10 Best “Hidden Gem” College Towns in the U.S.

3. Beloit, Wisconsin

Beloit Wisconsin
Visit Beloit, Downtown Beloit, Wisconsin, CC BY-SA 4.0

Easily walkable from the Beloit College campus, downtown Beloit, Wisconsin, sits alongside Rock River. Although fairly small in size, students have a number of entertainment, food, and shopping options to choose from, including Bushel & Peck’s local market, an escape room, and clothing boutiques.

Beloit is also home to the second-largest open-air farmers market in the state (which operates during warmer months) and is host to an annual international film festival.

The town is also a great place for students to gain experience and exposure. Although it’s home to many smaller, local businesses, students can also find opportunities with national brands, like ABC Supply Co., Frito-Lay, Kerry America’s, and Kettle Foods.

The school’s Center for Entrepreneurship is also located downtown, where students have the opportunity to showcase new products and gain experience in accounting, management, and marketing. You’ll also find revolving student art exhibits at Gallery ABBA, also located downtown.

Home to: Beloit College

2. Kalamazoo, Michigan

Mxobe, Kalamazoo, public domain, details on Wikimedia Commons

It’s true. Kalamazoo sounds like the name of a fictional town you’d read about in a book, but it’s actually home to a number of higher-ed institutions, including top-ranking Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University.

You might not find the town on any of the mainstream “top college town” lists, but the American Institute of Economic Research ranked it 20th among best small metropolitan college towns, thanks to the city’s vibrant restaurant selection, rich arts and entertainment scene, and diverse population.

The community supports its local students by providing them with plenty of opportunities to learn outside the classroom — in labs, social service agencies, schools, financial institutions, medical offices, museums, and local government offices.

Home to: Kalamazoo College, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo Valley Community College

1. Orem, Utah

Just 45 miles south of Salt Lake City, Orem, Utah, is one of the larger cities on this list.

In fact, Utah Valley University is one of the largest and fastest growing colleges in the country, with more than 37,000 students. Additionally, Orem sits adjacent to Provo, Utah, which is home to Brigham Young University. The metropolitan area as a whole is full of college students.

Despite its size, Orem is known to be a safe and affordable city. In fact, the city’s slogan is “Family City USA.” It even ranked No. 13 on Money’s list of best places to live in 2018, thanks to its quality schools, easily accessible outdoor activities, and affordable cost of living.

The city is also a great town for job-seekers and entrepreneurs. In fact, Fobes ranked it the best midsize city for jobs in 2017, and SmartAsset called it the most entrepreneurial small to midsize metro in 2016. That’s good news for students, who’ll find plenty of job opportunities post graduation.

Home to: Utah Valley University, Mountainland Technical College, Utah College of Dental Hygiene

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