The 10 Best College Towns In Iowa For 2019


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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 Iowa 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 Iowa 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 Iowa for 2019:

  1. Iowa City, IA (Photos | Homes)
  2. Ames, IA (Photos | Homes)
  3. Sioux Center, IA (Photos | Homes)
  4. Oskaloosa, IA (Photos | Homes)
  5. Decorah, IA (Photos | Homes)
  6. Grinnell, IA (Photos | Homes)
  7. Storm Lake, IA (Photos | Homes)
  8. Des Moines, IA (Photos | Homes)
  9. Pella, IA (Photos | Homes)
  10. Waverly, IA (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 Iowa City, Ames and Sioux Center - we tip our hats to you and we'll schedule a tour for next week. You can see where Iowa City ranks in terms of the best college town in America.

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

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

To crunch our data on Iowa'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 17 places in Iowa 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 Iowa For 2019".

And it looks like Iowa City placed Summa Cum Laude.

Iowa City, IA
Overall SnackAbility
8
/10

Population: 73,415
% Undergrad Pop.: 26.3% (3rd best)
Median Rent: $924 (18th best)
Unemployment Rate: 460.0% (11th best)
Crime Rank: 8th best
More on Iowa City: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Iowa City is a city in Johnson County, Iowa, United States. It is the home of the University of Iowa and county seat of Johnson County, at the center of the Iowa City Metropolitan Statistical Area. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the city's population at 74,398 in 2016, making it the state's fifth-largest city. Iowa City is the county seat of Johnson County. The metropolitan area, which encompasses Johnson and Washington counties, has a population of over 164,000.

Colleges: University of Iowa, La James International College-Iowa City, The Salon Professional Academy-Iowa City

Ames, IA
Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility
8.5
/10

Population: 65,005
% Undergrad Pop.: 34.0% (1st best)
Median Rent: $876 (16th best)
Unemployment Rate: 530.0% (13th best)
Crime Rank: 6th best
More on Ames: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Ames is a city located in the central part of Story County, Iowa, United States. It is located approximately 30 miles north of Des Moines, and had a 2010 population of 58,965. The U.S. Census Bureau designates the Ames metropolitan statistical area as encompassing all of Story County; combined with the Boone, Iowa micropolitan statistical area, the pair make up the larger Ames-Boone combined statistical area. While Ames is the largest city in Story County, the county seat is in the nearby city of Nevada 8 miles east of Ames.

Colleges: Iowa State University, PCI Academy-Ames

Sioux Center, IA
Overall SnackAbility
9
/10

Population: 7,450
% Undergrad Pop.: 19.1% (5th best)
Median Rent: $730 (10th best)
Unemployment Rate: 40.0% (1st best)
Crime Rank: 1st best
More on Sioux Center: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Sioux Center is a city in Sioux County, Iowa, United States with a population of 7,048. Sioux Center is notable for its recent population boom, Dutch heritage, and agribusiness.

Colleges: Dordt College

Oskaloosa, IA
Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility
6
/10

Population: 11,531
% Undergrad Pop.: 12.0% (10th best)
Median Rent: $611 (2nd best)
Unemployment Rate: 630.0% (15th best)
Crime Rank: 7th best
More on Oskaloosa: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Oskaloosa is a city in and the county seat of Mahaska County, Iowa, United States. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, it was a national center of bituminous coal mining. The population was 11,463 in the 2010 census, an increase from 10,938 in the 2000 census.

Colleges: William Penn University

Decorah, IA
Overall SnackAbility
9
/10

Population: 7,850
% Undergrad Pop.: 33.4% (2nd best)
Median Rent: $598 (1st best)
Unemployment Rate: 190.0% (2nd best)
Crime Rank: 2nd best
More on Decorah: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Decorah is a city in and the county seat of Winneshiek County, Iowa, United States. The population was 8,127 at the 2010 census. Decorah is located at the intersection of State Highway 9 and U.S. Route 52, and is the largest community in Winneshiek County.

Colleges: Luther College

Grinnell, IA
Overall SnackAbility
8
/10

Population: 9,028
% Undergrad Pop.: 14.9% (7th best)
Median Rent: $704 (7th best)
Unemployment Rate: 530.0% (13th best)
Crime Rank: 14th best
More on Grinnell: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Grinnell is a city in Poweshiek County, Iowa, United States. The population was 9,218 at the 2010 census.

Colleges: Grinnell College

Storm Lake, IA
Overall SnackAbility
5
/10

Population: 10,738
% Undergrad Pop.: 24.5% (4th best)
Median Rent: $639 (3rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 700.0% (18th best)
Crime Rank: 13th best
More on Storm Lake: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Storm Lake is a city in Buena Vista County, Iowa, United States. The population was 10,600 in the 2010 census, an increase from 10,076 in the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Buena Vista County. Storm Lake is home to Buena Vista University, originally Buena Vista College. Tyson Foods operates a large hog slaughterhouse, meat packing plant, and turkey processing plant in Storm Lake.

Colleges: Buena Vista University, Faust Institute of Cosmetology-Storm Lake

Des Moines, IA
Overall SnackAbility
6
/10

Population: 214,778
% Undergrad Pop.: 2.6% (15th best)
Median Rent: $797 (14th best)
Unemployment Rate: 650.0% (16th best)
Crime Rank: 18th best
More on Des Moines: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Des Moines is the capital and the most populous city in the U.S. state of Iowa. It is also the county seat of Polk County. A small part of the city extends into Warren County. It was incorporated on September 22, 1851, as Fort Des Moines, which was shortened to "Des Moines" in 1857. It is on and named after the Des Moines River, which likely was adapted from the French colonial name, Rivire des Moines, meaning "River of the Monks". The city's population was 203,433 as of the 2010 census. The five-county metropolitan area is ranked 89th in terms of population in the United States with 634,725 residents according to the 2016 estimate by the United States Census Bureau.

Colleges: Drake University, Grand View University, AIB College of Business

Pella, IA
Overall SnackAbility
9
/10

Population: 10,243
% Undergrad Pop.: 13.0% (8th best)
Median Rent: $851 (15th best)
Unemployment Rate: 330.0% (6th best)
Crime Rank: 3rd best
More on Pella: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Pella is a city in Marion County, Iowa, United States, with a population of 10,352 at the time of the 2010 U.S. Census. Founded by immigrants from the Netherlands, it is forty miles southeast of Des Moines. Pella is the home of Central College, as well as several manufacturing companies, including Pella Corporation and Vermeer Manufacturing Company.

Colleges: Central College

Waverly, IA
Overall SnackAbility
6
/10

Population: 10,052
% Undergrad Pop.: 15.9% (6th best)
Median Rent: $648 (4th best)
Unemployment Rate: 420.0% (8th best)
Crime Rank: 10th best
More on Waverly: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Colleges: Wartburg College

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

If you're looking for the best college towns in Iowa, 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.

For more reading, check out:

17 Best College Towns In Iowa

Rank City Population
1 Iowa City, IA 73415
2 Ames, IA 65005
3 Sioux Center, IA 7450
4 Oskaloosa, IA 11531
5 Decorah, IA 7850
6 Grinnell, IA 9028
7 Storm Lake, IA 10738
8 Des Moines, IA 214778
9 Pella, IA 10243
10 Waverly, IA 10052
11 Dubuque, IA 58410
12 Indianola, IA 15489
13 Mount Pleasant, IA 8467
14 Cedar Rapids, IA 130330
15 Fairfield, IA 10125
16 Davenport, IA 102268
17 Ankeny, IA 56237

Best College Towns By State

Enjoy The Snack?