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Top 10 College Towns

The natural sites, diversity of the area, the downtown scene and the employment rates are just some of the factors that rank a college town.

Elizabeth Hoyt

July 22, 2014

Top 10 College Towns
There’s more to a college than its campus. Like the town it’s located in, for example. The natural sites, diversity of the area, the downtown scene and the employment rates are just some of the factors that rank a college town. The The American Institute for Economic Research examined college towns for three overall factors: academic environment, quality of life and professional opportunity (with a lot of smaller category factors explained here.) That’s how they came up with the 2014 College Destinations Index: Top 20 College Towns.

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We’ve listed the top 10 college town rankings below:

10. Lafayette, IN

Lafayette, home of Purdue University, ranks number one in terms of the most diverse student body out of the top 20 college towns, likely due to Purdue’s Division of Diversity, which has helped to build a more inclusive campus community. The university also offers more than 900 unique student organizations, so students never have a reason to be bored.

9. Lawrence, KS

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Known as a “liberal bastion amid large conservative school in nearby states,” the University of Kansas is located in the center of Lawrence and has a strong presence with nearly 30,000 students. With the fourth largest concentration among the top 20 college towns, it is known for having New England flavor due to having origins as a “haven for New England abolitionists.”

8. Charlottesville, VA

Ranked first amongst all ranked college towns in earnings potential and boasts the highest number of people working in the creative class, Charlottesville is home to the University of Virginia. The National Trust has cited the gorgeous grounds for Historical Preservation as one of the country’s most unique and well-preserved communities. This shows through historic architecture. New world charm is also available in the town’s lively music scene, restaurants and wineries but the Southern hospitality remains.

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7. Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, VA

This area is known as New River Valley is a prime destination for both students and graduates, especially those interested in the tech industry. It continues to be one of the fastest growing areas in Virginia and is ranked first on the list in “brain gain.” The largest of the towns, Blacksburg, is home to Virginia Tech. Radford is home to Radford University.

6. Champaign-Urbana, IL

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has more than 44,000 students that make up this small, city-like campus. With its large population of foreign students and cultural venues, the city ranks second for student diversity. Students enjoy bicycling just outside of campus or visiting a nearby orchard in the fall.

5. Corvallis, OR

Oregon State University’s 28,000 students are the cornerstone of this small community of 55,000. This town ranks third in creative class and second in terms of city accessibility, so students never have a shortage of cultural exposure.

4. Iowa City, IA

Iowa City has the best unemployment rate amongst the top college towns due to its growing businesses, high levels of entrepreneurism and earning potential. The city is home to the University of Iowa’s more than 31,000 students, who enjoy the downtown area just as much as the locals do.

3. State College, PA

Earning the nickname “Happy Valley” because of its resilience in the Great Depression, this home town of Pennsylvania State University continues to thrive both economically and socially. The school is the town’s largest employer and, as a result, offers endless opportunities for professional and intellectual growth and development. The university is also ranked highly amongst research capacity as well as degree attainment rates.

2. Ames, IA

Home to Iowa State University, Ames has an incredibly high student concentration with more than 33,000 students. With a low unemployment rate of 3.2 percent and a high degree completion rate, the school also ranks high on the diversity scale, lending to the area’s culture. Additionally, a large number of graduates choose to stay in the area, in which the local economy thrives.

1. Ithaca, NY

Located in upstate New York, this town of around 30,000 (which does not include the student population) is home to Cornell University. It ranks number one in academics for research capacity and degree completion. Additionally, plenty of students are creatively inclined as well. Within the town’s 10-mile landscape are more than 100 waterfalls, lakes, gorges and other natural sights. To see the rest of the list, visit The American Institute for Economic Research.

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