College days have long been associated with ramen diets and budget-minded lifestyles. However, the sketchy, overcrowded housing often found around colleges doesn’t fully represent the communities surrounding many universities. Nonstudents and students alike value college towns and cities for their vibrant arts communities and other cultural amenities, including indie film houses, live theater, concerts, and prominent guest lecturers, or even to live as super-fans of the local winning sports teams. These communities also tend to have traditional town centers dotted with historic landmarks, unlike the typical suburban sprawl.
Researchers at LendingTree.com looked at the top college towns in the U.S. that had at least one large university or college and a population of less than 500,000. This information was then cross-referenced with data from the American Institute for Economic Research, based on the College Destination Index, which analyzes more than 222 metropolitan statistical areas with student populations of 15,000 or more.
Click the slides ahead to see the 10 most expensive college towns, ranked from the least to the most expensive, including two towns from the same state university system.
By Colleen KanePosted 4 October, 2011
Colleges and Universities: University of Oregon
Average home price: $246,008
Statewide average home price: $251,255
Oregon’s second largest city, located where the McKenzie and Willamette rivers meet, has the motto, “A Great City for the Arts and Outdoors.” As with many college towns, it is a bastion of progressive activity. It’s also known for a history of community development and its Grower’s Market is the only food cooperative in the U.S. with no paid employees.
Colleges and Universities: Pennsylvania State University
Average home price: $269,231
Statewide average home price: $218,177
Not surprisingly, the western Pennsylvania town of State College grew to accommodate what was in 1855 called the Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania--now known as Penn State. The location is one of two college towns on this list that are unofficially known as Happy Valley.
Colleges and Universities: University of Alabama
Average home price: $272,719
Statewide average home price: $188,643
Since opening in 1831, the University of Alabama has been an integral part of this west-central Alabama city on the Black Warrior River. Tuscaloosa has more recently been known as the “City of Champions,” following the Alabama Crimson Tide BCS National Championship win of 2010.
Colleges and Universities: University of Michigan, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, University of Phoenix, and Cleary University
Average home price: $274,124
Statewide average home price: $143,052
The University of Michigan originally was located in Detroit, but moved to Ann Arbor in 1837, when the city was just 13 years old. While higher education employs the majority of the town’s workers, high technology is another booming industry in Ann Arbor. The city also had notable student, civil rights, and anti-war movements in the 1960s and ‘70s.
Colleges and Universities: Appalachian State University
Average home price: $275,229
Statewide average home price: $204,207
The small town of Boone is located in Appalachian Mountains and has the nickname “The Heart of the High Country.” The town is named after pioneer Daniel Boone and Appalachian State University, a constituent part of the University of North Carolina, is its biggest employer.
Colleges and Universities: Amherst College, Hampshire College, and University of Massachusetts Amherst
Average home price: $336,745
Statewide average home price: $360,146
Located in the Connecticut Valley, Amherst is one of the country’s oldest college towns (it celebrated its 250 anniversary in 2009). The area is also called the Happy Valley, because of the large (and largely liberal) population of students. Besides the three universities in Amherst, there are two other colleges in the region, resulting in a broad and thriving arts and music community.
Colleges and Universities: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Average home price: $444,556
Statewide average home price: $204,207
Now one third of the Research Triangle of North Carolina (the other two cities being Raleigh and Durham), Chapel Hill was founded around the university in 1819. The town is known for a music tradition that led to a thriving ‘90s indie rock scene and gave rise to the label Merge Records. School team spirit is also high throughout the town, and each fire station in Chapel Hill has an engine in Carolina blue adorned with UNC decals.
Colleges and Universities: University of Colorado, Naropa University
Average home price: $537,282
Statewide average home price: $267,378
This mountain location at the junction of the Rockies and the Great Plains originally was the home of Southern Arapho and other Native American peoples. Later, prospectors settled in the area in the 1850s. Colorado’s largest university opened there in 1877 and is now the biggest employer in town.
Colleges and Universities: University of California, Berkeley, and the Graduate Theological Union
Average home price: $655,873
Statewide average home price: $411,023
The famous bastion of liberalism is located on the eastern shore of the San Francisco Bay. The College of California (later the University of California) opened in Berkeley in 1866, about a century after the first European-descended settlers came to the region. The town grew both around the university and around the wharf industries of the Ocean View area. Today, UC Berkeley is by far the dominant employer in the city.
Colleges and Universities: Princeton University, Westminster Choir College, Princeton Theological Seminary
Average home price: $687,454
Statewide average home price: $352,472
Princeton’s history dates back to colonial times (before the colonists arrived, Lenni Lenape Native Americans occupied the land). Princeton University has been in town since 1756, making it one of the oldest college towns in the country. It’s also approximately equidistant to New York City and Philadelphia, making it a highly desirable, and thus, pricey location to live.