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totheskies

Large college towns or large cities with colleges... How would you distinguish?

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Just wondering how other forumers make this distinction. For most cities, the university population absorbs in the urban setting... a lot of commuters and part time/ non-traditional students. The classic college scene is simply a mix, but not a dominant force within the urban culture of the city. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is the "college town" which is too small to have an urban dynamic without it's college population (good examples would be College Station, TX with Texas A&M or Ann Arbor with the University of Michigan).

But what about the cities in between? Austin's college dynamic is very prevalent, but the city is also the home of state government, a burgeoning IT hub, and not to mention the fourth largest city in Texas. What are your thoughts?

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The same can be said about the Minneapolis - St. Paul area. The U of M - Minneapolis campus is within walking distance from downtown Minneapolis and extends to the border of St. Paul. The U's - St. Paul campus is near the Roseville, Falcon Heights, and Lauderdale areas. The campus is literally in the center of 30 Fortune 1,000 companies and very large private companies.

I found this listing of the colleges and universities (not community or tech. schools) located in the Twin Cities MSA area.

Augsburg College - 3,785

Bethel University - 5,596

Carleton College - 1,958

College of St. Catherine - 5,246

College of Visual Arts - 200

Concordia University, Saint Paul - 2,069

Crown College - 1,300

Hamline University - 2,534

Macalester College - 1,865

Metropolitan State University - 8,868

Minneapolis College of Art and Design - 750

North Central University - 1,200

Northwestern College - 2,944

St. Olaf College - 3,007

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus - 50,402

University of St. Thomas - 10,712

William Mitchell College of Law - 1,103

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The same can be said about the Minneapolis - St. Paul area. The U of M - Minneapolis campus is within walking distance from downtown Minneapolis and extends to the border of St. Paul. The U's - St. Paul campus is near the Roseville, Falcon Heights, and Lauderdale areas. The campus is literally in the center of 30 Fortune 1,000 companies and very large private companies.

I found this listing of the colleges and universities (not community or tech. schools) located in the Twin Cities MSA area.

Augsburg College - 3,785

Bethel University - 5,596

Carleton College - 1,958

College of St. Catherine - 5,246

College of Visual Arts - 200

Concordia University, Saint Paul - 2,069

Crown College - 1,300

Hamline University - 2,534

Macalester College - 1,865

Metropolitan State University - 8,868

Minneapolis College of Art and Design - 750

North Central University - 1,200

Northwestern College - 2,944

St. Olaf College - 3,007

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus - 50,402

University of St. Thomas - 10,712

William Mitchell College of Law - 1,103

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Interesting thread. Colleges add so much to a city and all the best urban places in America have loads of students. But a student population might just be the icing on the cake, since so many other things in the urban mix, like a general economy, history and whatnot, add life too. People I know (who of course are not necessarily representative of anything) that live in the Amherst-Northampton area attended the area's schools, never started a real career, but never left. In Boston, a college town that isn't only a college town, students do have some chance of starting a serious career in the area upon graduation. Perhaps students in cities with their own economy outside of higher education are more than just the icing on the cake. They are the yeast in the dough of the economy, to continue a bad metaphor, since they lead in the areas innovation in high-tech.

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Well here in the Triangle of NC, we have an interesting dynamic. Three cities, Raleigh Durham and Chapel Hill...along with a big employment center in the middle called Research Triangle Park. (And of course countless suburbs, but most not worth mentioning in this topic.)

Of those, only Chapel Hill is usually referred to as a "college town", although it certainly has grown enough to be called a city IMO. But it embraces that name cuz the university is in the middle of town and the town was actually started because of it. So you could call them a "Large college town" I guess.

Raleigh and Durham each also have big universities (as well as several other smaller colleges), but neither has ever really had the label of "college town". Raleigh is better known as the state's capital city (as well as recently an economic booming city), and Durham was historically a industrial/manufacturing city (although now is more known for tech, scientific & medical). Both of those would probably be called "larger cities with colleges" instead.

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I just go by this:

Does the city revolve around the college?

Or does the college revolve around the city?

Chico, CA, where I started college was a callege town through and through. It was getting close to 100k in size with all the surrounding communities. Campus was directly adjacent to downtown, and so the students lent their culture to the area. The economy largely depended on the money coming in to the school as well.

Here in Tyler, a city of just over 100k is just a large(ish) city with a school (University of Texas at Tyler). Though there's a pretty healthy enrollment, the extent to which student culture has affected the city is minimal at best. Tyler's economy existed well before the school and developed independently of it after the school was established, so its economic impact is not critical to the city.

