Top 10 Best College Radio Stations

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College radio is one of the last places on earth where advertisers don’t dictate the playlist, subversive speech is encouraged and strange sounds don’t mean you should call the plumber. Young people across the nation are bringing back lost recordings, introducing the next big thing, embracing multiculturalism better than your average anthropologist, and giving a voice to the millennial generation that shakes up the stereotype they have been saddled with.

biggest college radio stations

Since the early 1960’s when the FCC started handing out class D licenses to small, 10-watt radio stations, college radio has been airing the voice of the next generation and it is beautiful. Some popular college radio stations are completely student-run. The college provides a building and a budget and the students do the rest. Some stations are run like classes and are formal training grounds for future DJ’s and sound engineers. But what they all have in common is they put innovative programming on the airwaves and give their students a unique chance to broadcast what America’s young people want to hear. Here are the 10 Best College Stations on the air right now.

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Drexel University

WKDU, 91.7, Drexel University, not only plays a variety of amazing tunes but they manage to keep up with the entire music scene in Philadelphia, which is no small task, Their website keeps a running list of who is playing where and how old you have to be to get in, a pressing concern for your average college student. WKDU may take a little getting used to if you are a new listener since the genre switches hour by hour. But soon you’ll learn to love the funk one hour and punk the next or to only tune in during certain parts of the day. You should also browse the station’s website for its impressive recordings of in-studio interviews, just about everyone tours through Philly and many of them stop by WKDU!

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Seton Hall University

WSOU 89.5  Seton Hall University, began broadcasting on 89.5 FM on April 14, 1948 thanks to the inspiration and dedication of Monsignor Thomas J. Gillhooly, the station’s first faculty director. I’m sure he could not imagine then that it would one day become the largest college radio station in the New York Metro Area or devoutly dedicated to “screamer” bands. For the past 30 years, WSOU has played a mix of heavy metal, punk, emo, hardcore, and post-hardcore music. They have a dedicated fan base of community listeners but they are committed to their school roots as well. You can find every school event, sports score, and happening on their website. They also keep students up to date on current events in the news without losing their appeal or sounding preachy, newsy, and uncool. This is only possible when it is truly student-run as this station has been for 68 years.

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Appalachian State University

The first thing you notice when you visit the website for WASU 90.5, at Appalachian State University is that it was built for the digital age, not to be dialed up with an antenna at 90.5 FM in 1986 in your Volkswagon Jetta on the way to the Dairy Queen. They have readily available podcasts, links to social media, an iPhone app and a listen to live button that is much larger than their call numbers. They are an alternative station, playing indie rock music and they are not trying to get anyone old enough to listen to music on a radio to hear them, ever. They have cooking shows and sports shows and do a great job of appealing to the student body. WASU has a big presence, with great north carolina based music, in a little town.

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DePauw University

WGRE, 91.5 out of DePauw University is another oldie-goldie. It started as a 10-watt broadcast in 1949. It has grown over the years, modernized with the times, and with a recent, $100,000 upgrade, has become a state-of-the-art facility. The station has been on the top ten of Princeton Review’s college radio rankings for the last 15 for good reason. They play a steady stream of alternative rock, helping to introduce up-and-coming indie rock musicians and keep college students from having to listen to mainstream music for 67 years. They also do a great job of reporting school news and piping in the Associated Press feed so that students aren’t totally cut off from the real world. WGRE is a solid, well-rounded station that has proven it is here to stay.

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North Carolina State University

WKNC 88.1 out of NC State University operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is student-run and commercial-free and provides listeners in the greater Raleigh-Durham market with “music that doesn’t suck.” The station lives up to its promise with an eclectic mix of underground hip-hop, indie rock, and alternative metal. They also support local bands, local music venues, festivals, and local breweries by promoting events and singing their praises. If you want to know what is hip to do, cool to listen to, and fashionable to consume then all you have to do is tune in.

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University of Tennessee, Knoxville

WUTK 90.3, also known as New Rock 90, broadcasts out of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. They have a strong enough signal to be picked up easily for 30 miles and are the 5th most popular station in the grater Knoxville market. They play a mix of cutting edge up and coming bands, techno, rap, electronica, rock-a-billy, punk, and old school rock and roll favorites. They appeal to a wide audience and provide a very pleasurable listening experience since they are commercial-free and span many decades and genres.

