Top 50 College Towns in America


Tacoma, WA
Photo credit: shingst / Flickr

There are a lot of things that have to click to make a truly great college town. Whether it’s feeling the palpable vibe of an alma mater, having tons to do, or the fact that your college town is a great place to stay after you’ve graduated, we’ve worked to provide you with a quality list of the best college towns in the nation.

What we considered:

  • Livability
  • Student-to-resident ratio
  • Cultural Offerings
  • School Presence
  • Large Employers

The towns at the top of our list have all of the above, while towns featuring only a handful of our criteria are ranked lower. As an example, 50th ranked Tacoma has high livability and large employer scores, it lacks somewhat in the other three, particularly in student-to-resident ratio and school presence.

50. Tacoma, WA

Home to the University of Puget Sound, City University of Seattle-Tacoma, The Evergreen State College Tacoma Campus, Pacific Lutheran University, and the University of Washington Tacoma, this college town is bustling with students. Listed as the 19th most walkable city in the nation, and one of America’s most livable areas, Tacoma has the makings of a quality college town even without a flagship institution.

A light rail system also runs through town and through to Seattle. Historically, the Port of Tacoma (Washington’s largest port) has supported the city’s economy, but today a variety of employers call Tacoma home, including local Universities, state departments, healthcare providers and Boeing.

The city is sometimes known as “America’s gayest city” with LGBT couples allowed to marry and a number holding political offices. Art, seafood, microbreweries, and coffee make Tacoma a joy similar to Seattle, just a bit smaller.

Additional Information:

  • Population: 198,397
  • Student Population: 7,235

49. East Lansing, MI

Directly adjacent to the capital of Michigan (Lansing), East Lansing is an important economic center and home to two medical schools, one veterinary school, two law schools, and Michigan State University. Each year, East Lansing hosts a number of festivals. A large number of neighborhoods have local traditions and scheduled events, and cultural offerings abound through theaters and museums.

General Motors, as well as four major national insurance companies call East Lansing and Lansing home. Since 1996, high-speed internet has been available in East Lansing, providing a great environment for tech companies and research (academic and otherwise). With many urban renewal projects in the works, East Lansing continues to improve year to year, building on its reputation as a great college town.

Additional Information:

  • Population: 48,579
  • Student Population: 50,000


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