The Cheapest College Towns to Live in & why you Should Consider Moving to One

Having lived in two college towns (one as a student and one currently for employment), I can attest that they are great places to take up residence.

If I had to sum up in one word why that is, it would be: value.

A second would be: lifestyle.

College Town Value & Lifestyle

When you think about it – most college students are fairly poor compared to the general population. They just don’t have that much money outside of the spoiled ones who have their parents wire them money. At the same time, they like to eat (and drink) and be entertained. This leads to there usually being a lot of cheap food, restaurant, bar, and entertainment options available for the students and you.

You also have the benefit of college sports, performing arts, & other entertainment on or near campus. It’s hard to be bored around a college town.

Transportation around college towns is also easy to do on the cheap. Every college campus I’ve been on has had bike trails, large walkways, and a bus system to help you get around without the need for a vehicle.

cheapest college towns

Colleges Provide Stable Employment & Real-Estate Opportunity

Another huge benefit to taking up residence in a college town is the stability of their real estate markets. Large universities provide a stable employment base of thousands of workers. For example, I graduated from Michigan State University (go green!) – which employs 5,000 (well paid) academic staff and 6,000 administrative staff. Universities rarely cut staff – preferring instead to raise tuition to generate additional revenue. Those employees provide a very stable real estate market.

In addition, you have all of the businesses that thrive off of large student populations. And many college towns are incubators for new start-up companies. With universities that have a strong research focus, many of those start-ups are funded by the university. And if there’s a strong focus on medical, you’ll usually find a large medical center or hospital nearby. All add to stable employment, which leads to a stable real estate market and a thriving community.

If you’re interested in real estate beyond owning your own home, there are opportunities to generate significant rental income in college towns through the ever-present student population in need of a place to call home for the year.

Which College Towns are the Cheapest to Live in?

The number one factor contributing to cost of living in a college town is the cost of the housing. To that end, Coldwell Banker put together a report on all of the 120 universities that are in the College Football Bowl Series (which generally are the largest universities), called the College Home Listings Report. It will allow you to compare markets, see rank by state, and rank the entire list.

The top 10 cheapest college town housing markets to live in are (Market, University, Average Listing Price):

  1. Memphis, Tenn. (University of Memphis): $89,244
  2. Muncie, Ind. (Ball State University): $107,346
  3. Ypsilanti, Mich. (Eastern Michigan University): $107,458
  4. Toledo, Ohio (University of Toledo): $112,688
  5. Kalamazoo, Mich. (Western Michigan University): $116,455
  6. Buffalo, N.Y. (University of Buffalo): $123,212
  7. Las Vegas, Nev. (University of Nevada, Las Vegas): $124,955
  8. Fort Worth, Texas (Texas Christian University): $128,491
  9. Kent, Ohio (Kent State University): $130,218
  10. Lafayette, Ind. (Purdue University): $132,910

If you’re interested in moving to a college town, I don’t know that I’d start out with these 10 universities or locales, but the report should give you a good head start and allow you to compare universities in your state if you want to stay close to your present location.

On the flip side, here’s an infographic on the 10 most expensive college towns. No thanks, I’ll pass.

College Town Discussion:

  • Have you ever taken up residence in a college town? Would you recommend it? Why or why not?
  • What are your favorite things about living in a college town?
  • What is your favorite college town?

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