The 101 Best College Towns In America For 2024

Believe it or not, America has the best colleges in the world. The data (and surveys) prove that the U.S. educational system is of the highest quality

It's not even close.

While we could debate which colleges within the United States are the 'best,' that's not the goal of this post. Depending on how you scrutinize the data, you could make that argument for about a dozen higher-level institutions.

Our goal with this data is a lot more fun.

We wanted to know which college towns are the best.

We used Saturday Night Science to find the places where there's energy and stimulation, but where you can walk around at night. Where sports fans thrive, but where kids graduate. The happiest, chillest, most downright fun places where you can send your kids off to college where you won't break the bank or worry about their well-being.

Yes, those places exist.

Table Of Contents: Top Ten | Methodology | Summary | Table

The 10 Best College Towns In The US For 2024

  1. Ann Arbor, MI
  2. Fairfax, VA
  3. East Lansing, MI
  4. Chapel Hill, NC
  5. Ogden, UT
  6. Morgantown, WV
  7. Bloomington, IN
  8. Laramie, WY
  9. Champaign, IL
  10. Stillwater, OK

While some of these may not seem like a 'real' college town per se (hello, Seattle), when you look at the numbers, it's hard to argue against.

And for those who live in Morgantown, Laramie, and Iowa City - we tip our hats to you. There's nothing else to do within a three-hour drive from your college town, so at least you have this!

Finally, if you live in - it's officially the worst college town in America. Sorry, !

Read on to find out more.

How'd we figure out the best college towns in America?

To crunch our data on America's best college towns, we used Saturday Night Science to decide which qualities (or rankings) make sense to use in the data, and then crunch the numbers for our rankings. Now, we had to make some assumptions here, so bear with us as we explain the methodology, and ultimately, how we came up with our rankings.

First off, we firmly decided that only cities with a Division 1 basketball program should make the cut. That's because a college town just isn't the same without a strong sports vibe.

You might be surprised to hear that there are more than 300 Division 1 basketball programs in America, so we didn't leave out very many cities.

We also decided the basketball team had to be good, and that it had to be well supported. Because how good could a college town be with crummy sports teams that no one watches, right?

Beyond sourcing the NCAA Basketball statistical database, we also used OpenStreetMaps, the College Scorecard, the U.S. Census, and FBI reporting data to include the following factors:

  • College-specific Factors
    • Graduation rate
    • Tuition Cost
    • Student Body Diversity
  • Quality Sports
    • Basketball Games
    • Basketball Team Win %
    • Average Basketball Game Attendance
  • Town Characteristics
    • Students Make Up Large % of the Population
    • Safety
    • Affordability
    • Income and Employment Opportunities
  • Things to Do
    • Bars
    • Museums & Libraries
    • Population Density

And, finally, if a city had more than one Division 1 basketball program, we combined both (or all of) their sports categories into one average score. Phew!

We ranked each city across each of the criteria, with one being the best.

We then took the average rank across each category, with the city posting the lowest overall score being crowned the winner of the title "Best College Town In America".

Best College Towns In The United States For 2024

Ann Arbor, MI
Source: Wikipedia User | GFDL
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 122,216
% Undergrad Pop.: 29.0% (43rd best)
Median Rent: $1,472 (150th best)
Unemployment Rate: 365.3% (11th best)
Crime Rank: 25th best
More on Ann Arbor: Real Estate | Crime | Cost Of Living

If you live in Michigan, there's a choice. Michigan or Michigan State.

While these two teams will continue to battle one another on the court or the field for a long time down the road, when it comes to bragging rights off the court, Michigan earned it, big time.

The Michigan men's basketball team is one of the best teams in the nation, as you very well know. A good basketball team has a way of making an entire community a better place.

But it's not just the sporting tradition that makes Ann Arbor shine. It's the 15th safest college town in America we measured, and Ann Arbor is in the top 5% when it comes to entertainment options per capita, too.

