If you’re shopping for a college, you are probably getting ideas as to which cities could be a “college town.”

A college town could be a community dominated by a college that is the major catalyst for the local economy. State College, Pennsylvania, home of Penn State’s main campus, fits this description. So does Davis, California, home of UC-Davis, and so does Burlington, Vermont, home of the University of Vermont.

These college towns offer a high quality of life for students and residents alike. I have never been to one that did not have a downtown shopping mix that was parent and student-friendly.  Visit these college towns and you will find as impressive a selection of eating and drinking places as you will likely find in a trendy neighborhood in a larger city. But unless one has something to do with the college there is usually little reason to go out of the way to visit these places. Graduates do not usually stay on to work in a college town like this, unless they open their own business.

A college town can also be a city that has many colleges. While higher education is not the largest employer in these places, it is certainly an important one. Cities such as Boston, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia are examples of these college towns. The college is not the reason that college students settle in these cities. The excitement of the city is. The opportunity to work in that city during college as well as after graduation might be, too.

However, when there are more colleges in one city, then there is more competition for the good jobs among college students. The students who attend the schools that are perceived as “more selective” or a “stronger brand: are at an advantage. Those schools, with few exceptions, are also private colleges. Further, the largest public institutions in cities such as Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, New York and Washington DC are also commuter schools that do not attract many residents from outside their cities.

Then there is a rare breed of public colleges that do a decent job at retaining and graduating their students while also being the dominant institution, by far, in their cities. These students receive the benefits of being in a college town and a large city. They also face less competition for jobs, whether they be internships, co-op assignments or full time positions than their peers who attend college in larger cities that have several colleges. These cities might not be the national capitals of economic activity in particular industries. But they have more than enough employers as well as cultural amenities to interest college students, even encourage them to stay on after graduation.

These public universities  “own” their college town as well as a large (over 250,000 residents) city. They also offer access to public transportation so that students do not need to have a car on campus.

  • Arizona State University
  • SUNY-University at Buffalo
  • The Ohio State University
  • University of Arizona
  • University of Cincinnati (pictured above)
  • University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
  • University of Texas-Austin
  • University of Washington-Seattle

This list admittedly is not a long one. However, I wanted to list schools that also had residential campuses and attracted students from outside their home states. Had I wanted to add schools that were near cities via mass transit such as Rutgers University-New Brunswick or the University of Maryland-College Park I would have had a longer list. But neither Rutgers nor Maryland owns the student job market or the entry-level job market in their regional economy as the schools above do.


One Comment on “Consider Public Universities that ‘Own’ a City and a College Town

  1. Our older daughter graduated from Auburn University. Auburn, Alabama is a smaller town owned by the university. It fits the description you give of college towns. The adjacent town is Opelika (prounounced O-pa-la-ka, it’s an Alabama thing, lol). The two communities offer everything to students. Atlanta is about 3 hours away, as well as beaches in the Florida panhandle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *