Town and Gown

Town+Gown=Best Places to Live

Culture. Research. Libraries. Athletics. Universities aren’t just for students and the employers who want to hire them. They are a resource a community can rally around.

It’s no wonder cities that pop up on “best places to live” lists are often hotbeds for education.

Gallup’s Wellbeing Index featured university towns as four of the top five U.S. metropolitan areas for overall wellbeing, including Charlottesville, Va. (home of Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia), Ann Arbor, Mich., Boulder, Colo. and Provo, Utah. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. came in eighth.

Gallup cited Charlottesville as number one in “residents treating each other with respect” which they says suggests an “underlying culture of shared purpose and commonwealth.” And Boulder, Provo and Ann Arbor were among the top cities in America for “learning new and interesting things,” which Gallup says could “reflect the influence of local universities and colleges.”

Well-being was attributed to such factors as emotional and physical health and work environment. But communities also look to universities to provide the knowledge base for research that will solve problems as well as a source for cultural activities and entertainment.

The California Energy Commission decided to make Sacramento, and specifically Sac State, the home of the California Smart Grid Center in large part because of the campus’ strong power engineering program, which includes the only master’s degree in electrical engineering in the state. The College of Engineering and Computer Science’s designation as a national center of cyber-security and its reputation as a leader in renewable energy research factored in as well.

Because the city is also the home of the largest state government in the country, officials and agencies rely on Sac State for unbiased research and policy advice. And it also provides a source for employees and interns who have come through the highly competitive and respected Capital Fellows and Sacramento Semester programs’s list of America’s most innovative cities was rich in university influence, too. In addition to San Jose, the cities of Austin, Texas and Raleigh, N.C., Seattle, Wash. and Boston all made the grade. The Forbes story even notes that many of the cities on the list are a reflection of the partnerships technology firms have with local universities, linking innovative cities with schools such as Provo’s Brigham Young University and Madison’s University of Wisconsin-Madison.

 A separate study pointed out that colleges often produce not only qualified employees but entrepreneurial efforts that begin on campus, then stay and grow locally.

The majority of the Sacramento region’s teachers and law enforcement officials are Sac State alumni and the University's nursing program’s expansion, including its new state of the art Folsom Hall home, will help meet the area’s need for highly prepared nurses. The University is expanding its offerings in entrepreneurship courses, including launching a Center for Entrepreneurship, and recent history has shown that what starts as a seemingly simple class project can expand into a technological success story.

The cultural and educational opportunities university towns offer was in evidence in a Milken Institute ranking of best American cities for growing older, with the top choices all having universities, including perennial favorites Provo-Orem, Madison and Boston, along with New York/Northern New Jersey, because of the availability of intellectual stimulation and social engagement that can be found through a university.

Sacramento residents flock to Sac State for its hundreds of art, music and theatre performances, art exhibits, lectures and the wealth of resources in the University Library.

There’s also a vibrancy that cities gain from their affiliation with universities. Communities that did well on the list of fun, affordable cities were selected for their affordable housing and variety of restaurants and bars. Sacramento State’s hometown ranked number six on the list along with Tempe, Ariz. and Wilmington, N.C., which were cited for their college life.

Of course, when a list details the top college sports towns the university-bias is built in. But for Forbes magazine’s ranking of sports towns they also took into account the qualities that the cities offer that come along with college sports which can be applied to many university cities. They point out that in places like Palo Alto, Calif., Lexington, Ky., Fayetteville, Ark., and Columbia Mo., universities contribute quality of life and economic impact as bonus products of having a local college sports team to cheer on.