Nice job, Maize and Blue.

Colleges: University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Washtenaw Community College, Concordia University-Ann Arbor

Fairfax, VA
Source: Wikipedia User | CC BY-SA 3.0
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 24,242
% Undergrad Pop.: 62.6% (9th best)
Median Rent: $1,972 (175th best)
Unemployment Rate: 368.1% (12th best)
Crime Rank: 94th best
More on Fairfax: Real EstateCost Of Living

Would you have thought that the home of George Mason University, Columbia College and VIU would be the second best college town in America? Us either?

And by the way, VIU stands for Virginia International University.

Fairfax has it goin on when it comes to the actual university grade: the cost to attend, graduation rate, and quality of the universities in Fairfax.

Plus, there are more museums per capita in Fairfax than any other college town in America, and plenty of bars, too. Fairfax ranks 4th in the country for our 'entertainment score'.

So, while the sports teams struggle, the quality of life on and around campus more than makes up for it.

Colleges: George Mason University, Stratford University, Columbia College

East Lansing, MI
Source: Wikipedia User The original uploader was Jeffness at English Wikipedia | CC BY-SA 2.5
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 45,403
% Undergrad Pop.: 75.6% (6th best)
Median Rent: $1,080 (93rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 670.9% (118th best)
Crime Rank: 27th best
More on East Lansing: Real Estate | Crime | Cost Of Living

While Michigan took top honors, it's rival down the road isn't too far behind. While Michigan has the 3rd best ranked sports program according to our metrics, MSU is 10th. (It has the 2nd highest winning percentage in the last 5 years.)

Michigan State ranks 8th in the country for graduation rate, and has a really low unemployment rate too, meaning lots of students stick around once they graduate. East Lansing is also the 10th safest college town in America, too.

The downside? MSU is far above average when it comes to tuition cost. Does that make a college town less 'awesome?' Maybe just a teeny bit.

Colleges: Michigan State University, Douglas J Aveda Institute, Michigan State University-College of Law

Chapel Hill, NC
Source: Wikipedia User Caroline Culler (User:Wgreaves) | GFDL
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 58,919
% Undergrad Pop.: 26.5% (48th best)
Median Rent: $1,419 (147th best)
Unemployment Rate: 469.1% (37th best)
Crime Rank: 33rd best
More on Chapel Hill: Real Estate | Crime | Cost Of Living

Having spent nearly four years living in Chapel Hill, the author of this post can attest to the quality of life in Chapel Hill. Not only is the basketball team the best in the nation (and very well supported), the quality of life on and around campus is amazing.

Franklin Street has bars on top of bars (literally), and plenty of places to eat and mingle. It's not a very diverse place, nor is it very affordable.

But in terms of charm, safety and lovability, Chapel Hill is pretty much the best college town you could call home.

It's A Great Day To Be A Tar Heel!

Colleges: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Aveda Institute-Chapel Hill

Ogden, UT
Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 86,754
% Undergrad Pop.: 18.3% (70th best)
Median Rent: $1,056 (85th best)
Unemployment Rate: 432.3% (23rd best)
Crime Rank: 69th best
More on Ogden: Real Estate | Crime | Cost Of Living

Colleges: Weber State University, Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College, Nightingale College

Morgantown, WV
Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 30,220
% Undergrad Pop.: 51.2% (14th best)
Median Rent: $901 (35th best)
Unemployment Rate: 985.6% (172nd best)
Crime Rank: 57th best
More on Morgantown: Real Estate | Crime | Cost Of Living

If you've ever been to Morgantown, you already know it - this place is an island in the middle of nowhere. Perhaps that's why there's so much jam packed in such a small area.

When it comes to quality of basketball and the attendance for games, UWV students have it made; the university ranks 8th in the nation for our sports score.

Other factors: An entertainment score that puts Morgantown in the top 15%.

