Karen Shaw

Is Tuscaloosa Really the 48th Best College Town In America?

According to Best College Reviews, Tuscaloosa ranks 48 out of the 50 Best College Towns in America. Factors considered were: Livability; Student-to-resident ratio; Cultural Offerings; School Presence; and Large Employers.

Tuscaloosa’s livability must be a considered a plus for University of Alabama students; 42% of the 2013 freshman class hail from outside the state. They aren’t the only ones who feel this way. In 2011 the U.S. Conference of Mayors named Tuscaloosa ‘The Most Liveable City in America.’

There are roughly two Tuscaloosa residents for every one student, and this makes for a nice ratio; it isn’t a ghost town during the summer and other times the university is closed, but not a mad house when school is in session.

Tuscaloosa’s cultural offerings aren’t too shabby either. The Alabama Museum of Natural History is housed on the University of Alabama campus and there are several art galleries sprinkled throughout downtown. The city also boasts plenty of dining establishments to whet your appetite: Cypress Inn, Kozy’s, FIVE, Epiphany, and chef Chris Hastings [of Hot and Hot Fish Club fame] will open a new restaurant in January.

Maybe we are biased, but I challenge you to find a school with more presence than The University of Alabama. The state’s flagship institution of higher education continues to rank among the most prestigious universities in America. Among those honors are: more National Merit Scholars than any university in the nation for the 2012-13 school year, and last fall there were only three other universities who had more than Alabama: University of Chicago, Harvard and the University of Southern California.

There are plenty of large employers in Tuscaloosa ranging from healthcare to manufacturing. The largest among these is the only U.S. location for Mercedes Benz.

We take offense to Tuscaloosa’s ranking on this list, and it’s also troubling that a southern town didn’t crack the Top 10. What’s up with that? The author, Merrill Cook, may have graduated from Sewanee: the University of the South, but his time spent there obviously didn’t make him a believer. Bless his heart. Mr. Cook, say what you want about the south, but nobody ever retires and moves up north.

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