The Very Best College Towns

Boston skyline

Boston, Massachusetts

BOSTON TOPS MAJOR METROS

It’s a chicken-or-the-egg argument. Do the top universities help produce the best cities – or vice versa. Take Boston, the #1 ranked major metro according to AIER. The Boston area is home to many of the most-recognizable names in business education: Harvard, MIT, Babson College, Boston College, Boston University, Bentley University, Northeastern University, and Hult International Business School. And that doesn’t even include standouts like Wellesley College and Tufts University.

Boston scores the highest percentage of international students among the major metros (10.1%) and notched the second-highest arts and leisure score (behind entertainment capital Los Angeles). While the Boston area is comprised of over 4.6 million people, nearly 9.5% of the populace is college students.

Surprisingly, Washington D.C. and San Francisco finished ahead of New York City on the index. The D.C. area – which includes distinguished private programs like Georgetown, George Washington, Catholic, Howard, and American – earned the highest marks for innovation, median salaries, and percentage of residents with college degrees in the major metro ranking. Conversely, San Francisco – home of Stanford and the University of California-Berkeley – performed well across the board, though it also averaged the highest rents of any community (over $500 more per month than New York City).

Among other key metrics, Baltimore recorded the highest research and development per student ($10,956); Seattle maintained the best transportation; and Denver produced the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity. Dallas boasted the lowest rents at $913 a month. However, Dallas also ranked at or near the bottom for student concentration, employment, accessibility, arts and leisure, and R&D. Tampa scored low in earning potential, accessibility, international students, and a college educated populace.

RankLocationStudent ConcentrationCost of HousingArts and LeisureCollege Educated
 1 Boston, MA 94.5 $1,454 47.1 42.9%
 2 Washington,  DC 87.3 $1,469 33.7 48.2%
 3 San Francisco,  CA 86.0 $1,956 41.5 45.0%
 4 New York City,  NY 74.9 $1,440 56.2 37.0%
 5 Baltimore, MD 87.9 $1,252 36.2 36.4%
 6 Seattle, WA 70.7 $1,123 41.6 37.7%
 7 Minneapolis-St. Paul,  MN 74.0 $946 46.7 39.5%
 8 Los Angeles, CA 88.7 $1,398 101.0 31.8%
 9 Denver, CO 68.7 $960 37.7 39.9%
 10 Houston, TX 70.5 $926 21.8 29.6%
 11 San Diego, CA 93.4 $1,354 34.6 34.8%
 12 Philadelphia, PA 76.5 $1,135 34.1 34.0%
 13 Dallas, TX 65.6 $913 24.4 31.6%
 14 Tampa, FL 67.7 $951 34.5 27.1%
 15 Chicago, IL 74.2 $979 33.6 34.8%

Source: American Institute of Economic Research (AIER)