Strategy The 20 best college towns in America

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Did your college town make the cut?

Boulder, Colorado, won top billing. Read on to see which other college towns made the cut. play

Boulder, Colorado, won top billing. Read on to see which other college towns made the cut.

(Flickr / Let Ideas Compete)
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Boulder, Colorado, is the top-ranked college town in the US, according to a list from the American Institute for Economic Research.

The city of roughly 200,000 (for its metro area population) earned the top spot thanks to its accessibility — more than 20% of commuters take public transportation or cycle around Boulder Creek Corridor — and diverse and educated population. Boulder also has an active bar-and-restaurant scene, with plenty of coffee shops and microbreweries.

AIER compiled its list using nine economic, demographic, and quality-of-life factors. It defines college towns as having fewer than 250,000 residents.

Aside from the overall ranking, we included cities' individual scores for noteworthy metrics including rent, earnings, and bars and restaurants. We chose the one metric where the city scored the highest out of the nine.

Scroll through to find out the 20 best college towns.

20. Bellingham, Washington — home of Western Washington University

20. Bellingham, Washington — home of Western Washington University play

20. Bellingham, Washington — home of Western Washington University

(Curtis Cronn / Flickr)

Metro area population: 208,832

College student population in the metro area: 24,926

No. 4 in arts and entertainment



19. La Crosse, Wisconsin — home of the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse

19. La Crosse, Wisconsin — home of the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse play

19. La Crosse, Wisconsin — home of the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse

(Flickr / David Wilson)

Metro area population: 136,824

College student population in the metro area: 16,081

No. 1 in youth unemployment



18. Jacksonville, North Carolina — home of the University of Mount Olive

18. Jacksonville, North Carolina — home of the University of Mount Olive play

18. Jacksonville, North Carolina — home of the University of Mount Olive

(Jimmy Emerson, DVM / Flickr)

Metro area population: 186,684

College student population in the metro area: 15,297

No. 3 in rent



17. Blacksburg, Virginia — home of Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech)

17. Blacksburg, Virginia — home of Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech) play

17. Blacksburg, Virginia — home of Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech)

(Mohaas05 via Wikipedia)

Metro area population: 180,649

College student population in the metro area: 41,438

No. 3 in bars and restaurants



16. Rochester, Minnesota — home of the University of Minnesota at Rochester

16. Rochester, Minnesota — home of the University of Minnesota at Rochester play

16. Rochester, Minnesota — home of the University of Minnesota at Rochester

(Facebook/Visit Rochester, Minnesota)

Metro area population: 170,519

College student population in the metro area: 11,363

No. 4 in rent



15. State College, Pennsylvania — home of Pennsylvania State University

15. State College, Pennsylvania — home of Pennsylvania State University play

15. State College, Pennsylvania — home of Pennsylvania State University

(Flickr / Amir Nejad)

Metro area population: 159,341

College student population in the metro area: 39,577

No. 5 in bars and restaurants



14. Athens, Georgia — home of the University of Georgia

14. Athens, Georgia — home of the University of Georgia play

14. Athens, Georgia — home of the University of Georgia

(Richardelainechambers via Wikimedia Commons)

Metro area population: 159,341

College student population in the metro area: 39,577

No. 5 in bars and restaurants



13. Fargo, North Dakota — home of North Dakota State University

13. Fargo, North Dakota — home of North Dakota State University play

13. Fargo, North Dakota — home of North Dakota State University

(Omar David Sandoval Sida via Wikipedia)

Metro area population: 167,166

College student population in the metro area: 21,346

No. 1 in rent



12. Lafayette, Indiana — the metropolitan area is home to Purdue University

12. Lafayette, Indiana — the metropolitan area is home to Purdue University play

12. Lafayette, Indiana — the metropolitan area is home to Purdue University

(Qsthomson via Wiki)

Metro area population: 212,704

College student population in the metro area: 44,252

No. 2 in innovation



11. Charlottesville, Virginia — home of the University of Virginia

11. Charlottesville, Virginia — home of the University of Virginia play

11. Charlottesville, Virginia — home of the University of Virginia

(Experience Charlottesville/Facebook)

Metro area population: 227,179

College student population in the metro area: 26,327

No. 3 in youth unemployment



10. Bloomington, Illinois — home of Illinois State University

10. Bloomington, Illinois — home of Illinois State University play

10. Bloomington, Illinois — home of Illinois State University

(Todd Ryburn via Wikimedia Commons)

Metro area population: 189,628

College student population in the metro area: 25,689

No. 2 in arts and entertainment



9. Columbia, Missouri — home of the University of Missouri

9. Columbia, Missouri — home of the University of Missouri play

9. Columbia, Missouri — home of the University of Missouri

(Amanda Macias/Business Insider)

Metro area population: 172,738

College student population in the metro area: 32,287

No. 4 in labor force



8. Manhattan, Kansas — home of Kansas State University

8. Manhattan, Kansas — home of Kansas State University play

8. Manhattan, Kansas — home of Kansas State University

(Wikipedia)

Metro area population: 98,643

College student population in the metro area: 17,537

No. 5 in labor force



7. College Station, Texas — home of Texas A&M University

7. College Station, Texas — home of Texas A&M University play

7. College Station, Texas — home of Texas A&M University

(Pmelton87)

Metro area population: 242,453

College student population in the metro area: 58,018

No. 1 in bars and restaurants



6. Bloomington, Indiana — home of Indiana University at Bloomington

6. Bloomington, Indiana — home of Indiana University at Bloomington play

6. Bloomington, Indiana — home of Indiana University at Bloomington

(Yahala via Wikipedia)

Metro area population: 163,726

College student population in the metro area: 41,211

No. 2 bars and restaurants



5. Iowa City, Iowa — home of the University of Iowa

5. Iowa City, Iowa — home of the University of Iowa play

5. Iowa City, Iowa — home of the University of Iowa

(University of Iowa/Facebook)

Metro area population: 164,043

College student population in the metro area: 33,358

No. 3 in college educated



4. Ithaca, New York — home of Cornell University and Ithaca College

4. Ithaca, New York — home of Cornell University and Ithaca College play

4. Ithaca, New York — home of Cornell University and Ithaca College

(Mary Robnett/Business Insider)

Metro area population: 104,592

College student population in the metro area: 28,164

No. 2 in college educated



3. Flagstaff, Arizona — home of Northern Arizona University

3. Flagstaff, Arizona — home of Northern Arizona University play

3. Flagstaff, Arizona — home of Northern Arizona University

(Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau)

Metro area population: 138,039

College student population in the metro area: 24,832

No. 1 in diversity



2. Champaign-Urbana, Illinois — home of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

2. Champaign-Urbana, Illinois — home of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign play

2. Champaign-Urbana, Illinois — home of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

(University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Metro area population: 207,584

College student population in the metro area: 47,895

No. 1 in city access



1. Boulder, Colorado

1. Boulder, Colorado play

1. Boulder, Colorado

(Flickr / Let Ideas Compete)

Metro area population: 199,129

College student population in the metro area: 31,958

No. 1 in innovation