The American college town takes on many different forms throughout the United States. With colleges and universities situated in large metropolitan centers, smaller cities, and towns with less than a quarter of a million residents, college towns sometimes end up absorbing the positive and negative aspects of being associated with an institution of higher learning.
As with colleges and universities, there are some college towns that stand out above the rest. The American Institute for Economic Research, after collecting data from the United States Census Bureau and other sources, has compiled lists of America’s best college towns.
What is a College Town?
According to research done by Kyle Souhrada of the State University of New York (SUNY) Geneseo, the basic definition of a college town is one in which “the number of college students in a municipality equals at least 20 percent of its total population.”
However, the exact definition of a college town is hard to nail down. For this ranking, the American Institute for Economic Research defined a college town as any location with more than 15,000 students as defined by standards set by the United States Census Bureau.
America’s Best College Towns
For these rankings, the American Institute for Economic Research found 222 locations throughout the United States that met the standards of the United States Census Bureau of having more than 15,000 students in that area. From there, researchers evaluated the top 75 college towns based on three criteria: academic environment, quality of life, and professional opportunity. All evaluations were based on data from the Census Bureau or the United States Department of Labor.
The results of the rankings were published on September 8, 2018, by USA Today.
In college towns with more than 2.5 million residents, San Francisco topped the list. Rounding out the top five were New York City; Washington, D.C.; Boston, Massachusetts; and Seattle, Washington.
In the midsize metro category, the best college town with one million to 2.5 million residents is San Jose, California. Austin, Texas; Raleigh, North Carolina; Hartford, Connecticut; and Portland, Oregon followed behind to complete the top five.
Boulder, Colorado, was named the best college town in the small cities category. Also among the top five college towns with 250,000 to one million residents were Ann Arbor, Michigan; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Trenton-Ewing, New Jersey; and Gainesville, Florida.
Among college towns with less than 250,000 residents, Ithaca, New York, was named the best small college town. Ithaca was followed by State College, Pennsylvania; Iowa City, Iowa; Ames, Iowa; and Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.
College towns are a part of American cultural geography that vary greatly depending upon the learning atmosphere and many other factors. Regardless of location and character, college towns have a character that is unique to the lifestyle found in these areas.