual cost, 2009-10: $45,381
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