Chris925, my daughter attends University of Cincinnati DAAP, although her major is Digital Design. let me give you some feedback on design schools that we thought were top notch.
first, as to Id, the top rated schools are ( in no particular order), Art Center College of Design in California, University of Cincinnati ( OHIO), CMU ( Penn), Pratt (NY), RISD ( R.I.), and CCS (Michigan), and maybe Syracuse (N.Y>)
They are very different in culture and approach,which is why you should visit. Some are stand alone art schools such as RISD, Pratt and Art Center. The rest are major art and design programs as part of a larger university setting. Don't be fooled into thinking that a stand alone art school would be better. The schools that I mentioned have exceedingly well reputed programs.
Cincinnati has a major feature going for them: their coop program. They were the founder of the coop form of education even before schools like Northeastern, Cal Poly etc. Thus, they have a huge assortment of coops available throughout the world. However, be advissed that with the bad economy, even coop jobs are dwindling.
The advantage of their coop is several fold: first, you usually get paid ,which greatly reduces the cost of your education. Secondly, you develop real world experience which greatly helps your resume over others that don't have this experience. Third, you will greatly enhance your portfolio with real world work,which helps in job searches. Fourth, many coop kids get offered full time jobs. My daughter was one of these.
If these reasons aren't enough , there is one more important reason that probably trumps them all: coops fill the educational holes that schools just can't fill. A good coop can teach things that just aren't learned in school with a more practical bent.
Cincinnati coop is built into their curriculum. Starting in their pre junior year, you go for one quarter to school and then one quarter to coop. Thus, you get six quarters of experience before you graduate. It is REALLY hard to beat this.
Going to a university also has its benefits of associating with non artistic types,which will expand your horrizons. It also allows for more interdisciplany work between departments. For example, Cincinnati is doing design work in conjunction with their engineering and anthopology departments.
In addition , university almost always have better general facilities for things like working out, swimming, tennis, computers etc.
Also, let me assure you that design is VERY, VERY hard work. It isn't for the meek. Many a top notch kid who were national merit scholars were surprised at how hard design is at Cincinnati , as it probably is at other schools as well. You will really need to have strong time management skills and severely limit your social destractions if you want to do well.
I like the school and curriculum very much. What I don't like is the area surrounding the school. It is spotty at best and you do need to be careful walking away from the school. I guess this statement applies to many inner city schools such as Syracuse too.
Bottom line: you really need to check out the culture of each school and visit them.