Princeton Review’s annual college survey results are in, including the “Best College Radio Station” list, which year after year I critique, since the survey does not ask about the quality of a campus radio station. Based on online student surveys, the “Best College Radio Station” list is actually a list of schools that survey respondents said had “popular” radio stations. Specific radio stations are not named by Princeton Review or by students and as we’ve seen in years past, schools with multiple radio stations are often more likely to be perceived as having “popular” radio stations.
For the 2017 edition, 143,000 students from 381 schools were surveyed during the past three school years. Over the years, the “Best College Radio Station” list has been based on slightly different survey questions and the 2017 list is derived from responses to two different questions related to radio station popularity. According to Princeton Review Publicist Amy Briskin, “For the latest version of the Best College Radio Station ranking we used a combination of data – including two years of data where we asked schools to rate the popularity of their college radio station…And more recently in 2015-16 we allowed students to rank in order of popularity… [various] categories [of activities]… (including radio).”
The question for the first two years worth of data asked students to respond to the statement: “The college radio station is popular” by answering Strongly Agree, Agree, Neither Agree or Disagree, Disagree or Strongly Disagree. The third year of data (from 2015-2016) asked survey takers to rank the popularity of intercollegiate sports, intramural sports, fraternities/sororities, college theater, the college newspaper and the college radio station. According to Briskin, “Based on these combined responses we were able to come up with our Best College Radio Station.”
If you take the Princeton Review survey today, you’ll see that the current college radio question is now an optional survey question that asks respondents: “Which of the following are most popular at your school? (Please rank the top 5 with 1 being most popular).” The choices are Intercollegiate sports, Fraternities/Sororities, College Newspaper, Intramural Sports, College Theater, College Radio Station and Other. Following that question, there is a question that asks, “How would you rate each of the following at your school?” The options include theater productions and campus newspaper and respondents are asked to rate them on a 5 point scale, choosing poor, fair, average, good or excellent for each.
It’s still curious to me that there isn’t a rating question for college radio, particularly since the results continue to be labeled “Best College Radio Station.” Since students are actually asked about the popularity of college radio on their campuses, all we really know is that there is some perception that the top 20 radio stations are popular, either with participants or with listeners. It stands to reason, as I’ve said previously, if one’s school has high profile stations, professionally-run stations or multiple radio stations, it’s more likely to show up in the Princeton Review list as a school with a “popular” station, simply because chances are that there will be more awareness of these stations on campus. Additionally, now that there is also a ranking question that compares college radio to other activities like sports and the Greek system; popularity results will vary tremendously based on the types of activities offered at one’s school. For example, I went to a college that did not have fraternities or sororities, so college radio by default would be more popular.
And, again, I have to point out that the surveys do not ask students to name their college radio stations. In the case of schools on the “Best College Radio Station” list, those with multiple radio stations will have to duke it out for bragging rights. Some schools on the list this year have two of three radio stations, including a few with prominent public radio outlets.
More than half of the schools listed on the 2017 Best College Radio Station List were on the 2016 list and they comprise the top 11 schools. Some of the remaining nine schools have been on the list in the past, but there are also a few newcomers; in fact six of the stations have not appeared on the list in the ten years that I’ve been tracking. This could mean that with the new ranking question, the list is actually getting a bit more diverse. It does tend to skew east coast, with 13 east coast schools on the list, 3 west coast schools and 4 from the mid-west.
OK, with all of those caveats out of the way, the complete list for the 2017 edition is listed below (for comparison, here are the lists from the 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008 editions of Princeton Review).
2017 Princeton Review’s Most Popular College Radio Stations
(note: I’ve added station names and call signs as the Princeton Review only lists school names. Schools in bold were not on the list last year)
2. Fordham University (WFUV 90.7 FM, Bronx, NY)
3. Hofstra University (WRHU 88.7 FM, Hempstead, New York)
4. University of Puget Sound (KUPS 90.1 FM, Tacoma, Washington)
5. Bates College (WRBC 91.5 FM, Lewiston, ME)
8. DePauw University (WGRE 91.5 FM, Greencastle, Indiana)
9. St. Bonaventure University (WSBU-88.3 FM, St. Bonaventure, NY)
10. Carleton College (KRLX 88.1 FM, Northfield, MN)
12. Chapman University (ChapmanRadio.com, Orange, CA) – Most recently was on the 2015 list.
13. Reed College (KRRC, Portland, OR) – Most recently was on the 2011 list.
14. Drew University (WMNJ 88.9 FM The Forest, Madison, NJ)
16. Franklin & Marshall College (WFNM 89.1 FM, Lancaster, PA)
18. Truman State University (KTRM 88.7 FM, Kirksville, MO)
20. Earlham College (WECI 91.5 FM, Richmond, IN)
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