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University of California Berkeley

KALX 90.7 out of University of California Berkeley started out as a project in a cigar box connecting dorm rooms with actual wires in the early 1960s. Since Berkeley was known for housing free thinkers even then and the civil rights movement was just starting to take off, the school was a little hesitant to allow students to freely broadcast on the radio waves. So a team of dedicated students broadcasted through the homemade wiring system for nearly four years before they got an actual radio station. Since then they’ve been a staple to the entire Bay area. Now with live stream and an iPhone app they can broadcast to the world. Since the Bay area has one of the most cutting edge music and art scenes in the world lots of people tune in to see what might be the next great things and lots of locals tune in to hear what is going on where. They are a big part of a very happening scene.

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Texas State University

KTSW 89.9 is the student-run station of Texas State University but their broadcast range extends all the way from San Marcos to Austin along I35. They play a mix of indie, hip-hop, rock, electronic, and more. They are also the official station for Rattler Football and Bobcat Athletics, several syndicated shows, and a handful of news programs. They appeal to the entire student body, even the ones who don’t like music. For the ones who do love music, they host a live two-day music festival every year that is free and open to the public called the My Radio Festival, aka MR FEST. It has grown over the years to attract thousands of participants from the surrounding community and bring lots of positive publicity to the station.

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Howard University

WHUR 96.3 out of Howard University is one of the only university-owned commercial stations in the U.S. They broadcast a jazz-heavy, relaxing sound from Washington, DC all the way to Baltimore. Half a million listeners tune in daily for shows like “Original Quiet Storm” to help them chill at night. I’m sure lots of candlelight dinners have been served with WHUR on the radio in the background. WHUR was the first student run radio station in the Washington area to broadcast in HD. The station has won numerous awards, including the prestigious NAB Marconi for Best Urban Station of the Year and NAB Crystal Radio Award for Excellence in Community Service.

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University of Washington

In 1972, KEXP 90.3, the student radio station of the University of Washington, got its start playing rock albums. But now it isn’t your normal radio station. Now they don’t even call themselves a radio station but a dynamic arts organization. The best college radio station staff is made up of 40 DJ’s, they play indie and alternative rock tunes, host events on the street, and video stream famous artists. They are also the first station to produce real-time playlists. They can produce cutting-edge things like that thanks to funding from billionaire investor Paul Allen’s Experience Music Project. Who knows what they will come up with next! They are a station to watch and likely to top next year’s list thanks to their innovative approach to the radio.

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What is College Radio?

College radio stations can be found at major universities, community colleges and small private schools across the United States.The first college station in the United States was WKCR-FM on Columbia University’s campus in New York City in 1967. Other notable early college stations included KCMU in Eugene, Oregon founded by Steve Conover (1967), WCNR-FM on Michigan State University.

The best college radio stations become an integral part of the college experience. It is a platform for students to express themselves and share their music, opinions, and stories with the world. College radio allows students to explore different genres of music and engage in meaningful conversations with their peers. Not only does it provide an outlet for creativity, but it also helps students learn more about the world around them by listening to different perspectives. College radio can be a great way for students to connect with each other and build lasting relationships.

The Golden Age of College Radio

College radio in the 1980s was a vibrant and exciting medium for students to express themselves and share their music with the world. It was a time when college radio stations became an integral part of campus life, giving students access to a wide range of musical genres and providing an outlet for creative expression.

College radio allowed students to explore new underground music, discover new artists, and create their own unique sound. The 1980s was an exciting time for college radio. It was a time when many popular bands emerged and made their mark on the music scene. From punk to alternative rock, college radio stations were playing some of the most influential and iconic bands of the decade.

Some of the most popular bands that were played on college radio in the 1980s include The Smiths, R.E.M., Joy Division, The Cure, U2, Talking Heads, Sonic Youth, and The Replacements. These bands helped shape the sound of modern music and their influence can still be heard today.

The 1980s saw college radio stations become more popular than ever before, as they provided an alternative to mainstream commercial radio. With its eclectic mix of music from all genres, from punk rock to jazz, the best college station in the 1980s was a place where anyone could find something that spoke to them.

The grunge and alternative rock bands of the 1990s were heavily influenced by the “college rock” scene of the 1980s. “College rock” is a term given to an early 1990s movement in which college students and young people in their late teens and early 20s, who were broadly defined by having a high-school education or less, formed small bands of their own.The grunge scene of the 1990s saw a wave of success that was largely influenced by the “college rock” scenes of both the 1980s and early 1990s.

Bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Weezer wore their influences on their sleeves (and t-shirts), sending newer fans in search of these older artists. In fact, with the wave of interest, 80s college rock bands like R.E.M. and They Might Be Giants experienced a surge in sales and mainstream appeal without having to change their styles to suit the time. Meanwhile, groups that flew under the radar in the 80s like Pixies and My Bloody Valentine earned legend status.

