Should You Retire to a College Town?

The Cheat Sheet

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When thinking about where to retire, most people consider comparable factors: the tax rates of the state in question, the accessibility of quality healthcare, the opportunities for outside recreation and, of course, the safety and the benefits of the city or town itself. A college town or city might not be the first location that most retirees would think about. Sometimes college towns are full of loud students, and in some cases, offer very little to draw anyone who isn’t in college. However, college towns and cities also have many potential benefits — easy access to college courses, fun activities, and more. Sometimes, college towns can offer retirees the perfect blend of a small town (or a big city), with vibrant surroundings and opportunities for learning and experiencing new things. You will have to decide if a college town is your dream retirement location, or if you prefer to choose a more traditional long-term residence.

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College towns and cities come in all different sizes, and so they offer varying opportunities. One of the biggest positives of living in a college town is that you will be surrounded by fun and exciting students, many of whom will be energetic and motivated, and still idealistic enough to want to change the world. This kind of environment can be very motivational.

Another positive of living in a college town is the fact that colleges often host free concerts, festivals, or even workshops. Popular speakers come to college campuses, and sometimes, politicians as well. If you like the arts scene, you will certainly benefit from living near a college, and you also may meet people that you would never have the chance to meet otherwise, like politicians, singers, dancers, and even actors who come to connect with the students. The possibilities for interacting with interesting people, including the students themselves, are endless.

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Another great positive of living in a college town is the fact that you will have so many educational opportunities nearby. Even if you have your bachelor’s degree already (or even an advanced degree), you will certainly find classes that interest you, and they may only be a walk or a few minutes drive away. Many college towns offer free or reduced classes for retirees.

College towns also often attract businesses and restaurants, which might not be available in towns of comparable size (without a college campus.) Restaurants want to attract students, so if you are interested in living in a small town but you want to have many choices for good food or even for places to shop, a college town might be the perfect place for you. If you choose a college in a big city, you will have even more options.

Many colleges are also located in areas with affordable housing, sport teams, and the potential for excellent health care. However, there are also disadvantages to living in a college town. The most obvious potential disadvantage of living in a college town is the noise. If the town or city is big enough that you don’t need to live near the campus, then you can enjoy the pluses of college town life without all the noise. You can usually find out a lot about the party scene at a college by reading the party rankings online; some schools have a reputation for being home to many partiers.

Another negative of college towns is that you might find that the town completely shuts down in the summer when the students leave. This might be a welcome rest for some people, but if you move to a college town to be near all the enthusiasm and entertainment that comes with living near students, you might find the summer to be painfully boring. Sometimes even the stores will shut down, making a college town feel like a ghost town in the summer.

Depending on how big the city or town you choose is, you may also find that although the students and the school offer a lot of activities and opportunities for learning, you may find that the rest of the residents only care about the school itself. Some college towns are so small that they simply revolve around the college itself, which means that there are very few chances to meet people outside of the educational system.

If you read through this list and you are considering retiring to a college town, you will need to narrow down your search. First, determine if you want a small town or a big city; figure out if you want to live near the campus or you want to be away from the noise; and lastly, determine how important different factors are in your decision (cost of living, taxes, healthcare, etc.) Once you have narrowed down your search, try considering which college towns are the best for retirees. Towns in Mississippi, Michigan, North Carolina, and many other states made Kiplinger’s list, and of course, there are many other colleges to choose from as well.

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