La Crosse in top 20 college towns

La Crosse ranks No. 19

La Crosse in top 20 college towns

LA CROSSE, Wis. - A new ranking puts La Crosse among the best college towns in the nation.

The American Institute for Economic Research put La Crosse in the list of top 20 college towns in the country. Affordable rental costs, plenty of job opportunities for students and a vibrant downtown helped La Crosse make the cut.

Class is back in session at UW-La Crosse for the spring semester, and a new student center called the U is welcoming back students, including junior and student association president Jacob Schimmel.

"This is really the new epicenter of campus, is what I would call it,” Schimmel said.

It's projects like the U that contribute to the city's new title as one of the best college towns in the country.

"It's exciting,” UW-L Chancellor Joe Gow said. "I think it’s things those of us who’ve lived here, we’ve known for a long time, which is very friendly people, great atmosphere, outdoors, a fantastic downtown."

With its three universities -- UW-L, Western Technical College and Viterbo University -- La Crosse ranked 19th on a list of best college towns, which includes places with a population under 250,000.

Gow said that ranking is more than just a number -- it can be a determining factor on faculty choosing to work in La Crosse.

"In Wisconsin, we're not known for paying our people very competitively,” Gow said. “So, I think a ranking like this that says to folks, ‘OK, maybe the salaries are not outstanding, but the quality of life is,’ and that makes a huge difference, so we're very grateful for that."

To rank the towns, AIER researchers used criteria such as entertainment options, presence of restaurants and bars, rental costs and youth unemployment rate. As Schimmel can attest, there's no lack of jobs in La Crosse.

"There isn't much of an issue with it because they almost come to you,” he said. Among the towns, La Crosse had the lowest youth unemployment rate.

He said that, along with affordable student housing, extracurricular opportunities, a lively downtown and an abundance of nature all make La Crosse a place he's happy to call home.

"There's just so many things that come together near campus to make it a special city that services the university really well,” Schimmel said.

Madison ranked fourth on another AIER list for small metro college destinations, or cities with a population between 250,000 and 1 million people.

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