Top 10 College Towns 2012
About This List
True college towns are places where the identity of the city is both shaped by and complementary to the presence of its university, creating an environment enjoyable to all residents, whether they are enrolled in classes or not. They're true melting pots where young minds meet old traditions, and political, social and cultural ideas of all kinds are welcomed.
For our third annual list of best college towns, we considered several factors to determine which cities best represent that ideal.
First, we consulted with Robert Franek, senior vice president, publisher and author of Princeton Review's recently released 21st edition Best Colleges guidebook. In the book he lists what he called "key factors" that make a college town a great town for students, including: good location, weather and public transportation; a beautiful environment; friendly people; access to and availability of career opportunities; fun things to do off campus; and good college-community relations.
So we used the Best Colleges ranking as a starting point in identifying top-ranked universities within Livability.com's own listing of the Best Places to Live. Princeton Review's rankings consider colleges' educational innovation, diversity, community service, graduation rates and athletic program strength.
We then considered each city's total population and the ratio of students to non-students, because it doesn't seem right to call a place a college town if you can't tell classes are in session with a quick glance at the mix of people on a busy sidewalk.
We also looked for towns where it's clear the college is a big economic player in terms of jobs, as well as impacting the strength and diversity of the city's retail sector. In our picks, the college is not only a major employer, but also the reason for more plentiful shops, restaurants and entertainment businesses, most geared to younger people and academics.
We also factored in cost of living and walkability. What we found were 10 great towns where the college and city are inextricably linked to make it a great place to live, whether in a dorm or permanent home. Take a look at our picks for the Top College Towns of 2012.