Top College Destinations Ranked

Preparation for work, quality of life factors considered

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.--()--Today, the American Institute for Economic Research ranked the top U.S. metropolitan areas for college students. The annual AIER ranking is based on 11 criteria that gauge each area’s cultural and economic qualities.

In its 2015/2016 College Destinations Index, the cities that ranked highest overall in each city size category were San Francisco; San Jose, California; Boulder, Colorado; and Ames, Iowa.

“Many college-bound students will find themselves with a happy choice of where to go. Other rankings will help you with a college’s prestige, academics, financial aid and the quality of campus services. AIER’s College Destinations Index will help you weigh the value of the wider community in making your decision,” said Rosalind Greenstein, director of research and education at AIER.

AIER researchers weighed these factors: youth unemployment rate; share of college-educated population; economic vitality; STEM workers; the price of rent; public transportation; availability of arts & entertainment; employees in cultural institutions; clubs and restaurants; cost of living minus rent; and diversity.

The top metro areas for the large and midsize categories – San Francisco and San Jose – offer strong opportunities to prepare for work. The highest-ranking metro areas for the small cities and towns, Boulder and Ames, share strong social and cultural offerings.

Cities that didn’t rank at the top overall still showed their own strengths. New York was tops for public transportation. Washington, D.C. led in employing STEM workers. St. Louis featured the lowest cost of living. Minneapolis featured low youth unemployment, and Los Angeles led in entertainment.

Among midsize metros, Portland, Oregon ranked first for public transportation, and Cincinnati had the best cost of living. Grand Rapids, Michigan had the lowest youth unemployment, and Nashville led in arts and entertainment.

Huntsville, Alabama, led small metros in employing STEM workers. Asheville, North Carolina featured the best cost of living, and Provo, Utah had the lowest youth unemployment.

Among college towns, Ithaca, New York had the best public transportation system; Corvallis, Oregon led in STEM employment; Manhattan, Kansas had the lowest cost of living; Columbia, Missouri had the lowest youth unemployment; and Santa Fe, New Mexico topped the arts and entertainment offerings.

Detailed rankings are available at

To interview Rosalind Greenstein, contact Aaron Nathans at 413-528-1216 ext. 3135, or


American Institute for Economic Research
Aaron Nathans, 413-528-1216 x3135

Release Summary

AIER releases its College Destinations Index, which ranks the top U.S. metropolitan areas for college students.


American Institute for Economic Research
Aaron Nathans, 413-528-1216 x3135