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Illinois makes the grade in annual party schools, 'sober' schools list

AP Photo/The News-Gazette, Darrell Hoemann)

The iconic Alma Mater statue at the University of Illinois. The school was named the second-best party school in the nation in an annual survey by the Princeton Review.Just in time for the start of “back to school” season, comes the annual Princeton Review “party school” rankings.

The list (compiled by a nationwide survey of 126,000 college students), published in a story today by Ryan J. Foley of the Associated Press, ranks Iowa as the nation’s best party school despite efforts of Iowa City to curb that city’s underage drinking problem.

The rest of the top five: the University of California, Santa Barbara; the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; West Virginia University and Syracuse University.

At the other end of the spectrum, the list of the top “stone-cold sober schools” is led by Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, with Illinois’ Wheaton College in second place.

The story states that “officials in Iowa City aren’t celebrating the ranking, which comes after they’ve made recent strides in the battle against binge drinking on campus and downtown. University of Iowa spokesman Tom Moore said The Princeton Review ‘gets some things right,’ by describing Iowa as an affordable Big Ten university with students who are both studious and social.”

“That indicates they are balancing their academic responsibilities with their social pursuits,” Moore said in the AP story.

According to the story: “Packed Iowa City bars blaring dance music, off-campus house parties and tailgating before Hawkeye football games are as much a part of Iowa’s culture as the cornfields that surround the city. Fraternities and sororities also contribute to the party atmosphere.

Policy changes have scaled back Iowa City’s bar scene, and a 2010 ordinance requiring customers to be 21 to enter bars — instead of 19 — is credited with reducing drinking and crime.”

The story further states: “The No. 3 party school sprawls across parts of two cities — Urbana and Champaign, Ill. — and in both, students younger than 21 can legally enter bars. In Champaign, where most of the bars are located, the minimum age is 19; in Urbana, it’s 18. The campus’ party reputation is enhanced by a single annual event, Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day— or, simply, Unofficial — when thousands of students and others converge for a day of drinking at parties and in bars. Local police ticket hundreds every year, and some city leaders have tried to limit Unofficial by restricting bar operating hours and taking other steps, with little or no success.”

Associated Press writers Scott Bauer in Madison, Wis., and David Mercer in Champaign, Ill., contributed to this report.