If you have not heard the big news, “West Virginia University has been dethroned” as the top party school in the nation, being replaced by the University of Iowa in the Princeton Review’s annual rankings of colleges. Of course, the Princeton Review ranks schools in other areas too, like academics, campus life, and politics. So which of these top “party schools” provides a decent education too? No one ever said the two were mutually exclusive.
Here are the top 5 party schools that are just as good as the Ivy Leagues.
1. University of California, Santa Barbara
UC-Santa Barbara has a host of Nobel laureates on its faculty, top-ranked engineering programs, and is considered a “Public Ivy.” With nationally ranked programs in education and the environment too, UCSB can go toe-to-toe with the Ivies.
Santa Barbara holds an important distinction as the most socially mobile university on this list. A good education might include attracting the best students in terms of GPA and providing exceptional programs and professors but giving students the tools to move beyond where they began in terms of wealth, job opportunities, and education is worth the number-one spot.
2. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has a healthy mix of research and required fieldwork to help students achieve a well-rounded education. Also known as one of the 30 “Public Ivies,” Illinois is regarded around the globe for its engineering and business colleges.
Urbana-Champaign has an academic setting that is steeped in 145 years of tradition. The school's study abroad program is the 15th largest in the country, which provides students with a vast array of programs to help them reach their full potential.
3. University of Wisconsin, Madison
The University of Wisconsin, Madison is the oldest public university in the state and boasts impressive numbers of faculty, books, and class offerings. The Badgers brandish a library to rival some of the top Ivies, with over 8 million books.
Although it is in the top 10 for party schools, UW-Madison is constantly ranked as a top world institution and has a very notable engineering college and business school that rank 13th and 18th, respectively.
In 2007, the university garnered more than $1 billion in research funding making it third in science and engineering expenditures. With such an impressive research capacity and affordable price, the Badgers provide students with a good education.
And I have to mention, the school is considered the "intellectual home" of Social Security.
4. Lehigh University
Located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Lehigh University is known for its selectivity and high academic standards. Its College of Education is ranked 51st out of 235, and its engineering program is ranked 45th out of 191.
Ninety-eight percent of all students find jobs within six months of graduation. Professors are well-regarded in their respective fields, and faculty include Dork Sahagian, who played a role in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change receiving the Nobel Prize in 2007, and also top-ranked math professor Joseph Yukich.
Lehigh demands excellence from its students, provides superb resources, and ensures its graduates are ready for career opportunities.
5. University of Florida
The University of Florida’s very successful athletics department can overshadow its nationally ranked schools of business and journalism, which provide students upon graduation with some of the “highest salary return for their tuition dollars.”
Additionally, the university boasts a strong alumni network. Notable alums includes a number of NASA astronauts like Ronald Garan and Andrew Allen, diplomat Stanley Escudero, and truTV’s Chris Linn. With such a rich pool (no pun intended) of graduates, students can have some great experiences in their fields beyond the classroom.
UF has a relatively small class size for almost half of its classes, letting students experience more quality time with professors. Offering a diverse set of classes for even the most indecisive, UF also ranks fifth in Career Centers nationally.
So what is a great education? This list uses national ranking systems that still largely base their findings on selectivity, high GPA, and high test scores. But what if ranking outfits put a premium on social mobility, affordability, and whether or not students are learning? After all, if they are not, what is the use?