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America’s Most ‘Hygge’ Cities

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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In Denmark, the term “hygge” refers to a quality of coziness or sense of comfort. Around the rest of the world, hygge has become a lifestyle trend in the way people approach relaxation and everyday indulgences.

Hygge, pronounced “hoo-guh,” can be a focus on the atmosphere you create at home with candles or a plush throw blanket, the yoga pants you lounge around in when you’re decompressing after a long workweek or even the most comforting dishes or homemade sweet treats you indulge in with friends and family. However you translate it, hygge is certainly not staring at your phone all day or binge-watching Netflix alone all afternoon.

That’s why MagnifyMoney decided to take a look at major cities in the U.S. to find out which ones offer the best chance to build a truly “hygge lifestyle.”

We scraped Instagram for 17 different hygge-themed hashtags (like #cozy, #content and #hygge itself) across a total of 1.7 million posts. Then we surveyed Danish residents to find out how closely they think each of the above terms related to their idea of hygge lifestyle on a scale of 1 to 7. The averages of these ratings were used to weigh each term’s influence.

Our analysis revealed the top 15 cities across the U.S. embracing the hygge lifestyle. With results scattered all across the country, this list proves that cozy, comfortable living isn’t dependent on a particular climate or scenery and can be achieved virtually anywhere.

Key Findings

  1. Santa Monica, Calif., (a generally warm state) was the most hygge city in America.
  2. Overall, states that stood as the most hygge were generally found in colder northern regions lead by Vermont, Washington, D.C. and Montana.
  3. Based on more than 28,000 hashtags, hygge was more commonly linked to home decor and interior design than anything else.
  4. Cities like Miami, Orlando and Atlanta ranked among the most prevalent for feelings and words associated with hygge, indicating traveling to warm climates could be a popular way to channel hygge in colder months.

Leading the way with the highest value of weighted tags we searched for was Santa Monica, Calif. This oceanside city proves you don’t need freezing temperatures to channel the hygge mood and ranked at the top of our list for hashtags like #comfortable, #content and #cozy. With several hygge-friendly beach boutique hotels and plenty of choices for dining out or eating in, you can savor the hygge atmosphere whether you live in Santa Monica or are just passing through.

Head north for a truly hygge lifestyle

While sunny beach paradises across the country — like Santa Monica and Miami Beach, Fla., (related hashtags included #happy, #love and #relaxed) — made the cut for our most hygge cities in America, many of the coziest environments were actually found in states known for more frigid climates.

Perhaps because comfy sweaters, crackling fireplaces and low-lit candles can be such an easy way to evoke the Danish concept, hygge can be a powerful tool in warding off the winter blues in cities like Missoula, Mont. and Minneapolis.

The state of Montana ranked second overall in Google search queries related to “hygge” and Missoula ranked fourth overall. With more than a few picture-perfect ways to spend the winter, from scenic nature trails to adventurous ski slopes, you can stay peaceful and relaxed while still embracing the cold weather in the Treasure State.

In Washington, with a similar fondness for both indoor and outdoor activities in the cooler winter months, we found Seattle ranked among the top 10 cities for #hygge, #autumn and #sweaterweather. According to the Danish, food (and especially eating with friends) is an integral part of hygge culture, and Seattle has locals and visitors alike covered on that front, whether you’re looking for a warm drink or a comforting bite.

A nationwide trend

Every state has a little bit of hygge in it, even if the cities there didn’t necessarily rank among our most definitive places to soak in the relaxed energy and contentment associated with the concept.

At least one city in every state earned the highest marks for the number of hashtags used in that area, including #hygge, #snug, #comfortable and #content (among others). While some of these cities (including Austin, Texas, New Orleans and Seattle) may be well-known locales, others may be embracing hygge under the radar. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is known for its scenic lakefront mountain views and comfortable balance between warm summer months and colder winter temperatures.

In Flagstaff, Ariz., there is a similarly elevated climate and mountainous landscape abound. With the second highest altitude among metropolitan areas, the typical desert heat is lost on people enjoying the hygge vibe in this small mountain city.

Ranking each state

While some warmer cities may have stood out among our most popular destinations for that comforting, intimate energy, the states specializing in hygge were largely clustered in regions that typically endure a more frigid winter season.

