The American Institute for Economic Research (AEIR) recently released its annual College Destinations Index, which ranks the cities and towns that are best for collegiate life. In the report, Rochester jumped to the eighth best mid-sized metropolitan area — an increase of eight spots from last year’s report.
The index analyzed a total of 222 cities and towns, highlighting the top 75. Unlike other ranking systems, the College Destinations Index does not focus on characteristics of the colleges themselves. Rather, it centers on what the actual college towns have to offer prospective students.
Additionally, the AEIR report was compiled through independent research, factoring out the biases of individual colleges that often provide the data for similar ranking systems.The AEIR’s ranking system focused on three main areas important to college students: overall academic environment, quality of life and professional opportunities.
These areas are further broken down into 12 criteria on which the rankings are based. These are student concentration, student diversity, research capacity, degree attainment, cost of living, arts and leisure, city accessibility, creative class, earning potential, entrepreneurial activity, brain drain/gain and the unemployment rate.
Rochester shined in some categories, but came up short in others. The city came out at the top of the mid-size metropolitan class in student concentration, with 90.1 college students per 1,000 total residents. The Flower City also had the fourth highest research capacity, with $390 in academic research and development funding per capita, according to the National Science Foundation.
Rochester was also applauded for having many students earn degrees and for excellent arts programs.
One area in particular that hurt the city is entrepreneurial activity, with only 13.1 new businesses forming last year per 100,000 population members. By contrast, Orlando — which led the group in this category — had 122. Additionally, diversity brought Rochester’s ranking down, with just 3.8 percent of the student body holding foreign passports.
Rochester’s worst performance came in the brain drain/gain category, which measures the proportion of students who graduated from college in a given city and were retained by that city the following year. Of the top 20 mid-sized metropolitan areas, Rochester was tied for second-to-last in this category, and one of only three areas who lost more students than they retained last year.
Despite the city’s improved ranking, student reaction remains mixed about what Rochester has to offer college students.
“I think [Rochester] has certain stores and clubs that are appealing to college students, but I wouldn’t call it a ‘college town’,” junior Ben Bovarnick said. “There’s a reason that people don’t get off campus as much as they might in a true college town.”
Other students, like sophomore Ashley Chiu, look positively on what Rochester has to offer the college demographic.
“A lot of young people live here, and the cost of living isn’t too high,” she said. “I wouldn’t mind spending the rest of my life here.”
Fleming is a member of the class of 2013.