Today the Times-Picayune reported that the Princeton Review college ranking is out, and Tulane was listed as the #19 party school in the country. I went to Tulane so I think it is quite a party school, so the ranking is not terribly surprising. Also of personal note was the University of Florida, ranked the #2 party-ing-est school. Again, no surprise. But one part did surprise me. Living in New Orleans has its ups and downs, for example, this morning a woman cut us off twice while driving down Claiborne Avenue. However, one of the must insufferable parts is being a Gator and living in Tiger country. LSU Tigers, that is. Purple and gold. RVs with beer spigots on the outside. Every Tiger in town has something to say about you if you are a Gator. I understand the rivalry. I went to two games in Baton Rouge while in college, been to several since then. This year the Gators are reigning college football champs. Last year it was the Tigers. Year before, it was the Gators. However, it does get a bit old sometimes.
So I was truly surprised when the Princeton Review rankings did not include LSU for top party school. They didn't even make the top 20. Other rankings I would have expected to see LSU: Major Frat & Sorority Scene, Students Pack The Stadiums, Lots of Beer, or Lots of Hard Liquor. University of Florida ranked in the top 20 in these and others; a total of 13 categories. LSU did rank in three categories: Best College Newspaper, Students Study The Least, and Class Discussions Rare. Two of these aren't even flattering.
But lets face it, the Princeton Review rankings are not about the quality of education one may receive at any particular college. It is more of a barometric measure of what life is like at those colleges. In some strange way, LSU should have ranked on some factors, where I would compare them favorably to Florida (like partying). They surveyed over 120,000 actual students, so the results should be statistically relevant.
This survey begs the question about rankings based on the quality of education that is actually available in colleges, and there is such a survey. US News and World Report does an exhaustive survey every year of colleges and their programs, including undergraduate and graduate, majors and specialty programs. The survey can be found here. For the record, all data I present here comes from the online, free version of the survey.
One other important point should be made. Someone once told me that they knew some of the worst (insert profession here) came from a program that was well ranked. Well, of course that is true. A well-ranked program does not guarantee that all who graduate will be knowledgeable and/or competent. Somewhere out there is the world's worst doctor, and they could have graduated from anywhere. But, it is much less likely that they graduated from a program where everything was available for them to learn. In other words, a ranked program. The point is that these surveys rank the programs and what they offer. So, I thought it would be interesting to see how some schools ranked in the US News & World Report. Some categories were not available in the free version so they are excluded.
|Top Public Schools||19||67||NA|
|National Undergraduate Program||49||130||51|
|MBA Program||37||Not Ranked||48|
|Graduate Engineering Program||25||75||NA|
For me, this tells the other half of the story that the Princeton Review survey does not address. In short, it tells something about the quality of these schools' programs and what they offer. Another factor not addressed in either survey is the political aspect of choosing a college. If, for example, the private high schools in your city can cost over $10,000 per year for tuition (not including required contributions, endless hours of parental participation, etc.) only to prepare students for the state public university, then a parent may want to consider the value of the relationships that their child will gain at that state public school. The quality of the education available may truly be secondary. To be clear, I am talking about LSU. There are circles in New Orleans that place a higher value on an LSU degree than an Ivy League degree. I've seen them.
What survey is more valuable? What unmeasurable factors are important? For me, the most important factor is that any college my children attend must, and I mean must, be at least 500 miles away from my home. I'll leave that up to the reader to decide.