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These 20 College Radio Stations Rock

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College radio stations have long filled dorm rooms and frat house cleanups of lazy Sunday afternoons. They’re also bastions of free speech fueled by artsy, and music-obsessed students that are sometimes years ahead of the mainstream. From the 1960’s, when the FCC began issuing “class D” licenses for 10-watt stations, college radio has been a staple of the college experience, and college town life in general.

While radio as a whole has been threatened by financial difficulties and changing consumption preferences, college radio continues to thrive, and many stations have grown since their days as early adopters of online streaming.

From 100 to 5000 watts, from impromptu jam seshions to CHVRCHES and Bloc Party stopping by, here’s our list of the nation’s top college radio stations.

1. WSBU-88.3 FM St. Bonaventure, St. Bonaventure, NY

1. St. Bonaventure University

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WSBU 88.3 FM operates a 165-watt station that broadcasts 24/7. Run by 16 student directors who oversee the stations verticles, 200 student volunteers keep this station ranked #1 by the Princeton Review running.

History is on the side of this station, that has undergone six name changes and survived since 1948. “The Buzzworthy,” a print and online ‘zine published several times a month has also become famous. Hip hop and Indie rock staples like the Mountain Goats, or Peter Bjorn and John are often featured on WSBU.

Listen online now here!

2. WICB 91.7 FM Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY

2. Ithaca College

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Ithaca College Radio began in 1941 in the Little Theater dressing rooms in Ithaca. The hosts didn’t have great equipment, but you could listen in if you were within earshot of the public address system speakers in adjoining rooms. Today WICB operates a 4,100 watt antenna with a traditional audience of 250,000 people, and an online audience that’s much larger. The station won MTVu’s “Woodie award” for best college radio in 2008, and was ranked #1 for most popular college radio station in Princeton Review’s 2014 rankings.

WICD is slightly more mainstream than other stations on the list, but schedules programming for Modern Rock, Jazz, Hip Hop, Specialty, and my favorite “Hobo’s Lullaby.”

Listen online now here!

3. WERS 88.9FM Emerson College, Boston, MA

3. Emerson College

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WERS is commercial free, and bills itself out to be “Boston’s discovery station,” helping listeners to discover their next favorite artist. Accordingly, WERS steers off the beaten path and covers an eclectic mix of local, independent talent, and re-discovered and obscure classics.

“Standing Room Only” on Saturday and Sunday mornings provides a segment of this eclecticism by offering New England’s most listened to musical theater broadcast. If you are looking for old hits, and independent-minded new artists, WERS is the place for you.

Listen online now here!

4. WGRE 91.5 FM DePauw University, Greencastle, IN

4. Depauw University

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WGRE was established as the first educational radio station in the nation as a 10-watt broadcast in 1949. Now it’s the largest student organization at DePauw, with over 200 student DJ’s. The station has now been in top ten of Princeton Review’s college radio rankings for 14 years. This year they were #2 on the list.

The station is known for alt-rock, and focuses on promoting up-and-coming alternative artists.

Listen online now here!

5. WASU 90.5 Appalachian State, Boone, NC

5. Appalachian State University

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WASU only admits students seriously considering careers in broadcasting, and it shows. Affectionately known as “the App,” this station is known for locating low-key indie rockers before they make it big. The station was the winner of MTVu’s “Woodie Award” in 2012.

Listen online now here!

6. KPSU 98.1 Portland State University, Portland, OR

6. Portland State University

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This non-commercial, student-run, and freeform radio station has been a favorite of Portland’s since it first came on air in 1994. Accompanying a slick website, where listeners can interact with DJ’s and the community, KPSU is currently not on citywide FM, but entirely streamed online. The station imposes no restrictions on programming on it’s 65 (mostly student) volunteer DJ’s, and, as you’d expect, often helps “keep Portland weird.”

Listen online now here!

7. WRHU 88.7 FM Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY

7. Hofstra University

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WRHU is a powerhouse of emerging broadcasting stars being trained by some of Manhattan’s finest. More than 200 current students help to run the station that broadcasts to NYC, Long Island, and into Connecticut. Covering NHL games, and conducting in-house interviews with the likes of Jack Johnson and Janet Jackson, each student who works at the station is required to take a 10-week not-for-credit course so that they are technically proficient on the air. WRHU is ranked #5 in Princeton Review’s “best college radio station” category.

Listen online now here!

8. WKNC 88.1 North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC

8. North Carolina State

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WKNC’s 25,000 watt transmitter serves the entire Raleigh-Durham market, with a focus on electronic, hip hop, indie rock, metal, and North Carolina-based music. The station is non-commercial and student-run, and attempts to fulfill their mission of playing “music that doesn’t suck.” Local collaborative events, such as “Local Band, Local Beer” makes WKNC a cultural force in the greater community.

Listen online now here!

9. WSOU 89.5 FM Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ

9. Seton Hall University

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WSOU, the self-proclaimed largest college radio station in the New York Metro area, focuses on “loud rock.” With programs for heavy metal, punk, emo, hardcore, and post hardcore music, they’re always pushing the next heavy hitters (or screamers). It’s been this way for a while, with WSOU playing the first punk rock on college radio back in the 1970’s. They would like you to know that though their music may sound scary to some “the music played on WSOU is actually much more family-values friendly than the sexually-charged lyrics you’ll hear on a hit radio station.”

Listen online now here!

