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10 Best Places to Live After College

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As you make the transition from school to the working world, choosing the best place to live after college is critical. It could affect your professional career and future financial prosperity.

But which are the best places to live after college? Consider factors such as:

  • Unemployment rates
  • Ability to earn enough money to repay your student loans
  • Promising job opportunities in your field
  • Other criteria that may be on your list are professional and social opportunities (including entertainment), affordable housing, quality of life and potential earnings.

Here are our picks for 10 of the best places to move after college in the U.S. (in alphabetical order), along with details of what makes them special and why each made the list:

The best places to live after college

Austin, Texas

If you’re planning to launch yourself into a career in the tech industry, or if you’re a lover of the arts, Austin could be one of the best places to live after college. As an established technology hub, many companies like Google, Activision Blizzard, eBay, Apple and Facebook have branch offices there, along with the headquarters for dozens of well-ranked startups like VRBO. Some may even help you pay off your student loans when you work for them.

Aside from the plentiful tech jobs, Austin is host to renowned festivals like South by Southwest (SXSW) and Austin City Limits. It’s also home to the University of Texas, Austin — the alma mater to the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Michael Dell and Neil deGrasse Tyson — which helps add to the city’s cultural and artistic sophistication.

While the cost of living in Austin is high relative to some of the other places on this list, its status as one of the top three metros with the fastest growing personal income helps to strike an affordable balance.

  • Population: 978,908
  • Homeowners: 45.1%
  • Median home value: $337,400
  • Median rent: $1,280
  • Median income: $71,576
  • % of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 51.7%
  • Median unemployment: 4.8%

Charlotte, N.C.

Located in a state with one of highest growth rates for personal income, this historical city is among the best places to move after college, especially if you see yourself working in the technology or financial industry.

Over the years, the state, specifically Charlotte, has blossomed into an attractive area for large corporations to park their business. Among those companies are industry titans such as Bank of America, Lowe’s, Duke Energy, Honeywell and Nucor Corporation, as well as LendingTree.

Charlotte, nicknamed the Queen City, also sits at a respectable No. 114 in unemployment out of 384 U.S. cities. And student loan borrowers in North Carolina also tend to have an average balance a little below the national average.

And if you’re a sports fan, Charlotte hosts the state’s NFL team, the Carolina Panthers, as well as the U.S. National Whitewater Center and NASCAR Hall of Fame.

  • Population: 885,708
  • Homeowners: 52.9%
  • Median home value: $220,300
  • Median rent: $1,135
  • Median income: $62,817
  • % of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 44.3%
  • Median unemployment: 4.7%

Cincinnati

If you’re a recent graduate looking for an affordable city to live in after college, Cincinnati stands as one of the most economical large metros to relocate to, thanks to inexpensive housing and better-than-average unemployment.

With a large concentration on the health care, education, trade and business service industries, some of Cincinnati’s top employers include Kroger Co., Mercy Health, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Health, TriHealth, University of Cincinnati and Procter & Gamble.

And if you’re looking for some fun, you can also find the largest U.S. Oktoberfest, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and the Great American Ball Park where the Cincinnati Reds play. Just be prepared to eat lots of Cincinnati chili.

  • Population: 303,940
  • Homeowners: 37.8%
  • Median home value: $138,000
  • Median rent: $738
  • Median income: $40,640
  • % of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 37.1%
  • Median unemployment: 5.5%

Cleveland

Cleveland has one of the most affordable home rental markets in the U.S. This, coupled with the fact that Ohioans have an overall student loan balance 10% below the national average, earns it a spot among the best places to live after college.

The Cleveland economy is particularly focused on health care, manufacturing, finance and business services. New college graduates may find employment at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, MetroHealth System, Cleveland Cliffs and KeyCorp.

And if you’re looking for something to do in Cleveland, try visiting the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or catching a rollercoaster at Cedar Point Amusement Park.

  • Population: 381,009
  • Homeowners: 41.6%
  • Median home value: $69,600
  • Median rent: $719
  • Median income: $30,907
  • % of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 17.5%
  • Median unemployment: 6.5%

Denver

Known as the Mile High City, the Greater Denver Area boasts a variety of job opportunities, especially in business services, government, transportation, utilities, finance, construction, education and health. Denver and nearby Boulder, Colo. also have many major tech branch offices, including the likes of Google, Slack, Salesforce, Ibotta and Rafflecopter.

