2014′s Best & Worst College Cities & Towns in America | Wallet Hub

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WH Best & Worst College Cities & Towns in America BadgeHigh school seniors face a tall laundry list when prepping for college: From taking standardized tests and gathering letters of recommendation to submitting college applications and applying for financial aid, the final months before the big decision can be hectic. And to help students winnow their school choices, a visit to their prospective campuses can offer a taste of the college experience.

When touring universities and colleges, it’s important to examine not only an institution’s intellectual environment but also the city or town the student will call home for several years. Academic success depends on more than just the quality of a program. Also important is an area that is safe, affordable and conducive to personal development through a diversity of cultural and professional experiences.

For in-state students planning to live on campus at a public four-year institution, tuition and fees alone will eat about 39 percent of their total budget, according to the College Board. Factor in room and board, books and supplies, transportation and other expenses. That leaves students — or their parents — with a very thin wallet at the end of the semester, which is all the more reason to make affordability a top priority.

With college application deadlines approaching and campus visits in the offing, WalletHub ranked 280 U.S. cities and towns to find the ones that promise the best or worst combination of academic, social and economic atmospheres. We did so by analyzing 23 key metrics such as the quality of higher education, crime rates and the cost of living. Our findings, as well as expert commentary and a detailed methodology, can be found below.

