Best Places to Live

2017 10 Best College Towns

Can you guess which beloved college towns made the list?

University of Illinois
Brian McCord

When the term “college town” comes to mind, it may invoke images of beer pong, tailgates and textbooks, but colleges are an ecosystem of learning, innovation, culture and support – and living in one means these advantages are right at your fingertips. It boils down to this: college towns are where fun becomes life changing.   

The Top 10 College Towns 2017 list came to life through a collaboration between and ABODO Apartments, the leading off-campus and young professional apartment search engine in the U.S. Our team first analyzed U.S. cities with a population between 20,000 and 350,000 and at least one college campus. We formed this list by cross-referencing 2016 city population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division with data from the U.S. Department of Education on all college campuses in the U.S. by city.

Data is vital to determining big decisions, however data doesn’t doesn’t interact with neighbors. It won’t cheer at football games or rent an apartment, it doesn’t walk through parks, it can’t taste local food or brews. Although, median salaries, availability and affordability of rental housing, and things to do were are also considered. We ended up with 228 cities that meet our criteria, but only the best of the best make our yearly list.

So that’s where Livability comes in. Sure, the cost of living estimate is great and many young people and businesses are moving to these regions. But is this city a great place to live?

Many college towns have regular spots on our Top 100 Best Places to Live and Best Cities for Entrepreneurs rankings – and for good reason. Entrepreneurship flourishes in college towns, which directly correlates with a fruitful quality of life outside of work. Acting as an incubator, colleges draw students with a wide variety of perspectives, skills and interests, and connects those who share them. Not only does this lend itself to a well-educated workforce that creates innovative ideas and solutions, it creates an educated customer base that can appreciate those efforts (and spend money on them, too).

Between community pride, flourishing culture, and a constant stream of of talent, college towns are much more than an economic stabilizer. If you’re looking for more than just financial success, look no further than one of these top 10 college towns.

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Ranking Criteria

30% – Percentage of the population ages 20 to 29
30% – Ratio of the city’s median salary (from the Bureau of Labor Statistics) to its August 2017 median one-bedroom rent (from ABODO listings)
20% – Number of jobs in the education sector per 1,000 jobs in the city, which we limited by a minimum of 90
20% – Ratio of the median salary in the city to the nation for education jobs