College towns – near and far

For better or worse, no school defines us

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

Tacoma isn’t really a college town.

A college town is a town (or city) defined by, or at least clearly identified with a specific educational institution.

When it comes to the best manifestation of the academic "vibe" with plenty of brick and elaborate stonework, you can't beat the University of Puget Sound. Photo: Morf Morford

When it comes to the best manifestation of the academic “vibe” with plenty of brick and elaborate stonework, you can’t beat the University of Puget Sound. Photo: Morf Morford

Tacoma, of course, has colleges. Some were founded here and have since moved on – like Whitworth University (moved to Spokane in 1914) while others, like Pacific Lutheran University (established in 1890) and the University of Puget Sound (established in 1888) have stayed and have deep and productive roots here.

Photo courtesy Pacific Lutheran University

Photo courtesy Pacific Lutheran University

We also have Bates Technical College (since 1940) and Tacoma Community College (since 1965).

Our most recent educational partner is the University of Washington, Tacoma, founded in 1990.

Each one of these schools contributes to the essence and character of Tacoma.

Bates Technical College’s Advanced Technology Center on the Central/Mohler Campus in Tacoma. (PHOTO COURTESY BATES TECHNICAL COLLEGE)

Bates Technical College’s Advanced Technology Center on the Central/Mohler Campus in Tacoma. (PHOTO COURTESY BATES TECHNICAL COLLEGE)

No single school defines the community and the community doesn’t define the school.

Bellingham and Ellensburg are textbook examples of college towns. They were both initially established as hosts for their colleges and, for better or worse, their  destinies have been interwoven with the health and reputations of their colleges.

Their economies have diversified a bit, but for the most part, as the college goes, so goes the city.

The Gallery at Tacoma Community College. (PHOTO COURTESY TACOMA COMMUNITY COLLEGE)

The Gallery at Tacoma Community College. (PHOTO COURTESY TACOMA COMMUNITY COLLEGE)

The personal-finance website WalletHub recently released its report on 2020’s Best & Worst College Towns & Cities in America.

They analyzed 31 key indicators of academic, social and economic growth potential. The data set ranges from cost of living to quality of higher education to crime rate.

Here’s what they came up with;

Best Large College Cities

1. Austin, TX
2. Tampa, FL
3. Seattle, WA
4. San Diego, CA
5. Las Vegas, NV
6. Pittsburgh, PA
7. Raleigh, NC
8. Minneapolis, MN
9. Atlanta, GA
10. Denver, CO

Best Midsize College Cities

1. Orlando, FL
2. Scottsdale, AZ
3. Salt Lake City, UT
4. Reno, NV
5. Gainesville, FL
6. Cincinnati, OH
7. Henderson, NV
8. Madison, WI
9. Tempe, AZ
10. Durham, NC

Best Small College Cities

1. Ann Arbor, MI
2. Provo, UT
3. Rexburg, ID
4. Charleston, IL
5. Stevens Point, WI
6. West Lafayette, IN
7. Charlottesville, VA
8. Orem, UT
9. Cambridge, MA
10. Santa Barbara, CA

When it comes to cost of living, consider their Best vs. Worst here -

Johnson City, Tennessee, has the lowest cost of a two-bedroom apartment rental, $702 per month, which is 4.8 times lower than in San Francisco and Daly City, California, the cities with the highest at $3,339 per month.

Edinburg, Texas, has the lowest cost-of-living index for young people, 77.18, which is 2.9 times lower than in Stanford, California, the city with the highest at 221.91.

Savannah, Georgia, has the lowest cost of higher education, $17,255 per year, which is 4.3 times lower than in Evanston, Illinois, the city with the highest at $74,649 per year.

Stony Brook University, New York, is among the cities with the most enrolled students (per 1,000 residents), 947, which is 22.5 times more than in Cape Coral, Florida, the city with the fewest at 42.

To view the full report and any city’s rank, visit: https://wallethub.com/edu/best-worst-college-cities-and-towns-in-america/8974/.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, Tacoma is not really a college town. It stands as number 240 out of 415 college towns.

We all love UWT but it's only been in Tacoma for about thirty years.                                                                    Photo: Morf Morford

We all love UWT but it’s only been in Tacoma for about thirty years. Photo: Morf Morford

As a city, Tacoma is independent of its colleges – and  Tacoma’s colleges are independent of the city.

Many college towns feel deserted when the school year is over or when students are on a break.

Tacoma is always at work and always in motion and we accept those from any school.

In fact a large percentage of students from Tacoma attend school far away – and then come back. Many more acquire an education here and stay here – and many more come here from far away and stay.

It makes for a good mix – and good footing for the future of us all.