Overall Rankings

Overall Rank

City

“Wallet Wellness” Rank

“Youth-Oriented Environment” Rank

“Opportunities” Rank

1 Oxford, OH 23 16 1
2 State College, PA 40 2 99
3 Chapel Hill, NC 81 13 10
4 Corvallis, OR 50 23 4
5 College Station, TX 30 42 10
6 Laramie, WY 13 46 22
7 San Luis Obispo, CA 167 11 12
8 Stillwater, OK 15 44 50
9 Bozeman, MT 66 8 71
10 East Lansing, MI 31 15 100
11 Ames, IA 63 48 25
12 Manhattan, KS 27 40 62
13 Austin, TX 105 60 2
14 Mankato, MN 37 43 37
15 Bloomington, IN 25 24 115
16 Iowa City, IA 110 17 35
17 Fayetteville, AR 10 55 86
18 Boulder, CO 185 6 15
19 Charlottesville, VA 158 10 3
20 Gainesville, FL 71 22 64
21 Columbia, MO 56 67 16
22 Auburn, AL 67 68 13
23 Pittsburgh, PA 108 20 29
24 Ithaca, NY 215 1 26
25 Cedar Falls, IA 12 63 56
26 West Lafayette, IN 19 21 162
27 Eau Claire, WI 87 39 45
28 Bowling Green, OH 8 36 113
29 Tempe, AZ 86 29 79
30 Ann Arbor, MI 157 4 47
31 Blacksburg, VA 47 78 41
32 Columbus, OH 33 110 52
33 San Marcos, TX 131 25 48
34 Athens-Clarke, GA 38 52 93
35 Missoula, MT 55 32 120
36 Norman, OK 22 102 64
37 Waco, TX 32 143 13
38 Bowling Green, KY 3 99 117
39 Fort Collins, CO 153 53 9
40 Grand Forks, ND 6 69 87
41 Denton, TX 62 97 34
42 Kent, OH 78 64 67
43 Mount Pleasant, MI 5 3 275
44 Lawrence, KS 64 75 46
45 Tampa, FL 76 57 98
46 Lincoln, NE 36 136 31
47 Cincinnati, OH 26 54 202
48 Newark, DE 251 5 17
49 Murfreesboro, TN 11 135 62
50 Harrisonburg, VA 68 51 132
51 Salt Lake City, UT 91 70 72
52 Morgantown, WV 93 12 220
53 Berkeley, CA 198 31 23
54 Madison, WI 155 45 27
55 Fargo, ND 34 111 105
56 Knoxville, TN 29 91 146
57 Buffalo, NY 48 81 124
58 Charleston, SC 159 26 61
59 Kalamazoo, MI 16 28 269
60 Reno, NV 14 105 171
61 Carbondale, IL 35 14 272
62 Santa Cruz, CA 173 37 53
63 Atlanta, GA 119 33 139
64 Orlando, FL 53 77 112
65 Pasadena, CA 192 59 5
66 Baton Rouge, LA 45 100 145
67 Burlington, VT 252 7 20
68 Lafayette, LA 74 127 51
69 Tallahassee, FL 72 89 126
70 Lynchburg, VA 17 113 155
71 Provo, UT 2 122 111
72 Albany, NY 121 18 205
73 Durham, NC 109 123 33
74 Cambridge, MA 240 9 36
75 Davis, CA 217 41 30
76 Lexington, KY 41 141 89
77 Muncie, IN 21 112 175
78 Champaign, IL 126 27 174
79 Chico, CA 118 19 226
80 Lubbock, TX 44 132 108
81 Seattle, WA 191 71 6
82 Raleigh, NC 96 103 108
83 Logan, UT 1 118 140
84 Eugene, OR 94 50 214
85 Syracuse, NY 80 85 142
86 Grand Rapids, MI 102 101 94
87 Flagstaff, AZ 165 38 101
88 Wilmington, NC 142 65 102
89 Nashville, TN 97 166 32
90 Rochester, NY 107 83 149
91 Greenville, NC 24 139 192
92 Dayton, OH 77 94 188
93 Boise, ID 83 104 157
94 Minneapolis, MN 179 72 39
95 Hattiesburg, MS 4 106 274
96 Boca Raton, FL 196 49 66
97 Valdosta, GA 20 61 270
98 Richmond, VA 146 47 167
99 Omaha, NE 28 144 213
100 Columbia, SC 117 56 238
101 Birmingham, AL 18 146 229
102 New Orleans, LA 152 93 78
103 Saint Louis, MO 104 84 212
104 Conway, AR 114 149 42
105 Normal, IL 187 131 24
106 Portland, OR 189 73 75
107 San Francisco, CA 243 82 8
108 Savannah, GA 73 107 237
109 Denver, CO 169 108 69
110 College Park, MD 229 79 38
111 Evanston, IL 248 74 18
112 Springfield, MO 9 145 263
113 El Paso, TX 69 218 85
114 Johnson City, TN 54 148 136
115 Killeen, TX 7 209 194
116 San Antonio, TX 89 214 80
117 Cedar Rapids, IA 103 159 122
118 Somerville, MA 255 30 148
119 Waltham, MA 265 86 7
120 Irvine, CA 231 76 40
121 Urbana, IL 92 98 257
122 Terre Haute, IN 112 90 239
123 Worcester, MA 160 125 102
124 Greensboro, NC 51 173 147
125 Tyler, TX 125 187 74
126 Dallas, TX 122 203 57
127 San Diego, CA 216 66 121
128 Los Angeles, CA 168 150 42
129 Cleveland, OH 124 161 124
130 Houston, TX 135 199 59
131 Saint Paul, MN 188 95 126
132 Boston, MA 235 58 90
133 Santa Clara, CA 273 88 19
134 Bellingham, WA 175 35 245
135 Tuscaloosa, AL 166 115 141
136 Norfolk, VA 123 134 198
137 Duluth, MN 145 109 180
138 Tulsa, OK 75 239 107
139 Washington, DC 220 80 104
140 Oklahoma City, OK 57 256 77
141 Charlotte, NC 98 195 170
142 Huntsville, AL 100 165 209
143 Winston-Salem, NC 43 276 68
144 Providence, RI 204 62 199
