Research Briefing | Mar 9, 2023

US college towns have a mixed track record on job growth

Metros labeled as “college towns” have consistently seen steadier yet often lower job growth than the US average over the last 15 years. The success stories of a handful of college towns are more the exception than the norm as many have suffered total job declines despite having a stable education sector.

What you will learn:

  • Job growth in the college education sector in college towns started to accelerate in 2016 and saw less of a drop in 2020 than other sectors. However, very few college towns added jobs at a faster pace than the US in both their college education sector and non-education sectors from 2016 to 2021.
  • College towns with a robust job growth rate include College Station (TX), Durham (NC), Fort Collins (CO), Gainesville (FL), Boulder (CO), Waco (TX), and Tallahassee (FL). These have also had healthy population growth, particularly in younger demographics.
  • Some college towns have flourished from a rising tech sector, but only a quarter saw tech job growth that exceeded the US average over the last five years.
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