10. KEXP 90.3 University of Washington, Seattle, WA

10. University of Washington

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KEXP isn’t your normal radio station. In fact, they don’t even bill themselves out to be a radio station. This “dynamic arts organization” made up of 40 expert curatorial DJ’s hosts events on the street, has live sound and video streams of famous artists, and holds down a world-class radio station. The first station to produce real-time playlists may seem a bit much for a college campus, but when your station gets funding from billionaire investor Paul AllenĂ­s Experience Music Project, this is what you get.

KEXP is known for covering indie and alternative rock. Live in-studio performances have been performed by the likes of Modest Mouse, the Avvett Brothers, and the Flaming Lips, and can be viewed on their site.

Listen online now here!

11. WWNW 88.9 FM Westminster College, New Wilmington, PA

11. Westminster College

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WWNW, or Titan Radio as it is now called, is run a little differently from your typical college station. Strict program layouts mirror commercial radio, and as WWNW is non-commercial, public service announcements and underwriting statements replace ads. The studio is staffed by DJ’s who are broadcast and digital communications majors, who receive F’s if they miss a shift without calling in sick. The playlist is tightly controlled, but it doesn’t mean WWNW isn’t a great station.

Most of the music on Titan radio is adult contemporary.

WWNW was ranked #7 on the Princeton Review’s Most Popular College Radio Stations this year.

Listen online now here!

12. KUPS 90.1 FM University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA

12. Puget Sound University

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KUPS is Puget Sound’s entirely student run, non-commercial station. Programming is a bit more varied than other stations on the list. Though a wide variety of content is played, the station’s core genres are alternative, electronic, hip hop, and loud rock.

KUPS has steadily ranked higher on college radio rankings through the years. In 2009 KUPS was chosen as MTVu’s “Woodie Award” winner. In 2011, KUPS was recognized as the 3rd in a list of “10 great college radio stations” by the Washington Post, and as the 8th best college station in the country by the Princeton Review.

Listen online now here!

13. WESS 90.3 East Stroudsburg University, East Stroudsburg, PA

13. East Stroudsburg University

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Variety is the name of the game on WESS. DJ’s are given great freedom in choosing music, and genres. Every morning begins with vintage radio programming. Throughout the day there are talk shows and sports, as well as a diverse musical lineup. Best of all, WESS stays true to its roots, and won the 2014 MTVu “Woodie Award,” which guages stations on how well they “breath life into their campus culture.”

Listen online now here!

14. WKDU 91.7 Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA

14. Drexel University

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WKDU is the only free-format, non-commercial radio station in Philadelphia. And that’s probably why people love it. One particularly loved program occurs on Saturday morning, when large portions of Philadelphia’s Caribbean community tune in for Reggae. Though most of the time, whatever the DJ is feeling is aired, be it punk, electronica, acid jazz, j-pop, or metal.

Listen online now here!

15. WCWS 90.9 FM The College of Wooster, Wooster, OH

15. College of Wooster

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WCWS, or WOO as it is now known, believes that college radio stations are “a public service.” And WOO is indeed a service. From local sports, to lectures, talk shows, and coming indie rock, WOO is a very solid college radio station.

In rankings WOO is #14 on Princeton Review’s “most popular college station,” and it’s obvious from a quick look around forums online. Listeners from across the country still keep up with programming and events and lost the WOO.

Listen online now here!

16. KALX 90.7 University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA

16. UC Berkeley

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This community-based and student-run radio station has three full time staff members, and nearly 300 student volunteers. The combination of an excellent school and a broadcasting environment for students has led to a number of students excelling in the broadcasting field. Alum’s include Lisa Stark of ABC News, Sarah Wallace, Andrew Reimer, Kristen Sze, Bob Sarlatte, and Robert “Doc” Pelzel.

In the station’s own words, they focus on “all stripes of underground music accented with news, sports and alternative informational programming.”Programming is freeform, and, in the words of the UC Berkeley News Center, “the payoff for people tuning in [to KALX] is a curated experience, with DJs making creative leaps that no Pandora algorithm can.”

Listen online now here!

17. KTSW 89.9 Texas State University San Marcos, TX

17. TX State University

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KTSW’s 10,500 watt signal services the San Marcos and Austin areas. The station features lectures, talk shows, sports, and a range of indie rock coverage.

Listen online now here!

18. WCRD 91.3 Ball State University, Muncie, IN

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WCRD is the second largest student activity at Ball State, and keeps its audience informed of local happenings. The station has an established audience for their coverage of local high school sports (particularly games that aren’t broadcast on any other stations), and amongst Ball State parents, alums, and fans for varsity sport coverage.

Funded by founder and alumnus David Letterman, WCRD shares the communications building with Public Radio Indiana, and the college of communication, information and media. Besides local coverage, WCRD is known for rock and top 40 music.

Listen online now here!

19. WUTK 90.3 University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Knoxville, TN

19. UTK

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WUTK is a variety formatted non-commercial station that does not receive any funding from its parent University. Common genres on the station are funk, hip hop/rap, jam band, international music, and local Knoxville music. In a partnership with Comcast, the station also video tapes local artists in its series “WUTK Unplugged.”

Listen online now here!

20. WEIU 88.9 Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL

20. Eastern Illinois University

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This MTVu “Woodie Award” nominee offers real world broadcasting experience to Eastern Illinois U’s students. As an educational organization WEIU offers experience in announcing, using production equipment, keeping music and operation logs, writing on-air promotional spots, and working at station promotion events. Though the station does also offers quality sports and top hit coverage for the surrounding area. Student contests for best radio spots, public service announcements, airchecks, live sports, and newscasts are a highlight for those who work at the station.

Listen online now here!