The 10 Best College Towns In Washington For 2020

Editor's Note: We updated this article for 2020. This is our time ranking the best college towns in Washington.
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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 Washington 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 Washington 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 Washington for 2020.

The 10 Best College Towns In Washington For 2020

  1. Pullman, WA (Photos | Homes)
  2. Bellevue, WA (Photos | Homes)
  3. Ellensburg, WA (Photos | Homes)
  4. Kirkland, WA (Photos | Homes)
  5. Seattle, WA (Photos | Homes)
  6. Cheney, WA (Photos | Homes)
  7. Olympia, WA (Photos | Homes)
  8. Pasco, WA (Photos | Homes)
  9. Port Angeles, WA (Photos | Homes)
  10. Walla Walla, WA (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 Pullman, Bellevue and Ellensburg - we tip our hats to you and we'll schedule a tour for next week. You can see where Pullman ranks in terms of the best college town in America.

Finally, if you live in Poulsbo, WA - it's officially the worst college town in Washington. Sorry, Poulsbo!

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

The 10 Best College Towns In Washington For 2020

Pullman, WA
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 33,050
% Undergrad Pop.: 12.8% (7th best)
Median Rent: $788 (2nd best)
Unemployment Rate: 1136.5% (26th best)
Crime Rank: 2nd best
More on Pullman: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Pullman is the largest city in Whitman County, located in southeastern Washington state within the Palouse region of the Pacific Northwest. The population was 29,799 at the 2010 census, estimated to have reached 31,682 in 2014. Originally incorporated as Three Forks, the city was later renamed after industrialist George Pullman.

Colleges: Washington State University

Bellevue, WA
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 142,242
% Undergrad Pop.: 7.9% (11th best)
Median Rent: $1,855 (25th best)
Unemployment Rate: 395.9% (3rd best)
Crime Rank: 8th best
More on Bellevue: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Colleges: Bellevue College, Evergreen Beauty and Barber College-Bellevue

Ellensburg, WA
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 19,799
% Undergrad Pop.: 38.4% (2nd best)
Median Rent: $933 (12th best)
Unemployment Rate: 735.3% (20th best)
Crime Rank: 7th best
More on Ellensburg: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Ellensburg is a city in, and the county seat of, Kittitas County, Washington, United States. The population was 19,786 in a 2016 census estimate. Ellensburg is located just east of the Cascade Range on Interstate 90 and is known as the most centrally located city in the state. Ellensburg is the home of Central Washington University.

Colleges: Central Washington University

Kirkland, WA
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 88,079
% Undergrad Pop.: 5.6% (13th best)
Median Rent: $1,776 (24th best)
Unemployment Rate: 364.8% (1st best)
Crime Rank: 5th best
More on Kirkland: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Kirkland is a city in King County, Washington, United States. A suburb east of Seattle, its population was 87,281 at the 2015 census estimate, which made it the sixth largest city in the county and the twelfth largest in the state.

Colleges: Lake Washington Institute of Technology, Northwest University, Northwest University-College of Adult and Professional Studies

Seattle, WA
Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 708,823
% Undergrad Pop.: 8.1% (9th best)
Median Rent: $1,496 (23rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 417.7% (4th best)
Crime Rank: 22nd best
More on Seattle: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Seattle ) is a seaport city on the west coast of the United States. It is the seat of King County, Washington. With an estimated 704,352 residents as of 2016, Seattle is the largest city in both the state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest region of North America. In July 2013, it was the fastest-growing major city in the United States and remained in the Top 5 in May 2015 with an annual growth rate of 2.1%. In July 2016, Seattle was again the fastest-growing major U.S. city, with a 3.1% annual growth rate. The city is situated on an isthmus between Puget Sound and Lake Washington, about 100 miles south of the Canada-United States border. A major gateway for trade with Asia, Seattle is the fourth-largest port in North America in terms of container handling as of 2015.

Colleges: University of Washington-Seattle Campus, Seattle Central College, North Seattle College

Cheney, WA
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 11,962
% Undergrad Pop.: 63.3% (1st best)
Median Rent: $872 (6th best)
Unemployment Rate: 867.8% (23rd best)
Crime Rank: 3rd best
More on Cheney: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Cheney is a city in Spokane County, Washington, United States. The full-time resident population was 10,590 as of 2010 census. Eastern Washington University is located in Cheney, and its population grows to approximately 17,600 people on a temporary basis when classes at Eastern Washington University are in session.

Colleges: Eastern Washington University

Olympia, WA
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 50,836
% Undergrad Pop.: 7.7% (12th best)
Median Rent: $1,089 (14th best)
Unemployment Rate: 633.2% (14th best)
Crime Rank: 17th best
More on Olympia: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Olympia is the capital of the U.S. state of Washington and the county seat of Thurston County. It was incorporated on January 28, 1859. The population was 46,478 as of the 2010 census. The city borders Lacey to the east and Tumwater to the south. Olympia is a cultural center of the southern Puget Sound region. Olympia is located 60 miles southwest of Seattle, the largest city in the state of Washington.

Colleges: South Puget Sound Community College, The Evergreen State College

Pasco, WA
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 71,858
% Undergrad Pop.: 8.0% (10th best)
Median Rent: $895 (8th best)
Unemployment Rate: 547.3% (8th best)
Crime Rank: 4th best
More on Pasco: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Pasco is a city in and the county seat of Franklin County, Washington, United States.

Colleges: Columbia Basin College

Port Angeles, WA
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 19,615
% Undergrad Pop.: 19.4% (3rd best)
Median Rent: $928 (11th best)
Unemployment Rate: 855.6% (22nd best)
Crime Rank: 16th best
More on Port Angeles: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Port Angeles is a city in and the county seat of Clallam County, Washington, United States. With a population of 19,038 as of the 2010 census, it is the largest city in the county. The population was estimated at 19,448 in 2015 by the Office of Financial Management.

Colleges: Peninsula College

Walla Walla, WA
Overall SnackAbility

Population: 32,731
% Undergrad Pop.: 4.4% (15th best)
Median Rent: $919 (10th best)
Unemployment Rate: 528.7% (7th best)
Crime Rank: 14th best
More on Walla Walla: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Walla Walla is the largest city in and the county seat of Walla Walla County, Washington, United States.

Colleges: Walla Walla Community College, Whitman College

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

To crunch our data on Washington'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 21 places in Washington 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 Washington For 2020".

And it looks like Pullman placed Summa Cum Laude.

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

If you're looking for the best college towns in Washington, 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 Washington, starting with the absolute worst, Poulsbo:

  1. Poulsbo
  2. Centralia
  3. Spokane
  4. Tukwila
  5. Bellingham
  6. Vancouver
  7. Toppenish
  8. Tacoma
  9. Redmond
  10. Lacey

For more reading, check out:

21 Best College Towns In Washington

Rank City Population
1 Pullman, WA 33050
2 Bellevue, WA 142242
3 Ellensburg, WA 19799
4 Kirkland, WA 88079
5 Seattle, WA 708823
6 Cheney, WA 11962
7 Olympia, WA 50836
8 Pasco, WA 71858
9 Port Angeles, WA 19615
10 Walla Walla, WA 32731
11 College Place, WA 9136
12 Lacey, WA 47852
13 Redmond, WA 63197
14 Tacoma, WA 210103
15 Toppenish, WA 8906
16 Vancouver, WA 178413
17 Bellingham, WA 87071
18 Tukwila, WA 20198
19 Spokane, WA 214804
20 Centralia, WA 16932
21 Poulsbo, WA 10301

Best College Towns By State

Enjoy The Snack?