It’s no secret that we live in a college town that is consistently ranked with some of the top in the country – but how do things really stack up? Without the resources to give you that 40,000 page breakdown you crave, we’ve created a smaller criteria and made a list of a few public universities across Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and California. Fancy yourself an aficionado of unemployment rates, rents, and safety? How about something a bit more cultural? On the surface Corvallis seems to hover around the center of the pack, but there’s some room for dissent, isn’t there?
Oregon State University
• Population: 55,000
• Enrollment: 29,000
• Unemployment Rate (average 2016): 3.8%
• Median Rent: $1,785
• Safer than 18% of U.S. cities
Here’s the college town we’re all familiar with. As you may know, there is an abundance of football games, art fairs, farmer’s markets, and random traveling bands. Usually they collide on the same day, sucking up the not so abundant parking spots. Luckily though public transportation is free for the most part, and Corvallis is up there with the most bike-able places in the country. So if you’re smart, which most of you probably are because we have one of the highest rates of college degrees per capita, you’ll spare yourself the $500 campus parking pass, buy a bike, and save the planet in the process – which a lot of people here seem to like doing.
Washington State University
• Population: 31,000
• Enrollment: 28,000
• Unemployment Rate (average 2016): 4.5%
• Median Rent: $1,500
• Safer than 39% of U.S. cities
Pullman, Washington is nestled way out on the East side of the state. So far East you can drive to Idaho in about 10 minutes tops. Washington State University makes up most of the town, with enrollment reaching 28,000 students and a town population of just 31,000. Similar to Corvallis, one does not simply fly into town. The nearest major airport is an hour and a half away in Spokane. Bloomberg rates Pullman the best town in Washington to raise a kid, based on number of schools, crime reports, and affordability. Out of the towns on this list, it ranks the safest. Every year they throw the National Lentil Festival to bring attention to the Palouse farmland region, where 18% of the country’s lentils are grown.
Western Washington University
• Population: 82,000
• Enrollment: 15,000
• Unemployment Rate (average 2016): 6.3%
• Median Rent: $1,685
• Safer than 4% of U.S. cities
Bellingham, Washington rests two hours north of Seattle and about half an hour from the Canadian border. It’s home to Western Washington University, which enrolls 15,000 students, roughly a fifth of Bellingham’s 55,000 citizens. And they like to drink – they’ve got the most drive through coffee stands per capita in the country, and nine breweries in town, though it’s easy to stay busy in the outdoors of Mount Baker and the Puget Sound. Easily overshadowed by Seattle, the music scene is also something worth checking out. Their unemployment rate rivals that of Chico, California’s, coming in at over 6%.
Idaho State University
• Population: 54,000
• Enrollment: 15,000
• Unemployment Rate (average 2016): 3.5%
• Median Rent: $875
• Safer than 13% of U.S. cities
Way out in Southeast Idaho sits “Poky” and Idaho State University where the students make up over a third of the town’s population. Out of every place on this list, Pocatello takes the cake for the cheapest median rent of $875 and the lowest unemployment rate of 2016 at 3.5%. The four-hour drive from Yellowstone makes for a solid weekend trip, and the winter months make for plenty of cross country skiing in the area. They’ve also got a 19th century frontier town replica, complete with a saloon that doesn’t serve alcohol. You’d better bring your smile though, because just forty years ago it was illegal to frown in Pocatello. Now it’s just the U.S. Smile Capital. So smile.
California State University, Chico
• Population: 88,000
• Enrollment: 17,000
• Unemployment Rate (average 2016): 6.8%
• Median Rent: $1,615
• Safer than 9% of U.S. Cities
Chico, California is located in Northern California, three hours south of the Oregon border. The town more closely mirrors the layout of Corvallis, though Big Chico Creek winding its way through downtown can’t really measure up to vastness of the Willamette. A 20-minute drive from the University campus is Bidwell Park, the 13th largest municipal park in the country, where you can do just about anything from organized disc golf to paragliding, though you might not want to take your car because auto theft in this town is one of the highest in the country. The chances of someone stealing your car are one in 206. Their breweries can’t compete with most towns in the Northwest, but Chico is home to Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
University of Oregon
• Population: 159,000
• Enrollment: 24,000
• Unemployment Rate (average 2016): 5.1%
• Median Rent: $1,450
• Safer than 9% of U.S. cities
All right, we all know enough about Eugene, no need to run through the fun stuff. They have the largest population compared to their number of students from their main school. One thing you can pride yourself on is that the OSU and Oregon civil war game rivalry is 7th oldest in the nation. Out of all the students on this list, they get in the most trouble with alcohol. In 2014 there were almost 2,000 liquor violations handed out by campus security. You’re also pretty likely to see cops around, because 30% of all police reports are traffic stops, person stops, and patrol calls. We know Eugene is Nike town, but their school mascot is the only one from Disney – yes, that’s a real live Donald Duck.