That sums it up for me.

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Well here in the Triangle of NC, we have an interesting dynamic. Three cities, Raleigh Durham and Chapel Hill...along with a big employment center in the middle called Research Triangle Park. (And of course countless suburbs, but most not worth mentioning in this topic.)

Of those, only Chapel Hill is usually referred to as a "college town", although it certainly has grown enough to be called a city IMO. But it embraces that name cuz the university is in the middle of town and the town was actually started because of it. So you could call them a "Large college town" I guess.

Raleigh and Durham each also have big universities (as well as several other smaller colleges), but neither has ever really had the label of "college town". Raleigh is better known as the state's capital city (as well as recently an economic booming city), and Durham was historically a industrial/manufacturing city (although now is more known for tech, scientific & medical). Both of those would probably be called "larger cities with colleges" instead.

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Add Gainesville, FL to the list of large college towns as home of University of Florida. Tallahassee, the state capitol is also a large college town with Florida State and Florida A&M, as despite being the seat of Florida government, it's not much larger than Gainesville and much of the towns flavor seems to come from FSU rather than state government.

Athen, GA , Tuscaloosa, AL, Charlottesville, VA and Columbia, MO are classic examples of large college towns. Auburn, AL is another example with a twist, it has a twin city-Opelika, AL that is a classic southern mill/farm town, leaving Auburn the city almost culturally indistinguishable from Auburn University. Ann Arbor, MI is turning into an exurb of Detroit and soon Athens, GA will be an exurb of Atlanta as well. Boulder, CO is as much a Denver suburb as it is an eclectic large college city.

Most large metros are strong centers for education, Boston and the San Francisco Bay Area have long been"large college metros". Dallas-Fort Worth, Atlanta, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Houston, Phoenix, and Seattle are all large metros in which a strong university/college presence leaves its mark.

Knoxville, TN is an odd man out. UT definitely flavors the area of Knoxville near downtown and they city of supportive and proud of its role as the home to Tennessee's flagship school, but Knoxville is larger than the typical large college town but smaller than most large cities with a (strong) college.

TVA, Oak Ridge, Alcoa and tourism are strong factors in the local economy beyond UT and much of the city has an old industrial feel akin to Chattanooga.

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I was in Richmond, VA this weekend after reading this forum. I wouldn't consider Richmond a college town, but depending on what part of town you're in the college influence (from VCU) has a strong presence. I went to VCU and lived in the Fan district for several years. Like a college town, the Fan district was lively when school was in and dead over the summer months. Culturally, there's long been a nice "underground/college rock" music scene, but as I said, while school was in there was plenty of action, in the summer is was really quite lame.

Today, Carytown is a hub for college culture retail, and growing. You have your typical record shop (only one, but a nice one), health food store (expensive), skateboard shop (just ok), plenty of places that have wraps and borritos, funky/cool clothing stores, etc. all things that only trully work with a good pool of 18 to 22 year olds.

Richmond is the state capital and headquarters for many large businesses, law firms, hospitals, etc. The city wouldn't shut down if the schools weren't there but, thanks to VCU there is some nice part-time culture.

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Some larger urban universities dominate a neighborhood, so instead of a college town, you have a portion of town dominated by the university. Seattle is a good example. The University of Washington is a few miles NE of downtown and dominates its neighborhood.

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I was in Richmond, VA this weekend after reading this forum. I wouldn't consider Richmond a college town, but depending on what part of town you're in the college influence (from VCU) has a strong presence. I went to VCU and lived in the Fan district for several years. Like a college town, the Fan district was lively when school was in and dead over the summer months. Culturally, there's long been a nice "underground/college rock" music scene, but as I said, while school was in there was plenty of action, in the summer is was really quite lame.

Today, Carytown is a hub for college culture retail, and growing. You have your typical record shop (only one, but a nice one), health food store (expensive), skateboard shop (just ok), plenty of places that have wraps and borritos, funky/cool clothing stores, etc. all things that only trully work with a good pool of 18 to 22 year olds.

Richmond is the state capital and headquarters for many large businesses, law firms, hospitals, etc. The city wouldn't shut down if the schools weren't there but, thanks to VCU there is some nice part-time culture.

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Some larger urban universities dominate a neighborhood, so instead of a college town, you have a portion of town dominated by the university. Seattle is a good example. The University of Washington is a few miles NE of downtown and dominates its neighborhood.

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Interesting point....

Houston's best known school, Rice, definitely dominates it's area (known as Rice Village) in both cultural and physical aspects. The college students and younger medical professionals are heavily catered to in the area.

