The Very Best College Towns

Ithaca

Ithaca, New York

IOWA RULES THE COLLEGE TOWNS

Ithaca, New York, home of Cornell University, tops the college town list, which consists of communities with under 250,000 residents. The school ranks near the top in nearly every category except rent (with a hefty $1,130 price tag) and innovation producers. However, its strengths are entrepreneurial activity (Second only to Austin), transportation (Behind only New York City and San Francisco), and R&D per student (second only to Durham, NC).

Two Iowa communities – Ames (Iowa State University) and Iowa City (University of Iowa) ranked #2 and #4, though neither reached the top spot in any of the 12 college town categories. Corvallis, Oregon, the site of Oregon State University and the smallest city on the list, ranked the highest in concentration of students among all locales, with three out of every ten residents being a student. Among college towns, it ranked #1 for innovation, and college-educated populace. In addition, Logan, Utah offered the lowest rents of any community at $361 a month, with Fargo staking the same claim with its 3.2% unemployment rate.

The biggest head scratcher? That’d be Missoula, Montana, which carries the highest arts and leisure score among the 75 communities studied, with its vibrant art, theater, and craft festivals. At the same time, Missoula maintains the lowest entrepreneurial activity among all communities.

In addition, Bloomington, Indiana claimed the dubious honor of the lowest median income of all communities. In contrast, Lafayette, Indiana maintained the highest percentage of international students (21%) in the index.

For specific information on how the top communities performed in key indices, check out our tables on the accompanying pages.

Rank Location Student Concentration Housing Arts and Leisure College Educated
 1  Ithaca, NY  288.5  $1,130  55.1  51.9%
 2  Ames, IA  299.0  $717  39.0  50.8%
 3  Corvallis, OR  229.5  $824  37.2  53.1%
 4  Iowa City, IA  197.0  $851  37.4  47.6%
 5  State College, PA  270.8  $914  36.2  39.4%
 6  Fargo, ND  126.8  $684  56.2  37.1%
 7  Champaign-Urbana,  IL  216.9  $862  33.2  40.1%
 8  Columbia, MO  210.2  $691  34.8  47.8%
 9  Missoula, MT  122.1  $845  103.5  42.8%
 10  College Station, TX  235.9  $868  25.0  35.7%
 11  Charlottesville, VA  135.1  $1,008  48.4  43.1%
 12  Lafayette, IN  213.2  $780  28.6  31.4%
 13  Lawrence, KS  239.6  $779  42.8  48.0%
 14  Fairbanks, AK  119.1  $1,326  73.6  31.2%
 15  Bloomington, IN  231.4  $779  27.2  32.6%

Source: American Institute of Economic Research (AIER)

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To see all data from the AIER College Destinations Index, click here.