Is Columbia the Duke of the North?

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Columbia and Duke
Duke and Columbia. Photo: Photos: Wikipedia and Wikipedia

You know how there are roughly ten southern schools that refer to themselves as "The Harvard of the South"? It's because Harvard (finally back on top in the U.S. News & World Report rankings this year) is anecdotally regarded as the premier school in the nation, and for some reason people in America have this idea that schools in the Northeast somehow originated the notion of "college." This reasoning is bolstered by the continued existence of the Ivy League, which is widely regarded as a collection of the top eight schools in the country (for anyone who still believes that, you obviously don't know anybody who went to Brown*).

Well, this year the U.S. News rankings placed Columbia, New York's own Ivy, in a tie with Duke and the University of Chicago. And it made us realize: Duke and Columbia are kind of the same, but opposite. They cost about the same, they are roughly the same size, and of course they are close in terms of academic reputation. Except Duke students have a lovely grass-filled campus upon which to wander around, in beautiful weather. And they have fantastic athletic teams to cheer for. Columbia students have the greatest city in the world at their feet, and who needs college basketball when you have the Knicks? (Er, maybe football would have been a better example. You know what we mean.)

The point is, they're roughly equivalent in quality, if these rankings are anything to go by (and we realize they're not, really). So is Duke the Columbia of the South? Actually, probably not. That "XXX school is the XXX school of the XXX region" assumes that the first school is less prestigious or widely celebrated than the second. But even though Columbia is in the legendary Ivy League, parents all over the southern United States have been dreaming of having their kids go to Duke their whole lives. Columbia students, we're sorry, but your parents up here in the Union states were dreaming that you would go to Harvard. So, well, we hate to say it, but Columbia just may be the Duke of the North.

Best Colleges [U.S. News]
*Kidding! God, you Brownies. If "Humor" were a pass/fail course (you know, like Feelings 101 from freshman year?), you totally wouldn't get a "P."