The cold winter months may look inviting on a postcard or a TV holiday special, but finding that glowing sentiment can take a bit of work when the temperatures start to fall. The physical sensation of putting on a comfy sweater or cuddling up with someone under a warm blanket does more than keep the harsh cool air away; it can help create a more balanced mental state and sense of well-being. The Danish know a thing or two about the cold, and even just sitting by the open fire with a warm drink or enjoying home-baked goods with pleasant company can do the trick.

As we learned, the states that have the best hygge energy may also have the most practice with these winter weather techniques. Vermont, Washington, D.C., Montana, New York and Maine ranked as the top five regions for their hygge status on social media.

Conclusion

Denmark isn’t just known for bracing the bitter cold in the winter months — it has also been called one of the happiest countries on the planet. Hygge may not be the answer to all of life’s problems, but if Denmark is any indication, it probably couldn’t hurt. Americans in both cool and warm climates are finding ways to bring that picture-perfect, cozy vibe out of magazines and into real life. While search trends for hygge were higher in northern regions, we found no limit to the types of cities and states that might be trying to take a slightly more comfortable and mild approach.

Methodology

We scraped Instagram for 17 different hashtags. We surveyed Danish residents on how closely each of the above terms relates to hygge on a scale of 1 to 7. The averages of these ratings were used to weight each term’s influence. Terms directly related (like “hygge”) were excluded and automatically given a 7. The weights, number of posts and dates collected for each are outlined below.

Data was cleaned and geocoded using shape files of the U.S. We pulled the populations of incorporated areas, with populations over 50,000 from the U.S. Census to calculate per capita numbers for each term and city. Each per capita ranking per term was then again normalized to a scale of 0 to 1.

The weights were applied to the normalized per capita for the related term and added together to get an overall ranking of hygge-related posts on Instagram.

We pulled the search interest for hygge from Google Trends over a 12-month span on Nov. 30, 2017. We then normalized the search trends on a scale of 0 to 1. The normalized trends were added to the Instagram posts score to get a meta ranking to represent hygge across the U.S. We used the search trends across the entire state for each city as city trends were limited to only 13 of the most populated areas. For more information on the methodology behind Google Trends, see here.

Cities in Vermont are notably missing from these rankings because the most populated city, Burlington, only has a population of just over 42,000, which excludes it from the census population set.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Kali McFadden
Kali McFadden |

Kali McFadden is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kali at kali.mcfadden@magnifymoney.com

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Places That Lost the Most Bank Branches

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Not only are banks shuttering many of their branches across America, but they’re also declining to build more branches to accommodate population growth in others.

In a new study by MagnifyMoney, we found that there were 7% fewer bank branches in 2017 than there were a decade earlier in America’s 100 biggest metros.  At the same time, the population of those metros grew an average of 11%, so the number of branches per capita actually dropped an average of 16%.

For the analysis, we looked at a combination of data, including a record of active bank branches from the U.S. Federal Reserve and population data from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey.

Even in some fast-growing places, we found banks are shuttering brick-and-mortar locations at a pretty good clip.  It’s a lot easier to not build new branches than it is to close existing ones, so it seems likely that failure to keep pace with a growing population fits nicely into a strategy of reducing branches for a growing customer base.

There are several reasons for this trend, but here are the big ones.

Merging banks means less need to compete through branch access

The word “synergy” is a popular one for the Mergers & Acquisitions crowd, and the banking world has been pretty gung-ho about mergers over the last few years. Indeed, the FDIC reports that the number of individual banking companies that conduct their business with branches dropped an astounding 25% between 2006 and 2016, thanks to 2,447 mergers among commercial banks and 349 among savings banks.  The newly consolidated banks don’t need branches that cover the same areas, and they may find that the reduced competition means they don’t need to fight for customers with more storefronts.

Branch access isn’t as important to banking customers as it used to be

A 2015 survey by the consulting firm Accenture reported that only 19% of customers say they would close their accounts if they lost their local branches, a significant drop from 2013, when 48% said they would close their accounts due to the inconvenience.

Friday afternoon teller lines to deposit paychecks and get the week’s cash have gone the way of rotary phones, but even the need for ATMs has been steadily declining thanks to easier card-over-cash use, online access and mobile banking apps that have improved exponentially over the last couple of years.  Users don’t even have to set foot in a bank to deposit the occasional physical check, thanks to smartphone scans, and friends can pay each other back with independent apps.

People are becoming more comfortable with accessing their money by digital means only, and they’re often getting better returns on, and cheaper access to, their money with savings account rates at online banks often much higher than those at traditional banks.