145 Long Beach, CA 184 114 153
146 Miami, FL 119 121 254
147 Irving, TX 99 252 42
148 Las Cruces, NM 70 163 204
149 Orange, CA 233 117 57
150 Louisville, KY 85 221 165
151 Las Vegas, NV 130 140 215
152 Tucson, AZ 111 119 266
153 Augusta, GA 65 196 234
154 Corpus Christi, TX 95 266 90
155 New Haven, CT 200 129 134
156 Fort Worth, TX 151 259 21
157 Alexandria, VA 225 92 163
158 Plano, TX 172 208 54
159 Fullerton, CA 234 116 123
160 Des Moines, IA 101 213 173
161 Milwaukee, WI 134 176 201
162 Chicago, IL 203 127 136
163 Torrance, CA 239 130 88
164 Huntington Beach, CA 244 124 81
165 Glendale, CA 174 152 153
166 Akron, OH 106 178 252
167 St. Cloud, MN 176 133 197
168 Chattanooga, TN 61 198 261
169 Lansing, MI 79 137 265
170 Bakersfield, CA 143 240 76
171 Oakland, CA 201 164 114
172 Sacramento, CA 212 96 225
173 Chandler, AZ 171 186 134
174 Arlington, TX 138 233 118
175 New York, NY 230 151 69
176 Amarillo, TX 113 273 55
177 Overland Park, KS 195 193 90
178 Indianapolis, IN 60 244 249
179 DeKalb, IL 182 138 205
180 Spokane, WA 136 156 247
181 Colorado Springs, CO 133 170 250
182 Riverside, CA 190 192 119
183 Albuquerque, NM 88 232 242
184 New Brunswick, NJ 278 87 161
185 Honolulu, HI 256 34 246
186 Roseville, CA 260 147 81
187 Arlington, VA 223 142 133
188 Virginia Beach, VA 202 160 150
189 Clarksville, TN 129 200 158
190 Fort Wayne, IN 59 225 264
191 Kansas City, MO 150 210 175
192 Baltimore, MD 197 158 172
193 Fort Lauderdale, FL 207 126 211
194 Wichita, KS 58 257 260
195 Abilene, TX 183 174 169
196 Fresno, CA 132 206 216
197 Greeley, CO 52 189 267
198 Memphis, TN 39 263 270
199 Sioux Falls, SD 149 228 144
200 Shreveport, LA 116 243 186
201 Mobile, AL 46 238 277
202 Salem, OR 148 154 241
203 Montgomery, AL 84 251 254
204 Toledo, OH 49 194 276
205 Pomona, CA 221 191 116
206 Jackson, MS 42 227 280
207 Corona, CA 246 183 106
208 Rancho Cucamonga, CA 258 190 84
209 Orem, UT 164 177 210
210 Peoria, AZ 154 241 151
211 Gilbert, AZ 181 237 128
212 Thousand Oaks, CA 276 185 142
213 Santa Clarita, CA 237 205 96
214 Grand Prairie, TX 140 274 83
215 Phoenix, AZ 137 250 202
216 Mesa, AZ 147 246 188
217 Brownsville, TX 90 270 205
218 Fayetteville, NC 139 217 208
219 Newport News, VA 163 216 223
220 Saint Petersburg, FL 128 271 159
221 Newton, MA 280 181 28
222 Philadelphia, PA 257 153 166
223 Scottsdale, AZ 266 120 196
224 Detroit, MI 127 268 218
225 Pembroke Pines, FL 241 219 96
226 Naperville, IL 269 168 110
227 San Jose, CA 277 182 60
228 Fremont, CA 274 197 48
229 Henderson, NV 218 229 129
230 Tacoma, WA 193 175 254
231 Little Rock, AR 115 242 273
232 Glendale, AZ 144 223 248
233 Jersey City, NJ 222 211 167
234 Hampton, VA 213 207 195
235 Hartford, CT 194 180 258
236 Anaheim, CA 254 167 199
237 Santa Rosa, CA 263 157 179
238 Garden Grove, CA 250 162 216
239 Lowell, MA 226 172 222
240 Lakewood, CO 211 235 160
241 West Covina, CA 261 179 184
242 Garland, TX 178 269 131
243 Vancouver, WA 228 169 235
244 Hayward, CA 272 155 184
245 Stockton, CA 186 245 218
246 Jacksonville, FL 161 255 224
247 Escondido, CA 245 201 187
248 Modesto, CA 180 224 221
249 San Bernardino, CA 162 249 243
250 Norwalk, CA 208 204 243
251 Oceanside, CA 267 184 182
252 Santa Ana, CA 224 202 227
253 Aurora, CO 205 254 175
254 Oxnard, CA 249 230 152
255 Elk Grove, CA 264 215 156
256 Palmdale, CA 242 220 178
257 Chula Vista, CA 270 188 193
258 Fontana, CA 219 248 190
259 Chesapeake, VA 209 262 190
260 Daly City, CA 279 171 182
261 Hollywood, FL 232 222 233
262 Aurora, IL 268 234 138
263 Laredo, TX 210 279 73
264 Ontario, CA 214 231 253
265 Spring Valley, NV 156 277 236
266 Paradise, NV 141 280 232
267 Anchorage, AK 274 212 164
268 Moreno Valley, CA 236 260 181
269 Columbus, GA 82 253 279
270 Lancaster, CA 247 236 231
271 Port Saint Lucie, FL 253 275 95
272 Hialeah, FL 170 272 251
273 Coral Springs, FL 227 247 240
274 Newark, NJ 206 226 278
275 Joliet, IL 271 258 129
276 Springfield, MA 177 265 228
277 Miramar, FL 238 267 230
278 North Las Vegas, NV 199 278 262
279 Bridgeport, CT 262 261 259
280 Yonkers, NY 259 264 268

