Ithaca ranked 13th best of 415 American college cities and towns in a recent analysis by the financial Web site Wallethub. The analysis shows that Ithaca is a great place for students, but they'll pay for it. The city ranked 12th of 202 small cities, ranking high in 'social environment' and 'Academic and economic opportunities, but scored 312th in 'wallet fitness'. Overall, Ithaca scored 61.57, a high score in the rankings. The best college town in America is Oxford, OH, with low scores in all three categories and an overall ranking of 71.11.
"Just as department stores serve as anchors within a mall, a college or university serves as an anchor institution for a city," says Associate Professor if Higher Education and Director of the Center for teaching Excellence at Southern Methodist University Michael S. Harris. "Higher education institutions serve as a focal point for increasing the education level of the local workforce, home for the arts and culture, and as a source of employment. Faculty, staff and students provide a strong consumer and support base for local businesses, parks and nonprofits."
That does seem to be the case in Ithaca. Just try navigating the mall on the day students arrive each Fall. According to Forbes Magazine Ithaca's top industries are education and technology. Forbes ranks Ithaca #45 in the cost of doing business, #55 in Job growth, and #3 in education among small cities, and says the cost of living in Ithaca is 4.9% below the national average, making it an attractive place to live.
Education is the second top hiring industry in Ithaca, with Cornell University hiring the most, followed by Ithaca College. In 2006 the top ten employers in Tompkins County (by number of employees) were Cornell University, Ithaca College, BorgWarner Automotive, Ithaca City School District, Cayuga Medical Center, Tompkins County, Wegmans, Emerson Power Transmission, Franziska Racker Center, and the City of Ithaca.
The Wallethub analysis weighed costs, including housing costs, the cost of higher education, fitness club costs, and the cost of the things that are most important to students: pizza, and burgers. It also weighed the social environment of each city, and gave the greatest weight to academic and economic opportunities. That included things like the quality of education, opportunities for graduates, the percentage of part time jobs, and the unemployment rate.
Ithaca scored 61.57 under the top 12: Oxford, OH (71.11), East Lansing, MI (66.21), West Lafayette, IN (65.25), Athens, OH (65.01), Amherst Center, MA (63.88), Clemson, SC (63.87), Ann Arbor, MI (63.58), Newark, DE (62.98), Charlottesville, VA (62.86), College Station, TX (62.83), Durham, NH (62.48), and Atlanta, GA 62.09. Brookline, MA scored the lowest at 26.6.