Col­le­giate rank­ing looks be­yond books; sur­vey mea­sures quirky qual­i­ties

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jen­nifer Harper

Ivy League? What Ivy League?

The­qual­i­ty­ofa­cam­pu­sisallinthe eye­ofthebe­holder,ac­cord­ing­toa­sur­veyof 22, which re­veals that po­lit­i­cal lean­ings, food and mood sway col­le­gians rather thanaca­demic pres­tige alone.

Rice Univer­sity in Hous­ton ranked the best “qual­ity of life,” while the Univer­sity of Chicagowas cited as “best over­all aca­demic ex­pe­ri­ence,” ac­cord­ing to stu­dents at 361 cam­puses polled by Prince­ton Re­view, aNew York-based re­search group and pub­lisher.

The “tough­est school to get into” was not Har­vard Univer­sity, but the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy. The hal­lowed halls of Har­vard, in fact, only rated men­tion for its li­brary.YaleUniver­si­ty­made­the­listby virtue of its stu­dent news­pa­per; Prince­ton Univer­sity for its fi­nan­cial aid.

The­most­po­lit­i­cally­ac­tive­cam­pus was Amer­i­can Univer­sity in Wash­ing­ton; the least po­lit­i­cally ac­tive — “Elec­tion,what elec­tion?” th­esur­vey quipped — was Worces­ter Polytech­nic In­sti­tute in­Worces­ter, Mass. The most“Birken­stock-wear­ing,tree-hug­ging, clove-smok­ing veg­e­tar­i­ans” were found at Bard Col­lege in An­nan­dale-on-Hud­son,N.Y.,whileReed Col­lege in Port­land, Ore., was rated the least re­li­gious.

“Col­lege ad­mis­sion has got­ten crazy. Vale­dic­to­ri­ans with per­fect SATs may not get into the col­lege of their dreams,” said Harriet Brand of thePrince­tonRe­view.“Butwhatis­the col­lege of their dreams? Prospec­tive stu­dents need lots of in­for­ma­tion to find out.”

The sur­vey posed 80 ques­tions to stu­dents about life on their cam­pus dur­ing the 2005-06 school year, in­clud­ing par­ty­ing, study time, dorms, sports, cui­sine — or lack of it — and pre­vail­ing at­ti­tudes.

“The real chal­lenge for ap­pli­cants and par­ents is find­ing the col­lege that’s best for them,” said Robert Franke, who com­piled the data.

For stu­dents who like to party, the Univer­sity of Texas grabbed the top slot, best­ing Penn State Univer­sity and last year’s big­gest party school win­ner the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin.

But par­ty­ing didn’t jibe with hap­pi­ness, as Brown Univer­sity in Prov­i­dence, R.I., grabbed the “hap­pi­est” cam­pus sta­tus.

The least happy cam­pus was the U.S. Mer­chant Marine Academy, whichal­so­got­the­worstmarks­for its food and pro­fes­sors. The U.S. Coast Guard Academy was not ship­shape, ei­ther. It was most cited for hav­ing “dorms like dun­geons.”

On a hap­pier note, the U.S. Air ForceA­cade­myranked­tops­for“pro­fes­sors whomake them­selves ac­ces­si­ble.” Mid­dle­bury Col­lege in Mid­dle­bury, Vt., had the best over­all pro­fes­sors, while Fisk Univer­sity in Nashville, Tenn., wasac­cused of hav­ingth­e­most“long­li­ne­san­dred­tape.” Wheredo stu­dents wax­most nos­tal­gic for for­mer Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan? That would be Hills­dale Col­lege in Hills­dale, Mich.

Al­ter­na­tively, they pine most for for­merPres­i­den­tBil­lClin­to­natWar­ren Wil­son Col­lege in Asheville, N.C. — which, in­ci­den­tally, ranked tops in “Reefer Mad­ness” — mar­i­juana use — in the poll.

Bow­doin Col­lege in Brunswick, Maine, rated the best food; Pep­per­dine Univer­sity in Mal­ibu, Calif., the most beau­ti­ful cam­pus, Drexel Univer­sity in Philadel­phia the least; the Univer­si­ty­ofWis­con­sinthe­most­beer drinkers—andBrighamYoungUniver­sity “stone cold sober.”

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