Best & Worst College Cities and Towns in America report Artwork

Rankings by City Size

Rank

Large City

Medium-size City

Small City

1 Austin, TX Boulder, CO Oxford, OH
2 Pittsburgh, PA Columbia, MO State College, PA
3 Columbus, OH Gainesville, FL Chapel Hill, NC
4 Tampa, FL Fort Collins, CO Ithaca, NY
5 Atlanta, GA Waco, TX Ames, IA
6 Lexington, KY Tempe, AZ Bloomington, IN
7 Raleigh, NC Denton, TX East Lansing, MI
8 Seattle, WA Athens-Clarke, GA Stillwater, OK
9 Nashville, TN Ann Arbor, MI West Lafayette, IN
10 Minneapolis, MN Norman, OK Manhattan, KS
11 Omaha, NE Murfreesboro, TN College Station, TX
12 Saint Louis, MO Madison, WI Blacksburg, VA
13 Portland, OR Salt Lake City, UT Mankato, MN
14 New Orleans, LA Cincinnati, OH Laramie, WY
15 San Francisco, CA Charleston, SC Newark, DE
16 Denver, CO Lincoln, NE Charlottesville, VA
17 El Paso, TX Buffalo, NY Corvallis, OR
18 San Antonio, TX Fargo, ND Iowa City, IA
19 San Diego, CA Knoxville, TN San Marcos, TX
20 Tucson, AZ Reno, NV Bozeman, MT
21 Boston, MA Berkeley, CA Morgantown, WV
22 Los Angeles, CA Orlando, FL Fayetteville, AR
23 Charlotte, NC Pasadena, CA San Luis Obispo, CA
24 Cleveland, OH Baton Rouge, LA Auburn, AL
25 Houston, TX Tallahassee, FL Carbondale, IL
26 Long Beach, CA Durham, NC Bowling Green, OH
27 Tulsa, OK Lafayette, LA Mount Pleasant, MI
28 Dallas, TX Syracuse, NY Kent, OH
29 Louisville, KY Lubbock, TX Cedar Falls, IA
30 Washington, DC Eugene, OR Burlington, VT
31 Oklahoma City, OK Wilmington, NC Harrisonburg, VA
32 Milwaukee, WI Grand Rapids, MI Kalamazoo, MI
33 Las Vegas, NV Provo, UT Eau Claire, WI
34 Chicago, IL Rochester, NY Bowling Green, KY
35 Miami, FL Boise, ID College Park, MD
36 Indianapolis, IN Cambridge, MA Davis, CA
37 Oakland, CA Richmond, VA Santa Cruz, CA
38 Corpus Christi, TX Dayton, OH Muncie, IN
39 Sacramento, CA Columbia, SC Albany, NY
40 Riverside, CA Savannah, GA Lawrence, KS
41 Bakersfield, CA Birmingham, AL Champaign, IL
42 Albuquerque, NM Springfield, MO Grand Forks, ND
43 Fort Worth, TX Greensboro, NC Lynchburg, VA
44 Colorado Springs, CO Killeen, TX Greenville, NC
45 Memphis, TN Worcester, MA Boca Raton, FL
46 Arlington, TX Saint Paul, MN Logan, UT
47 Fresno, CA Norfolk, VA Missoula, MT
48 Baltimore, MD Cedar Rapids, IA Hattiesburg, MS
49 Wichita, KS Irvine, CA Urbana, IL
50 New York, NY Las Cruces, NM Flagstaff, AZ
51 Honolulu, HI Santa Clara, CA Evanston, IL
52 Kansas City, MO Orange, CA Valdosta, GA
53 Virginia Beach, VA Huntsville, AL Waltham, MA
54 Mesa, AZ Providence, RI Normal, IL
55 Philadelphia, PA Augusta, GA Somerville, MA
56 Phoenix, AZ Winston-Salem, NC Chico, CA
57 San Jose, CA Fullerton, CA Conway, AR
58 Anaheim, CA Irving, TX Tuscaloosa, AL
59 Detroit, MI Torrance, CA Tyler, TX
60 Santa Ana, CA Lansing, MI DeKalb, IL
61 Jacksonville, FL Glendale, CA Bellingham, WA
62 Aurora, CO Des Moines, IA Johnson City, TN
63 New Haven, CT Newton, MA
64 Akron, OH New Brunswick, NJ
65 Huntington Beach, CA Terre Haute, IN
66 Chattanooga, TN Duluth, MN
67 Plano, TX St. Cloud, MN
68 Alexandria, VA Orem, UT
69 Spokane, WA Greeley, CO
70 Clarksville, TN
71 Chandler, AZ
72 Overland Park, KS
73 Roseville, CA
74 Abilene, TX
75 Arlington, VA
76 Pomona, CA
77 Salem, OR
78 Amarillo, TX
79 Toledo, OH
80 Fort Lauderdale, FL
81 Fort Wayne, IN
82 Shreveport, LA
83 Montgomery, AL
84 Mobile, AL
85 Sioux Falls, SD
86 Rancho Cucamonga, CA
87 Corona, CA
88 Fayetteville, NC
89 Jackson, MS
90 Thousand Oaks, CA
91 Newport News, VA
92 Santa Clarita, CA
93 Peoria, AZ
94 Saint Petersburg, FL
95 Grand Prairie, TX
96 Glendale, AZ
97 Henderson, NV
98 Hampton, VA
99 Gilbert, AZ
100 Pembroke Pines, FL
101 Little Rock, AR
102 Tacoma, WA
103 Garden Grove, CA
104 Santa Rosa, CA
105 Lakewood, CO
106 Hartford, CT
107 Brownsville, TX
108 Stockton, CA
109 Naperville, IL
110 West Covina, CA
111 Lowell, MA
112 Modesto, CA
113 Jersey City, NJ
114 Scottsdale, AZ
115 Fremont, CA
116 San Bernardino, CA
117 Vancouver, WA
118 Hayward, CA
119 Oceanside, CA
120 Garland, TX
121 Escondido, CA
122 Oxnard, CA
123 Norwalk, CA
124 Palmdale, CA
125 Elk Grove, CA
126 Chula Vista, CA
127 Fontana, CA
128 Spring Valley, NV
129 Columbus, GA
130 Ontario, CA
131 Daly City, CA
132 Chesapeake, VA
133 Hollywood, FL
134 Anchorage, AK
135 Springfield, MA
136 Paradise, NV
137 Moreno Valley, CA
138 Laredo, TX
139 Aurora, IL
140 Lancaster, CA
141 Coral Springs, FL
142 Newark, NJ
143 Joliet, IL
144 Hialeah, FL
145 Port Saint Lucie, FL
146 Miramar, FL
147 North Las Vegas, NV
148 Bridgeport, CT
149 Yonkers, NY

