2012 AIER College Destinations Index Ranks 75 Best U.S. Cities and Towns for College Students

October 1, 2012

The “college experience” is about more than simply attending a top-notch university. The city or town where the school is located also is important, the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) suggests in its 2012 “AIER College Destinations Index” (AIER CDI).

The AIER CDI includes the top 75 towns and cities in the United States for college students, based on a larger evaluation of the 227 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) with student populations of 15,000 or more.

The Cincinnati - Middletown MSA returned to the AIER CDI for the first time since 2007, claiming the #17 spot in the ranking of the best mid-size metro college destinations for the 2012-2013 academic year.

“At a time when approximately half of current college graduates are unemployed or underemployed, the pros and cons of a particular college destination should be an important factor in making a college selection,” said Julie Zhu, the AIER research analyst who oversaw compilation of the Index.

In creating the Index, a dozen factors are evaluated 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.

Academic Environment
Student Concentration: number of college students per 1,000 population
Student Diversity: percentage of student body that are non-U.S. residents
Degree Attainment: percent of the 25-to-34-year-old population with bachelor’s degree or higher

Quality of Life
Cost of Living: based upon average rent for a two-bedroom apartment
Arts and Leisure: number of cultural and entertainment venues per 100,000 population
City Accessibility: percentage of workers over age 16 who commute on foot or by public transportation or bicycle
Creative Class: percentage of workforce in the arts, education, knowledge industries, science, engineering, management, other fields

Professional Opportunities
Earning Potential: income per capita
Entrepreneurial Activity: net annual increase in total number of business establishments per 100,000 population
Unemployment Rate: percent of labor force without jobs but actively seeking jobs within the last four weeks
Brain Gain/Drain: year-over-year ratio of population with B.A. degrees living in the area

According to Steven Cunningham, AIER Director of Research and Education, “The characteristics that make up a great college destination often make a location ideal for business, retirement and tourism. A top AIER College Destinations Index ranking should be just as important to the town or city as it is to the schools located there and the families and students attending or considering them.”