Having been a college student in Boston, I can tell you that this city is one of the best college towns in the nation.
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As a current resident, I have rediscovered this vibrant community which is made up of many different colleges. In my eyes, Boston is not just one of the best college towns, it is the college town.
Enter Merrill Cook and his article “The 50 Best College Towns In America.” It does not include Boston, though it does include Cambridge — at number 24, just barely in the top half.
Some “better” college towns than Boston or Cambridge include Hartford, Connecticut and Fargo, North Dakota. With all due respect to the residents of the Peace Garden State, I find it hard to believe that their largest city beats anything Boston offers. As for Hartford, I have family nearby and know it well. It’s not even in the same league as Boston.
Is this a fair evaluation of our city? The criteria looked like this:
"LivabilityStudent-to-resident ratioCultural OfferingsSchool PresenceLarge Employers"
Student-to-resident ratio will get you a lot of smaller towns that are run by the colleges, and many of them are legitimately nice college towns, but just because Boston’s ratio isn’t “high” enough to make this list, for perspective, there are still a lot of college kids in Boston. We’re talking tens of thousands, if not into six digits. That will happen when there are over thirty universities within the city limits. This feeds into the “school presence” criterion: a school with a high student ratio will naturally have more presence, so that point basically counts for double.
Boston is a livable world-class city with colonial charm, at least in most areas. If “livability” includes “how high the rent is,” then yes, it is going to lose to places like Fargo, but when it comes to the third point, cultural offerings, Boston comes out way, way ahead.
From the centuries-old history of this city, dating back to the roots of modern America, to its immersion in theater, art, and academia, as well as considering the broad range of international cultures living here, I would put Boston’s “cultural offerings” up against almost any other city in America.
Finally, on “large employers,” it’s Boston, a major city. This locale has so many large employers that the city puts out a report on it. For the record, Boston College is the 11th-largest employer in the city, but the document also includes entries from healthcare and finance amongst its biggest companies. Notably, there are a number of universities on it, including Boston College, which should say something about the impact of academia on this city.
These are their criteria for the best college towns; even with them, it is still a subjective rating, and one with which many of us will happen to disagree.