 

Ask the Experts

Higher education institutions contribute significantly to the cities and towns that house them and vice versa. They drive one another socially, culturally, economically and intellectually, making university areas great environments not only for students but also for families, the elderly and other nonstudent groups. We asked a panel of experts to share their insight and advice on the various roles of college towns. Click on the experts’ profiles to read their bios and responses to the following key questions:

  1. How should the city/town factor into decisions about where to go to university?
  2. What are the benefits of living in a college city/town for nonstudents?
  3. Are college cities/towns a good option for retirees? What about families?
  4. How can parents prepare their children for managing finances (student loans, credit cards, etc.) in college?
  5. What are the advantages and disadvantages of going to college in-state versus out-of-state?
  6. How can local authorities make their cities/towns more appealing to both new students and potential residents?

Nicola Alexander

Associate Professor of Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development, University of Minnesota

Nicola Alexander

How should the city/town factor into decisions about where to go to University?

I think that would certainly play a role in the decision because the typical undergraduate would be committing to spend at least 4 years of his/her life in that community. While universities can dominate the culture of a neighborhood or a town, it is still important for student to feel comfortable in the broader community.

What are the benefits of living in a college city/town for nonstudents?

Beyond the economic impact of university/college activities, there are often the cultural benefits of art exhibits, workshops, museums, etc.

Are college cities/towns a good option for retirees? What about families?

The response to the question regarding non-students applies here as well.

How can parents prepare their children for managing finances in college (student loans, credit cards, etc)?

Put them on a budget early (with appropriate consequences). Further, many colleges and universities (as well as community centers) are increasingly offering classes in financial literacy. There is a poster on the University of Minnesota campus that encourages students to live like a student now so that they don’t have to later.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of going to college in state vs. out of state?

