“The Best College You can Actually Get Into” is NOT Principia

Time.com’s Money section recently ran a list of the 25 “Best You can Actually Get Into” colleges, Principia College came in at number one.

I take issue with Time listing Principia as number one, I have previously blogged about the many, many problems with Principia, and to list it as a viable option for the average B student is misleading at best.

Screen Shot 2014-08-10 at 10.29.00 AMTo be fair to Time, if you click on the “Principia College” link they do go on to explain that

Principia is not for everyone – literally. The school restricts enrollment to practicing Christian Scientists (applicants are asked to submit references attesting to their church attendance). But those who fit the bill have an opportunity to attend one of the most affordable private liberal arts colleges in the country, and one where 97% of undergraduates get scholarships that further cut the cost of a degree. In fact, the school has the lowest estimated net price of a degree in MONEY’s top 50.

Because of its religious nature, Principia is not especially diverse, although about 15% of students come from outside the U.S. Religious restrictions and small town locale also make the social life comparatively sedate.              —  emphasis mine —

Giving Principia this sort of recognition without emphasizing the extreme positions it (and Christian Science) take does a disservice to everyone. Principia is a “great” college — until you read the fine print. “Private Religious Liberal Arts College Accepts People of their Own Religion with Generous Funding, Shuns All Others” would be a far fairer headline, not “Principia is Number One!” which is what has been plastered all over my facebook wall (along with the aforementioned link).

“Those who fit the bill” must be Christian Scientists — a fact that Time mentions, but glosses over, diving headlong into a glowing description calling it one of the “most affordable private liberal arts colleges” and the “Hogwarts” like campus.

Christian Scientists who attend, have a pulse (demonstrating over a material body would be a very cool “demonstration” but then they wouldn’t have a “need” for Prin), be willing to appear to comply with Principia’s various policies, sit through Moral Reasoning, realize there is never a good time to use temporary means, selectively pay lip-service to the Matthew Code, and live by rules so uptight that Jesus couldn’t attend.

There is an 87% acceptance rate, because people who are willing to deal with all that are far and few between. 97% of undergraduates get some sort of scholarship, grant funds, or low-interest rate student loans (from the college or other CS-organizations), which is often part of the reason they’ve chosen to attend (college is not inexpensive). The 13% who are not accepted are probably not Christian Scientists, or they must’ve done something truly terrible* to not be admitted.

Given that Principia College accepts only Christian Scientists, admits maybe around 100-150 new students a year (at the most). The miniscule percentage of the population represented by their presence leaves me baffled as to how it even makes it onto Time’s list in the first place.

It is worth noting that Principia College came in 107 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings. Interestingly, U.S. News doesn’t emphasize Christian Science the way Time does, and I find the information they list under Campus Info & Services to be quite misleading.

Principia College offers a number of student services including day care, health service, and health insurance. Principia College also offers campus safety and security services like 24-hour foot and vehicle patrols, 24-hour emergency telephones, lighted pathways/sidewalks, and controlled dormitory access (key, security card, etc). Of the students at Principia College, 54 percent have cars on campus. Alcohol is not permitted for students of legal age at Principia College.

Day care? Yes, for faculty and staff. I can’t think of any student who had a child.  Health services? Do they mean Cox Cottage and the C.S. Nurses? Alcohol is not permitted for students of legal age at Principia College — either on campus or off.

The expanded view of Campus Services is a bit more accurate: Services for Learning Disabled Students N/A, Services for Physically Disabled Students N/A. There are no “disabled” in Christian Science, why would they need to make accommodations for that?

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Numbers for Principia College and Principia Upper School, from the 2006 Alumni Directory, compiled by Harris Connect. Only the years in which both the college and Upper School operated, beginning in 1934.

The numbers don’t look so good for Prin’s future. By class year, the college’s numbers peaked in 1974, at 307. The numbers are only 110 for 2005, the latest figures available. The Upper School’s peak class year was 1971, with 191.

Year: College (Upper School)

1934: 79 (78), 1935: 76 (75), 1936: 62 (90), 1937: 87 (82), 1938: 84 (108), 1939: 85 (78)

1940: 103 (95), 1941: 94 (96), 1942: 124 (92), 1943: 111 (107), 1944: 92 (112), 1945: 104 (91), 1946: 118 (99), 1947: 123 (98), 1948: 143 (110), 1949: 138 (100)

1950: 145 (98), 1951: 102 (92), 1952: 131 (95), 1953: 126 (100), 1954: 134 (111), 1955: 128 (99), 1956: 125 (124), 1957: 118 (91), 1958: 143 (114), 1959: 133 (109)

1960: 127 (138), 1961: 168 (132), 1962: 186 (132), 1963: 185 (153), 1964: 164 (156), 1965: 183 (168), 1966: 179 (110), 1967: 166 (152), 1968: 193 (149), 1969: 223 (174)

1970: 206 (181), 1971: 183 (191), 1972: 230 (174), 1973: 263 (178), 1974: 307 (171), 1975: 296 (169), 1976: 292 (166), 1977: 271 (156), 1978: 273 (159), 1979: 290 (174)

1980: 265 (162), 1981: 286 (163, 1982: 287 (181), 1983: 270 (148), 1984: 294 (167), 1985: 235 (173), 1986: 242 (162), 1987: 252 (158), 1988: 195 (149), 1989: 221 (125)

1990: 215 (127), 1991: 194 (101), 1992: 208 (102), 1993: 203 (139), 1994: 150 (106), 1995: 158 (126), 1996: 178 (103), 1997: 165 (94), 1998: 171 (125), 1999: 166 (91)

2000: 154 (83), 2001: 153 (74), 2002: 148 (78), 2003: 147 (68), 2004: 110 (80), 2005: 110 (81)

— Many thanks to my source in the Ex-CS Facebook group for these numbers!


* Confessed to using medication? Admitted to the occasional drink? Enjoyed recreational sex? Feel free to speculate in the comments.

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2 thoughts on ““The Best College You can Actually Get Into” is NOT Principia

  1. Sunny says:

    Exceptional analysis of the exceptionally poor logic that went into this high ranking for Principia. It is a shame that such an aesthetically harmonious campus is full of so much illogical and conflicting nonsense. Oh, and lacking academic rigor…

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