As students at colleges in Sacramento and Davis chill out during their winter breaks, they’ll get to head back to class with a bit of extra pride: They’re going to school in two of the friendliest college towns in America.
Financial research firm WalletHub places both cities in the top 20 percent of communities studied for its 2018 “Best College Towns and Cities” report. Davis ranks 70th, while Sacramento checks in at No. 81 overall. There were 415 cities and towns of various sizes nationwide compared for their academic, social and economic opportunities for students.
Ann Arbor, Mich. took the No. 1 spot, followed by Orlando, Fla., Rexburg, Idaho, Provo, Utah and Austin, Texas in the top five. San Diego, at No. 10, topped all California cities. Berkeley (No. 16) and Los Angeles (No. 21) were other top 25 finishers.
Other California communities ranking among the nation’s top 10 percent were Irvine (No. 27), Pasadena (No. 27) and San Francisco (No. 34).
The only other Sacramento-area cities and communities surveyed fared poorly. Roseville ranked 132nd overall; Elk Grove finished 278th; and Arden-Arcade ranked 311th.
On the other end of the scale, the nation’s worst college city was Germantown, Md., at No. 415. Bridgeport, Conn., Newton, Mass., Arlington, Va., and Silver Spring, Md. were ranked 411 to 414, respectively. California’s worst was East Los Angeles, at No. 406.
According to WalletHub Communications Manager Diana Popa, cities were ranked by performances in 28 key indicators, from quality of education to crime rate. Only communities with at least 7,500 college students were used.
All five local communities in the survey have one main “feeder” school: Sacramento (Sacramento State); Davis (UC Davis); Roseville (Sierra College); Arden-Arcade (American River College); and Elk Grove (Cosumnes River College).
Among major categorical findings:
San Diego has the nation’s best social environment – the number of students who bike, walk or use public transportation – followed by San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York and Orlando. Sacramento ranked 22nd; Davis was 114th; Roseville 205th; Elk Grove 327th; and Arden-Arcade 411th.
Edinburg, Texas, is “wallet friendliest” – a combination of costs for housing, tuition and general living expenses – followed by Rexburg, Idaho and Laredo, Texas. Sacramento is No. 230; Arden-Arcade No. 294; Davis No. 334; Roseville No. 335; and Elk Grove No. 339.
Princeton, N.J., offers the best “academic and economic opportunities” – a combination of inflation-adjusted median earnings for the population with bachelor’s degrees or higher, and the area’s four-year net average in number of businesses per capita – followed by Pasadena and Berkeley. Roseville was 28th; Davis 46th; Elk Grove 50th; Arden-Arcade 168th; and Sacramento 279th.
The report also compares college cities and towns by size. Austin, Las Vegas and Tampa., Fla. are the nation’s friendliest large cities – those with populations of 300,000 or more. Sacramento ranked 23rd.
Among mid-size cities – populations 125,000 to under 300,000 – Orlando, Scottsdale, Ariz., and Gainesville, Fla. were the top three. Roseville ranked 36th, while Elk Grove was 91st.
Ann Arbor, Rexburg and Provo were the top small cities – populations of under 125,000. Davis ranked No. 33, while Arden-Arcade was No. 151.
In addition to distilling pride in the schools students currently attend – and strongly influence where they seek to get a job after graduation – Popa says the study can help future students choose where they want to obtain an increasingly expensive secondary education. College cost of living averages about $25,000 per year nationwide, according to WalletHub.
“High school seniors face a laundry list of tasks when getting ready for college,” Popa says. “Between standardized tests, essays and financial-aid applications, the final months before orientation can be difficult. One of the most important steps in the process is the campus visit, which often includes a tour of the city or town that will serve as the student’s home for several years.”
Experts also maintain that a school’s geographical location is just as important as a strong curriculum and supportive school environment to a student’s academic success and personal development, Popa adds.
Data used to create rankings were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Center for Education Statistics, Numbeo, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, TransUnion, TripAdvisor, Areavibes, Yelp and WalletHub research.
WalletHub’s “Best College Towns and Cities 2018” report can be found at here.