The 10 Most Populous College Towns in America

There were approximately 19.7 million college students in the U.S. in 2020, according to National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data.

That figure reflects a gradual increase in tertiary education in recent years.

And Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System enrollment in 2019 shows most college attendees live and study in America's largest cities and metropolitan areas.

Economic and modeling firm Emsi has used the data to analyse future trends. CEO Andrew Crapuchettes suggests college towns economies are well placed for longterm economic success.

He told Newsweek: "America is entering a period of sustained employee shortages.

"Those businesses with a 'people plan' will be looking for communities with the highest concentration of young talent. That means college town economies will grow exponentially in the coming decades."

The figures below show there is a strong correlation between a city's average resident and student population—with Phoenix-Mesa a significant outlier—suggesting college students track population to a large degree.

Here are the top 10 most populous college towns in America...

10. Houston-The Woodlands, TX CSA

(319,700 students)

The Greater Houston area encompasses the city of Houston—the largest economic and cultural center of the South.

Universities and colleges include Rice University and the University of Houston.

9. Miami-Port St. Lucie-Fort Lauderdale, FL CSA

(331,900 students)

University of Miami
Waterways wind through the University of Miami campus SandiMako/Getty Images

The Miami metropolitan area is the second largest in the southeastern U.S.

Universities and colleges include the University of Miami, Florida International University and Florida Atlantic.

8. Philadelphia-Reading-Camden, PA-NJ-DE-MD CSA

(357,300 students)

The Philadelphia metropolitan area has long been influential in American history and industry.

Universities and colleges include the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel, Temple and Villanova.

7.Boston-Worcester-Providence, MA-RI-NH-CT CSA

(364,700 students)

Greater Boston has exerted a huge influence on high education with institutions such as Harvard rabbit75_ist/Getty Images

Greater Boston has exerted a huge influence upon American history and industry, in particular with high education.

Universities and colleges include Harvard, MIT, Tufts, Boston University and Boston College.

6. Dallas-Fort Worth, TX-OK CSA

(402,800 students)

Dallas–Fort Worth–Arlington is regarded as the economic and cultural hub of North Texas.

Universities and colleges include Southern Methodist University, the University of Texas at Dallas and the University of Texas at Arlington.

5. Washington-Baltimore-Arlington, DC-MD-VA-WV-PA CSA

(422,000 students)

Georgetown University
The Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area contains Georgetown University bpperry/Getty Images

The Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area is the most educated, highest-income, and fourth-largest combined statistical area in the U.S.

Universities and colleges include Georgetown University, George Washington, American, Howard and George Mason.

4. Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, AZ

(476,500 students)

The Phoenix Metropolitan Area is the largest metropolitan area in the Southwestern U.S and boasts the nation's tenth largest population.

Universities and colleges include Arizona State University and the University of Virginia.

3. Chicago-Naperville, IL-IN-WI CSA

(519,238 students)

University of Chicago
The Chicago Metropolitan Area is home to the University of Chicago urbsinhorto1837/Getty Images

The Chicago Metropolitan Area is home to several of America's leading research universities including the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, DePaul University and Loyola University.

2. Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA CSA

(1,043,000 students)

Greater Los Angeles is the world's third-largest metropolitan area by nominal gross domestic product, with an economy exceeding $1 trillion in output.

Universities and colleges in this area include UCLA, USC, Occidental and Loyola-Marymount.

1. New York-Newark, NY-NJ-CT-PA CSA

(1,050,800 students)

New York metropolitan area is home to colleges like NYU deberarr/Getty Images

With an area including America's most populous city, New York metropolitan area is also the most populous in the U.S.

Universities and colleges include NYU, Columbia, The New School, CUNY and Fordham, which in total constitute more than 1 million students.

educational attainment
Emsi has published a map detailing America's educational hotspots Emsi