While many people find walking into a bank and talking to a professional behind a large desk a reassuring way to deal with the uncertainty and anxiety around buying financial products and services, more and more people prefer to gather as much information as they can across multiple banks, lenders and other businesses in the financial products space.

One exception to the trend

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. recently announced that it will use part of its recent tax-cut windfall to build new branches, but at first glance, this appears to be a push into new markets, not a revitalization of existing ones.

Places that lost the most branches

1 – Lakeland, Fla.

Banks are shutting more branches in this in central Florida community than in any of the others we reviewed — a loss of 23% over 10 years.  Thanks to a healthy population increase of 19%, Lakeland-Winter Haven lost even more branches on a per capita basis: 35%.  That brings them down to 17 branches per 100,000 residents, which is considerably lower than the average 25 per 100,000 residents we found for the 100 cities we reviewed. Interestingly, Winter Haven is home to CenterState Bank, which has been on a buying spree to become the state’s biggest community bank. They closed 100 of their branches between 2009 and 2017 (just under half of what they had and acquired), which they say resulted in a per-branch deposit increase of 185%. They show no sign of slowing down this approach.

2 – Buffalo, N.Y.

Buffalo lost one out of five bank branches in the last decade.  This was marginally offset on per capita basis by the slight population loss (less than half a percent).  This may be in part because Buffalo’s hometown bank company, M&T, has closed branches as they gobble up banks in other communities, but they’re certainly not alone.  For example, KeyBank shut down several branches after purchasing local First Niagara.

3 – Baltimore

Some 19% of Baltimore’s bank branches closed their doors in the last ten years, although that still leaves them with slightly higher than average 27 branches per 100,000 people.  That’s especially surprising, given that the population increased by 8%, leading to a per capita loss of 25% (16% is the average for the 100 cities we examined).  Baltimore started the decade with almost 36 banks per 100,000, significantly higher than the 2007 average of 30.  While many banks closed branches, Santander shuttered every one of its Maryland branches in 2015, many of which they had thanks to the 2009 acquisition of Sovereign Bank.

4 – Stockton, Calif.

Stockton started with fewer bank branches on a per capita basis than most other big cities (18 versus an average of 30 for every 100,000 residents), but that didn’t stop them from closing their doors at a rate of 18% over the last ten years.  This combined with a population bump of 9% over the same period, to create a per capita loss of 28%.  If the city’s guaranteed basic income experiment works out, banks may take another look at the struggling community.

5 – Melbourne, Fla.

Palm Bay and Melbourne sit due east of Winter Haven, and while CenterState doesn’t appear to have a stake in this community, plenty of other community banks are consolidating in central Florida.  Melbourne has changed at a similar rate to Stockton: 18% fewer branches, 8% more people, leaving 24% fewer branches per capita, but that still leaves them with 20 branches per 100,000 people.

Places that saw an increase in branches

1 – El Paso, Texas

El Paso has 11% more branches now than it did 10 years ago, but that may be because they were so underserved to begin with.  To put this in perspective, the metro of 838,000 has 90 bank branches, which comes out to just under 11 branches per 100,000 people.  The average among the 100 biggest cities is 25 branches per 100,000 people, even after the drawdown.  The addition of nine new branches hasn’t kept up with the population increase of 14%, leading to an overall drop in branches per person of over 2%.  It looks like banks may continue to open branches, with a revitalization effort underway for Western Heritage Bank (in part, at least, through acquisition) and El Paso’s downtown.  Meanwhile, El Paso’s biggest credit union, GECU, is trying a strategy of more, but smaller, branches.

2 – Raleigh, N.C.

Like other many other southern cities, Research Triangle has seen a population explosion of 32% in the last decade. The addition of 24 branches (9%) doesn’t cover the distance, which means the number of branches per capita actually dropped by a substantial 17%.

3 – Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City is something of an anomaly, in that they added more branches to their already higher than average (per capita) number (33 per 100,000 residents in 2007).  That may be a function of the sheer land mass – the metropolitan statistical area comprised over 5,500 square miles.  They’ve added 18 branches over the last ten years, an increase of over 5%, but in a familiar story, that increase didn’t keep up with the 17% population increase.