UH (the University of Houston) on the other hand basically has no inflence on the Third Ward except for just being there. In fact Third Ward has Houston's second largest university, Texas Southern, and the two combined still don't dominate the Third Ward!!! Crazy

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although my input is small, here it is.

i think you can distinguish by college towns and towns with colleges by the financial aspect of it. does the town bank its majority of money off of the college, or vice versa with the town making money off the college.

take for instance, bowling green ky, i think the city makes a huge chunk off of the college.

nashville tn on the other hand, the schools make money off the city.

i hope that makes sense. it does in my head, i just have a hard time getting it out right. lol

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I think the best definition of a college town is to define it as a place that would not exist if it weren't for its college, or that if the city did exist, it would be significantly different without the college. To distinguish that, picture where you went to college, then try to image the places in town without the presence of it.

For example, I went to USC, so being in the heart of Columbia, SC, the city's 222 year history would be different without USC being there. However, being the state capital I think that it would still be relatively similar to what it is today in terms of size, but with a greatly different residential district where the campus is today.

I went to grad school at Clemson. Clemson is a small college town that literally formed because of the University. There was a small railroad town called Calhoun nearby, but nothing remains of it except part of an old street grid... all of which was absorbed into Clemson. The downtown is centered around the university and everything there revolves around it, from having orange tiger paws on everything to student oriented advertizing in pretty much every store in the area. Its inescapable. Without the university, the town would be nothing more than a poor, rural railroad town like its neighbors.

Agreed. I've been fortunate enough to visit North Carolina on a college trip, and that is the impression that I got from Raleigh. However, I spent the bulk of my time in Greensboro, which seems to be much more of a "large college town". I can't recall exactly how many universities are there, but UNCG and North Carolina A&T both have decent sized student/faculty staff populations, so a lot of the inner workings of the town are governed bythe college lifestyle. The only comparable cities that I've seen to Greensboro are Austin or Fayetteville, AR.

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I agree with fromcitytorual & spartan's general assessment. It isn't just about having a large college population, but how much that population dominates the economy & culture of the town.

Some more comparisons - Boulder, CO is a college town. Not just because of the college, but because many of the research facilities & high-tech businesses located here because of the college. Same as Athens, GA or to a lesser extent the Raleigh / Durham metro (state government also had a role). Additionally, much of the town news & topics revolve around the college - it is completely integral. On the other hand, Rock Hill, SC has a college too - Winthrop. But you would never know there was a large college near the town center. The economy was historically based on textile mills - not associated with the college (which at the time was a female teaching college) & currently the economy is based on spillover growth from Charlotte.

Most large metro areas have large college populations, such as Atlanta's. Atlanta even has over 5 colleges near downtown with a campus population of over 50,000. Despite the impact being significant, it isn't a deal maker.

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I think the best definition of a college town is to define it as a place that would not exist if it weren't for its college, or that if the city did exist, it would be significantly different without the college. To distinguish that, picture where you went to college, then try to image the places in town without the presence of it.

For example, I went to USC, so being in the heart of Columbia, SC, the city's 222 year history would be different without USC being there. However, being the state capital I think that it would still be relatively similar to what it is today in terms of size, but with a greatly different residential district where the campus is today.

I went to grad school at Clemson. Clemson is a small college town that literally formed because of the University. There was a small railroad town called Calhoun nearby, but nothing remains of it except part of an old street grid... all of which was absorbed into Clemson. The downtown is centered around the university and everything there revolves around it, from having orange tiger paws on everything to student oriented advertizing in pretty much every store in the area. Its inescapable. Without the university, the town would be nothing more than a poor, rural railroad town like its neighbors.

I don't think many people consider Greensboro to be a college town. Greensboro is one of the largest cities in NC and part of the 3rd largest metro area in NC.... hardly a large college town. The main college towns in North Carolina are Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill), Boone (Appalachian State), and probably Greenville, NC (East Carolina). These are towns that fall into that category of places that would not exist without their colleges. Greenville, NC may be an exception, since it would very likely exist in some form without ECU.

The "neighborhood" argument is an interesting one, and I'm inclined to agree with that one. UNCG may fall into that category, but then I think the vast majority of larger universities (over 10,000) would.

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To be honest, Birmingham could be considered a large college town. Its economy was saved back in the 1970's and 1980's by the fact that the University of Alabama built its large medical center there which later became UAB. However, as much as UAB is the area's and states largest single employer, the majority of Birmingham's economy comes from the financial and service sector.

