Liveability.com recently released their top 10 college towns of 2012. Several factors determined which cities represent the ideal college town, including which university created an environment enjoyable to all residents, whether students or not, where young minds meet old traditions, and political, social and cultural ideas of all kinds are welcomed. Acording to Robert Franek, senior vice president, publisher and author of Princeton Review's recently released 21st edition Best Colleges guidebook, there are key factors that make college towns great 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. Take a look at their picks for the Top College Towns of 2012.
Blacksburg, VA, has one of the highest student to resident ratios in the country. There are nearly two students for every non-student. A cost of living that is about seven percent higher than the national average kept the city from being ranked higher on our list. While Blacksburg is a town that caters to students, it also offers much to families and recent graduates. And because fall is dominated by football, on Saturdays Blacksburg rocks when the Hokies play at home.
Downtown Blacksburg features more than 150 local restaurants, pubs, shops, galleries and boutiques. The city is located between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains, both home to scenic drives, great hiking, camping and biking. The cost of living here is slightly higher than the national average, but the perks are well worth it.
City population (2010 Census): 42,620
Student population: 30,000
College(s): Virginia Tech
Don't miss: Lyric Theatre for movies, The Rivermill for drinks, Sycamore Deli for food
Ann Arbor, MI, features a mix of restaurants, bars, local shops, art museums and parks that make it instantly appealing to both college students and those who are not pursuing a degree. While football dominates the fall entertainment lineup – more than 114,000 show up to the University of Michigan's stadium on game days – the city's amenities make it a vibrant and interesting place to live.
Nearly one out of every two residents here is a student, making it a true college town. But you don't have to be a student to enjoy what the university has to offer. There is a range of musical, theater and dance productions that anyone can attend. Open to non-students at various times throughout the year are a collection of museums and libraries, including the Museum of Natural History, which offers an array of educational programs for the general community.
City population (2010 Census): 113,934
Student population: 59,000
College(s): University of Michigan, Concordia University – Michigan, Washtenaw Community College
Don't miss: Nickels Arcade for shopping, Dominick's for drinks, Cavern Club for music
Athens, GA, just wouldn't be Athens without the University of Georgia. The city was established in the late 1700s when state leaders selected 40,000 acres to build a college. The university remains the city's top employer and sets the community's cultural tone. It provides not only jobs, but entertainment, recreation and art.
The cost of living in Athens is low when compared to the national average and residents can experience college events that range from theater performances and art shows to football games and happy hours.
City population (2010 Census): 115,452
Student population: 39,000
College(s): University of Georgia, Piedmont College, Athens Technical College
Don't miss: 40 Watt Club for music, farm255 for local and sustainable food, Athens Welcome Center for historic tours
Bloomington, IN, is ground zero for Hoosier fans. Home of Indiana University, the city reaps the benefits of having a large, prestigious college. Those benefits include some of the best men's basketball games in the country, theater programs, research facilities and, of course, places to party.
Bloomington offers many activities to explore and enjoy the great outdoors. Three lakes provide chances to fish, canoe and water ski, and there are more than 200 miles of hiking and biking trails. Nearby Hoosier National Forest features 202,000 acres of protected land. There are four golf courses in Bloomington for those who prefer to wonder the cart paths.
City population (2010 Census): 80,405
Student population: 42,400
College(s): Indiana University
Don't miss: The Player's Pub for music, The Atlas Bar for drinks, The Owlery for vegetarian food
With an artistic vibe and a natural feel, Corvallis, OR, is a funky college city. It's a town that college kids and residents love to explore and can feel safe checking out every nook and cranny. Corvallis has received accolades for being among the safest and most environmentally friendly cities in the nation. The city offers many spots to eat local food, enjoy live music, and engage in outdoor interests like fishing, hiking and camping.
Nearly half of the city's population consists of students who attend Oregon State University, a school known for innovation and research. The university's 400-acre campus includes a historic district that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Lots of Beaver football fans come to town on Saturdays during the fall, creating a party atmosphere.
