Ithaca was named the No. 1 college town in the nation in the 2010-11 College Destination Index, released by the American Institute for Economic Research on Wednesday.
The index names the 75 best cities for students, categorized by population size. Ithaca was named the top college town with a population under 250,000. San Francisco was ranked No. 1 for populations over 2.5 million, San Jose for midsize metro at 1 to 2.5 million and Boulder, Colo. for small cities of 250,000 to 1 million people.
State College, Pa. and Iowa City ranked second and third for best college town after Ithaca, respectively.
Matthew Riis, marketing and events manager for the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, an organization that handles development, promotion and management of downtown Ithaca, said the community life in Ithaca is what sets it apart from other small college towns.
“We have students who work downtown, volunteer downtown, even just come enjoy downtown, and become a part of the community,” he said. “In Ithaca, students actually feel like they are part of a community and not just part of an institution.”
Freshman Zac Blitz said in the short amount of time he’s spent in Ithaca, he could understand why the town garnered the top college town ranking.
“It isn’t like there was a city here and then they built a college,” he said. “It’s more like the college and the city were meant to be together.”
For Blitz, having everything close together in town caters toward students and their lifestyle.
“[The town] is so close and tightly knit,” he said. “There’s so much to do in such a small area that it lends itself to being such a great college town. It’s really geared toward how students run.”
Riis said that having both Ithaca College and Cornell University in one town is a significant part of why the town stands out.
“Having two phenomenal institutions of higher learning, with the wonderful downtown and beautiful commercial district, attracts international and national entertainment acts as well as cultural institutions,” he said. “It’s a crossroad for so many people and cultures to come together.”
Junior Gaelle Ligonde said she has come to appreciate the town the longer she’s been here. She said she enjoys events like the Apple Harvest Festival, which help bring students and the town community together. She said the welcoming atmosphere makes her feel secure.
“On campus or in town, the security is what makes it great,” she said. “I feel really safe walking around here in the later hours.”
Riis said with the area’s city-like atmosphere and rural sectors, Ithaca has best of both worlds.
“The natural beauty of the area combined with the metropolitan feel of the City of Ithaca is a unique combination you really can’t find too many other places,” he said.