University tops one list on Princeton Review

By Anna Heinemann

The University is only on one top 20 list in this year’s Princeton Review – which could actually be a good thing.

In this year’s “Best 357 Colleges,” which was released last week, the University was listed in the top 20 of only one of about 300 categories, “teaching assistants teach too many upper level courses.” This is the second year in a row that the University has topped this list.

Last year, the Princeton Review’s annual report, which has been conducted since 1992, ranked the University as the fourth-largest “party school” in the nation in it’s “Best 351 Colleges” survey.

The school was also ranked fourth in the “students never study” category, eighth in “major frat and sorority scene,” 12th in “lots of hard liquor parties,” and 13th in “lots of beer parties.”

Erik Olson, editor of the survey, said that students who participated in the survey were asked to rank their responses to 70 different statements, including a question about how many upper level courses are taught by TAs. The scale was from one to five.

“We find the averages of the rankings, and then compare averages,” he said. “This means that to get number one, there must be a high consenus of opinion.”

University spokeswoman Robin Kaler said the University is confident in the number of TAs that will teach upper-level courses this semester.

“We feel strongly that our TAs are always working under the guidance of professional faculty members and we’re very confident that the quality of our graduates show that,” she said.

Olson said 110,000 students from colleges throughout the nation were contacted for this year’s survey. While an average of 300 students are surveyed on each campus, Olson warned that the actual number of students surveyed to calculate each college’s particular results could vary widely.

Kaler said such inconsistencies mean students shouldn’t trust these rankings.

“Their so-called research uses an extremely questionable method,” Kaler said. “We don’t put much store in what they say. If the people who did the Princeton Review tried to turn this research in to a class on campus, they wouldn’t get a very good grade.”

Olson said the variability in the survey results between the two years can be attributed to changes at other colleges.

“It’s not just how you rate our schools, it’s how other students rate their schools,” Olson said. “There’s actually a 5 percent chance that UI did rank number 21 in party schools, we just didn’t go that far.”

Based on general responses from University students surveyed, the University’s section of the Princeton Review says there seems to be “great computer facilities,” a “great library,” and that “everyone loves the Fighting Illini.”

“Our research shows that frats and sororities are still dominant on your campus and there is lots of beer,” Olson said, although the University made its way out of the top 20 in both categories this year.

According to Princeton Review spokeswoman Jean Creer, the University was also ranked 76th out of the 357 schools for overall academics, but Kaler said this number doesn’t necessarily represent where the University stands academically.

“We don’t need any outside organizations to tell us what our strengths are,” Kaler said. “We’d much rather have our students tell us that.”

Olson said he encourages students looking for their University to look at the rankings, but says it shouldn’t be their only resource.

“Once students have come up with a short list, they should make every effort to visit each school – don’t just take our word for it, or anyone else’s for that matter,” Olson said. “But, I think, as a starting point, it is a great tool.”

more online: A full list of all the rankings is available online at the Princeton Review Web site, www.princetonreview.com.