Methodology:

Because the borders of Metropolitan Statistical Areas (“MSAs”) changed at the 2010 census, sometimes dramatically, we constructed the data to the current definition of MSAs using the crosswalk provided by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. We used the county-to-MSA crosswalk because that was the smallest geographic population designation reported by the U.S. Census for the 2006 American Community Survey.  In the event that a particular county was not reported for both time frames, that county was excluded from the analysis.

Loss of branches data were reported by the U.S. Federal Reserve and were matched at the constituted MSA level to 2016 (most recent available) and 2007 populations from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey.  The results were limited to the 100 largest constituted MSAs, by population.

Statistics regarding the number of individual institutions was derived from “Statistics At A Glance,” as of Sept. 30, 2017 table and Table CB03 from the FDIC.

For the sake of clarity, we used the first city name and state name listed in the metropolitan statistical area designation, which we understand to be the most populated component (e.g., “St. Louis” for “St. Louis-St. Charles-Farmington, MO-IL”), except where a secondary city was deemed more familiar (e.g., “Fort Myers, Fla.” for “Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL”).

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Kali McFadden
Kali McFadden |

Kali McFadden is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kali at kali.mcfadden@magnifymoney.com

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Places Where Americans Live the Most Balanced Lifestyles

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

As Americans, we’re often focused on status markers, like the amount of money we make, but research indicates that time we spend with people we care about, good health and income equality are some of biggest factors that lead to happiness. It’s not just how much we earn, it’s what we have to do to earn it, what we get in exchange for it and whether we have the time and health to enjoy our friends and family.

In other words, a balanced life.

To figure out where people are most likely to find that kind of balance, we compared seven measures in the 50 biggest metropolitan areas of the U.S.

We looked at the following (full methodology below):

    • Average commute times
    • How much of their incomes residents spend on housing
    • How many hours people work compared to how much they earn
    • Local income inequality
    • How many people are in very good or excellent health
    • Whether they get enough sleep at night
    • How local prices for typical consumer goods and services (excluding housing) compare with the national average

Below are the places that ranked highest — and lowest.

Places with the most balanced lifestyles

For clarity, we used the name of the major city in a metro area (i.e., Grand Rapids, instead of Grand Rapids-Wyoming-Muskegon, Mich.)

1. Grand Rapids, Mich.

Residents of Grand Rapids work a little harder for their money than those at other top cities on our list, but that money seems to work a lot harder for them, too. Generally, housing only costs 18% of income, commutes are under 22 minutes, prices on consumer goods are about 5% lower than the national average, and income inequality is relatively low. Maybe that’s why 56% of the population are reported to be in very good health (the ninth highest), even though 14 other cities have fewer sleep-deprived citizens. Of course, we might expect denizens to be made of hearty stock, given all the opportunities for outdoor activity for those who can make it through the notoriously harsh winters.

Score: 83 (out of 100)

2. Salt Lake City

Another city with a vibrant outdoor culture, Salt Lake City takes the number two spot with a score of 81. The key seems to be the widespread prosperity: Salt Lake City has the second-lowest income equality of any metro we reviewed, which is especially impressive considering the median income was $69,490 in 2016, considerably more than the national median of $55,322. And it only takes an average of 22 minutes to commute to those high-paying jobs (about the same as Grand Rapids), where workers spend about an hour less a week than average Americans. Prices for goods and services are about on par with the national average, but Salt Lakers spend 20% of their income on housing — about 1% less than people in the other cities we reviewed. Almost 57% of the population are reported to be in very good health, and more than two-thirds report getting at least seven hours of sleep a night.
Score: 81

3. Minneapolis

The Twin Cities are home to more people in very good or excellent health than anywhere else on our list. Maybe it’s because they get so much rest; only four other places report lower rates of sleep-deprived citizens. Income inequality is a touch higher than in Grand Rapids and Salt Lake (but still the fifth lowest on our list) and the average commute is about three minutes longer, but residents get more money for their time. Housing costs about 20% of the median income, and goods are priced about 4% lower than the national average.
Score: 80

4. Raleigh, N.C.

The Research Triangle Area places fourth on our list, thanks to a very healthy (third on our list) and well-rested (sixth for fewest sleep-deprived citizens) population. Commute times are fair at about 26 minutes on average, as is the percentage of median income that goes to cover the median housing costs (20 percent). In terms of income inequality, Raleigh also runs middle of the pack among cities we reviewed, ranking 23rd, but that’s a big jump from the first three cities on list, which ranked third, second and fifth. Moreover, Raleigh ranks 18th for both the amount they earn for how long they work and the cost of consumer goods compared to the national average.
Score: 71

