The 10 Best College Towns In Florida For 2020


Editor's Note: We updated this article for 2020. This is our time ranking the best college towns in Florida.
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Believe it or not, America has the best colleges in the world. It's been proven by data (and surveys) that the U.S. educational system is of the highest quality

It's actually not even close and Florida is home to a handful of them.

While we could debate which colleges within the are the 'best,' that's not the goal of this post.

Instead, ride along with us as we determine which college towns in Florida are the best.

You know, the type of places where there's energy and stimulation, but the type of place you can walk around at night. The happiest, chillest, most downright fun places where you can send your kids off to college where you won't break the bank, or worry about their well being.

Without further ado, here are the best college towns in Florida for 2020.

The 10 Best College Towns In Florida For 2020

  1. Clearwater, FL (Photos | Homes)
  2. Fort Myers, FL (Photos | Homes)
  3. Tampa, FL (Photos | Homes)
  4. Sarasota, FL (Photos | Homes)
  5. Gainesville, FL (Photos | Homes)
  6. St. Petersburg, FL (Photos | Homes)
  7. Pensacola, FL (Photos | Homes)
  8. Coral Gables, FL (Photos | Homes)
  9. Boca Raton, FL (Photos | Homes)
  10. Winter Park, FL (Photos | Homes)

While some of these may not seem like a 'real' college town per se, when you look at the numbers, it's hard to argue against.

And for those who live in Clearwater, Fort Myers and Tampa - we tip our hats to you and we'll schedule a tour for next week. You can see where Clearwater ranks in terms of the best college town in America.

Finally, if you live in Leesburg, FL - it's officially the worst college town in Florida. Sorry, Leesburg!

Read on to find out more or for more on Florida check out:

The 10 Best College Towns In Florida For 2020

Clearwater, FL
Overall SnackAbility
6
/10

Population: 114,015
% Undergrad Pop.: 17.5% (16th best)
Median Rent: $1,052 (21st best)
Unemployment Rate: 667.2% (23rd best)
Crime Rank: 24th best
More on Clearwater: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Clearwater is a city located in Pinellas County, Florida, United States, northwest of Tampa and St. Petersburg. To the west of Clearwater lies the Gulf of Mexico and to the southeast lies Tampa Bay. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 107,685. Clearwater is the county seat of Pinellas County and is the smallest of the three principal cities in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area, most commonly referred to as the Tampa Bay Area.

Colleges: St Petersburg College, Pinellas Technical College-Clearwater, National Aviation Academy of Tampa Bay

Fort Myers, FL
Overall SnackAbility
5
/10

Population: 76,591
% Undergrad Pop.: 16.8% (17th best)
Median Rent: $969 (16th best)
Unemployment Rate: 586.8% (18th best)
Crime Rank: 25th best
More on Fort Myers: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Fort Myers or Ft. Myers, is the county seat and commercial center of Lee County, Florida, United States. It has grown rapidly in recent years. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 62,298 and in 2016 was estimated at 77,146.

Colleges: Florida SouthWestern State College, Florida Gulf Coast University, Southern Technical College

Tampa, FL
Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility
6
/10

Population: 376,345
% Undergrad Pop.: 9.4% (23rd best)
Median Rent: $1,082 (25th best)
Unemployment Rate: 734.3% (30th best)
Crime Rank: 6th best
More on Tampa: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Tampa is a major city in, and the county seat of, Hillsborough County, Florida, United States. It is on the west coast of Florida on Tampa Bay, near the Gulf of Mexico, and is the largest city in the Tampa Bay Area. The city had a population of 335,709 at the 2010 census, and an estimated population of 377,165 in 2016.

Colleges: University of South Florida-Main Campus, Hillsborough Community College, The University of Tampa

Sarasota, FL
Overall SnackAbility
6
/10

Population: 56,102
% Undergrad Pop.: 1.7% (35th best)
Median Rent: $1,069 (24th best)
Unemployment Rate: 502.6% (10th best)
Crime Rank: 27th best
More on Sarasota: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Sarasota is a city in Sarasota County on the southwestern coast of the U.S. state of Florida. The area is renowned for its cultural and environmental amenities, beaches, resorts, and the Sarasota School of Architecture. The city is at the southern end of the Tampa Bay Area, north of Fort Myers and Punta Gorda. Its official limits include Sarasota Bay and several barrier islands between the bay and the Gulf of Mexico. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2013 Sarasota had a population of 53,326. In 1986 it became designated as a certified local government. Sarasota is a principal city of the Sarasota metropolitan area, and is the seat of Sarasota County.

Colleges: Suncoast Technical College, Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota School of Massage Therapy

Gainesville, FL
Overall SnackAbility
5
/10

Population: 130,790
% Undergrad Pop.: 34.7% (5th best)
Median Rent: $930 (10th best)
Unemployment Rate: 675.3% (26th best)
Crime Rank: 31st best
More on Gainesville: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Gainesville is the county seat and largest city in Alachua County, Florida, United States, and the principal city of the Gainesville, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population of Gainesville in the 2013 US Census estimates was 127,488, a 2.4% growth from 2010. Gainesville is the largest city in the region of North Central Florida. It is also a component of the Gainesville-Lake City Combined Statistical Area, which had a 2013 population of 337,925.

Colleges: University of Florida, Santa Fe College, City College-Gainesville

St. Petersburg, FL
Overall SnackAbility
6
/10

Population: 259,041
% Undergrad Pop.: 0.0% (47th best)
Median Rent: $1,067 (23rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 548.8% (14th best)
Crime Rank: 39th best
More on St. Petersburg: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Saint Petersburg is a city in Pinellas County, Florida, United States. As of the 2015 census estimate, the population was 257,083, making it the fifth-most populous city in Florida and the largest in the state that is not a county seat.

