We know how often you hear and see “the best” college or college town and, let’s be honest, we all like to check to see if our future school, current school or alma mater is on the list! According to MarketWatch, which considers a variety of factors in its ranks and scorings, millennials across the country said the number one factor when it comes to choosing where to live or go to school was affordability. With affordability being the number one decision factor, we also researched some of the best college towns to live in that have a diverse and fun student life along with affordable rent ($1,000 and under/month for a two-bedroom apartment). Below is a list of TurboTenant’s top five college towns where affordable housing, a great education and a fun student life are guaranteed.
Why You Should Invest in College Towns – My Landlord Hat Please…
Buying and investing in college towns can be a very competitive, yet, a successful market in the real estate industry. Some people might be hesitant to rent to college students, who they might deem as irresponsible, however, going through proper tenant screening practices can help you avoid problems and have a great investment overall. The first reason why investing in college towns is beneficial is that you will have no trouble finding tenants. Students need somewhere to live year round which means finding tenants shouldn’t be an issue. Furthermore, universities employ hundreds of employees who will also be keen on renting in town. Next, investing in college towns is low risk because it is a higher demand that will remain steady. Universities aren’t going anywhere and more people are seeking higher education than ever before. This means there will always be a demand for rental properties in college towns versus other older areas in the U.S. where the markets have shifted. Lastly, you can simplify your marketing strategies because most college towns have high walk scores, public transportation, lots of activities, many restaurants and so much more that makes the area highly appealable – the town will sell itself.
#5: Boise, ID – Boise State University
Why Boise State University:
Besides a great campus right in the city, Boise State has over 170 academic programs for undergraduates and graduate students – it also has the country’s only degree in raptor biology. Furthermore, Boise State has extremely affordable tuition rates with in-state tuition at $7,693 and out-of-state tuition at $23,776! Don’t forget to stop by the famous blue turf field for a Bronco football game and visit the campus recreation’s 7,200-square-foot rock wall!
Best School Tradition:Cowboy Kohl – the adorable dog who, during home football games, retrieve the tee after every time the football is kicked! Yes, please!
Median Property Rent: $805
Best Pizza and Drinks:
- Best Drinks: Breweries and Boise go hand in hand! Download the free Boise Ale Trail app when visiting different breweries and earn prizes! Sounds like a pretty good deal to us.
- Best Pizza Place: Guido’s Original New York Style Pizza. Yummy food and enjoy a beer starting at $2.25!
#4: Bowling Green, KY – Western Kentucky University
Bowling Green is home to Western Kentucky University and the GM Corvette Assembly Plant! Only one hour from Nashville, this small college town has a Southern charm anyone would love with extreme affordability rent, school pride and things you can’t do anywhere else. For example, you can visit Mammoth Cave National Park, drive a Corvette around the NCM Motorsports Park and ride a boat underground touring the Lost River Cave – it might be smaller than your average city, but there is so much to do year round!
Why Western Kentucky University:
Home to the Hilltoppers, WKU offers over 100 majors and has approximately 20,000 students. They pride themselves on the fact that their student to faculty ratio is 18:1 – making the average class size around 24 where students can easily get to know their professors and peers – unlike many large universities. It is also ranked as one of the most beautiful campuses in the South surrounded by trees and original architecture. Some other perks to WKU include over 300 student organizations and, wait for it, 25 campus restaurants! That freshman fifteen might be hard to control, but you can easily walk it off at the trails on and around campus. Additionally, WKU’s top programs include the School of Journalism and Broadcasting, which has won several awards especially in photojournalism, as well as the Gordon Ford College of Business.
Best School Tradition: WKU’s mascot is known as Big Red, who isn’t really an animal, but as everyone describes him a “huge, furry, lovable creature.” He even celebrates his birthday on December 1st.
Median Property Rent: $671
Best Pizza and Drinks:
#3: Manhattan, KS – Kansas State University
You’ve probably heard of the Big Apple, but Manhattan, Kansas, known as the Little Apple, is where it’s at. It has been in many best college town lists as well as one of the best places to live for years! Not only is Manhattan an affordable place, but it is near the Flint Hills if you’re looking for a little bit of an outdoor life. It is also known for its delicious restaurant scene, highly-ranked schools and a great housing market that works for a variety of budgets.
Why Kansas State University:
Kansas State’s beautiful campus was founded in 1863 – its undergraduate enrollment is around 18,488 which is great if you want to go to a larger school, but also have more intimate and smaller classes within your major. Tuition is also very affordable compared to many state universities with in-state starting around $10,000 and out-of-state starting around $25,000. There are over 250 undergraduate programs and you can choose from over 60 master’s degrees. Fun fact, K-State is home to the Biosecurity Research Institute where students themselves get to help research infectious diseases! Also, want to get out and enjoy the nice weather? Well good thing you can hit up the golf course on campus! Additionally, there is a dairy bar, insect museum and gardens you can study in. Last, but not least, there are over 450 student organizations ranging from clubs to student government and Greek groups you can join!
