Thursday, December 17, 2015

Best College Town?

Everyone loves a list, and this one caught my eye today -- yet another list about the best colleges and, in this case, the best "college town."

At first glance the list seems routine. Here are the first five best college towns according to something called WalletHub:
  1. Ann Arbor, MI
  2. College Station, TX
  3. Iowa City, IA
  4. Provo, UT
  5. Gainesville, FL
Now we can all quibble with this top five. College Station, TX? Really? And Provo? What if you need coffee for studying?

But here's the kicker, at least for me. Atlanta, Georgia, is #7.

Atlanta is a lot of things, but one of them is not a college town. Just above Atlanta is Pittsburgh, a good enough city but not a college town, despite having some damn good colleges there.

To be a college town, the university must dominate the town. It must be the reason for the town's existence, or at least it's main business. When you think company town and that company is a college, then you have a college town.

Atlanta? Not even close.

Athens, by the way, the college town, finishes #16 (#9 among "small" towns). It's a top 10 college town, maybe top 5. Maybe #1 (though Madison and Gainesville and Chapel Hill and a few places all have strong arguments in their favor).

So how the hell does something like WalletHub come up with its list? Good question. It's time, children, to speak of methodology. Here's its methodology page, if you're so inclined and dweebish enough to dip into their, um, method. They use 23 metrics. Some of them are interesting, such as cost of pizza and burgers, but a lot of them have little validity to measuring what they think they're measuring, the "best college town." They have metrics for "best" but crime rate doesn't really apply to a college town.

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