Move over, Cougs. Calm down, Dawgs.

Neither of you has the best college town in this state, according to a new study by the technology review site

That honor belongs to Western Washington University’s home, Bellingham, near the Canadian border, where the blue-and-white Vikings rule.

To be fair, the University of Washington in Seattle was bumped off consideration for the list before the real comparisons started — because, for this study, the authors focused on colleges in cities with a population of 250,000 or less. “We kept in mind that the metro areas surrounding the smaller towns would also include the student population,” wrote the ranking’s author, Tyler Abbott.

Researchers used data from the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to analyze and compare the college towns’ overall population, student population, rental costs, college education rates, transportation access, unemployment rates and bar availability.

From there, they narrowed it further by weighing the cost of living and the unemployment rates for 20- to 24-year-olds, among other factors.

Among the nation’s best college towns, Bellingham — also known as the “City of Subdued Excitement” — placed ninth overall, according to the analysis.


The other best college towns are listed as:

  1. Iowa City, Iowa (University of Iowa)
  2. Ithaca, NY (Cornell University)
  3. Champaign-Urbana, Illinois (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)
  4. Rexburg, Idaho (Brigham Young University)
  5. Logan, Utah (Utah State University)
  6. State College, Pennsylvania (Penn State University)
  7. West Lafayette, Indiana (Purdue University)
  8. Bozeman, Montana (Montana State University)
  9. Bellingham, Washington (Western Washington University)
  10. Blacksburg, Virginia (Virginia Tech)

Bellingham, the county seat of Whatcom County, was incorporated in 1903 as a merger between four, small historic towns that settled near Bellingham Bay. It has an estimated population of nearly 92,000 and is the state’s 12th most populous city, about 90 minutes north of Seattle by car and about an hour from Vancouver, B.C.

The city is a popular jumping-off point for day trips to the North Cascades.

Beware, of course, that ranking college towns is an imprecise endeavor. In this one published by CollegeSnacks late last year, Bellingham didn’t crack the state’s top 10.