Prin is in the Top 10

Principia made the Yahoo Finance list for the top 10 Best Values in Private Colleges Under 20k. The general consensus among my friends who have been there: what on earth were they thinking?! I’m also curious what criteria they used to select this top 10 list.

Yahoo Finance gives Prin a glowing write up, it sounds ideal, based on Christian Science, but “not affiliated” with the Christian Science Church.

3. Principia College

Location: Elsah, Ill.
Undergraduate enrollment: 542
Total cost: $36,060
Average need-based aid: $23,055
Average net cost: $13,005
Kiplinger’s rank: #55 among liberal-arts colleges

Part of a campus that also includes pre-kindergarten, elementary school and high school, Principia College bases its philosophy on Christian Science tenets but is not affiliated with the Christian Science Church. It awards need-based aid to about half of its students and merit aid — an average of $14,885 — to 26% of students who do not qualify for need-based aid. Principia’s 2,600-acre campus overlooks the Mississippi River; many of its buildings were designed by Bernard Maybeck, a renowned architect of the Arts and Crafts movement.

There are a few issues with this write up.

  1. Yes, the college campus has a daycare for faculty and staff’s children, but the pre-kindergarten, elementary, middle and high schools are about an hour away.
  2. Yes, it bases its philosophy on Christian Science tenets, which means UNLESS YOU ARE AN ACTIVELY PRACTICING CS YOU ARE NOT WELCOME and it helps if your parents are actively practicing too. Period. End of story. You’re also not welcome if you’re gay. So what if it isn’t affiliated with the Church, the Church isn’t radical enough. Principians are a special elite group.
  3. To keep the merit-based aid you need to maintain a 3.5 or higher GPA, which is almost impossible even for the most diligent and studious, and even harder if you’re involved in athletics (I might be recalling this incorrectly, if so, I apologize).
  4. The Maybeck buildings on campus are beautiful, but there are also some built in the 1970s which look like demented Pizza Huts. The campus is incredibly unfriendly for the differently-abled, and the bluff trails are admittedly dangerous with large “do not go beyond this point” signs.
  5. Then there are the deaths at Principia, the best known/publicized incident was the measles outbreak the 1980s, this is what happens when a little colony of non-immunized people live together. There have been rumors of others, but I have not found a credible, cite-able source (if you know of any & have sources I’d love to hear about them).

I can’t think of any reason for someone to go to Principia College. Although I attended (they offered me a very good financial aid package and the admissions process was super-easy, they accept pretty much any CS with a pulse – it is staying there that is the problem), and made some wonderful friends during my time there, knowing what I know now, I would not encourage anyone else to.


4 thoughts on “Prin is in the Top 10

  1. petit4chocolatier says:

    Good post. Many private colleges are a wonderful experience and strong education. I will check out Yahoo’s listing of less expensive ones.

    Unfortunately with private colleges; many are only nationally accredited and not regionally accredited. Which means that their credits may not transfer or partially transfer easily to many well known colleges where students want to finish their degree in. Various students find out after they have accrued costly private loans and want to transfer in to another college of this dilemma. Students need to know this if they are planning on moving forward with their education and degrees. Find out their accreditation up front. It will save time and trouble later : )

    • kindism says:

      I attended and graduated from Prin a few years back and have been assured that “things are different now.” I remain skeptical.

      Accreditation remains a huge issue, most people who transfer in or out of Prin tend to add an extra year to their college education (if they’re lucky it is ONLY an extra year) to make credits work. For a time Prin was on a quarter system, most other colleges/universities are on a semester system – Prin has since moved over to the semester system which was a huge mess for both students and faculty alike.

      Another HUGE issue is that ALL Prin faculty MUST be Christian Scientists, which really limits the pool when it comes to EVERY department from library staff to the chemistry lab and registrars office. Often husbands and wives are unable to both find work for the college, or in the surrounding area so one works at the college and commutes back to see their spouse on the occasional weekend.

      There is the Cult of Prin which has grown up around the place and it is held in Very High Regard. CS youth are actively encouraged by family and church members to attend if at all possible (that’s how I ended up there), and there are often local/state scholarship funds available for students.

      I’m curious how they arrived at the “top 10” and how much research they actually did for the article.

  2. firebluespinel says:

    It is possible to maintain a 3.5 GPA at Prin while playing a varsity sport and being terminally overinvolved in required and optional extracurricular activities. I’ve done it. But just because some things are possible, does not mean that they are easy, nor that they SHOULD be done. Multiple times, I maintained that schedule and level of work at the expense of my health, and more than once I came close to dropping below 3.5.

    • kindism says:

      I’m impressed you managed it. Most of the people I knew who were on scholarships maxed themselves out on studying and were too exhausted to take on many optional extracurricular activities beyond sleep and getting away from campus for dinner.

      Of my friends only two of them managed to maintain their scholarships for all four years (often at the expense of their health, social life, and regular meals times), while many more of them dipped below the 3.5 and lost them entirely (because a 3.3 is so awful).

      Prin seems to promote over-involvement in optional extracurricular activities (and over-load students with mandatory ones, see the music department among others). I think this is their way of keeping people eligible for continued scholarships to a minimum.

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