September 10, 2010

Portland makes top college sites list

BY BETH QUIMBY

BY BETH QUIMBY

Portland Press Herald

Greater Portland has made it onto yet another list of best places to live.

This time, the region is rated among the nation's 20 best small metropolitan areas for college students.

The ranking was released Thursday by the American Institute for Economic Research in Great Barrington, Mass., a nonprofit educational organization that analyzed 222 metropolitan statistical areas for 12 factors, such as overall quality of life, academic environment, cost of living, and arts and leisure activities.

Portland ranked 20th on the list. Boulder, Colo., ranked first, followed by Ann Arbor Mich., and Bridgeport, Conn.

Among major metropolitan areas, San Francisco ranked first, New York was second and Washington took third. The top mid-size cities were San Jose, Calif., Austin, Texas, and Raleigh, N.C. The highest-ranked college towns were Ithaca, N.Y., State College, Pa., and Iowa City, Iowa.

The Portland metropolitan statistical area, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, has a population of 516,000 people in York, Cumberland and Sagadahoc counties.

The area ranked first among the top 20 small cities for the number of cultural and entertainment venues per 100,000 residents.

The analysis showed that there are 61.8 college students per 1,000 residents in the area. Nearly 32 percent of the residents age 25 to 34 have college degrees. And the area ranked in the middle for cost of living, based on the average monthly rent of $1,109 for a two-bedroom apartment.

Some college students in Portland said they weren't surprised by the ranking.

"Cool. I walked around at First Friday and got lost in the sheer volume of places to visit," said Meagan Gibson of Freeport, a freshman at the Maine College of Art who is living in Portland.

Gibson was referring to the First Friday Art Walk, a monthly citywide open house at Portland's art galleries.

Zane Sodeur, a junior at the art college, said Portland has it hands-down over her hometown of Providence, R.I., which made the list of the top 20 mid-sized college cities at No. 16.

"I feel safe here," said Sodeur. "Everything is local and prices are lower."

Portland's latest selection comes a month after Outside magazine ranked it the East Coast's best place to live for outdoor sporting and overall quality of life.

Last year, the city was first on Forbes.com's list of "America's Most Livable Cities" and was named "America's Foodiest Small Town" by Bon Appetit magazine.

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