College radio has had a huge influence on popular music in the 1980s and 1990s. It provided a platform for emerging artists to be heard and allowed them to reach larger audiences than ever before. College radio was also instrumental in introducing new genres of music, such as punk, hip-hop, and alternative rock, to the mainstream. It gave independent musicians an opportunity to make their mark in the industry without having to rely on major labels or radio stations. College radio was also responsible for helping shape the sound of popular music during this period by playing songs that were not necessarily chart-toppers but still managed to have a lasting impact on listeners.

Nationally, college radio has played a significant role in the development of hip hop music in the United States. College radio stations were some of the first platforms for independent hip-hop artists to get radio play and reach listeners outside their own neighborhoods. The independent hip-hop scene of the 1980s and 1990s was defined by small record labels, uncoordinated distribution networks, and local radio stations. In this vein, some cities, such as Detroit and New York City had a number of independent labels who were able to sign successful artists in their own right. Some artists are still releasing music independently on vinyl records.

College radio has an immense influence on the music industry, especially for female artists. It provides a platform for these artists to showcase their talents and gain recognition in a male-dominated industry. College radio offers a unique opportunity to reach out to new audiences who may not be exposed to the same music as mainstream radio stations.

By playing music by female artists, college radio helps create visibility and awareness of their work. This can lead to more opportunities for them in the future and help them break through barriers in the industry. Furthermore, college radio also provides a supportive environment where women can get constructive feedback from peers and mentors which can help them further their careers.

That groundwork in the 1980s and 1990s created a fertile field for women in music, from the Lilith Fair artists of the 1990s to artists like Feist, Cat Power, and St Vincent in the 2000s. The shift in the music industry has given a platform to women to explore their talent and have the power to create and produce their own work.

The 1990s was a decade that saw the emergence of college radio as a major influence on popular music. During this time, college radio stations were able to provide an alternative to the mainstream media by playing music from lesser-known artists and genres. College radio provided an outlet for new and emerging musicians to get their music heard, helping to shape the sound of popular music in the 1990s. It also gave listeners access to a variety of different styles of music that they might not have been exposed to otherwise. By providing an outlet for these artists, college radio helped bring about a new era of musical diversity and creativity that would shape popular culture for years to come.

College Radio Today

In the 21st century, with unlimited access to new genres of music available to young people, college radio is less influential than in the 1980s and 1990s. This is because the proliferation of genres and new technologies has created more alternatives to radio than in the past.

In the late 1990s, college radio became less influential, when it was outperformed by alternative music stations such as WBCN and WROR in Boston. College radio had a harder time reaching students with alternative music compared to other current stations. The decline of college radio resulted from its inability to change as rapidly as its younger competitors.The fall of campus-based media was blamed on digital technologies that allowed for easy access to new kinds of information sources that competed with traditional forms of communication like newspapers and magazines.

Even though it is difficult to survive in today’s digital age, college radio stations are still able to thrive and find success in the face of those challenges. College radio remains valuable to local communities. College radio can host local radio shows and journalism that directly impacts the local community. They also present various shows and genres throughout the week to appeal to different segments of listeners.

College radio is a good place for students to continue their passion for communication, journalism, or radio broadcasting. It is also a great place to begin one’s career as an on air personality or journalist; many college radio stations offer internships and fellowships that allow students with interest in these fields experience on-air time while earning money they can use to continue their education.

Radio has also been a platform for activists, notably black and feminist voices who were in no way heard on the dominant white radio station.The most famous example is probably DJ Charles Stuart, who hosted a show on Boston’s WHRB during the Civil Rights Movement. He was a black man living in Boston and his show aired on an otherwise all-white station; he used this opportunity to speak about civil rights and equality for all races.

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Aya Andrews


Aya Andrews is a passionate educator and mother of two, with a diverse background that has shaped her approach to teaching and learning. Born in Metro Manila, she now calls San Diego home and is proud to be a Filipino-American. Aya earned her Masters degree in Education from San Diego State University, where she focused on developing innovative teaching methods to engage and inspire students.

Prior to her work in education, Aya spent several years as a continuing education consultant for KPMG, where she honed her skills in project management and client relations. She brings this same level of professionalism and expertise to her work as an educator, where she is committed to helping each of her students achieve their full potential.

In addition to her work as an educator, Aya is a devoted mother who is passionate about creating a nurturing and supportive home environment for her children. She is an active member of her community, volunteering her time and resources to support local schools and organizations. Aya is also an avid traveler, and loves to explore new cultures and cuisines with her family.

With a deep commitment to education and a passion for helping others succeed, Aya is a true inspiration to those around her. Her dedication to her craft, her community, and her family is a testament to her unwavering commitment to excellence in all aspects of her life.

Find your perfect value college is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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