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Denver ranks high on list of prime college towns

Photo courtesy of Nicole Elizabeth


Two Colorado towns that are resident award recipients of Best College Towns took a rankings-dive this last year—and Denver is on the rise.

Boulder and Fort Collins have been staples in the “Best of” lists for  multiple years. According to Westword, in 2014 Boulder finished with the top spot in two separate rankings. Fort Collins also ranked in the top 20 in both of those  surveys.

Westword’s reporting of Boulder and Fort Collins’ plunge comes from a list published by WalletHub, a Washington D.C. based financial analysis site. The site’s analysis split the quintessential index into three separate listings. The lists were split based on small towns with less than 125,000 people (Boulder), mid-sized towns with between 125,000 to 300,000 people (Fort Collins), and large cities with more than 300,000 people (Denver). Boulder, once having a stay on the most coveted top spot, has fallen to 33rd. Fort Collins, faring better, held at number nine. WalletHub ranks each town on a culmination of factors and gives the town a score before sorting them into town-size. Both Boulder and Fort Collins sat comfortably in the median with scores of 56.03 and 55.04 out of 100, respectively.

How is it that these towns, who commanded top spots, have began the decline into college town obscurity? For this, it’s crucial to look at WalletHub’s methodology. Their categories are split into Wallet Fitness: a ranking divulged of housing costs, cost of living, and cost of higher education; Social Environment: students, nightlife, and sports per capita; and Academic Opportunities: earning potential for graduates, and job growth rate.

In culmination, Boulder and Fort Collins were diversified and jumbled in its categories which ultimately led its spurn in the rankings.

“Boulder ranked 13th for the Social Environment category, with the highest number of cafes and breweries per capita,” Jill Gonzalez, an analysis for WalletHub, said to Westword.

The city ranked below average for the Wallet Fitness category due to its higher cost of living for young people, which ranked 356th for this specific metric.

Fort Collins fared better., boasting some of the greatest opportunities for post-graduates in the ranking. The only major downgrade was its earning potential for graduates.

Based on its score, Denver landed firmly flush with Fort Collins and Boulder. Why should Denver be considered a better college town? This is the first ranking to give Denver the same visibility as a college town as the big two. In looking at the livability of a college town, it goes beyond the party lifestyle that these major universities boast.

Economic viability is a key factor. “Set aside the notion that a college town has to have 20-somethings plodding around with loaded bookbags,” Scott Carlson of the higher education publication The Chronicle said. “Consider how many cities meet other criteria.”

Denver is a reputable melting pot of economic opportunities and livability. People from all walks of life come to Denver and attend universities like University of Denver, Community College of Denver, Metro State University, and CU Denver because this city is able to provide them the economic connection.

While in many senses Boulder and Fort Collins still out-score Denver as top college towns, finally seeing metrics that fairly balance the strengths of college towns gives Denver the spotlight it deserves. Whether intentional action will be made to increase its ranking is uncertain, but for right now, Denver still enjoys being one of the top cities and hopefully soon, among the top college cities in the US.

Denver occupies a unique space for college towns. In being a city with more opportunities for play, and separation from work and school, Denver gives its students the chance to just be a person. “One of the effects of living in Denver is its a lot easier to forget you’re in college sometimes,”  CU Denver student DaMarcus McGill said. “There’s so much going on around you that it helps distract from the stress of school life. Especially when you’re not staring at the library from your dorm room all the time.”

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