College towns are communities where the presence of an educational institution is a part of daily life. The fate of the city is often intertwined with the college’s, as a vibrant downtown will attract top students from around the world. This goes both ways, as the large student population will benefit the economy, diversity, and available recreational activities in the surrounding community.
Due to the youthful, educated, and transient nature of university students, college towns are often less traditional. This leads to a melting pot with active musical, cultural, and dining scenes. The presence of a respected school also attracts startup companies and research which will create jobs and drive economic development.
According to the American Communities Project, college towns scattered around the country are home to 18.6 million people. However, these cities aren’t just for students and faculty. College towns are dynamic and interesting communities that have many benefits for residents.
The cost of living in college towns are often much more manageable than major cities in order to meet the student budget. Along with affordable rent and dining, college towns are typically pedestrian-friendly with good transportation options. In addition, there are plenty of community events, restaurants, and attractions meaning that there’s always something to do.
Maine has its fair share of college towns that draw in people from around the world. Although beautiful mountains and historic towns might be the first thing to come to mind, these college towns in Maine have no shortage of impressive schools or things to do. Students and residents alike can go to jazz festivals, taste cuisines from around the world, visit craft breweries, watch football games, go hiking, and do whatever else they can think of at these ten best college towns in Maine.
10. Gorham, ME
Gorham Village or “the Village” encompasses multiple smaller villages, each with its own distinct historical identity. Today, it has grown to a flourishing town that embraces the cultural and intellectual life of the surrounding community.
Gorham’s urban village center is on an upward swing with new housing developments, businesses, and restaurants popping up every day. This growth is supported by the thousands of students from the University of Southern Maine who frequent the coffee shops and galleries in town. For nature-lovers, Gorham has no shortage of hiking, kayaking, or swimming.
The town is also gaining recognition in statewide rankings. Due to factors such as crime rates, public schools, cost of living, job opportunities, and local amenities, Niche ranks Gorham as the #12 best suburb to raise a family in Maine and the #14 best suburb to live in.
Schools in Gorham: University of Southern Maine
9. Augusta, ME
Augusta has a population nearing 19,000 and houses UMaine Augusta, the third-largest public university in Maine. UMaine Augusta is notable for its support of the surrounding community, including its programs for veterans and adults returning to the classroom.
As the capital of Maine, Augusta has no shortage of historic sites to visit. This includes Fort Weston, a National Historic Landmark, and the oldest wooden fort in the United States. Outside of sightseeing, downtown Augusta has a variety of museums, theaters, and parks to visit.
To keep up with a thriving population, downtown Water Street is going through a revitalization, with more than a dozen restaurants and bars opening in the past three years. The 107-year old Colonial Theater is being refurbished as a performing arts center which will allow for even more recreational activities for students and residents.
Schools in Augusta: University of Maine at Augusta
8. Presque Isle, ME
Presque Isle is a popular college town, home to three impressive college campuses that are woven into the community. The city holds the record for the world’s largest three-dimensional scale model of the solar system, with the sun incorporated into a UMaine building and Pluto located over 40 miles away.
Presque Isle is also the home of the first transatlantic balloon crossing. The community comes together every summer to celebrate the Double Eagle II’s historic flight with the Crown of Maine Balloon Festival. Here, residents enjoy balloon rides, plane tours, and fair rides in the summer.
Besides breaking boundaries, visitors in Presque Isle have a wide variety of things to do. They can watch prospective Olympians compete at the Nordic Heritage Center or explore shops and restaurants at the Aroostook Centre Mall.
Schools in Presque Isle: UMaine at Presque Isle, Northern Maine Community College, Husson University Presque Isle
7. Biddeford, ME
College towns are known for their young and diverse populations that result in a vibrant and inclusive downtown area for all residents. This is especially apparent in Biddeford, the youngest city in Maine with a median age of only 29. Niche ranks the town as the #5 most diverse suburb in Maine, making Biddeford a great choice for an inclusive and enriched community.
Many young residents come for the great education options in Biddeford. The impressive University of New England has the state’s only medical school. In addition, the public middle and high schools are nationally recognized as National Schools of Excellence by the US Department of Education.
Biddeford’s downtown area is home to many theaters, locally-owned shops, restaurants, bars, and microbreweries for locals to enjoy. Residents also can appreciate the growing art community, which is supported by the local non-profit organization Engine.
Schools in Biddeford: University of New England