Best College Town: a Cost of Living Comparison

John Miller gives tips on cost of living comparisons and choosing the best small college town to live in.

| September/October 1971

  • Small town colleges
    A college can be a handy steppingstone back to the land. Then again, you might want to stay right there once you settle down to a living in a small college town.
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    While it's true that businesses in a university town often pay only a little more than area farm wages, state supported colleges pay comparatively well . . . usually more than any other local employer.
    Photo by John Miller
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    The situation is best in states with civil service systems since non-professional, full-time employees of state universities are state civil service personnel. This means that wage rates for these workers are uniform throughout the state and university employees in small, rural towns earn as much as their counterparts in the state's cities.
    Photo by John Miller
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    The economic situation in a small, rural college town is usually just as attractive as the community's liberal atmosphere. True, the pay scale "out there" is lower than the wages you'll find in a large metropolitan area . . . but the living costs are even lower yet.
    Photo by John Miller

  • Small town colleges
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  • 011-066-01
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A college can be a handy steppingstone back to the land. Then again, you may want to stay right there, once you settle down to a living in a small college town.

Not everybody wants to live in the city these days but, then again, not everybody wants to run off and live in the wilderness either. Which kind of leaves the small town as the "middle ground" alternative . . . and there are lots of small towns hanging around the country to choose from.

Of course, not every borough and hamlet is guaranteed to appeal equally to every seeker after the Good Life. Some are only baby-sized imitations of a larger metropolitan mess with traffic, pollution and assorted city-type hassles of their own. Others—although clean, non-industrial and quiet—may prove to be far too conservative and sexually and religiously uptight for (yes, even) you.

Small College Town Comparisons

The whole situation might appear rather grim if it weren't for one particular variety of small rural town that quite often combines all the best of everything in low pollution and high opportunities to develop a free life style . . . and that one particular kind of town is the small country college town.

Which is to say that the rural university borough is frequently a delightfully kinkier version of the much more common straight country town. Often still clean and beautiful (since its major local industry is a tree-lined campus rather than a pulp mill or factory), such a village also tends to view "unusual" behavior with a rather tolerant eye.

With the relaxation of yesterday's rigid rules and restrictions for college students, many "backwater" university communities have felt free to experiment with alternative life styles and have come to realize the advantage of their isolation from the city. Far from the madness of great centers of population, these small colleges have often created something of an oasis of individual freedom in the middle of a society that appears to be increasingly restrictive.

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