Sep 14, 2009

DC Is A Great Place for College Students

According to a report recently released by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), Washington DC is the fourth-best metropolitan area in the country in which to attend college. Topped only by New York, San Francisco, and Boston, Washington beat out Los Angeles, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Atlanta for large metropolitan areas with populations exceeding 2.5 million.

Distancing itself from other more familiar rankings, the AIER College Destinations Index assesses a location’s “broader learning environment” based on three separate indicators: Academic Environment, Quality of Life, and Professional Opportunities. Academic Environment subdivides into 5 factors including research and development expenditure and the number of college students living in the area. The Quality of Life section computes the number of arts, entertainment and recreation locations available to students as well as the percent of workers 16+ who commute to work via public transportation, bike, or foot. Professional Opportunities are assessed by measuring such factors as earning potential and unemployment rates.

Among the top mid-sized metropolitan areas (1 to 2.5 million), San Jose and Austin are ranked numbers one and two respectively. San Jose tops the list in student diversity and earning potential, while Austin gets points for having a high student concentration and a relatively low cost of living. Boulder, home of the largest of the University of Colorado campuses, ranks first for small metropolitan areas (250,000 to 1 million). As for College Towns, honors go to Ithaca NY—home to Cornell University and Ithaca College.

Recent studies by the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area show that no less than 140,000 students study locally in 13 universities and 2 colleges and contribute approximately $12 billion to the region’s economy. Washington ranks particularly high on the AIER index for its concentration of college-age students with 81 students for every 1000 residents. Only Boston with 83 students per 1000 is higher. The region also receives high marks for entrepreneurial activity, low unemployment, and high earning potential.

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