In-state tuition is one of the biggest financial advantages of going to college in state. There are certain states that offer reciprocity which allow students that advantage even if they leave their home state. Another advantage of staying in state is the cost and convenience of returning home for school breaks. Going out of state can widen one’s horizons and may provide more long-term opportunities, but the short-term financial advantages seem limited unless you are going to an elite institution.

How can local authorities make their cities/towns more appealing to both new students and potential residents?

Provide good transportation. Most students cannot afford their own car so the ability to take the bus or train to go grocery shopping or simply to see the sites would be a welcome addition to any college town. Transportation is a key feature for potential residents as well and can go a long way in helping the environment, cutting down on traffic jams, and increasing the livability of the community. Supporting the arts and parks (and public places in general) so that there are activities that students and other residents can enjoy while staying in the community

Julie Poorman

Director of the Office of Student Financial Aid, Student Employment Office, and the Financial Services Call Center, East Carolina University

Julie Poorman
How should the city/town factor into decisions about where to go to University?
Students need to determine if they are comfortable with an urban or suburban environment. Only they can determine their comfort level with traffic, noise, large population balanced against the opportunity to go to museums, art galleries, plays and other cultural events. Large urban centers (like my former home, Boston) are considerably more expensive to live in than smaller cities (like Greenville, NC my current home) but have the advantage of good public transportation so no need for a car, etc. Students need to weigh the pros and cons against their own needs/wishes.

What are the benefits of living in a college city/town for nonstudents? Colleges and universities tend to be an economic engine for the towns in which they reside as well as centers for the arts. Each college town I have lived and worked in was a center of economic activity for the county. There is generally a ready population that earns a middle class income which leads to shops and restaurants that cater to the middle class – bakeries and gyms and clothing, book and furniture stores. There also tends to be more medical/dental care providers and pharmacies because you have a population who has health insurance and can afford to seek treatment when/as needed.

Are college cities/towns a good option for retirees? What about families?

Yes and yes.

How can parents prepare their children for managing finances in college (student loans, credit cards, etc)?

I would certainly hope that parents would encourage their children to get jobs by their junior year in high school. Teach them how to save and defer gratification for bigger items. Teach them to balance a check book (and keep a check register for tracking their debit card purchases just like you would if you wrote a check) and not trusting an on-line balance alone.

Have a conversation about costs, a frank conversation about what parents can afford to provide, what parents expect the student to provide (see that job thing again at a minimum over the summer of junior and senior years – saving for books if nothing else). Help parents and students understand that borrowing a student loan is an investment in the students’ future. If the student is not doing well in college or hates their major – then a student loan becomes a less valuable investment because it is unlikely to payoff in employment opportunities later.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of going to college in state vs. out of state?

Again, the family needs to have a frank ‘kitchen table’ conversation about what they can afford. If the student wants a teaching degree – there is a minimum of one college in every state where the family can pay in-state tuition and earn that teaching degree. Only really specialized majors – nuclear engineering, veterinary medicine, architecture – for example, are not offered in every state.

Elton Crim

Clinical Professor of Higher Education, University of Wisconsin Madison

Elton Crim

How should the city/town factor into decisions about where to go to University?

I think the city or town is very important in the decision making process in determining where to go for college. But not necessarily in the ways that one might initially think. Issues that might be important include the diversity of the indigenous (I.e. folks who grew up in the city or town) population, the diversity of the dietary offerings, the diversity of the social outlets and social offerings available for students, faculty and staff, the quality, sensitivity and diversity of its police and law enforcement agencies both on and off campus and the general availability and affordability of quality student friendly living spaces.

Students need spaces to let off steam in positive fulfilling ways, places to participate in extracurricular sports activities, music and theater venues, restaurants that are diverse and affordable and they may need public transportation systems that function well.

Lastly, a diverse upbeat and economically forward town and gown may offer employment opportunities and internships that can help make college affordable and perhaps even doable from a financial perspective while offering training and experience for future members of the cities/towns work force. It may take a student from four to six years to complete a college degree and that is a long time to be somewhere that’s not comfortable.

What are the benefits of living in a college city/town for nonstudents?

Colleges and Universities provide outstanding opportunities for nonstudents interested in social and intellectual engagement. Theater, dance, musical performers are all often a part of the social milieu offered by the college. If the college or university also has high quality sports teams, then there are available football, men’s and women’s basketball, ice hockey, soccer, swimming, volleyball and in the south you often have baseball teams as well.

