American Institute for Economic Research Unveils 2014-2015 Ranking of Best U.S. Cities for College Students

Share Article

The AIER College Destinations Index Ranks the Top 75 Metro Areas Based on a Statistical Analysis of 271 Metropolitan Statistical Areas with Student Populations of at Least 10,000

The American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) has released the 2014 edition of its College Destinations Index, which ranks the top 75 metro areas in the United States for college students. The index compares each location’s overall economic and academic environment, quality of life and employment opportunities. The rankings and a description of the methodology can be found at

“When it comes to a student’s educational experience, the location of a college or university can be just as important as the educational institution itself,” said Stephen Adams, President of AIER. “The College Destination Index gives students and parents another layer of useful information when making the decision about where to go to college.”

The top 75 college destinations – grouped by population size – are listed below and charted on a map at The interactive map shows each location’s statistical scores in each of the four categories used to rank locations. The college destinations are organized around size of the metropolitan statistical area, or MSAs, and are broken down into the following categories: Major Metros, Mid-Size Metros, Small Metros, and College Towns. The top-rated college destinations in each category, respectively, were: Boston, MA, San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA, Boulder, CO and Ithaca, NY.

The AIER CDI ranks destinations based on statistical economic analysis of each MSA across the following categories:

Student Life:

  •     Student Concentration: number of college students per 1,000 residents
  •     Cost of Housing: fair market rent of a two-bedroom apartment
  •     City Accessibility: percentage that walk, bike or take public transportation


  •     Arts and Leisure: concentration of arts, entertainment, and recreation establishments
  •     International Students: percentage of students that are foreign
  •     Innovation Producers: percentage of workforce in the innovation fields

Economic Health:

  •     Unemployment Rate: percentage of labor force without jobs
  •     Entrepreneurial Activity: net change in number of businesses (3-year average)
  •     Brain Drain or Gain: change in proportion of population with college degrees


  •     R&D Per Student: academic R&D per student
  •     College Educated: percentage of the population with a college degree
  •     Earning Potential: median earnings

“These cities offer opportunity and a high quality of life not just for students, but for residents as well,” said Luke Delorme, a Research Fellow at AIER responsible for the study. “People considering a new place to live or open a business would do well to consider these locations.”

This year’s list incorporated methodology changes that improve year-to-year changes in the list.

Complimentary electronic copies of the complete AIER College Destinations Index analysis and companion brochure are available from AIER’s website, Print brochures are available at no cost by emailing info(at)aier(dot)org.

Major Metros
1 Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH
2 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
3 San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA
4 New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA
5 Baltimore-Towson, MD
6 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
7 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI
8 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA
9 Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO
10 Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX
11 San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA
12 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD
13 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX
14 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL
15 Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI

Mid-Size Metros
1 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
2 Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX
3 Raleigh-Cary, NC
4 Pittsburgh, PA
5 Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY
6 Rochester, NY
7 Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN
8 Columbus, OH
9 Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT
10 Salt Lake City, UT
11 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA
12 Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI
13 New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA
14 Oklahoma City, OK
15 Indianapolis-Carmel, IN
16 Richmond, VA
17 Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, RI-MA
18 Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH
19 Sacramento--Arden-Arcade--Roseville, CA
20 Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN

Small Metros
1 Boulder, CO
2 Durham-Chapel Hill, NC
3 Ann Arbor, MI
4 Madison, WI
5 Gainesville, FL
6 Fort Collins-Loveland, CO
7 Lincoln, NE Metro Area
8 Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
9 Trenton-Ewing, NJ
10 Huntsville, AL
11 Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY
12 Lansing-East Lansing, MI
13 Anchorage, AK
14 Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA
15 Provo-Orem, UT
16 Syracuse, NY
17 Lexington-Fayette, KY
18 Honolulu, HI
19 Tallahassee, FL
20 Eugene-Springfield, OR

College Towns
1 Ithaca, NY
2 Ames, IA
3 Corvallis, OR
4 Iowa City, IA
5 State College, PA
6 Fargo, ND-MN
7 Champaign-Urbana, IL
8 Columbia, MO
9 Missoula, MT
10 College Station-Bryan, TX
11 Charlottesville, VA
12 Lafayette, IN
13 Lawrence, KS
14 Fairbanks, AK
15 Bloomington, IN
16 Morgantown, WV
17 Grand Forks, ND-MN
18 Binghamton, NY
19 Mankato-North Mankato, MN
20 Logan, UT-ID

About the American Institute for Economic Research
The American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) conducts independent, scientific, economic research to educate individuals, thereby advancing their personal interests and those of the nation. The Institute, founded in 1933, represents no fund, concentration of wealth, or other special interests. Advertising is not accepted in its publications. Financial support for the Institute is provided primarily by the small annual fees from several thousand sustaining members, by receipts from sales of its publications, by tax-deductible contributions, and by the earnings of its wholly owned investment advisory organization, American Investment Services, Inc. Experience suggests that information and advice on economic subjects are most useful when they come from a source that is independent of special interests, either commercial or political. For more information, visit

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Francis McGill
Rubenstein Associates
+1 (212) 843-9353
Email >

Alex Stockham
Rubenstein Associates
646 251-3736
Email >
Visit website