That, as well as a gorgeous view of the Rocky Mountains, could make the city one of the best places for you to move after college.

And while Denver can be an expensive place to live, it is one of the top metro areas in terms of personal income growth.

  • Population: 727,211
  • Homeowners: 49.9%
  • Median home value: $390,600
  • Median rent: $1,311
  • Median income: $68,592
  • % of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 49.4%
  • Median unemployment: 6.3%

Minneapolis

With a relatively low unemployment rate and a diverse range of industries to choose from, Minneapolis is also one of the best places to move after college.

Recent college graduates may find work in health care, education, business services, trade, transportation and utilities. Some of the largest employers in the Twin Cities include Target, UnitedHealth Group, 3M, Land O’Lakes and Xcel Energy.

Minneapolis also gives new college graduates access to the state’s beautiful outdoor spaces like the Chain of Lakes, Minnehaha Regional Park (one of Minneapolis’ oldest parks) and Webber Natural Swimming Pool. And within the city, you can explore the Mall of America®, Minnesota Zoo, Stone Arch Bridge and Minneapolis Institute of Art.

  • Population: 429,606
  • Homeowners: 47.2%
  • Median home value: $251,600
  • Median rent: $1,027
  • Median income: $62,583
  • % of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 50.4%
  • Median unemployment: 4.5%

Omaha, Neb.

Located smack dab in the middle of the U.S., Omaha, Neb., ranks within the 20 urban areas with the lowest unemployment rates. Likewise, its low cost of living and quickly evolving social scene make it an attractive place to live.

As an added bonus, the average Nebraskan’s federal and private student loan balance is 22% lower than the national rate.

Some of the metro area’s biggest industries include education, health care, trade, transportation, utilities and business services. The city is home to corporate moguls such as Berkshire Hathaway, Union Pacific, Kiewit and Mutual of Omaha Insurance.

Omaha is also host to the Olympic Swim Trials, the College World Series and the award-winning Henry Doorly Zoo.

  • Population: 478,192
  • Homeowners: 58.6%
  • Median home value: $159,700
  • Median rent: $923
  • Median income: $60,092
  • % of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 37.7%
  • Median unemployment: 3.2%

Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City is an especially attractive place to live for recent college graduates with its low unemployment rate — the 18th lowest (tied) in the country — and proximity to natural wonders such as Arches National Park, Zion National Park and the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Also worth noting is that Utah, of which Salt Lake City is the capital, is among the top three states with the fastest growing personal income. This could make it easier to pay off those student loans.

  • Population: 200,567
  • Homeowners: 48.1%
  • Median home value: $314,500
  • Median rent: $985
  • Median income: $60,676
  • % of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 46.5%
  • Median unemployment: 3.2%

Seattle

Home to some of the largest tech companies in the world, it’s no secret why Seattle is also considered one of the best places to live after college.

The city has one of the highest rates for job growth and offers beautiful surroundings like mountains and the ocean, as well as a highly coveted food and social scene. It also hosts the headquarters of major corporations such as Starbucks, Amazon, Microsoft and Boeing Co. Overall, Seattle’s top industries are trade, transportation, utilities, business services, health care and education.

Meanwhile, borrowers in Washington have, on average, a 9% lower student loan debt balance than the country’s average.

  • Population: 753,675
  • Homeowners: 45.7%
  • Median home value: $663,100
  • Median rent: $1,614
  • Median income: $92,263
  • % of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 32.1%
  • Median unemployment: 5.5%

St. Louis

Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, St. Louis offers recent college graduates one of the lowest costs of living in a large metro in the country, as well as a below-average unemployment rate.

Home to the Gateway Arch, the tallest monument in the U.S, St. Louis provides a wide variety of activities, including the Six Flags St. Louis amusement park and major league baseball and ice hockey teams.

  • Population: 300,576
  • Homeowners: 43.7%
  • Median home value: $138,700
  • Median rent: $828
  • Median income: $43,896
  • % of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 36.3%
  • Median unemployment: 5.3%

Why location is important for new college graduates

Geography isn’t always destiny, but it can make a big difference in your ability to pay off student loans quickly.

For example, some places have more opportunities for student loan forgiveness, while others might be more inviting to those planning to raise a family. Generally, though, it’s often a combination of local income levels and local costs of living that make some places better for paying off student loans.

With more and more work transitioning to remote status due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s more opportunity to telework from anywhere you want. Be sure to choose wisely.

 

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