MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University is back on top for the first time in five years, bumping off Ohio University to reclaim its title as the nation’s No. 1 party school.
WVU hasn’t held the top spot since 2007, but the rankings announced Monday by The Princeton Review make it the third time. WVU was also No. 1 in 1997, and it’s been among the top 20 party schools 12 times in the 21 years the rankings have been published.
Not surprisingly, WVU also ranks No. 1 in the “Lots of Beer” category.
Topping the Stone-Cold Sober Schools for the 15th straight year? Utah’s Brigham Young University.
The current rankings are in the 2013 edition of The Best 377 Colleges, which goes on sale Tuesday. There are 62 ranking lists, each based on surveys of 122,000 students during the last school year. Students answered 80 questions about academics, administration, campus life, student body and themselves.
WVU administrators, who have worked for years to tone down or eliminate the party school image, dismissed the survey.
“If you look at the schools on this list, they are mostly large, public universities with strong academic and research profiles, as well as highly successful athletic programs,” said spokeswoman Becky Lofstead. “But in the big picture, clearly this list has no real credibility.”
“As always, we focus on celebrating and supporting WVU’s long history of academic achievements,” she said. “Our students, faculty, alumni, parents and friends have made it clear that is their focus as well.”
And even the lists make clear that WVU isn’t all about drinking. The Morgantown campus, which has nearly 30,000 students, also scored well in two other areas: It got 95 points of a possible 99 for being environmentally friendly, and it scored 93 for fire safety.
The latter might come as a surprise in the city of Morgantown, where students and other revelers regularly set street and trash bin fires to celebrate everything from the beginning or end of a semester to a major athletic victory.
As of late June, after the end of the last semester, city fire officials said they’d responded to 115 fires. They tend to occur in batches, and 36 were set during St. Patrick’s Day weekend alone.
The record is 274 fires set in 2003.
WVU was also ranked third for students who study the least and third for best athletic facilities.
Robert Franek, the book’s author and Princeton Review senior vice president, said schools aren’t ranked overall because they’re culture and academic offerings vary widely.
“Instead, we tally lists of the top 20 schools in 62 categories based entirely on what students at these schools tell us about their campus experiences,” he said. “Our goal is not to crown one college ‘best’ overall, but to help applicants find and get in to the college best for them.”
Some of the other “bests” in the eyes of students include:
Most Beautiful Campus – Florida Southern College
Best Career Services – Northeastern University in Massachusetts
Best Campus Food – Bowdoin College in Maine
Best College Dorms – Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.
Happiest Students – Rice University in Texas
Best Athletic Facilities - U.S. Military Academy
Students reporting the highest overall satisfaction with their school are at California’s Claremont McKenna College.
The Princeton Review is an education services company known for its test-prep courses, tutoring, books, and other student resources. Headquartered in Framingham, Mass., it’s a private company that is not affiliated with Princeton University.