Best School Tradition:Purple Power Play – on the Thursday and Friday nights before the first home football game, Manhattan’s City Park becomes a rally ground where you can enjoy local cuisines, watch fireworks and bond with fellow students decked out in their purple K-State gear!
Median Property Rent: $859
Best Pizza and Drinks:
- Best Pizza: Aj’s Ny Pizza
- Best Drinks: Aggieville is the oldest shopping district in Kansas with many bars – they even offer organized pub crawls!
#2: Ithaca, NY – Cornell University
Ithaca, and no not the home of the Greek hero Odysseus, constantly makes the lists of top college towns and best places to live and we will tell you why. Ithaca is only four hours from the Big Apple and gives you the same rich historic culture, great food and events to go to without the expensive rent plus a great nature scene. It is also home to Cornell University, one of the most prestigious universities in the country whose students make up around one third of the entire population, and Ithaca has more than double the national average of residents with a bachelor’s degree or more. You can get a great education with affordable rent while walking most places and attending things like the Ithaca Apple Festival and Chili Fest throughout the year!
Why Cornell University:
If the fact that Bill Nye the Science Guy and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg are Cornell alums doesn’t sell you already, then the academic programs, culture and student life will definitely be of interest to you. Cornell’s largest undergraduate programs are the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences – every undergraduate college at Cornell admits its own students, but everyone will get a degree from Cornell University. Interestingly enough, Cornell even has a prestigious School of Hotel Administration. Cornell may be considered an Ivy League university, but students enjoy a wide range of activities – it’s not just all books and classes. For example, Cornell has more than 1,000 student organizations, a diverse Greek life with more than 60 fraternity and sorority chapters, and many NCAA Division I varsity teams.
Best School Tradition: Dragon Day – freshman architecture students actually build a dragon and parade it through campus. Don’t believe us? Check out this video.
Median Property Rent: $1,019
Best Pizza and Drinks:
- Best Pizza Place: The Nines (they also have live music)
- Best Drinks: There are a variety of craft breweries around the Ithaca Commons, but also check out the Chanticleer
#1: Ames, IA – Iowa State University
Ames is Cyclone territory – and we don’t mean the dangerous kind. Whether it’s attending a home football game decked out in red and gold (where you will probably be since most of the town shuts down for it), enjoying the trails or hitting downtown for dinner or a night out, Ames is the true definition of a college town. It is also extremely affordable and is still a great family-friendly place to live even if you’re not a student.
Why Iowa State University:
Iowa State was the country’s first land-grant institution to make a higher education open to everyone and more accessible while having faculty and students research projects that will better the town and community as a whole – who wouldn’t want that? Iowa State has an undergraduate enrollment over 30,000 and is highly ranked for its College of Veterinary Medicine and College of Engineering. Furthermore, the Cyclones are in the NCAA Division I Big 12 Conference where they often make it to the playoffs! Another perk to going to ISU is, as a freshman, you don’t have to live on campus! There are 60 plus fraternities and sororities with most of them having their own houses you can live in or attend events at! Fun fact, ISU has more than 2,000 works of art making it one of the biggest art collections at a school in the whole U.S.!
Best School Tradition:Campaniling: To become a true Cyclone, you have to kiss someone at midnight under the campanile at the stroke of midnight! How romantic.
Median Property Rent: $785
Best Pizza and Drinks:
- Best Pizza Place: Great Plains Sauce and Dough Company
- Best Drinks: Welch Ave.Station – take a walk down Welch though and you will find many local favorites!
To be honest, there are so many great college towns in the United States and we wanted to mention two others that were very close to making it in our top five: La Crosse, WI, home to the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, and Denton, TX, home to the University of North Texas.
La Crosse, Wisconsin – located right along the Mississippi River, La Crosse has many beaches, parks and forests where locals can enjoy many outdoor activities such as swimming, fishing, boat rides and sports! Not to mention a great historic downtown scene with lots of restaurants and fun bars! The median property rent is $711 and La Crosse has been named one of the best and affordable places to live several times. UW- La Crosse has a smaller student body of around 10,000 students with a 98% career placement rate – sounds good to us! Plus, there are so many different ways to get involved in campus life and fun events every week free and open to students.
Denton, Texas – this town has a thriving music scene comparable to Nashville, fabulous festivals and events all year round, great beer found at the Midway Mart and a median property rent of $894. University of North Texas has over 30,000 students and is known as an excellent research institution that helps bring a young and cultural vibe to Denton. UNT was one of the first jazz studies degree programs and its College of Music holds over 1,000 performances a year. Many successful artists, such as Grammy winner Norah Jones, have attended UNT! You can choose from over 300 student organizations, attend the Mean Green sports events and choose from over 100 academic programs including aviation logistics.