IOWA CITY – Word spread quickly Monday on Facebook and Twitter after the University of Iowa was named the nation’s top party school in a new ranking.
Students were sharing the news on social media, many of them excited the UI was bestowed with the top party campus title by The Princeton Review, which releases its 2014 edition of the “Best 378 Colleges” Tuesday.
“I would definitely say the students here are proud of it. Kids love it, especially the 18- and 19-year-olds, probably. They want to make sure we maintain that reputation,” said Adrian Grosvenor, 24, a May UI graduate who works at an Iowa City bar. “I mean, how often do you see the UI blast out all over Facebook and Twitter?”
University officials didn’t share the excitement about taking over the top party spot. The UI was No. 2 on the party school list last year, and No. 4 the year before that. The annual Princeton Review guide ranks things such as academics, campus life and extracurricular involvement.
The UI has implemented new initiatives in recent years, working with the city and downtown business owners to reduce high-risk and underage drinking.
“We are continuing to work to change the culture on our campus by educating students to only consume alcohol in a legal, safe and responsible manner, and those efforts are achieving results,” UI Spokesman Tom Moore said in response to the ranking.
The proportion of students engaging in high-risk drinking in the two weeks preceding the National College Health Assessment Survey is down 17 percent since 2009, and the average number of drinks consumed per occasion is down 20 percent since 2009, Moore said. Also since 2009, the proportion of students who report drinking in the 30 days prior to the survey is down about 12 percent. Other data shows decreases in alcohol-related crime and alcohol-related visits to the ER, Moore said.
“In each of the last four years, alcohol harm to our students has decreased,” he said. “It is, frankly, still too high. We are heartened, though, by the steady progress we have made, and are committed to continuing this progress.”
Student drinking is likely to be a topic of more conversation in the coming weeks, since the 21-only bar entry age ordinance could go to voters in November. A petition has called for a repeal of the 21-only ordinance, enacted in 2010.
Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek said repealing the ordinance is not the answer to this problem. He also questioned how scientific the methodology behind The Princeton Review rankings is.
“Nevertheless, it’s nothing to be proud of,” he said. “The university and the city have collaborated on many fronts to address the issues, and the data are encouraging. But clearly there is more work to be done.”
The guide includes 62 lists, all based on The Princeton Review’s surveys of 126,000 students at the 378 schools in the book, which averages out to 333 students at each school. On the 80-question survey, students rate their own colleges on a range of topics and report on their campus experiences.
In the latest guide, the UI also ranked No. 1 in “lots of hard liquor,” No. 4 in “students study the least,” No. 4 in “lots of beer,” No. 7 in “students pack the stadiums,” and No. 18 in “lots of Greek life.
Some UI students said the hard partying image exists, but it’s not what they’ve experienced.
“There is definitely that part, but Iowa City is so much more than that,” said Margo Cox, 19, a sophomore in chemistry. “My dad says it’s not really official until you’re on the Playboy (party school) list.”
Katherine Valde, UI student government president, was surprised to see the UI top the party school list, and she questioned how much weight the ranking holds.
“Out of 30,000 total students, 330 just seems like a really small pool to me,” she said. “All the data we have about at-risk drinking … the statistics are declining.”
UI officials did tout other, more positive aspects of the Princeton Review rankings, noting the guide says the UI manages to pull off the “amazing feat” of being a Big Ten university full of opportunities that retains a small-college feel.
“You only have to go on to read the comments that our students make in that profile to see that they are saying great things about their educational experience here,” the UI statement from Moore said.
Rounding out the top five party schools, after the UI, were: the University of California at Santa Barbara; the University of Illinois; West Virginia University; and Syracuse University.
See more about the rankings and the lists in other categories at www.princetonreview.com. The 2014 edition of the “Best 378 Colleges” from the Princeton Review publishes Tuesday.