CHAPEL HILL & RALEIGH – Two Triangle municipalities appear near the top of a ranking of America’s best college cities and towns by WalletHub, with Chapel Hill ranking 13th overall and Raleigh ranking 14th overall.
According to the analysis of more than 400 cities in the United States, Raleigh is the third best large city for college students, and Chapel Hill is the 8th best small city or town.
“The city or town where you go to college is an important part of the postsecondary experience,” said Will Geiger, cofounder and CEO of Chapel Hill startup Scholarships360, which WRAL TechWire profiled earlier this year. “As students look at rankings of “best college towns” there are also some useful takeaways that impact your college ROI.”
Geiger told WRAL TechWire in an interview that there are some factors that may be more important than others, including the quality of the educational institution and its departments and programs in which the university excels. But off-campus factors are important, too, said Geiger.
“For instance, if you are a student who may live off campus, you’ll want to pay attention to the housing costs and availability in the town or city you will be living in,” said Geiger.
Factors that impact Chapel Hill’s ranking includes finishing third overall in job growth within the municipality, as the town finished third in that category according to the analysis. Chapel Hill also finished 36th overall in the availability of part-time jobs, and 12th overall in the quality of the education received at institutions of higher education. Chapel Hill ranked second overall for the price and availability of pizza and hamburgers, according to the analysis.
Raleigh ranked 31st in the quality of education at institutions of higher education, 50th for the attractions and amenities in the city, 20th for the availability of shopping, and 25th for food trucks.
Neither location landed in the top 100 most affordable places to live as a college student, the analysis found, as Chapel Hill ranked 199th and Raleigh ranked 210th in this category.
Overall, Chapel Hill earned a score of 58.03 and Raleigh scored 57.85.
Austin, Texas, earned the top overall ranking, and the top spot in the list of large cities, with a score of 63.6. Austin ranked 14th for educational quality, 15th for its attractions and amenities, first for shopping, 24th for job growth rate, and 14th for the region’s sports clubs.
But Austin is a much more competitive housing market than any Triangle city, the analysis found, ranking 278th with an average monthly housing cost of $1,451. Chapel Hill’s housing cost was found to be $1,999 per month, and Raleigh’s was found to be $1,218.
The University of Texas at Austin ranked 45th in WalletHub’s companion study that ranked individual colleges and universities, and the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill ranked 40th. North Carolina State University ranked 73rd.
Though Duke University ranked 8th overall in WalletHub’s list of top universities and colleges, Durham ranked 69th in the publication’s college town rankings. Durham ranked 206th for housing costs, with an average monthly cost of $1,216.
Charlotte ranked as the 63rd best college and university city, with Davidson College ranking 77th, Queens College ranking 392nd, and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte ranking 663rd.
Boone, North Carolina, ranked as the third lowest cost of higher education of all municipalities tracked by WalletHub, and Appalachian State University ranked 382nd on the college rankings list.
Other Triangle-area schools that appeared ranked by WalletHub in the top 500 schools of those included in the data set were Elon University ranked 362nd, Barton College ranked 434th, and Meredith College ranked 450th.
The other North Carolina institutions that appeared ranked in the list of the top 500 colleges and universities were Western Carolina University, ranked 261st, University of North Carolina Wilmington, ranked 299th, Catawba College, ranked 361st, and University of North Carolina at Asheville, ranked 491st.
“There are a wide range of postsecondary institutions and locations where you can be successful,” said Geiger. “Rankings can provide useful frameworks to help you think through your various options, but should provide guidance and be one of many different factors you consider.”
Geiger recommended that those considering their educational options factor net costs of college, personal goals and interests, measures of academic quality, and potential career paths and average earnings upon graduation metrics.