It’s the classic collegiate circle of life. You prep, you study, and then you just flat-out pray you’ll get into the school of your choice. Then once you’re there, you reach an inflection point, somewhere between your first game of beer pong and your final midterms, when you start counting the days until you can escape—to the place where you’ll start that whole adulting thing for real.
But these days more and more grads are skipping that final step and opting to stay put. And it turns out they’ve got plenty of company. Because you don’t need to be a student or recent graduate to appreciate all that the best college towns typically offer: walkable enclaves of innovative restaurants, lively music scenes, and tons of fun, unique businesses. And most importantly, many of ‘em are becoming employment hubs as companies searching for top talent open offices nearby. Home prices are usually still reasonable. And homeownership is often a smart investment as there’s strong demand from both young and old buyers.
So where are the best college towns that offer the best of everything? The realtor.com® data team set out to find them.
“People go [to college towns] with the intention of pursuing a degree … but find these places have lots of the advantages of much larger places,” says Blake Gumprecht, author of “The American College Town.” He’s also a graduate of the University of Kansas, in Lawrence, one of the towns that made our list.
To find these top college towns best suited to putting down roots, we looked at the 700 largest markets around the country. We included only those with at least one four-year university with at least 10,000 undergraduates. Then we ranked them based on a variety of factors, including their percentage of college students, unemployment rates, home appreciation, and median income.*
The biggest cities didn’t make our list—they’re so large that the percentage of students isn’t as dominant as in smaller communities. In case you’re wondering, if we had simply looked at the country’s 50 largest metropolitan areas, Boston, the nation’s ultimate college mecca, would come out on top, thanks to schools such as Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Boston University. But with so many other nonstudent residents, nearly 675,000 just in its city limits, Boston didn’t make our list.
So crack open a Pabst Blue Ribbon and let’s go on a tour of the best college towns.
Number of college students: 34,935
Median home list price**: $265,200
Median household income: $56,800
Familiar sights along Ames’ Main Street include an array of historic buildings, funky restaurants, and a seemingly endless parade of Iowa State sweatshirts, banners, and knickknacks. Just about everyone here, regardless of age, seems to love their Cyclones.
With nearly 30,000 undergraduate students, Iowa State attracts many firms and employees from around the world. All of these companies mean lots of well-paying gigs for recent grads and just about everyone else. Did we mention that Ames’ jobless rate is just 1.7%? That’s significantly lower than the national rate of 3.9% as of April.
“The phrase is ‘Iowa nice.’ If you’re starting a business, people are very open to helping you,” says Diana Wright, a marketing and programs coordinator at the center. “Serial entrepreneurs here help others launch their businesses.”
College grads who stick around flock to neighborhoods such as Hillside. It offers new developments of ranch-style, single-family homes that run anywhere from $300,000 to $450,000.
“They like the town’s good vibe, and Iowa State football and basketball, and the concerts and entertainment,” says Mark Greenfield, a local real estate agent at Re/Max Real Estate Center.
Read the full article about the other nine towns atRealtor.
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