Manchester Earns Top Grade as a “Best” College City

Thursday, September 10, 2009
SNHU Communications Office

View complete "College Destination Index" report.  

Manchester earns high marks for college atmosphere

New Hampshire Union Leader

The Queen City is one of America's best college cities, according to a new report.

The American Institute for Economic Research ranks Manchester 16th out of 124 small metropolitan areas, coming in just ahead of Portland, Maine.

The independent research organization identified the 75 best college cities by size and based on academic environment, quality of life and professional opportunities.

The "College Destination Index" focuses on the Manchester region, a geographic area that stretches into southern and eastern New Hampshire.

It measures the number of college students per 1,000 residents, academic research and development expenditures per 100,000 residents, and the number of people with college degrees. It also included cost of living, earning potential, and the number of cultural and entertainment venues.

Opportunity and affordability are always big lures, said Ron Rioux, interim president of Manchester Community College.

"I've seen it evolve over time and in a very positive way," said Rioux, a former president of St. Mary's Bank. "If you walk down Elm Street you will see a younger population and a mix of an ethnic background."

Rioux said the arts and leisure have enhanced the academic setting. He cited the sports events at the Verizon Wireless Arena and Stadium, as well as entertainment and dining opportunities in downtown Manchester.

Higher education is big business in New Hampshire. The sector employs approximately 18,000 people with an annual payroll of $700 million, according to Thomas Horgan, president and chief executive officer of the New Hampshire College and University Council.

Horgan said the American Institute for Economic Research rating was great news. "It kind of tells a little bit the tale of higher education in New Hampshire in general," he said. "It's an often overlooked jewel in the Northeast."

Horgan said people are sometimes surprised when they find out how many colleges are in Manchester and central New Hampshire.

"We have a rich diversity of campuses, from a more liberal arts college in St. Anselm College to a very energized SNHU," he said.

Colleges with campuses or centers in greater Manchester include Franklin Pierce University, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, New Hampshire Institute of Art, and the University of New Hampshire.

Gregg Mazzola, director of communications for Southern New Hampshire University, cited academic diversity and student diversity in summing up Manchester as a big college town. He said SNHU has students from 75 countries, and students are no longer just in the 18 to 21 age group.

"We have a great downtown that offers all kinds of culture, depending on your tastes," Mazzola said. "There's just a lot to do."

The index highlights "off-campus assets," but does not describe specific campuses.

"Your college experience extends beyond the walls of the campus," said Kerry Lynch, a senior fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research.

Boulder, Colo., was the top college city in the small metros category, followed by Bridgeport, Conn., and Ann Arbor, Mich.

Besides Burlington, Vt., which ranked 11th on the list of "college towns," no other New England communities made the list of 75 best college cities.

Ithaca, N.Y., was the top "college town," listed as under 250,000 residents. San Jose, Calif., was the top mid-size metro city. New York City was the top major metro college city, followed by San Francisco and Boston.


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