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The Convo by Hocking River on the south side of campus Feb. 26, 2024.

Athens voted top college town in the Midwest

“RentCafe” recently ranked the top 10 college towns in the Midwest. The list was based on several factors, such as characteristics that influence quality of life and a strong connection to arts and culture. Athens topped the ranking, snagging the No. 1 spot.

Locals and students said it was no surprise. 

“It sounds about right to me,” Christopher Koon, an Athens local, said. “Of course, I have two degrees from here, so I might be a bit prejudiced. But it is.”

Koon has been around Athens his entire life and went to Ohio University as part of the graduating class of 1987. He said he has too many memories to count.

Even with powerhouse schools, such as The University of Michigan and Indiana University Bloomington making the list, they couldn’t touch what Athens has due to a lack of arts, recreation and entertainment spaces.

“It's just a gorgeous campus,” Koon said. “I also went to Indiana and some people try to compare the two, but the architecture is different. IU has a very nice, beautiful campus, but ours is nice and beautiful too.”

RentCafe’s ranking of all college towns across the U.S. in 2024 still had Athens sitting high at the No. 11 spot. The criteria was based on a point system and out of 100, Athens scored 90.82. Bozeman, Montana, home to Montana State University sat in the top spot with a perfect score. The data considered for the scores included affordability, livability and education. 

Factors for the list varied from tuition and cost of living to air quality index and its population of young adults. Many of the factors from both lists were catered to Generation Z and its desire to be in communities with “like-minded individuals.”

Caleigh LaVelle, a senior studying accounting, believes Athens meets the exact criteria of the list. The financial assistance OU provided her has allowed her to further her education at a school she loves. According to the criteria, 96% of students receive financial aid. 

“They're very generous with scholarships and stuff like that,” she said. “I think this is a great place to live … I'm not a big city person. So this campus, I feel like it does a really great job of creating a good community.”

LaVelle recommends that any Athens newcomers try Court Street Coffee, located at 67 S. Court St., and also grab a bite at Bagel Street Deli, located at 27 S. Court St. 

According to the list, the younger population is additionally looking for natural beauty, minimal pollution and closeness to nature when searching for colleges. Another factor in their search had a lot to do with creative endeavors and self-expression. Athens has a surplus of green spaces as well as places for art and entertainment.

Julia Martin, an undecided freshman, heard about Athens from her father, an OU alum. She believes a good college town requires a strong sense of community.

“I felt like everyone that I met here was always very nice,” she said. “If I'm going to go to college somewhere, I want it to be very inviting. I loved the little town, Athens especially. It's very homey.”

Despite being her first year, Martin has made many memories and is looking forward to the many more she will make.

“(My favorite things include) exploring the town of Athens, going to all the different coffee shops and just finding where I like to go the most and my favorite study spots and everything,” Martin said. “There’s so many different places to go and (I) just really enjoyed exploring the new area.”

When reminiscing about his days as a student, Koon said his mind goes to the concerts he and his band played in Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium. He also has many memories in the old Lucky’s Tavern, before it was moved across the street to 11 N. Court St. 

Athens is home to Bobcats and locals who share one thing in common: their love for this town. Athens has been No. 1 in Bobcats' hearts and now, it's official. 

“I think (Athens) is deserving of it,” Martin said. “But from when I've been here so far, I've really enjoyed it, and I have been to a few other colleges, and I would say that Athens is at the top for me.”


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