5. Kansas City, Mo.

A healthy showing on average commute times (under 23 minutes), income inequality (8th lowest on our list) and share of income that goes towards housing (19%) sends KCMO to the fifth spot on our list. Kansas City ranks in the top half of our list for citizens who aren’t sleep deprived (22nd), percentage of the population in very good or excellent health (19th) and income earned compared to hours worked (24th). The place where they rank lower than more than half the cities on our list is in local prices compared to national averages (27th), but they should still expect to pay about 3.7 percent less than most other Americans for goods and services.
Score: 68

Places with the least balanced lifestyles

50. New York

It probably doesn’t surprise anyone that New Yorkers endure the longest average commute times (over 35 minutes), and pay the highest prices for goods and services of America’s 50 largest metro areas. It also sits at the 49th slot for income inequality. While New York has one of the highest median housing costs (San Francisco is the most expensive), it’s somewhat offset by higher median household income. But not too far offset; residents of only three other cities spend a larger portion of their income on housing. Lending credence to the famous epithet of “the city that never sleeps,” 41% of New Yorkers report being sleep deprived (Detroit is the most sleep-deprived, with just over half of residents reporting fewer than seven hours of sleep a night). With 31% of the population reported in good or excellent health, New York ranks 35th out of 50 in that area. One bright spot is placing 8th for the amount of money New Yorkers earn for the number of hours they work. Sadly, that didn’t help New York’s score much.

Score: 20

49. Miami

Not to be outdone, Miami also ranks dead last in two areas we measured: The cost of housing relative to income and income inequality. Miami fares poorly in other areas, too, like the number of hours worked relative to the amount of money earned (43th), average commute time (41st), and prices for goods and services relative to the national average (39th). It runs in the middle of the pack in other two categories, coming in 26th for both the percentage of people in very good or excellent health and the number of people getting at least seven hours of sleep a night.

Score: 22

48. Philadelphia

Philly doesn’t rank last in any area, but it falls in the bottom ten for all but two categories: Average commute time (40th), income equality (41st), very good health (45th), enough sleep (47th) and consumer prices (47th). It does slightly better in the percentage of income that goes toward housing (35th), but has a stronger showing in the number of hours citizens work relative to how much they earn (15th).
Score: 23

47. Los Angeles

Citizens of LA earn a lot for the hours they work, but that doesn’t help too much given the high price of housing — only two other cities spend more of their incomes on housing (San Diego and Miami). The cost of goods and services are the highest outside of New York City and San Francisco. Add to that high income inequality (ranked 45th), that famously horrific commute (45th) and poor health (42nd) to get a low score.
Score: 24

46. Tampa, Fla.

Another Florida city in the bottom five, Tampa’s biggest flaw is the ratio of hours worked to income earned (ranked 45th). Tampa doesn’t rank that low elsewhere, but it doesn’t rank high in anything, either; its top showing is a rank of 31 in the percentage of people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night. Average commutes clock in over 27 minutes (35th), and only half the population are reported to be in good or excellent health (32nd). The city ranks even lower for the prices of goods and services (40th) and the percentage of income that goes toward housing (41st).
Score: 26

Methodology:

The top 50 Combined Statistical Areas (CSAs) are ranked on a 100-point scale on the following seven measures:

  1. Average commute time, as reported in the 2016 American Community Survey (“ACS”)
  2. Percentage of income spent on housing, calculated as (the median monthly housing cost) / (median household income / 12 months), as reported in the 2016 ACS
  3. The number of hours worked relative to income earned, calculated as (the mean average number of hours worked) / (divided by the mean monthly household income / 12 months), as reported in the 2016 ACS
  4. Gini coefficient to represent income inequality, as reported in the 2016 ACS
  5. Price index, calculated as (Price Index for Goods + Price Index for Other) / (2), as reported by the Bureau of Economic Analysis in the “Real Personal Income for States and Metropolitan Areas, 2015” release
  6. Share of the population in very good health, calculated as (percentage of the population in very good health) + (percentage of the population in excellent health), as reported in the 500 Cities Project (2016) from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”)
  7. Share of the population who gets fewer than seven hours of sleep a night, as reported by the CDC. Data was not available for the following metro areas, so the unweighted average for available areas in the same state was used: Greenville, S.C. and Harrisburg, Pa.

