The 25 smartest college towns in the USA

The following is a list compiled by The Daily Beast of the 25 smartest college towns in the USA. The list identifies the community in its order of ranking in 2011 and then also provides its previous ranking from 2009 in parenthesis.

      2011 Results (2009)

  1. Cambridge, MA (4)
  2. Chapel Hill, NC (1)
  3. Berkeley , CA (5)
  4. Ann Arbor, MI  (2)
  5. Ithaca, NY (11)
  6. East Lansing, MI (7)
  7. Boulder, CO (3)
  8. Amherst, MA (10)
  9. State College, PA (8)
  10. College Park, MD (19)
  11. Champaign-Urbana, IL (21)
  12. Davis, CA (14)
  13. Madison, WI (6)
  14. Charlottesville,, VA (13)
  15. Ames, IA (9)
  16. Columbia, MO (12)
  17. Auburn, AL (18)
  18. Kent, OH (24)
  19. Gainesville, FL (17)
  20. Norman, OK (22)
  21. College Station, TX (16)
  22. Corvallis, OR (15)
  23. Athens, GA (25)
  24. Lawrence, KS (20)
  25. South Bend, IN (23)

Here is the methodology used for the rankings:

Using the same 25 well-known college towns as we previously identified, we again ranked them, using four criteria—with one change (weighting in parenthesis).

Bachelor’s degrees per capita for the over-25 population (30 percent), data from the US Census.

Graduate degrees per capita for the over-25 population (30 percent), data from the US Census.

Median math and reading SAT scores for the student population of town’s major college or colleges (30 percent), data from the National Center on Education Statistics.

And, taking a page from our Smartest Cities methodology, we looked at libraries per capita (10 percent), with data from Citysearch.

Schools were ranked within each category based on their performance against the average for each category. And just like in Econ 101, we handed out grades on a tough curve. The top 20 percent got As, the next 40 percent got Bs, the following 20 percent got Cs, and then the bottom fifth got Ds, with the exception of the very last town, which got an F.

While I am personally very pleased to see both East Lansing and Ann Arbor highly rated, I was rather surprised the authors did not consider calculating the score for potential strong contenders such as West Lafayette, IN (Purdue); Clemson, SC (Clemson); Blacksburg, VA (Virginia Tech); Austin, TX (Texas); Oxford, OH (Miami of Ohio); Evanston (Northwestern); or Palo Alto, CA (Stanford) for the list. Maybe when they update the results in 2013, the authors will consider expanding/refining the list.

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