The 10 Best College Towns In Iowa For 2021


Editor's Note: We updated this article for 2021. This is our fourth time ranking the best college towns in Iowa.
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Believe it or not, America has the best colleges in the world. It's been proven by data (and surveys) that the U.S. educational system is of the highest quality

It's actually not even close and Iowa is home to a handful of them.

While we could debate which colleges within the are the 'best,' that's not the goal of this post.

Instead, ride along with us as we determine which college towns in Iowa are the best.

You know, the type of places where there's energy and stimulation, but the type of place you can walk around at night. 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.

Without further ado, here are the best college towns in Iowa for 2021.

The 10 Best College Towns In Iowa For 2021

  1. Iowa City, IA
  2. Ames, IA
  3. Sioux Center, IA
  4. Oskaloosa, IA
  5. Decorah, IA
  6. Grinnell, IA
  7. Storm Lake, IA
  8. Des Moines, IA
  9. Pella, IA
  10. Waverly, IA

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

And for those who live in Iowa City, Ames and Sioux Center - we tip our hats to you and we'll schedule a tour for next week. You can see where Iowa City ranks in terms of the best college town in America.

Read on to find out more or for more on Iowa check out:

The 10 Best College Towns In Iowa For 2021

Iowa City, IA
Overall SnackAbility
8
/10

Population: 74,566
% Undergrad Pop.: 25.9% (3rd best)
Median Rent: $954 (18th best)
Unemployment Rate: 477.0% (11th best)
Crime Rank: 8th best
More on Iowa City: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: University of Iowa, La James International College-Iowa City, The Salon Professional Academy-Iowa City

Ames, IA
Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility
8
/10

Population: 65,937
% Undergrad Pop.: 33.5% (2nd best)
Median Rent: $905 (16th best)
Unemployment Rate: 523.5% (13th best)
Crime Rank: 6th best
More on Ames: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: Iowa State University, PCI Academy-Ames

Sioux Center, IA
Overall SnackAbility
9
/10

Population: 7,499
% Undergrad Pop.: 18.9% (5th best)
Median Rent: $733 (8th best)
Unemployment Rate: 54.7% (best)
Crime Rank: best
More on Sioux Center: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: Dordt College

Oskaloosa, IA
Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility
6
/10

Population: 11,505
% Undergrad Pop.: 12.0% (10th best)
Median Rent: $622 (best)
Unemployment Rate: 624.1% (17th best)
Crime Rank: 7th best
More on Oskaloosa: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: William Penn University

Decorah, IA
Overall SnackAbility
9
/10

Population: 7,765
% Undergrad Pop.: 33.8% (best)
Median Rent: $630 (2nd best)
Unemployment Rate: 227.8% (3rd best)
Crime Rank: 2nd best
More on Decorah: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: Luther College

Grinnell, IA
Overall SnackAbility
7
/10

Population: 9,223
% Undergrad Pop.: 14.6% (7th best)
Median Rent: $716 (7th best)
Unemployment Rate: 547.0% (14th best)
Crime Rank: 14th best
More on Grinnell: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: Grinnell College

Storm Lake, IA
Overall SnackAbility
5
/10

Population: 10,672
% Undergrad Pop.: 24.6% (4th best)
Median Rent: $692 (5th best)
Unemployment Rate: 812.4% (18th best)
Crime Rank: 13th best
More on Storm Lake: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: Buena Vista University, Faust Institute of Cosmetology-Storm Lake

Des Moines, IA
Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility
6
/10

Population: 215,932
% Undergrad Pop.: 2.6% (15th best)
Median Rent: $822 (14th best)
Unemployment Rate: 595.8% (16th best)
Crime Rank: 18th best
More on Des Moines: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: Drake University, Grand View University, AIB College of Business

Pella, IA
Overall SnackAbility
9
/10

Population: 10,273
% Undergrad Pop.: 13.0% (8th best)
Median Rent: $908 (17th best)
Unemployment Rate: 297.7% (6th best)
Crime Rank: 3rd best
More on Pella: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: Central College

Waverly, IA
Overall SnackAbility
6
/10

Population: 10,075
% Undergrad Pop.: 15.9% (6th best)
Median Rent: $700 (6th best)
Unemployment Rate: 320.0% (7th best)
Crime Rank: 10th best
More on Waverly: Real Estate | Cost Of Living

Colleges: Wartburg College

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

To crunch our data on Iowa's best college towns, we had to first decide which qualities (or rankings) make sense to use in the data, and then crunch the numbers for our rankings.

First off, we firmly decided that only cities with a 4 year college should make the cut -- so there has to be at least one college granting bachelors degrees in town.

You might be surprised to hear that there are only 17 places in Iowa with an institution of higher learning with that criteria.

Source of data include OpenStreetMaps, the College Scorecard, the U.S. Census, and FBI reporting data to include the following factors:

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

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

We rolled up the individual scores into the category and ranked them again based on the category.

Finally, we 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 Iowa For 2021".

And it looks like Iowa City placed Summa Cum Laude.

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

If you're looking for the best college towns in Iowa, 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.

For more reading, check out:

17 Best College Towns In Iowa

Rank City Population
1 Iowa City, IA 74566
2 Ames, IA 65937
3 Sioux Center, IA 7499
4 Oskaloosa, IA 11505
5 Decorah, IA 7765
6 Grinnell, IA 9223
7 Storm Lake, IA 10672
8 Des Moines, IA 215932
9 Pella, IA 10273
10 Waverly, IA 10075
11 Indianola, IA 15653
12 Dubuque, IA 58340
13 Mount Pleasant, IA 8528
14 Fairfield, IA 10216
15 Cedar Rapids, IA 131360
16 Davenport, IA 102318
17 Ankeny, IA 59152

Best College Towns By State

Enjoy The Snack?