Colleges: University of South Florida-St Petersburg, Southeastern College-St. Petersburg

Pensacola, FL
Overall SnackAbility
6
/10

Population: 52,562
% Undergrad Pop.: 31.8% (6th best)
Median Rent: $942 (11th best)
Unemployment Rate: 672.5% (24th best)
Crime Rank: 32nd best
More on Pensacola: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Colleges: Pensacola State College, The University of West Florida, George Stone Technical Center

Coral Gables, FL
Overall SnackAbility
9
/10

Population: 50,931
% Undergrad Pop.: 17.6% (15th best)
Median Rent: $1,583 (47th best)
Unemployment Rate: 375.4% (3rd best)
Crime Rank: 11th best
More on Coral Gables: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Coral Gables, officially the City of Coral Gables, is a city in Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States, located southwest of Downtown Miami. The United States Census Bureau estimates conducted in 2013 yielded the city had a population of 49,631. Coral Gables is home to the University of Miami.

Colleges: University of Miami, University of Southernmost Florida-Coral Gables Campus

Boca Raton, FL
Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility
8.5
/10

Population: 95,745
% Undergrad Pop.: 20.2% (10th best)
Median Rent: $1,663 (49th best)
Unemployment Rate: 506.3% (11th best)
Crime Rank: 10th best
More on Boca Raton: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Boca Raton is the southernmost city in Palm Beach County, Florida, United States, first incorporated on August 2, 1924 as "Bocaratone," and then incorporated as "Boca Raton" in 1925. The 2015 population estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau was 93,235. However, approximately 200,000 people with a Boca Raton postal address reside outside its municipal boundaries. Such areas include newer developments like West Boca Raton. As a business center, the city also experiences significant daytime population increases. It is one of the wealthiest communities in South Florida. Boca Raton is 43 miles north of Miami and is a principal city of the Miami metropolitan area, which was home to an estimated 6,012,331 people at the 2015 census.

Colleges: Florida Atlantic University, Lynn University, Everglades University

Winter Park, FL
Overall SnackAbility
9
/10

Population: 30,189
% Undergrad Pop.: 11.4% (21st best)
Median Rent: $1,183 (36th best)
Unemployment Rate: 346.5% (2nd best)
Crime Rank: 18th best
More on Winter Park: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Winter Park is a suburban city in Orange County, Florida, United States. The population was 27,852 at the 2010 United States Census. It is part of the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Colleges: Full Sail University, Rollins College, Orange Technical College-Winter Park Campus

How'd we figure out the best college towns in Florida?

To crunch our data on Florida's best college towns, we had to first decide which qualities (or rankings) make sense to use in the data, and then crunch the numbers for our rankings.

First off, we firmly decided that only cities with a 4 year college should make the cut -- so there has to be at least one college granting bachelors degrees in town.

You might be surprised to hear that there are only 41 places in Florida with an institution of higher learning with that criteria.

Source of data include OpenStreetMaps, the College Scorecard, the U.S. Census, and FBI reporting data to include the following factors:

  • Students Make Up Large % of the Population
  • College-specific Factors
    • Graduation rate
    • Tuition Cost
    • Student Body Diversity
  • Town Characteristics
    • Safety
    • Affordability
    • Income and Employment Opportunities
  • Things to Do
    • Bars
    • Museums & Libraries
    • Population Density

We ranked each city across each of the criteria, with one being the best.

We rolled up the individual scores into the category and ranked them again based on the category.

Finally, we took the average rank across each category, with the city posting the lowest overall score being crowned the winner of the title "Best College Town In Florida For 2020".

And it looks like Clearwater placed Summa Cum Laude.

There You Have It -- The Best College Towns In The

If you're looking for the best college towns in Florida, you came to the right place.

These places all have great college sports programs, tons of stuff to do, and are great places to raise a family.

If you're curious, these are the worst college towns in Florida, starting with the absolute worst, Leesburg:

  1. Leesburg
  2. West Palm Beach
  3. Kissimmee
  4. Trinity
  5. Lake Wales
  6. Ocala
  7. DeLand
  8. North Miami
  9. Avon Park
  10. Lakeland

For more reading, check out:

41 Best College Towns In Florida

Rank City Population
1 Clearwater, FL 114015
2 Fort Myers, FL 76591
3 Tampa, FL 376345
4 Sarasota, FL 56102
5 Gainesville, FL 130790
6 St. Petersburg, FL 259041
7 Pensacola, FL 52562
8 Coral Gables, FL 50931
9 Boca Raton, FL 95745
10 Winter Park, FL 30189
11 Cocoa, FL 18053
12 Niceville, FL 15050
13 Melbourne, FL 80664
14 Naples, FL 21564
15 Orlando, FL 275690
16 Tallahassee, FL 190180
17 Fort Lauderdale, FL 178783
18 Miramar, FL 138168
19 Temple Terrace, FL 26062
20 Orange Park, FL 8680
21 Marianna, FL 7266
22 Sanford, FL 58862
23 Miami, FL 451214
24 Miami Gardens, FL 112913
25 Lake City, FL 11977
26 Bradenton, FL 55059
27 Jacksonville, FL 878907
28 Daytona Beach, FL 66520
29 Doral, FL 58265
30 Pompano Beach, FL 108855
31 Palatka, FL 10320
32 Lakeland, FL 105958
33 Avon Park, FL 10386
34 North Miami, FL 61435
35 Deland, FL 31289
36 Ocala, FL 58598
37 Lake Wales, FL 15735
38 Trinity, FL 10646
39 Kissimmee, FL 69833
40 West Palm Beach, FL 108365
41 Leesburg, FL 22243

Best College Towns By State

Enjoy The Snack?