For a great place to live, should you go back to school? American college towns are uniquely appealing places to live, and we don’t just mean for the kids. What can you expect from a true university town? Vibrant nightlife. Tons of cultural events. A young, fun, and (usually) progressive vibe. And, thanks to the colleges themselves, plenty of job opportunities. What’s not to love?
Because of all this, buying in a college town could make sense for you as an adult. (We’ve already told you why buying a condo for your college kid could be a smart move.) But where? After all, the college town most people know best is the one where, well, they went to college. So how to rank the rest? By taking a big collegiate dive into the exclusive realtor.com® data, of course!
Our data team ranked more than 300 college towns by median home price to come up with the top 10 most expensive and 10 least expensive. (Our “college town” criteria: areas where student residents number more than 5,000 and make up more than 20% of the town’s total population.)
Just click on the icons below to see how your school area ranks!
10 most expensive U.S. college towns
University of California Berkeley Campus aerial with the city of Berkeley (in the San Francisco Bay Area) in the background.
1. Berkeley, CA
Just across the bay from San Francisco, Berkeley is home to the first and most renowned campus of the University of California system—as well as Berkeley City College and a variety of theological institutions. Berkeley itself ranks as the most liberal city in California today. Like the rest of the Bay Area, Berkeley’s housing market has soared due to the tech boom. Its current median home price is $849,000.
2. Santa Cruz, CA
Santa Cruz is a classic California beach town, and home to another excellent University of California school. UC-Santa Cruz, just 3 miles from the (beautiful) beach, is also the city’s biggest employer, providing nearly 8,000 jobs. Santa Cruz continues to find itself among the most expensive U.S. real estate markets with a median of nearly $814,000.
3. Boulder, CO
With a gorgeous mountain setting and an outdoorsy lifestyle, Boulder consistently ranks on lists of the best U.S. cities to live. CU-Boulder, the flagship of the University of Colorado system, and local companies IBM Corp. and Ball Corp. provide steady jobs to the locals. One of the hottest housing markets in the country due to limited inventory, Boulder has buyers lining up for homes at a median of $789,000.
4. San Luis Obispo, CA
A charming town on California’s Central Coast and a hub of its wine country, San Luis Obispo is also home to California Polytechnic State University. Cal Poly owns almost 10,000 acres of land and, along with its supporting facilities, provides more than 4,300 jobs. However, the limited supply of homes has pushed up the median price to $690,000.
5. Cambridge, MA
A twin city to Boston, Cambridge boasts two of the best colleges on the planet: Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Universities provide nearly 20,000 jobs to the city, and the well-diversified economy led by high-tech research institutions offers even more opportunities—unemployment in Cambridge is only 3.5%. The upscale market has a median home price of more than $685,000.
6. Claremont, CA
Claremont, sometimes called “the City of Trees and PhDs,” is home to a loose network of five undergraduate liberal arts colleges, two graduate institutions, and Claremont University Consortium. With a median household income of $87,324, more than 40% higher than the state average, the city sees no shortage of well-paid professionals looking to settle down, driving the median home price to $675,000.
7. Princeton, NJ
Princeton’s namesake university currently sits atop the Best U.S. Universities list and joins with established companies and institutions in the area to create steady, high-salaried jobs. The city’s median household income is $109,865, and the median home price is $650,000.
The UC Davis logo with a soccer game and bike riders in the background. University of California at Davis. Davis, California. Taken February 2, 2015.
8. Davis, CA
With outstanding programs in agricultural and biological sciences, University of California–Davis also has deep connections with the agribusinesses of nearby Napa Valley, creating a strong interconnected economy. As the university attracts more and more students, the median home price in Davis has shot up to $579,000.
9. Chapel Hill, NC
This picturesque town is home to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, celebrated as the “public Ivy.” The university and its health care system contribute to a booming economy in Chapel Hill. In addition, UNC and nearby Duke University and North Carolina State University form the “Research Triangle,” home to many high-tech companies and enterprises. With a median home price of $450,000, Chapel Hill has become one of the state’s most expensive markets.
