State College Ranked Third-best College Town in U.S. for Students

By Laura Stocker Waldhier, Penn State

Today ‘The Corner’, located directly across College Avenue from Penn State’s main gate, continues to be a popular gathering place for the University and State College community. (Provided photo)

UNIVERSITY PARK – State College, home to Penn State’s University Park campus, has been ranked third-best among college towns for college students by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER).

The rankings appeared in AIER’s recently released 2012-13 College Destinations Index (CDI), an annual quantitative ranking of the nation’s 75 best towns and cities to live in if you’re a college student. The index takes into consideration such aspects as academic environment, quality of life and professional opportunity.

The CDI considers College Towns as those with a residential population under 250,000. Ithaca, N.Y., and Ames, Iowa, came in first and second, respectively.

The locations were chosen from an analysis of the 227 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) with student populations of 15,000 or more. Among the 227 MSAs, State College also ranks as the third-best overall college destination.

“Penn State’s University Park campus and State College have long enjoyed a close town-gown partnership,” said University President Rodney Erickson. “The quality of life in our region benefits students and residents alike. ”

AIER’s research is based on the consideration that the characteristics that make up a great college destination also often make that location ideal for business, retirement and tourism, according to Steven Cunningham, AIER Director of Research and Education. “A top AIER CDI 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,” he said.

State College ranked third among college towns based on its performance across 12 factors in three categories that impact the student experience, according to AIER:

— Academic Environment: student concentration, student diversity, research capacity, degree attainment;
— Quality of Life: arts and leisure, city accessibility, creative class, cost of living; and
— Professional Opportunity: earning potential, entrepreneurial activity, unemployment rate, brain gain/drain.

According to AIER, the index is created by evaluating the index factors 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.

The 75 cities in the CDI include the top locations in the population categories of Major Metros (greater than 2.5 million), Mid-size Metros (1.0 to 2.5 million), Small Cities (250,000 to 1 million) and College Towns (under 250,000).

A free copy of the 2012-13 CDI can be obtained at

The American Institute for Economic Research is a donor-based, non-profit, economic research organization based in Great Barrington, Mass.

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