WalletHub’s Best & Worst College Towns & Cities For 2023

For the second year in a row, Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan Wolverines, was ranked the best small college town in America by WalletHub. Having a Division I sports team is one of the criteria the financial agency considers in its rankings.

The list of factors students must consider when picking a college or university is long and overwhelming: Academic rigor, cost, reputation, majors offered and more. Location can be an afterthought.

But it shouldn’t be, experts advise. Location can impact everything from a student’s adjustment to being away from home for the first time, to their social experience to finances to their ultimate success.

“Life off campus is important to students both as part of their general social development as global citizens, and also as a retreat away from campus. Off-campus they can find cultural, social, and religious support, well as opportunities to be engaged in meaningful activities such as community service,” says Crystal Chambers, professor of educational leadership at East Carolina University.

“Moreover, for students for whom work is a necessity and on-campus work opportunities are limited, off-campus employment can help finance their higher education.”

To help students make one of the most important decisions of their young lives, WalletHub released this week its ranking of the Best College Towns and Cities in America.


Austin, Texas, ranked No. 1, for the fourth straight year. Home of the University of Texas at Austin Longhorns, Austin was 204th for wallet friendliness, 12th for social environment and 21st for academic and economic opportunities. It is followed by Ann Arbor, Mich. (University of Michigan) for the second straight year which ranked 243rd for wallet friendliness, 22nd for social environment, and 20th for opportunities. Orlando (University of Central Florida) rounded out the top three cities.

WalletHub’s 10 best and 10 worst college cities are listed in the chart below.


WalletHub compared 415 college towns and cities across 32 relevant metrics in three areas: 1) wallet friendliness, 2) social environment, and 3) academic and economic opportunities. The wallet and social categories were weighted at 25 points apiece, with academic and economics weighted at 50 points.

For wallet friendliness, WalletHub looked at metrics such as housing costs, adjusted cost of living, average costs of pizza and burgers, and student loan debt per person.

For social environment, metrics included students per capita, the number of nearby breweries and food trucks, crime rates, and presence of NCAA Division 1 sports.

Finally, in academics and economics, WalletHub gave triple weight to the quality of higher education, while also looking at earning potential for college graduates, entrepreneurial activity, and job-growth rate. You can see the full list of metrics and weights here.

NEXT PAGE: Best college towns by size and category

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