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Pittsburgh is #5 College Town

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Academics are a key factor, but others like quality of life and professional opportunities are also taken into consideration in the American Institute for Economic Research's (AIER) College Destinations Index.  Pittsburgh ranks as the 5th best mid-size college town out of 20 in the nation.

Steven Cunningham, Director of Research and Education for AIER said Pittsburgh is a “good solid area” for college students.

“There’s a growing number of students, there’s a growing student concentration in the area which provides a variety of events and cultural exchanges between schools and students and student activities,” Cunningham said. “It’s a pretty nice environment.”

Cunningham says this is the second year for the study, and this time showed schools were hit hard by the recession, which in turn adversely impacted the opportunities for part-time employment and internships for college students.

“Businesses that were associated with arts and entertainment and other kinds of things, a lot of them [have] slowed, they’ve gone out of business, entrepreneurial activity has slowed, and certainly those factors affected Pittsburgh.”

An interesting component of the ranking system is called “brain gain” or “brain drain.”  It’s the year-over-year ratio of population with college degrees living in the area.

“This implies a certain kind of employment, certain kind of cultural experience,” Cunningham said.  “It provides a richer environment for college students.”

Pittsburgh moved up one spot in the ranks compared to last year.  Mid-size cities ranking better than Pittsburgh were San Jose, Austin, Oklahoma City and Buffalo.