Ames ranked No. 2 college town in America by economic research institute

Ames has been recognized by the American Institute for Economic Research as the second best college town.

Graphic: Azwan Azhar/ Iowa State Daily

Ames has been recognized by the American Institute for Economic Research as the second best college town.

David Gerhold

It is official. According to this year’s college town rankings by the American Institute for Economic Research, Ames, Iowa is the second best out of 20 college towns. This is the second time that Ames has achieved this ranking.

The institute’s committee based the result on criteria such as student diversity, city accessibility, cost of living and rate of unemployment. Ames did especially well in student concentration and degree attainment.

“It’s always encouraging to see Ames ranked so high,” said John McCarroll, executive director of university relations at Iowa State. “It’s a compliment to the community and to Iowa State that we received this kind of recognition.”

McCarroll said the relationship between the city and the university has always been a strong one.

“A ranking like this affirms this relationship and the quality of life in Ames,” McCarroll said. 

For many students, the institute’s ranking might not be on the radar screen yet, said Julie Weeks, contract associate with conference planning and management at Iowa State.

“It’s our job to put it on the map and advertise it,” Weeks said. 

Weeks said they plan to advertise the ranking in news releases and on different occasions.

“Whenever we put together proposals, we always list the things that Ames and Iowa State are recognized for because it adds to our credibility,” Weeks said. 

Dan Culhane, president of the Ames Chamber and Economic Development Commission, said he was surprised that Ames didn’t rank No. 1, but said he might be a little biased. 

Culhane said the high ranking is based on the fact that Ames is a highly educated community with an assortment of quality of life attributes, mainly afforded by Iowa State.

“Couple all of this with very low unemployment and a plethora of professional opportunities, and it’s hard to argue that this is a great place to live, raise a family, start a business or retire,” Culhane said. “Ames is multi-faceted to the benefit of many.”

Iowa State is the driving force behind Ames and the main reason for the ranking, Weeks said. 

“We have a heavy student population in Ames, which gives us a lot of vitality,” Weeks said. “And that shows, because the town changes a lot because of the dynamic brought in by students.”

Despite the positive overall results, there is one aspect in the ranking where Ames did not do so well. The town is last when it comes to the ratio of students who stay in Ames after they receive their degree.

“We lose a lot of students after their graduation. It’s hard to keep them here,” Weeks said. “Because of that, we have to figure out ways to bring them back here.”

One solution to that problem could be new businesses settling in Ames, as well as the expansion of the Research Park.

“I believe that there will be more opportunities for graduates in the future,” Weeks said.

McCarroll said rankings generally do not have a particular positive or negative impact.

”However, combined with other favorable rankings of Ames, this contributes to growing awareness of the attractiveness of the community,” McCarroll said. 

For students and their parents, the ranking can be very reassuring, Weeks said.

“Now you can say, ‘Hey, my son or my daughter is going to the second-best college town in the nation. Isn’t that cool?’” Weeks said.