In addition to the entertainment offerings, there are world class guest speakers, famous lecturers, continuing and distance educational opportunities, art classes etc.; such that one can develop new skills and hobbies or revisit old ones that may have been set aside.

Finally, college cities/towns often have lower levels of poverty and crime and educated and engaged citizens who are interested in maintaining a high quality of life. In many college cities and towns, people understand the importance and relationship of education for all citizens at all levels and its connection to the quality of life for everyone.

Are college cities/towns a good option for retirees? What about families?

For the reasons mention in the answer above, college cities/towns are great options for retirees. Some issues not mentioned above that would be important for retirees are the quality of the available health care networks. College cities and towns may often be affiliated or have their own medical, and or dental schools, and training hospitals which can provide high quality yet more affordable health care. The primary values of these types of facilities are not to maximize dollars but may be to provide outstanding service while providing learning opportunities for students and research opportunities for their medical and research faculty. Here you may also find cutting edge research on ailments, and illnesses that retirees may experience at some point in their elder years. These same health supports are important for families as well.

How can parents prepare their children for managing finances in college (student loans, credit cards, etc)?

Well, finance discussions often get into values and many of us have a hard time discussing finances with anyone. In addition we often want to make sure that our children have everything they need and in today’s society that often gets translated in having everything they want. I think it is a good idea to start conversations early with the children. Forcing them to learn to save for the things they really want ( i.e. that latest IPod or video game system).

Then, I think it is important to share financial matters with them. How much living costs, mortgage, rent, food etc as well as other important expenses, cell phone costs etc.

Finally explaining the requirements for credit and good and bad uses of credit, how interest rates work etc.; making sure that they understand that you have to pay to borrow money usually not just the amount borrowed but the interest payment on the loan. Young people often grow up with wanting minds and in our culture the constant wanting of things is encouraged by our market based system, but college student could benefit from learning to delay gratification of the wanting mind. Universities all have financial aid experts whose job it is to consult with students and families on the best financial aid options. I have seen students be admitted, enroll and then decide to leave due to expenses without ever talking to financial aid officials. Here though, I think it is a good idea for parents and students to understand that there is a difference between options often offered at for profit versus nonprofit institutions. For profit institutions have a profit motive and may raise tuition while shifting financial aid options from grants to loans. There are a plethora of student loan options these days and not all of them make sense for the student.

Families want to make sure the institution they are sending their child to, is properly accredited and that the learning experiences will be of sufficient caliber to provide the student with the opportunity to compete for a job in the field of their choice. This is important because if the learning experiences are insufficient then the student may have a credential but be noncompetitive in the market while also having to pay back huge amounts of student debt. An example might be a student that wants to be a nurse. In addition to the proper curriculum, are student pre-nursing opportunities in an actual hospital available to students in that institution? Are both the college and the program accredited properly? If they are, than this student will have an opportunity to compete in the job market place. If they are not, then the student will not be qualified for a job and may have acquired huge debt in the process. Finally, student loans in many states have bad penalties for defaulting. Students may be barred from employment in federal or state agencies.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of going to college in state vs. out of state?

Cost!!! Going to school in state almost always is going to be a lower cost proposition than going out of state, both from a tuition perspective but also from a total cost of attendance perspective.

The caveat here might be any states that have reciprocal agreements with each other. In these cases, the states have negotiated similar rates so that they can have some cross state exchange of intellectual capital (students). Minnesota and Wisconsin for example have a reciprocity with each other that allows students from Wisconsin to attend the University of Minnesota or state schools in Minnesota while their students can attend here. Students still have to qualify and be accepted but tuition rates are set more like instate rates for each.

A second caveat is students with high merit. Universities often compete for the best students on an academic merit basis and most have various honors programs and scholarships. If your student qualifies for one of these types of scholarships then going out of state may be of great benefit as costs may be covered by the scholarship. Another advantage is just having the ability to grow up and mature. Today more than ever, parents and children are tethered together in ways that are sometimes unhealthy from a developmental perspective. Young people need to grow up, learn how to problem solve and become adults. With the communication options available today, this developmental challenge may be more difficult than ever. Distance has the possibility of enhancing the necessity of the student figuring out how to problem solve on their own. Of course, the first year is usually the most difficult but if students can get through the first year away from home, they are much more likely to graduate.

