University of Iowa drops from top five in 'top party school' rankings

Officials say more work ahead to curb dangerous drinking

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IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa — for the first time in half a decade — has fallen out of the top five on the Princeton Review’s annual ranking of U.S. party schools.

The UI, in the publication’s 2017 rankings made public this week, came in No. 6 — topped by a couple of its Big Ten peers, the University of Wisconsin at No. 1 and the University of Illinois at No. 3.

For the past two years, Iowa held the No. 2 spot after coming in No. 1 three years ago. Its slide perhaps is indicative of the university’s persistent efforts to curb dangerous drinking that have improved student behavior and the campus climate, according to recent assessments.

A UI-specific National College Health Assessment Summary released over the summer showed the percent of students who reported using alcohol on 10 or more days in the last 30 days dropped from 30.4 percent in 2011 to 23.2 percent in spring 2016.

It also showed 50.9 percent of UI students polled reported having five or more drinks on one occasion in the previous two weeks, down from 64.5 percent in 2011, while the average number of drinks during that time period fell from 6.4 to 5.3.

The UI community remains more likely to use alcohol, engage in high-risk drinking, and experience negative consequences than the national average, according to the summary. But UI officials said the university is headed in the right direction, and they remain focused on continual improvement, regardless of national “party” lists.

“We are focused on our students’ well-being regardless of any ranking,” Vice President for Student Life Tom Rocklin told The Gazette in a statement Tuesday. “In the last seven years, binge drinking among University of Iowa students has dropped 28 percent.”

Rocklin was referencing a slide in the percent of UI students drinking 10 or more days a month since 2009, according to a UI survey.

Over the summer, the university rolled out a new 2016-2019 alcohol harm reduction plan with ambitious goals of cutting the percent of students who drink 10 or more days to 20 percent from 26.1 percent and decreasing the average number of drinks per occasion from 5.8 to 4.

“I’m pleased to see fewer students are engaging in high-risk drinking, but there’s still work to do,” Rocklin said. “We remain committed to educating students about the importance of making safer choices with alcohol and creating a culture that encourages healthy behaviors.”

Some of those educational efforts have come in the form of additional training during UI orientation and more outreach to new students’ parents.

Historically, the annual party school rankings have sparked social media homages to raucous Hawkeye tailgating and a lively downtown bar scene. But most of this week’s Princeton ranking reverberation has centered on Wisconsin’s rise.

Rounding out the top five are West Virginia University at No. 2, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign at No. 3, Lehigh University at No. 4, and Bucknell University at No. 5.

The UI made the publication’s 2017 rankings in 13 categories, including “lots of hard liquor” at No. 4; best college library at No. 5; happiest students at No. 5; best health services at No. 8; best career services at No. 10; and best town-gown relations at No. 10.

Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa only made the publication’s list of “green colleges” at No. 28 and No. 41, respectively.

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