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I don't think many people consider Greensboro to be a college town. Greensboro is one of the largest cities in NC and part of the 3rd largest metro area in NC.... hardly a large college town. The main college towns in North Carolina are Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill), Boone (Appalachian State), and probably Greenville, NC (East Carolina). These are towns that fall into that category of places that would not exist without their colleges. Greenville, NC may be an exception, since it would very likely exist in some form without ECU.

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Nashville was nicknamed the 'Athens if the South' because of it's strong college presence. Nashville's primary schools include, Tennessee State (predominantly black, state school), Belmont (no longer religiously affiliated private school) and Lipscomb (Church of Christ School), but the big dog is definitely Vanderbilt.

Belmont

Belmont.jpg

Vandy, in spite of it's modest enrollment, is the largest employer in the City (primarily due to it's medical facilities). The college gives a national prestige to the City with it's highly rated acedemic programs and is a major factor in attracting high paying jobs to Nashville. To potect it's most valuable asset, the City has given the University the power of imminent domain in order to acquire land in the fast growing, densly built mid-town area of Nashville.

And the University has impacted Nashville's built environment significantly with many large mid-rise buildings on campus and in the medical center. The surrounding West End/Mid-town area is booming with Hotels, Office Buildings and Condo's and growing in to Nashville's equivilant of Cambridge, Mass. It is an urban area becoming unique among American Cities.

West End Area (Vandy's tribute to Commie Block architecture, Carmichael Towers, is at center right)

we12.jpg

Now if they could just play football.

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What is the exact population number deciphers a town from being a "college town" to a large town with a college. I'm from the city of Tallahasse, Florida. The population is somewhere between 140,000-160,000 excluding the students from both Florida State and FAMU. I've read in an earlier post that someone thought Gainesville, Fla. (home of UF) is the same size as Tallahassee. But i don't think that is accurate. While UF is in fact alot larger than FSU the town itself is alot smaller, ranging between 50,000-60,000. Any thoughts?

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I think the point so far has been that there is no exact population figure. You could probably argue a student population to city population ratio makes a better comparison of the college town phenomenon.

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Just wondering how other forumers make this distinction. For most cities, the university population absorbs in the urban setting... a lot of commuters and part time/ non-traditional students. The classic college scene is simply a mix, but not a dominant force within the urban culture of the city. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is the "college town" which is too small to have an urban dynamic without it's college population (good examples would be College Station, TX with Texas A&M or Ann Arbor with the University of Michigan).

But what about the cities in between? Austin's college dynamic is very prevalent, but the city is also the home of state government, a burgeoning IT hub, and not to mention the fourth largest city in Texas. What are your thoughts?

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I'm not sure what to consider Greensboro, NC to be a large college town or a city with colleges. Greensboro isn't exactly a large city by my standards with me being from Charlotte. I'm not downing Greensboro, but it just don't feel like a big city to me. I do prefer Greensboro over Winston-Salem when it comes to college life. I don't go to any schools in Greensboro but I go to nearby Winston-Salem State University which is 30 minutes away on I-40 and I ventured into Greensboro often. IMO Greensboro is pretty much dead in the summer months when the universities and colleges are not offering regular semester classes. However Greensboro do feel more like a college town as all the colleges are all concentrated in the same area. Greensboro has Bennett College, Guliford College, NC Agriculture & Techinical and UNC Greensboro, with NC A&T and UNC Greensboro with the largest with 11,000 and 15,000 students respectively. NC A&T and Bennett College are historical black colleges. With me being a WSSU Rams, there's always a bitter rivaly with NC A&T Aggies but Greensboro feels more like a college town to me than Winston-Salem. Even if Winston-Salem has Wake Forest, Wake Forest feels isolated. Hell most people don't even know Wake Forest is located in Winston-Salem, I didn't even know it was located in Winston-Salem until I went to WSSU and I've been in North Carolina all my life. Everytime there's a big game or big school events either for WSSU or A&T or both, the party promoters and planners don't even consider a Winston-Salem venue as a main priority but rather choose to have their party or function in Greensboro especially if WSSU and A&T are having an event during the same week.

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What is the exact population number deciphers a town from being a "college town" to a large town with a college. I'm from the city of Tallahasse, Florida. The population is somewhere between 140,000-160,000 excluding the students from both Florida State and FAMU. I've read in an earlier post that someone thought Gainesville, Fla. (home of UF) is the same size as Tallahassee. But i don't think that is accurate. While UF is in fact alot larger than FSU the town itself is alot smaller, ranging between 50,000-60,000. Any thoughts?

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