Flagstaff main square with pueblo house in Arizona
10. Flagstaff, AZ
Flagstaff, the gateway to the Grand Canyon, is also home to Northern Arizona University. NAU has something for everyone: accredited undergraduate research, an art museum, and Division I athletics. Flagstaff’s convenient and picturesque location has driven the median housing price to $431,750, almost double the state median.
10 least expensive U.S. college towns
While home shoppers on the coasts might be reeling from sticker shock, those in the heartland may feel like they are getting a bargain.
1. Muncie, IN
Here’s a fun fact about Muncie: It’s the setting of the classic comic strip “Garfield.” (Who knew?) The entrepreneurship program at Muncie’s Ball State University has been recognized as among the nation’s finest by U.S. News & World Report. BSU also powers the regional economy, bringing 3,000 jobs to local residents. The median home price is $77,900.
2. Charleston, IL
Charleston’s Eastern Illinois University is a state school with seven departments offering 49 undergraduate and 29 graduate degree programs. EIU is also a Division I athletics school that is part of the Ohio Valley Conference. With a friendly vibe, easy access to parks, and a bustling downtown, Charleston provides the best of small-town living with a median home price of just $81,500.
3. Macomb, IL
Most of life in Macomb, which has fewer than 20,000 residents, centers around Western Illinois University. Founded in 1899, WIU is ranked as the 39th best university in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report. The price tag on a median Macomb home is $100,900.
4. Kirksville, MO
The rural town of Kirksville, about 200 miles northwest of St. Louis, is where you’ll find Truman State University, a public liberal arts and sciences institution that is ranked the ninth best Midwestern university by U.S. News & World Report. Kirksville is surrounded by a 3,000-acre state park and some of the nation’s top hunting grounds. The median home price is $109,900.
5. Big Rapids, MI
Big Rapids is a midsize town with the recreational and cultural activities of a much larger community, thanks to Ferris State University. FSU offers two- and four-year degrees from its eight academic colleges, and graduate degrees from six colleges. The university drives economic development and job opportunities in the town, where the median home price is $114,000.
6. Kalamazoo, MI
Kalamazoo boasts four higher learning institutions, with the most notable being Western Michigan University. Apart from the education sector, Kalamazoo’s economy includes major players in the pharmaceutical and medical sciences, and craft breweries. The city’s median home price stands at $117,900.
7. Cortland, NY
The State University of New York at Cortland offers the largest nationally accredited program on the East Coast. SUNY-Cortland is also the leading employer, followed by Cortland Regional Medical Center and Pall Trinity Micro Corp. A median-price home here is $120,950.
8. Carbondale, IL
Southern Illinois University in Carbondale started out as a state teacher-training school. Today, it is recognized as a national research university with more than 200 academic degree programs as well as professional programs in architecture, business, law, and medicine. The local economy depends on SIU and the university health system, powering a housing market with a median price of $128,500.
9. Carrollton, GA
Carrollton, a small city with just 25,000 residents, sits in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The University of West Georgia, however, ensures that residents can count on gallery shows, sports events, performances, and seminars. Major local employers include UWG, Tanner Health System, and Southwire Wire & Cable. The median home price is just $133,200.
Foellinger Auditorium from the Quad on the campus of the University of Illinois in Urbana, Illinois on January 9, 2013. This photograph consists of five exposures blended together using HDR Efex Pro2 software to create a high dynamic range (HDR) image.
10. Urbana-Champaign, IL
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the flagship of the state’s public university system, comprises 16 colleges that offer more than 150 programs of study. UIUC draws 22% of its students from foreign countries, giving the area a cosmopolitan feel despite its location amid corn and soybean fields. The twin cities’ residential area, known as Champaign-Urbana, has a median home price that’s a little below $140,000.
Posted by Yuqing Pan on realtor.com