Factors that bring Morgantown down - a lack of diversity, and a higher than average unemployment rate. But hey - it's cheap to live here!

Colleges: West Virginia University, West Virginia Junior College-Morgantown, Monongalia County Technical Education Center

Bloomington, IN
Source: Wikipedia User Yahala | CC BY-SA 3.0
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 79,006
% Undergrad Pop.: 37.2% (29th best)
Median Rent: $1,112 (98th best)
Unemployment Rate: 647.5% (104th best)
Crime Rank: 60th best
More on Bloomington: Real Estate | Crime | Cost Of Living

There's two main reasons why Bloomington makes the top ten. Basketball and beer.

Game days are a huge deal in these parts, and practically everyone in town is at the game or has the game on. Now, when it comes to drinking, Bloomington is a real party town, too. There are only 10 other college towns in America with more kegs per student than right here in south central Indiana.

It's a relatively expensive degree, but just about everyone graduates.

Colleges: Indiana University-Bloomington, Tricoci University of Beauty Cuture LLC-Bloomington, Ivy Tech Community College-Bloomington

Laramie, WY
Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 31,735
% Undergrad Pop.: 26.9% (46th best)
Median Rent: $929 (44th best)
Unemployment Rate: 468.3% (36th best)
Crime Rank: 9th best
More on Laramie: Real Estate | Crime | Cost Of Living

Say what Cowboys?

People in Wyoming are probably eyes wide open at this one. Sure, Laramie, like Morgantown, is an island among some of the most isolated (and boring) regions in the country. Which is why is likely ranks in the top 20% in the country for 'things to do' per capita.

But what really sets Laramie apart is the 'city characteristics' category, where it's 4th in America. It's relatively affordable, there are plenty of jobs (for residents), and crime is the 5th lowest in America.

It's not a very diverse place, and the basketball team is average (but the games are very well attended).

Frankly, there are FAR worse college towns within 1,000 miles of Laramie where you could spent 4 years, that's for sure.

Colleges: University of Wyoming, Wyotech-Laramie

Champaign, IL
Source: Wikipedia User | GFDL
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 88,628
% Undergrad Pop.: 41.1% (25th best)
Median Rent: $1,056 (85th best)
Unemployment Rate: 479.4% (42nd best)
Crime Rank: 42nd best
More on Champaign: Real Estate | Crime | Cost Of Living

Colleges: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Parkland College, Regency Beauty Institute-Champaign

Stillwater, OK
Source: Wikipedia User Fletcherspears | CC BY-SA 3.0
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 48,644
% Undergrad Pop.: 34.1% (34th best)
Median Rent: $921 (4best)
Unemployment Rate: 530.8% (63rd best)
Crime Rank: 35th best
More on Stillwater: Real Estate | Crime | Cost Of Living

Colleges: Oklahoma State University-Main Campus, Meridian Technology Center

There You Have It -- The Best College Towns In The US

If you're looking for the best college towns in America, you came to the right place. These places all have great college sports programs, tons of stuff to do, and are great places to raise a family.

The best college cities in the United States are Ann Arbor, MI, Fairfax, VA, East Lansing, MI, Chapel Hill, NC, Ogden, UT, Morgantown, WV, Bloomington, IN, Laramie, WY, Champaign, IL, and Stillwater, OK.

If you're curious, these are the worst college towns in America, starting with the absolute worst, Bakersfield:

  1. Bakersfield, California - home of Cal State Bakersfield
  2. Jackson, Mississippi - home of Jackson State University
  3. Clarksville, Tennessee - home of Austin Peay University
  4. Santonio, Texas - home of UT - San Antonio
  5. Riverside, California - home of UC Riverside
  6. Chattanooga, Tennessee - home of UT - Chattanooga
  7. Indianapolis, Indiana - home of Butler University
  8. Littlee Rock, Arkansas - home of UA Little Rock
  9. Newark, NJ - home of Rutgers University
  10. Akron, Ohio - home of the University of AkronLittl
For more reading, check out:

101 Best College Towns In America

Rank City Population
1 Ann Arbor, MI 122,216
2 Fairfax, VA 24,242
3 East Lansing, MI 45,403
4 Chapel Hill, NC 58,919
5 Ogden, UT 86,754
6 Morgantown, WV 30,220
7 Bloomington, IN 79,006
8 Laramie, WY 31,735
9 Champaign, IL 88,628
10 Stillwater, OK 48,644
11 Manhattan, KS 54,287
12 Iowa City, IA 74,878
13 Seattle, WA 734,603
14 Buffalo, NY 276,688
15 Fort Myers, FL 88,699
16 New Brunswick, NJ 55,718
17 Omaha, NE 489,201
18 Towson, MD 57,617
19 Santa Barbara, CA 88,640
20 Provo, UT 114,400
21 Tempe, AZ 181,005
22 Williamsburg, VA 15,486
23 Tampa, FL 388,768
24 Moscow, ID 25,616
25 Logan, UT 53,246
26 Lincoln, NE 290,531
27 Madison, WI 268,516
28 Tucson, AZ 541,033
29 Ruston, LA 22,282
30 Evanston, IL 77,181
31 Cincinnati, OH 308,870
32 Murray, KY 17,414
33 Lawrence, KS 95,103
34 Albany, NY 99,692
35 Berkeley, CA 121,385
36 Atlanta, GA 494,838
37 Fayetteville, AR 95,022
38 Providence, RI 189,715
39 Boston, MA 665,945
40 Normal, IL 52,920
41 Tallahassee, FL 198,259
42 Boulder, CO 106,598
43 Salt Lake City, UT 201,269
44 Pittsburgh, PA 303,843
45 Washington, DC 670,587
46 Bowling Green, OH 30,157
47 Columbia, MO 126,172
48 Vermillion, SD 11,667
49 Ithaca, NY 31,359
50 Radford, VA 16,379
51 Dayton, OH 137,305
52 Harrisonburg, VA 51,784
53 Thibodaux, LA 15,738
54 Syracuse, NY 146,134
55 Orlando, FL 307,738
56 Brookings, SD 23,530
57 San Diego, CA 1,383,987
58 Nacogdoches, TX 32,148
60 Reno, NV 265,196
61 Kent, OH 27,336
62 Las Vegas, NV 644,835
63 Fresno, CA 541,528
64 Lynchburg, VA 79,166
65 Green Bay, WI 106,846
66 Huntington, WV 46,637
67 Corvallis, OR 60,050
68 Boca Raton, FL 97,980
69 Macomb, IL 15,207
70 Durham, NC 284,094
71 Wichita, KS 395,951
72 Durham, NH 10,789
73 Fullerton, CA 142,280
74 Lubbock, TX 258,190
75 Ames, IA 66,265
76 Fort Collins, CO 168,758
77 Ypsilanti, MI 20,204
78 Columbus, OH 902,449
79 Milwaukee, WI 573,299
80 Eugene, OR 176,755
81 Denton, TX 142,262
82 Norman, OK 127,701
83 San Luis Obispo, CA 47,529
84 San Marcos, TX 67,143
85 Poughkeepsie, NY 31,717
86 Charleston, SC 149,960
87 Philadelphia, PA 1,593,208
88 Norfolk, VA 236,973
89 Las Cruces, NM 111,273
90 Carbondale, IL 22,039
91 Charleston, IL 17,795
92 Arlington, TX 393,469
93 Albuquerque, NM 562,551
94 New Haven, CT 135,736
95 Auburn, AL 76,660
96 Portland, OR 646,101
97 Lafayette, LA 121,706
98 Missoula, MT 74,627
99 Knoxville, TN 191,857
100 Greensboro, NC 297,202
101 Binghamton, NY 47,617

Best College Towns By State

Enjoy The Snack?