D.C. Ranked as 4th-Best Metropolitan Area for Attending College in New Report

By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A new report identifies Washington as the nation's fourth-best metropolitan area for attending college, behind New York, San Francisco and Boston.

The 2009-10 College Destinations Index, released Tuesday by the American Institute for Economic Research, identifies the 75 best places in America for college study, ranked according to academic environment, quality of life and professional opportunities.

The report groups cities by size. The D.C. region, ranked among metropolitan areas with at least 2.5 million residents, tops such locales as Seattle (fifth) and Chicago (12th). Baltimore, home to Johns Hopkins University, ranks seventh. San Jose ranks first among mid-size metropolitan areas of 1 million to 2.5 million. Boulder, Colo., home to the University of Colorado, ranks first among small metropolitan areas of 250,000 to 1 million residents. Ithaca, N.Y., home to Cornell, ranks first among true "college towns."

The report's authors say the purpose of the index, previously published by the Wellesley, Mass., firm Collegia, is to help prospective students consider location, in addition to academics, sports programs and cost, as they choose a college. Areas were ranked based on 12 criteria, including number of college students for every 1,000 residents, cost of living, cultural amenities and earning potential.

The District and its suburbs are home to at least 140,000 college students, according to the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area; one in eight D.C. residents attends college.

"We are a college destination," said John Childers, president of the consortium. "People are attracted in sort of a self-perpetuating cycle."

The American Institute for Economic Research is an independent, nonprofit economic research group based in Massachusetts and formerly affiliated with MIT.

Researchers said Washington ranks particularly high on the index for concentration of college-age students, with 81 students for every 1,000 residents in the region. Boston has a higher concentration of college students, 83 for every 1,000 inhabitants. New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles (ranked sixth overall) have lower concentrations.

The region also gets high marks for post-collegiate opportunity: Washington has the lowest unemployment rate, 5.6 percent, among the top 15 metropolitan areas on the index. Income in the D.C. area ranks second among the top 15 big-city locales at $54,971, trailing only New York.

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