The sum of all ranks was then divided by seven, for a maximum possible score of 100 and a lowest possible score of zero.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Kali McFadden
Kali McFadden |

Kali McFadden is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kali at kali.mcfadden@magnifymoney.com

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The Best Places to Work Your Way Through College and Avoid Student Loan Debt

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

financial aid refund

The average cost of a four-year college education was almost five times higher in 2015 than a mere twenty years earlier, making the cost of an education seem out of reach for many. But, the data is clear: someone with a four-year college degree can expect to make $32,000 more a year than a high school graduate, or a whopping $1.4 million over the course of a working life. This forces American students (and their parents) into difficult and confusing decisions about how to approach a college education and what kind of student loans to take on.

It turns out that if you attend a public four-year university in one of these places, the days of working your way through college may not be over, despite common perceptions to the contrary. This is especially true when we consider that many, if not most, students are awarded various grants and scholarships to take the edge off an already (relatively) low in-state tuition.

A summer job doesn’t do it anymore, but a student who works – for minimum wage – about 20 hours a week while school is in session, 40 hours a week when it’s not, and takes a couple of well-deserved weeks off, can avoid student debt by paying off tuition in more places than you think, and may even have something left over for living expenses. Even if you earn enough to pay income taxes, spending your earnings on education can means substantial tax credits and deductions.

If You’re On Your Own…

There’s no question that working to pay your tuition bill is hard enough, but covering the basic costs of living on top of that can seem downright impossible.  If you’re doing it yourself, these areas might offer a workable path to economic security. It takes a lot of work, but students can still pay off that tuition bill and the leftover income will go a lot farther towards necessities.

100 communities were scored on four factors: 1) Average rent compared to the rest of the country, 2) average cost of goods compared to the rest of the country, 3) the amount of average in-state tuition someone could pay off working 1,280 hours a year at minimum wage, and 4) the unemployment rate for people between the ages of 16 and 24 years old. A score of 51 represents the average score of the 100 largest Combined Statistical Areas we reviewed. The highest score is 76, and the lowest is 10.

1 – Springfield, Missouri

At just 7.2 percent, the Springfield-Branson area of Missouri boasts the lowest unemployment rate for young people among all of the communities we examined, and it’s the fifth cheapest place to live (McAllen, Texas is the cheapest, but that only gets it a score of 46, as youth unemployment is significantly higher than other places, state tuition is a touch higher than average, and the minimum wage is the lowest allowable by federal law). You can expect to pay 34 percent less in rent than your friends in the rest of America, and about $1,000 less in tuition. A minimum wage of $7.70 means you won’t have tons of money left over after paying your tuition (a student can earn about 111 percent of his or her full course tuition and fees), but you can buy more with what you do have.

Local public universities include Missouri State University. US News & World Report gives it a Regional Universities Midwest ranking of 106, reports that tuition for the 2017-18 academic year is lower than the state average at $7,060 (not including room and board), and notes admission is selective with an acceptance rate of 86 percent.

2 – St. Louis, Missouri

Both the first and third ranked areas have lower average rents and youth unemployment rates than St. Louis, but a cost of goods that’s seven percent lower than the national average just edges this community to a higher score than Little Rock, Ark. Even so, the rent is an impressive 18 percent lower than the national average, and at 11 percent the youth unemployment rate is still about 13 percent less than the average of the communities we examined. Students can plan to earn about 111 percent of their full course load tuition. It’s also the most metropolitan area to place in the top 10, with a population of almost three million.

The big caveat is that this really only applies to people who live on the western side of the Mississippi River, because the average tuition in Illinois is the fifth highest in the nation at $13,620. Unfortunately, a student would only cover 72 percent of that by working for minimum wage.

Local public colleges and universities for Missouri residents include University of Missouri St. Louis. US News & World Report gives it national ranking of 231-300, reports that tuition and fees for the 2017-18 academic year were $10,275 (not including room and board), and notes that admission is “more selective” with an acceptance rate of 71 percent. At just over half the price, Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis gets a US News & World Report Regional Colleges Midwest ranking of 62-80, has a reported 2017-18 academic year tuition and fees cost of $5,220 (not including room and board), and admission is designated “least selective” despite an acceptance rate of 55 percent.

