For many high school juniors and seniors, a college campus visit and the surrounding town are almost as important as an academic program.

Students might have their sights set on a big city university, only to learn that they feel more at home on a traditional campus with lots of open, green space. Other students might be more interested in the availability of part-time jobs, cost of off-campus living, and other economic factors.

A new list from WalletHub ranks college cities and towns according to three key dimensions: wallet friendliness, social environment, and academic and economic opportunities.

The ranking is intended to help prospective college students narrow down their school choices, and it follows up WalletHub’s 2019 College & University Rankings.

To compute the list, WalletHub compared more than 400 U.S. cities of varying sizes based on 30 key indicators of academic, social, and economic opportunities for students. The data set ranges from cost of living to quality of higher education to crime rate.

Overall, the top 10 cities and towns are: Austin, TX; Orlando, FL; Ann Arbor, MI; Provo, UT; Rexburg, ID; Stevens Point, WI; Tampa, FL; West Lafayette, IN; Scottsdale, AZ; and Las Vegas, NV.

Looking at academic and economic opportunities, the top 10 cities and towns are: Pasadena, CA; Princeton, NJ; Scottsdale, AZ; Sunnyvale, CA; and Irvine, CA.

The survey team asked a panel of experts to share insights and advice on the various roles of college towns.

Living in a college town isn’t just for students–it has several benefits for families and professionals in the area, too.

“Members of the community in a college city [or] town have access to resources that other towns may not be able to offer. For example, students studying to become teachers implement what they have learned on campus out in the schools in the community,” says Carolyn L. Carson, associate professor of education in the College of Arts and Sciences at Washburn University in Kansas. “This provides both area teachers and students with the most up-to-date resources and strategies that are being taught at the college [or] university. The schools benefit from having a college [or] university in the area that can provide this kind of access to information and resources.”

When it comes to advantages and disadvantages of going to college in state or out of state, “the financial implications are significant, which is why approximately four in five first-time college students attend in their home states,” says Mark M. D’Amico, associate professor of educational leadership at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “Students also favor state-supported universities and community colleges, where the net price is typically and considerably less than private options.”

The survey team found a number of interesting data points:
• Albany, Georgia, has the lowest cost of a two-bedroom apartment rental, $682 per month, which is 4.1 times lower than in San Francisco and Daly City, California, the cities with the highest at $2,809 per month.
• Edinburg, Texas, has the lowest cost-of-living index for young people, 77.18, which is 2.9 times lower than in Stanford, California, the city with the highest at 221.91.
• Whitewater, Wisconsin, has the lowest cost of higher education, $17,804 per year, which is 4.1 times lower than in Evanston, Illinois, the city with the highest at $72,980 per year.
• Stony Brook University, New York, is among the cities with the most enrolled students (per 1,000 residents), 947, which is 22.5 times more than in Cape Coral, Florida, the city with the fewest at 42.

The survey takes a look at many variables to meet different student needs or preferences.

Lowest cost of living for young people:
1. Edinburg, TX
2. Muncie, IN
3. Laredo, TX
4. McAllen, TX
5. Wichita Falls, TX

Lowest cost of higher education:
1. Whitewater, WI
2. Laredo, TX
3. Provo, UT
4. Boone, NC
5. Albany, GA

Most students per capita:
1. Stony Brook University, NY
2. Storrs, CT
3. Isla Vista, CA
4. Durham, NH
5. Amherst Center, MA

Highest quality of higher education:
1. Princeton, NJ
2. Pasadena, CA
3. Cambridge, MA
4. Stanford, CA
5. Berkeley, CA

About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura

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