City population (2010 Census): 54,462
Student population: 28,000
College(s): Oregon State University, Linn-Benton Community College
Don't miss: Francescos Gelato for sweets, Squirrel's Tavern for drinks, Corvallis Farmers Market for fresh produce
The college town of Lawrence, KS, home of the University of Kansas and the heart of the Jayhawk nation, is nestled in the Heartland. While the ratio of college students to residents isn't as high as some of the other cities on this list, (about one student for every three residents) a low cost of living and amenities earned Lawrence big points. Residents here pay about five percent less than the rest of the country for housing, food and clothes.
Lawrence has an excellent bus system and a good network of bike lanes and paths. Many locals enjoy swimming and fishing in Clinton Lake, hiking in nearby forests, or chilling at the Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival, which is held each June in Clinton State Park.
City population (2010 Census): 87,643
Student population: 30,000
College(s): University of Kansas, Haskell Indian Nations University
Don't miss: Replay Lounge for live music, Pabst Blue Ribbon for drinks, Massachusetts Street for fun
Champaign, IL, offers college students their own section of town for shopping and entertainment. But you don't have to take classes to enjoy the scene in Campustown, a district located near the University of Illinois campus. The city and surrounding area are loaded with things to do including lots of outdoor activities, live music venues and museums. One of the best things about this area is the low cost of living, which is about seven percent less than the national average.
City population (2010 Census): 81,055
Student population: 50,000
College(s): University of Illinois, Parkland College
Don't miss: The Blind Pig Brewery for drinks, The High Dive for live music and dancing, Li'l Porgy's for barbecue
Logan, UT, comes in with the lowest cost of living on our list. People spend about 10 percent less than the rest of the nation on housing, groceries and clothing.
This is college town has a ratio of one student to every three permanent residents.
Utah State offers a performing arts series each year at several on-campus venues including the Kent Concert Hall. The school's Nora Eccle Harrison Museum of Art is also open to the public. Many residents are season ticket holders and strong supporters of the Utah State Aggies football team, which competes in the Western Athletic Conference. Aggie basketball fans are known for their devotion to the team. The college also has soccer, volleyball, golf, tennis, cross country and track teams.
City population (2010 Census): 48,174
Student population: 17,000
College(s): Utah State University
Don't miss: The Elements for dinner, Angie's Restaurant for breakfast, Caine Lyric Theatre for plays
Oxford, MS, has a genteel atmosphere even when more than 65,000 screaming football fans roll into town to cheer for Ole Miss. While there is an equal number of permanent residents and college students, the town retains a sophisticated feel. That comes from the care city leaders take in preserving historic buildings and the fact that business owners know their clients have an appreciation for the finer things in life.
A big part of Oxford's culture is being social, and there are many events and spaces to get you in the mix. The Square is the place to go for food, drinks, music and fun.
City population (2010 Census): 18,916
Student population: 20,844
College(s): University of Mississippi
Don't miss: Square Books for books, City Grocery for dinner, The Lyric Theatre for live music
More college than town, College Station, TX, offers a low cost of living, plenty of watering holes with a country-western vibe and a spirited bunch of Aggie fans.
College students outnumber permanent residents here, but that doesn't mean this isn't a great place for families. The city has a well-maintained collection of parks, athletic fields and recreational centers. College Station is a walkable city and includes several trails and bike paths. Gibbons Creek Reservoir and nearby Lake Bryan both offer swimming, fishing and boating activities.
The party crowd has more than 20 bars, pubs and taverns to mingle in. College Station has one of the highest bar to resident ratios in the world. Many are within walking distance from campus and feature live music.
City population (2010 Census): 93,857
Student population: 50,000
College(s): Texas A&M
Don't miss: The Republic for steaks, Terrazzo for coffee and wine, O'Bannon's Tap House for drinks