The 10 Best College Towns In Washington For 2021


Editor's Note: We updated this article for 2021. This is our fourth time ranking the best college towns in Washington.
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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 Washington 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 Washington 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 Washington for 2021.

The 10 Best College Towns In Washington For 2021

  1. Pullman, WA
  2. Bellevue, WA
  3. Ellensburg, WA
  4. Kirkland, WA
  5. Seattle, WA
  6. Cheney, WA
  7. Olympia, WA
  8. Pasco, WA
  9. Port Angeles, WA
  10. Walla Walla, WA

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 Pullman, Bellevue and Ellensburg - we tip our hats to you and we'll schedule a tour for next week. You can see where Pullman ranks in terms of the best college town in America.

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

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

The 10 Best College Towns In Washington For 2021

Pullman, WA
Overall SnackAbility
8
/10

Population: 33,050
% Undergrad Pop.: 12.8% (7th best)
Median Rent: $788 (2nd best)
Unemployment Rate: 1136.5% (26th best)
Crime Rank: 2nd best
More on Pullman: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: Washington State University

Bellevue, WA
Overall SnackAbility
9
/10

Population: 142,242
% Undergrad Pop.: 7.9% (11th best)
Median Rent: $1,855 (25th best)
Unemployment Rate: 395.9% (3rd best)
Crime Rank: 8th best
More on Bellevue: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: Bellevue College, Evergreen Beauty and Barber College-Bellevue

Ellensburg, WA
Overall SnackAbility
6
/10

Population: 19,799
% Undergrad Pop.: 38.4% (2nd best)
Median Rent: $933 (12th best)
Unemployment Rate: 735.3% (20th best)
Crime Rank: 7th best
More on Ellensburg: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: Central Washington University

Kirkland, WA
Overall SnackAbility
7.5
/10

Population: 88,079
% Undergrad Pop.: 5.6% (13th best)
Median Rent: $1,776 (24th best)
Unemployment Rate: 364.8% (best)
Crime Rank: 5th best
More on Kirkland: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: Lake Washington Institute of Technology, Northwest University, Northwest University-College of Adult and Professional Studies

Seattle, WA
Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility
8.5
/10

Population: 708,823
% Undergrad Pop.: 8.1% (9th best)
Median Rent: $1,496 (23rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 417.7% (4th best)
Crime Rank: 22nd best
More on Seattle: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: University of Washington-Seattle Campus, Seattle Central College, North Seattle College

Cheney, WA
Overall SnackAbility
7
/10

Population: 11,962
% Undergrad Pop.: 63.3% (best)
Median Rent: $872 (6th best)
Unemployment Rate: 867.8% (23rd best)
Crime Rank: 3rd best
More on Cheney: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: Eastern Washington University

Olympia, WA
Overall SnackAbility
8
/10

Population: 50,836
% Undergrad Pop.: 7.7% (12th best)
Median Rent: $1,089 (14th best)
Unemployment Rate: 633.2% (14th best)
Crime Rank: 17th best
More on Olympia: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: South Puget Sound Community College, The Evergreen State College

Pasco, WA
Overall SnackAbility
6
/10

Population: 71,858
% Undergrad Pop.: 8.0% (10th best)
Median Rent: $895 (8th best)
Unemployment Rate: 547.3% (8th best)
Crime Rank: 4th best
More on Pasco: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: Columbia Basin College

Port Angeles, WA
Overall SnackAbility
6
/10

Population: 19,615
% Undergrad Pop.: 19.4% (3rd best)
Median Rent: $928 (11th best)
Unemployment Rate: 855.6% (22nd best)
Crime Rank: 16th best
More on Port Angeles: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: Peninsula College

Walla Walla, WA
Overall SnackAbility
7
/10

Population: 32,731
% Undergrad Pop.: 4.4% (15th best)
Median Rent: $919 (10th best)
Unemployment Rate: 528.7% (7th best)
Crime Rank: 14th best
More on Walla Walla: Real Estate | Cost Of Living | Crime Report

Colleges: Walla Walla Community College, Whitman College

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

To crunch our data on Washington'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 21 places in Washington 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 Washington For 2021".

And it looks like Pullman placed Summa Cum Laude.

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

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

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

  1. Poulsbo
  2. Centralia
  3. Spokane
  4. Tukwila
  5. Bellingham
  6. Vancouver
  7. Toppenish
  8. Tacoma
  9. Redmond
  10. Lacey

For more reading, check out:

21 Best College Towns In Washington

Rank City Population
1 Pullman, WA 33050
2 Bellevue, WA 142242
3 Ellensburg, WA 19799
4 Kirkland, WA 88079
5 Seattle, WA 708823
6 Cheney, WA 11962
7 Olympia, WA 50836
8 Pasco, WA 71858
9 Port Angeles, WA 19615
10 Walla Walla, WA 32731
11 College Place, WA 9136
12 Lacey, WA 47852
13 Redmond, WA 63197
14 Tacoma, WA 210103
15 Toppenish, WA 8906
16 Vancouver, WA 178413
17 Bellingham, WA 87071
18 Tukwila, WA 20198
19 Spokane, WA 214804
20 Centralia, WA 16932
21 Poulsbo, WA 10301

Best College Towns By State

Enjoy The Snack?