State College again ranked third-best college town in U.S. for students

November 26, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- State College, home to Penn State's University Park campus, has again been ranked third-best among college towns for college students by the nonprofit economic research organization American Institute for Economic Research (AIER).

The rankings appeared in AIER's recently released 2013-14 College Destinations Index (CDI), an annual quantitative ranking of the nation’s 75 best towns and cities to live in if you’re a college student. The index takes into consideration such aspects as academic environment, quality of life and professional opportunity.

The CDI considers college towns as those with a residential population under 250,000. Ithaca, N.Y., and Ames, Iowa, came in first and second, respectively. The locations were chosen based on an analysis of 229 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) with student populations of at least 15,000.

According to Steven Cunningham, chief economist at the Barrington, Mass.-based AIER, the CDI aims to provide an additional resource to students and their parents to help them evaluate their college decisions, based on additional factors beyond academics.

“Cities and towns on this list don’t just offer great academic environment or college experience for students,” said Cunningham. “They’re also vibrant places for businesses to open, tourists to visit and people to live."

State College ranked third among college towns based on its performance across 12 factors in three categories that impact the student experience, according to AIER:

-- Academic environment: student concentration, student diversity, research capacity and degree attainment;
-- Quality of life: cost of living, arts and leisure, city accessibility and creative class;
-- Professional opportunities: earning potential, entrepreneurial activity, unemployment rate and brain gain/drain.

According to AIER, the index is created by evaluating the index factors using the most current data available from the Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, National Science Foundation and Small Business Administration to provide a snapshot of each community’s overall academic and cultural environment, quality of life and employment opportunities in the area.

The 75 cities in the CDI include the top locations in the population categories of major metros (greater than 2.5 million), mid-size metros (1.0 to 2.5 million), small metros (250,000 to 1 million) and college towns (under 250,000).

A free copy of the 2013-14 CDI can be obtained at

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Last Updated November 05, 2020