The University of Richmond's ranking with the Princeton Review has improved this year, with top marks in classroom experience and athletic facilities. But the university still sits among the top-20 schools with little interaction between those of different races or social classes.

The Princeton Review's 2010 edition of the Best 371 Colleges -- to be published Tuesday, July 28 -- ranked Richmond at No. 15 for best athletic facilities, No. 18 for best classroom experience, No. 20 for most beautiful campus, and No. 16 for little race or class interaction between students of different backgrounds. The results are based on surveys that the Princeton Review conducts annually with the university's students.

"It's terrific to see that our students made such positive comments about our faculty members, our small class size, and the administration's focus on improving things," said Lisa Van Riper, vice president of communications. "We are also happy that our profile is much stronger in the 2010 review. There's always room for improvement, but we are pleased to see the progress University of Richmond made in this year's guidebook."

The rankings fluctuated from 2008, when Richmond ranked seventh in the race or class interaction category and eighth for homogeneous population. This year's improvement brings Richmond near where it was from 2004-07 -- with rankings ranging from 11th to 19th -- and is the first year since 2004 that Richmond has not been in the top 20 for homogeneous population.

The university ranked 20th for most beautiful campus in 2006 and 2008. This year, it also received a rating of 94 for financial aid with an average cumulative indebtedness of $20,915. Rankings before 2004 were not available.

The 80-question survey is entirely volunteer-based, a methodology that university officials on campus and nationally often say negates its ability to be a true barometer of a school's character. It's accessible online with a valid school e-mail address, can be taken only by students and is not advertised. But participating admissions offices often encourage students to fill it out.

Rebecca Lessem, a senior editor for the guidebook, said she did not know how many Richmond students had taken the survey, but she said on average that 325 students per school complete it.

Schools listed in the book are given a two-page spread with information on admissions, student body, financial aid and statistical data. Most of this information comes from school admissions offices, with the exception of the academics, life and student body sections, which are based on student feedback from the survey.

Students who were quoted in the book told surveyors that professors at Richmond were accessible, the work load was rigorous and Greek life dominated the university's social scene. A few students also said that the administration had "misplaced priorities," but faculty members are a "pretty good bunch."

Statistical data from the Office of Admissions show the male-to-female ratio was 49 to 51 percent, with an undergraduate population of 2,689. According to the listing in the Princeton Review's book, 6 percent of students were African American, 4 percent were Asian, 71 percent Caucasian, 3 percent Hispanic and 5 percent international. It said 28 percent of males were in a fraternity and 49 percent of females were in a sorority.

The Princeton Review staff ranks schools that are already academically challenging and gives prospective students a look at student life, professors and other factors that can't be judged with academics, Lessem said.

Elsewhere in Virginia, Sweet Briar College, a school for women in Sweet Briar, was listed second for most beautiful campus. Virginia Tech was No. 1 for campus food and fifth in best quality of life, while the College of William and Mary received a ranking of fourteenth for happiest students.

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This version of the story ADDS comment from Van Riper, additional background and UPDATES with minor edits throughout.

Stephanie Rice reported from San Diego.

Contact staff writer Stephanie Rice at stephanie.rice@richmond.edu.

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