Archive for September, 2010

American Institute for Economic Research – Best College Towns

Sep. 14th 2010 19:00

Finally, a list based on objective criteria.

We have routinely panned the many publications that formulate arbitrary rating structures then use those ratings to sell magazines. But there are independent organizations that seek to provide information that is meaningful to students and families and in some cases provide the info free to the public.

Such is the case with the non-profit American Institute for Economic Research and their 2010-2011 College Destination Index. AIER focuses on ranking the “Best College Towns” breaking up those towns (probably should be called cities) into four population categories: populations under 250,000, 250,000 to 1 million, 1 million to 2.5 million, and over 2.5 million.

The goal of the index is to provide students and their families a way to compare college locales as opposed to examining any one specific school. To determine the ranking, the American Institute looks at three distinct areas: academic environment (student diversity, research capacity, and degree attainment), quality of life (arts and leisure, city accessibility, creative class and cost of living) and professional opportunity (earning potential, entrepreneurial activity, unemployment rate and brain gain or drain).

2010_2011_Colleg_4c7ea40f0cc05What makes the publication meaningful is that it is based upon truly objective data. AIER uses information collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the National Science Foundation. It is not based on any criteria that schools self-report nor is it based on anecdotal evidence like surveys.

In arriving at their top college towns, AIER identified 222 metropolitan areas with at least 15,000 students. Below we list their findings for the top 70 in the four distinct population categories.

Those interested in the findings will find the index free at the AIER website. The details are well worth an examination. For example, in the largest metro areas, San Francisco earns the top spot overall. But a more in depth look will reveal it also offers the highest cost of living numbers for the larger cities. If you want a big city atmosphere but are concerned with cost of living, then Minneapolis/St Paul, Denver, Phoenix or Atlanta are the place to be. If you want diversity, then Phoenix is your place but it is the lowest in arts and leisure, etc.

And yet another interesting element is whether or not a student will head off to college thinking he or she will return home upon completion of their program or want to use that locale as a career jumping off point. The detailed info provides current unemployment numbers as well as the earning potential should a student choose to remain in the area.

While the summary is available online for free, the institute is also publishing a companion guide, 2010-2011 College Destinations ($10) which provides info on all 222 locales as well as in depth details on 40 cities from the index, 10 from each of the four population categories.

Rank Top Major Metros

Pop: 2.5 million plus

Top Midsize Metros

Pop: 1 – 2.5 million

1 San Francisco, CA San Jose, CA
2 New York, NY Austin, TX
3 Washington, DC Raleigh, NC
4 Boston, MA Hartford, CT
5 Seattle, WA Portland, OR
6 Baltimore, MD Pittsburgh, PA
7 Los Angeles, CA Salt Lake City
8 San Diego, CA Rochester. N.Y.
9 Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN Buffalo, NY
10 Philadelphia, PA Nashville, TN
11 Chicago, IL Sacramento, CA
12 Denver, CO Richmond, VA
13 Miami, FL Columbus, OH
14 Phoenix, AR Tucson, AR
15 Atlanta, GA Charlotte, NC

Rank Top Small Cities

Pop: 250,000 – 1 million

Top College Towns

Pop: under 250,000

1 Boulder, CO Ithaca, NY
2 Ann Arbor, MI State College, PA
3 Bridgeport, CT Iowa City, IA
4 Trenton Ewing, NJ Ames, IA
5 Gainesville FL Champaign-Urbana, IL.
6 Madison, Wis. Charlottesville, VA
7 Durham, NC Corvallis, OR
8 Santa Cruz, CA Bloomington, IN
9 Honolulu Lawrence, KS
10 Fort Collins, CO Logan, UT
11 Santa Barbara, CA Lafayette, IN
12 New Haven, CT College Station, TX
13 Lincoln, NE Columbia, MO
14 Albany, NY Flagstaff, AZ
15 San Luis Obispo, CA Bloomington, IL
16 Naples, FL Burlington, VT
17 Manchester, NH Blacksburg, VA
18 Oxnard, CA Morgantown, WV
19 Santa Rosa, CA Athens, GA
20 Portland, ME Fargo, ND
Posted by Thomas | in Applying to College | No Comments »

Borrowing Money for College – Why You Need to Think Twice Before Signing on the Bottom Line

Sep. 6th 2010 18:00

We recently reported on an extremely negative piece of news for college students: today, the debt load from student loans has actually surpassed that of credit card.

For too long we have been a nation of borrowers. That culture has created a disastrous situation for many Americans who borrowed too much for their homes, placed too much debt on their credit cards, and as we now know, borrowed too much money to attend college.

The folks at have published a scathing rebuke of the current student loan system. First they reiterate our point from the prior post – once upon a time, Americans were swimming in credit card debt. Today, they are drowning in student loan debt.

Their graphic represents a complete indictment of the current student loan process. By the time you are done reading you will begin to think that the entire student loan culture is designed to bilk you.

Of course, to take advantage of you, loan agencies need you to be complicit in the process. Yes, they make the entire process very enticing. But you the student (and your family) have to agree to these loans and their respective terms by placing your signature on the loan documents.

New Picture (2)Before you do sign, be sure to pay close attention to what has to say. One of the most critical points centers upon the legal changes that have taken place in recent years.

The result is that as of 2005, college loan debt is nearly impossible to discharge. Student loans are exempt from a number of fair practice laws: statue of limitations on collections, the Truth in Lending Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, adherence to state treasury laws and the right to refinance.

Furthermore, the harshest collection techniques are often used to collect student loan debt. They include wage garnishment (which can be done without a court order), the suspension of state professional licenses, garnishment of social security-disability incomes, and withholding your tax refunds.

All of this and a great deal more is available in the graphic. And the final piece that every student should be aware of is that 25% of all government student loans go into default. Furthermore, 30% of those students borrowing to attend community colleges and 40% of those borrowing for two year colleges go into loan default.

These figures match or exceed the numbers (25% in default) from the recent subprime home loan debacle that has crippled our economy. But in the case of home loans, a person can essentially walk away from the loan. Yes, they lose their home. And yes, their credit rating plummets.

But ultimately, they can simply turn the house over to the bank and move on with their lives. No future wage garnishments, no withholding a federal tax return, and no suspension of a state license.

On the other hand, as we noted that is not true for student loans. You cannot walk away from them – you own them for life.

It is important for students to realize that the credit card debt crisis (and the subprime loan fiasco) has spurred a whole new culture among a large segment of our population. Actually it may be new to us but in reality it is the return to the pay-as-you-go philosophy that earmarked our grandparent’s generation.

As you seek sources of funding to help pay for college think twice about borrowing. A good many people have already decided that a return to a pay-as-you-go philosophy is a good step for credit cards.

But if it is a good step for credit cards, then it is likely a must step for college. Because, as the College graphic points out, those college loans will follow you everywhere.

With permission, we present the graphic here.

Student Loans Scheme.

Infographic by College

Posted by Thomas | in Finance, Student Loans | 1 Comment »