By: SDSU Marketing & Communications ranked Brookings, South Dakota, eighth in its “Best College Towns 2017” study.

The firm states the college experience is about more than simply hitting the books during the day and sleeping in a dorm at night. It’s also about expanding horizons, gaining new perspectives and, of course, making memories with friends on the weekends.

To find the best college towns, analyzed data from 170 communities with populations of fewer than 150,000 residents. At that size, cities are big enough to offer plenty of amenities but small enough that students don’t get lost in the crowd. It looked at factors that are important to college students right now—such as entertainment options and the number of young adults living in the community—as well as those things that may be important later, like the unemployment rate and median cost to rent.

Brookings was listed as “… a young, well-educated city that has plenty to offer, both in terms of employment and entertainment. A third of the city’s population is between 20-34 years of age, ranking it seventh for that metric. Brookings also ranks second for the percentage of those age 25 or older who have at least a bachelor’s degree.

“Home to South Dakota State University, Brookings has an ideal location for students who will soon be looking for employment. Its location along the I-29 corridor puts it in proximity to many different industries. The city also offers lakes, biking paths and parks for outdoor recreation. Each summer, the Brookings Summer Arts Festival attracts tens of thousands of visitors.

“Other notable aspects of Brookings include its unemployment rate—the third lowest among surveyed communities—and the short commute times for many workers in the city.”

The firm’s methodology ranked 170 U.S. cities that have populations under 150,000 and are home to at least one 4-year college or university, based on 2015 data from the U.S. Census and the National Center for Education Statistics. Colleges whose courses were offered exclusively online were excluded from the list. Each city was ranked on a 20-point scale on the following seven factors:

  • The population aged 18-34, American Community Survey, 2015
  • The population with a bachelor’s degree, American Community Survey, 2015
  • Median annual rent per median annual earnings, American Community Survey, 2015
  • County unemployment rate, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016
  • Percent of commuters whose average travel time is less than 30 minutes, American Community Survey, 2017
  • Walkability, based on data supplied by Redfin, 2015
  • The number of bars and restaurants per 10,000 residents, County Business Patterns, 2015 limited the results to two cities per state, taking the two highest-ranked cities and skipping any additional ones in to create its final list of the top 25.


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