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UND pegged as 'party school'

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By Tu-Uyen Tran

Grand Forks Herald

The way the latest rankings out of a popular guide to colleges read, UND sounds just like the kind of place for the high school graduate who likes to get their booze on and lay off the books as much as possible.

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The university is No. 5 in the nation for having students that study the least.

It's No. 15 for students that down the most liquor.

And, overall, it's No. 18 among the party schools.

Those are all results from a survey of students at the top 12 to 13 percent of the nation's universities, as conducted by the Princeton Review. UND is the only university in North Dakota that was mentioned in the 2010 edition of "Best 371 Colleges."

The law school and business school also got mentioned in sister publications "Best 174 Law Schools" and "Best 296 Business Schools," though neither of them got any special notoriety.

"I have a high regard for each of those schools from an academic perspective," said Robert Franek, the primary author of "Best 371 Colleges." But, he said, "The goal of the book and the mission of the Princeton Review is to make sure college-bound students find a right fit for them."

A strong social scene is one factor that sets some schools apart, though to get ranked at all they have to meet Princeton Review's academic standards.

A big 'meh'

As maybe expected, the reaction from UND was mixed.

"We've been on Princeton Review for a number of years; we take it with a big block of salt," said spokesman Peter Johnson. The survey, he said, wasn't conducted in a scientific manner, so it's hard to take it very seriously, even the relatively positive ranking among the best 371.

The primary author of "Best 371 Colleges," Robert Franek, said the report relies on a large sample of students -- 122,000 in all, answering an 80-question survey online -- and touts the fact that it's "information from primary sources and those are college experts: Current college students."

A primary source is a source that has direct knowledge of something. A secondary source, such as a book or a newspaper story, cites or comments on a primary source.

Not that wasted

Student Body President Tyrone Grandstrand and Vice President Matt Bakke aren't entirely sure UND is as big party a school as it's made out to be.

They said they haven't felt the presence of an overwhelming party culture here.

It's not as if most students come to class and brag about how wasted they got over the weekend, according to them. Some do, but others spent the time studying.

"From experiences among students at UND, students definitely like to go out and have a good time, let some steam off," Bakke said. "But I think you can see from the academic records that we do perform in the classroom as well."

Johnson acknowledges that being in the top binge drinking state does have an impact on UND, but the university is working to reduce that.

Getting to the top

How Princeton Review figured its rankings was this: The 80 questions ran the gamut from how good are your professors to how good is the food. Those questions then give rise to rankings such as "best classroom experience" or "happiest students."

Five questions go into the "top party school" rankings.

First and second: How "widely used" is beer and liquor "at your school?"

Third: "How widely used is marijuana at your school?"

Fourth: "How popular are fraternities/sororities at your school?"

Fifth: "How many out-of-class hours do you spend studying each day?"

Note that most of the questions are about the student's perception of the school rather than personal experience.

UND was among the top 20 in the liquor and least studying category, which put it in the top 20 party schools. Other Upper Midwest universities on that list include No. 8 University of Wisconsin-Madison and No. 12 University of Iowa in Iowa City.

Drinking = dumb?

While it's tempting to find a link between the party-school status and weak academic performance, Franek said he hasn't noticed it.

Pennsylvania State University in University Park, for example, is the No. 1 party school with a No. 1 showing in beer swilling, No. 9 in liquor gulping, No. 3 on the Greek scene and No. 11 in least studying. Yet its academic rating, as determined by Princeton Review, is a respectable 74, a little higher than UND's 70. Average grade point average for Penn State is 3.57 compared with UND's 3.38.

California State University, Stanislau, is among the 20 "stone cold sober schools" and its academic rating is 76 and average GPA is 3.2. Still, as many professors would be quick to point out, GPAs are subject to "grade inflation."

Online: www.PrincetonReview.com.

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