COLUMBIA — Columbia ranks No. 10 as the best college town in the U.S., according to the 2012 College Destinations Index released Monday by the American Institute for Economic Research.
The index ranks the top 75 college destinations grouped by total residential populations. Among "college towns," which the index defines as college destinations with fewer than 250,000 residents, Columbia was 10th in a list of 20.
Cities were chosen based on 12 specific areas including academic environment, quality of life and professional opportunities.
Within academic environment, subcategories included student concentration in the city's population, the percentage of student body who are not U.S. residents and the percentage of the population 25 to 34 years old that has at least a bachelor's degree.
Quality of life assessments were based on the cost to rent a two-bedroom apartment, the number of arts and leisure venues and the percentage of the workforce with jobs in fields deemed “creative."
Under professional opportunities, the index measured income per capita, entrepreneurial activity, the unemployment rate and the year-over-year ratio of population with bachelor of arts degrees living in the area.
The college town rankings listed two other Southeastern Conference schools: Auburn, Ala., home of Auburn University (19th); and College Station Texas, home of Texas A&M (11th).
Big 12 college towns that made the list included Ames, Iowa, home of Iowa State (second); Lawrence, Kan., home of Kansas University (eighth); and Manhattan, Kan., home of Kansas State University (14th).
Among major metro areas, St. Louis ranked as the 13th best college destination. Lubbock, Texas, home of Texas Tech University, ranked 11th among small metros.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.