Did SC colleges get fair shake in rankings in Princeton Review’s poll?

dhinshaw@thestate.comAugust 14, 2013 

As our college students – whether they be slow-to-grow up or cheerfully ambitious, idealistic or disengaged – prepare for the fall semester, the Princeton Review has sent out its annual college rankings.

Based on surveys of students attending 378 colleges and universities across the country, Princeton Review’s statisticians uncovered 16 defining characteristics of college life in South Carolina.

Parents, brace yourselves: Seems many of our young men and women have stronger opinions about extracurricular activities than academics.

Some perspective might be helpful here.

The Princeton Review is one of those “prestigious” college guides; it rates only the best four-year institutions. So it’s good to be included, said Laura Corbin, a spokeswoman for Wofford College. But “we don’t live and die by rankings,” which are just one of many things prospective families and students look at when choosing a college.

Still, no one can resist seeing how schools stack up.

The guide, in its 22nd edition, allows students to rank everything from financial aid packages to the amount of drug use on campus and the quality of dorm food.

Here in South Carolina, Clemson placed in the Top 20 more than any other school – eight times. Not only that, it was ranked No. 1 in three of the 62 categories analyzed.

There were two survey questions (and, yes, they are related to sports) where students ranked both Clemson and the University of South Carolina in the Top 20: “Students Pack the Stadiums” and “Jock Schools.”

Wofford, like USC, showed up in four Top 20 rankings while Furman and the College of Charleston each made the top tier once.

The Princeton Review also developed a list of 138 Best Regional Colleges in the Southeast, based on academics. The five S.C. schools just mentioned as well as three others made that list: Anderson University, Coker College and Winthrop University.

Now, on to the rankings.

#20 “Students Pack the Stadiums” – USC

OK, well, that’s pretty self-explanatory.

How ’bout them Cocks?

#19 “Best Science Lab Facilities” – Wofford

Science labs! Something related to actual academics!

Turns out Wofford has a new chemistry lab and recently repurposed an old lab for a new focus on genetics, said Nathan Redding, who supervises labs in the biology department.

He said science students at Wofford are taught how to think like scientists. How to analyze and experiment and communicate their results to the rest of us.

#16 “LGBT-Unfriendly” – Wofford

Same-sex couples aren’t comfortable walking across campus holding hands.

More often than not, class discussions on issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people is greeted with laughter, said Alex Hubbard, 22, active in student life on the Spartanburg campus before graduating in May.

It’s an issue the school’s administration has been working to address in recent years. A student group, the Spectrum, is active on campus, and faculty is devoted to addressing issues in the student LGBT community, said Corbin, who works in media relations. She acknowledged the college needs to be “more open and comfortable for students, faculty and staff people of all types.”

For his part, Hubbard noted: “We really got a mish-mash of shout-outs in the Princeton Review.”

Keep reading.

#14 “Future Rotarians and Daughters of the American Revolution” – Wofford

#13 “Lots of Greek Life” – Wofford

#13 “Most Conservative Students – Clemson

#13 “Best Athletics Facilities” – USC

The Strom Thurmond Wellness Center offers a place for all kinds of students to leave the stress of class work behind and play games – from law students to sorority sisters, dodge ball to floor hockey.

“I walked into The Strom during my freshman orientation, and my jaw dropped,” said Mark Thomas, 23, a grad student who’ll be supervising USC’s flag football program this fall.

“The Greek community takes their intramural sports very seriously,” Thomas said. “And then you have kids from the medical schools, they always form their own teams and they take it seriously but they’re also out there just to have a good time once or twice a week.”

Thomas considers USC’s sports facilities to be “top of the line.”

#12 “Happiest Students” – Clemson

Do politically conservative students make for happy students? At Clemson, they do.

#12 “College City Gets High Marks” – College of Charleston


Add college students to the long list of trendsetters – the readers of Conde Nast, Forbes, Travel + Leisure and GQ – who rave about Charleston.

Frankly, it’s getting a little tedious.

But since this was the only category for which the College of Charleston made the Top 10, we wanted to know more.

Senior Denzell Moton, 21, a business major, said students take advantage of volunteer opportunities, athletics events, museums and festivals just beyond the gates of the school.

“If you’re interested in culture and tradition and beautiful architecture,” Moton said, “Charleston and specifically the College of Charleston is the place to be.”

On Saturdays, students rub shoulders with residents and tourists on Marion Square. “It’s always fun to see the different stands they have,” Moton said. “People selling artwork, food. Laying out sunbathing or playing Frisbee or throwing the football.”

Who could argue with that?

#11 “Best Career Services” – Clemson

#10 “Best College Newspaper” – USC

There was a lot of celebrating over at The Daily Gamecock for breaking into the Princeton Review’s Top 10, said Thad Moore, 20, who takes over as managing editor this fall.

Moore, recognized by the S.C. Press Association this year for his reporting on Twitter, said “a pretty solid chunk” of students read the Gamecock, whether in print or online. (Twitter is great for getting crime news to students quickly, he added.)

“Honestly, it’s hard to make students as interested in the administration and student government as in football,” he said, “but we like to think we can provide a mix. We do our best to keep the administration honest and keep the student body informed.”

#10 “Jock Schools” – USC

#9 “Students Pack the Stadiums” – Clemson

#7 “Their Students Love These Colleges” – Clemson

#5 “Little Race/Class Interaction” – Furman

Minority enrollment is up at Furman – 21 percent of last fall’s freshman class were minority students – and the Greenville institution continues to provide generous financial aid packages to make an education there “accessible to everybody,” spokesman Vince Moore said.

Finally, the top reasons Clemson students think so highly of the institution that will one day become their alma mater:

#1 “Everyone Plays Intramural Sports”

#1 “Jock Schools”

#1 “Town-Gown Relations are Great”

Let’s be honest: In Clemson, the students are the town.

That’s not to minimize the joint city-university advisory board, at work since 1990. It addresses issues from students noise and gatherings to the feral cat population.

Steve Robbins, associate vice president for student affairs, said the community benefits from the annual Make a Difference Day, too, helping students make “that kind of connection where they feel like they’re at home.”

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