No. 9 in '09: Columbia named the ninth-best college town

Saturday, September 12, 2009 | 4:49 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Columbia is the ninth-best college town in America, according to an index that ranks college locations by, among other nontraditional criteria, the number of coffee shops in the area.

The American Institute of Economic Research has released its College Destinations Index, a list of the 75 best college locations in the country. The institute does not arrive at these rankings by interviewing students or visiting classes, but by studying government documents that detail the number of new businesses in the area, for example. In addition to observing the number of coffee shops, the institute looks at cultural outlets and how much the city spends on research and development.

Among "college towns," or cities of fewer than 250,000 people, Columbia was ninth on the list. No other city in Missouri was included in any of the rankings. Ithaca, N.Y., home to Cornell University and Ithaca College, was No. 1. Nearby Lawrence, Kan., was 14.

Lorah Steiner, the executive director of the Columbia Convention and Visitor Bureau, reacted positively to the news. 

"We love that because it brings a lot of positive attention to the community," she said.

However, Steiner said that such lists need to be taken "in perspective because the ranking criteria changes every year."

The top-ranked location among "major metros," or cities of more than 2.5 million, was New York City. Among "mid-sized metros" – cities with populations between 1 and 2.5 million – San Jose, Calif. was No. 1. "Small cities" were those with 250,000 to 1 million people, and of those, Boulder, Colo., was the winner.

The institute studies sources such as the U.S. Census in order to rank the cities by 12 criteria, including student diversity, cost of living, earning potential and unemployment rate.




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