How can local authorities make their cities/towns more appealing to both new students and potential residents?

Well I think this is an important question. I think local authorities first of all need to recognize the blessings that colleges and universities bring to a community. Unfortunately, I’ve seen local officials not really think very deeply about the positive economic impact that colleges bring. Colleges and universities bring in billions of outside dollars collectively for research and development, teaching and learning. These are positive high impact opportunities for economic growth but budget battles and over investment in the prison industrial complex and the loss of support by people outside of college towns have eroded support in some states for their institutions in an era when the investments in education are more important than ever.

Other things that authorities should think about are ensuring that housing is affordable for students and families. In our city there has been an explosion of new apartment units but most of them are competing for the high end luxury market and while it is true that increasingly colleges are catering to the children of the elite, for families marginally in the middle class, or for working class families finding affordable housing options while attending school or for starting out as a young couple after finishing your degree, may be next to impossible. This type of dynamic is likely to contribute to brain drain where you best and brightest have to leave the state to find employment and affordable housing while paying back school loans and trying to start their adult lives.

Lastly if we have learned anything in the last few months it is that we have a lot more work to do to make sure that everyone in our city/town is treated fairly and equitably. The universities ability to bring the best and brightest from diverse backgrounds and for the city to retain them depends on everyone having a fair and positive living experience. Police forces have benefited from federal grant programs in the war on drugs and are now becoming over militarized and perhaps too aggressive in some communities. Officials need to make sure that officers are not burned out and that they have been trained not to stereotype, not to harass for no reason and not to harm or treat citizens and students in biased ways. These types of training can’t be one and done; they have to have continuous and ongoing programs. Lastly people, students, faculty and staff need options going out and entertainment in venues in the city. I’ve seen huge disparities in available options for folks of color and also disparities of treatment in the city when problems arise.

Methodology

In order to find the college cities and towns in America that are most conducive to intellectual and personal development as well as a healthy billfold, WalletHub examined 280 cities of varying sizes across three equally weighted dimensions, namely “Wallet Wellness,” “Youth-Oriented Environment” and “Opportunities.” We then identified 23 metrics that are relevant to those dimensions. The data set and corresponding weight for each metric are listed below.

In selecting the cities and towns for our study, we limited our selection to those with a college enrollment size of at least 10,000 students.

For this particular study, we categorized the cities based on the following population sizes:

  • Large Cities: More than 300,000 people
  • Midsize Cities: 100,000 to 300,000 people
  • Small Cities: Less than 100,000 people

Please also note that “city” refers to city proper and excludes surrounding metro areas.

Wallet Wellness – Total Weight: 5

  • Housing Costs (Rent of a Two-Bedroom Apartment): Full Weight
  • Adjusted Cost Of Living for Young People: Double Weight
  • Percentage of Rental Units: Full Weight
  • Average Monthly Fitness Club Fee: Half Weight
  • Average Pizza & Burgers Cost: Half Weight
  • Cost of Higher Education (Tuition Fee Average Weighted by the Number of Students): Full Weight

Youth-Oriented Environment – Total Weight: 5

  • Number of Students per Capita: Double Weight
  • Percentage of 18-to-35-Year-Olds: Full Weight
  • Percentage of Single Persons: Half Weight
  • Student Gender Balance: Half Weight
  • Number of Nightlife Options per Capita: Double Weight
  • Number of Cafés per Capita: Full Weight
  • Number of Shopping Centers per Capita: Full Weight
  • Number of Sports Clubs per Capita: Full Weight
  • City Accessibility (Percentage of Workers Who Bike, Walk, or Take Public Transportation): Half Weight
  • Crime Rate: Double Weight

Opportunities – Total Weight: 5

  • Earning Potential for People with a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher (Median Earnings – Adjusted by Cost of Living): Full Weight
  • Percentage of Part-Time Jobs: Full Weight
  • Unemployment Rate: Full Weight
  • Entrepreneurial Activity (Net Change in Number of Businesses per Capita on a 3-year Average): Full Weight
  • Brain Drain (Annual Change in Share of Population with a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher): Full Weight
  • Job Growth Rate (2008 – 2013): Full Weight
  • Quality of Higher Education: Double Weight

 

Sources: Data used to create these rankings were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Numbeo, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Council for Community and Economic Research, U.S. News & World Report and Yelp.

For complete article: http://wallethub.com/edu/best-worst-college-cities-and-towns-in-america/8974/

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