3 – Little Rock, Arkansas

A comfortably low average state tuition, combined with a better-than-typical minimum wage of $8.50 (34th highest among the 100 communities we examined), means that students here can hope to have a bit of money left over, since they can earn about 127 percent of their full course load tuition. The cost of goods are four percent lower than the national average and rents that are 29 percent lower, which means that money you work so hard for can go further. The youth unemployment rate of 9.8 percent is also significantly less than our median rate of 12.5 percent. Finally, students also have more options than in some of our other highly scored areas, with three public four-year universities in the area.

Local public universities include the flagship campus of The University of Arkansas-Little Rock. US News & World Report gives it a national ranking of 231-300, reports that tuition for the 2017-18 academic year is $8,401 (not including room and board), and notes admission is “selective” with an acceptance rate of 77 percent. The University of Central Arkansas in Conway gets a Regional Universities South ranking of 72 from US News & World Report, and has a reported tuition for the 2017-18 academic year of $8,524 (not including room and board), and is considered selective with an acceptance rate of 90 percent. US News & World Report gives University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff a Regional Colleges South ranking of 50, reports that tuition for 2017-18 is $7,336, and note admission is less selective with an acceptance rate of 42 percent.

 

If You Live at Home…

Most college bound kids dream of leaving home as soon as they can, but delaying gratification can have a big, long-term payoff if you’re from one of these areas.  Who knows, maybe you even like your parents, or at least all the things they do and buy for you.

Low in-state tuition, youth unemployment rates, and high minimum wages give you the best chance of completely paying off your tuition by working part time while school is in session and full time when it’s not. Statewide, Florida comes out on top, and even expensive places, like the Bay Area, get high scores thanks to higher wages.

These communities are scored on two factors: 1) the amount of average in-state tuition someone could pay off working 1,280 hours a year at minimum wage, and 2) the local unemployment rate for people between the ages of 16 and 24 years old. A score of 51 represents the average score of the 100 largest Combined Statistical Areas we reviewed. The highest score of the communities we examined is 94, and the lowest is nine.

1 – Cape Coral, Florida

2 – Lakeland, Florida

3 – Palm Bay, Florida

The bronze, silver, and gold all go to communities in the Sunshine State. That’s because Florida has a state-wide minimum wage right at the median for all the cities we reviewed and the absolute lowest average in-state tuition. Combine that with the low youth unemployment rates these three cities boast, and we see some A grades. If you were lucky enough to grow up in paradise, sticking around a little longer in the sun and surf isn’t just enticing – it’s the responsible financial choice. In all three places, you can expect to earn about 163 percent of your full course load tuition by working 1,280 hours at minimum wage.  Another bonus?  While Florida’s state universities have selective admissions, every single state college is open admission.

The three communities span the state from east to west, with Cape Coral on the Gulf Coast, Lakeland just east of Tampa, and Palm Bay nestled between extensive nature preserves and the Atlantic Ocean.

Just because you’re in paradise doesn’t mean the cost of living is as high as one might expect, either: the cost of goods is four percent lower than the national average. Cape Coral ticks just over the national average for rent.

In fact, the cost of living is so low in Lakeland, with rents a full 17 percent lower than the national average, it ties for the number five spot on our list of best places to work your way through college if you don’t live at home. In other words, even if your parents ask you to kick in some money for expenses, you should be okay.

Palm Bay comes in at eight percent lower rent than the national average, earning it the number 10 spot on our other list. The hitch is that the nearest public, four-year institution is about 40 miles away in Fort Pierce, but it may be worth it for a 2017-18 academic year tuition of – ready? – $2,640. Heck, you could pay the room and board of $5,700 and still come out better than most American students are paying for in-state tuition alone.

Local public colleges and universities in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers-Naples area include Florida SouthWestern State College (formerly Edison State College) in Fort Myers. US News & World Reports doesn’t give it a ranking, but notes that last year’s tuition was an astoundingly low $3,401. It is “least selective”, with an acceptance rate of 81 percent. Also in Fort Myers is Florida Gulf Coast University, which was awarded a Regional Universities South ranking of 73 by US News & World Report, which reports this year’s tuition and fees (not including room and board) is $6,118, and notes admission is “selective” with an acceptance rate of 56 percent.

Local public colleges and universities in the Lakeland-Winter Haven area include the University of South Florida in nearby Tampa.  US News & World Reports gives it a national ranking of 140, and notes that it is “more selective” with an acceptance rate of 47 percent.  Another option is Polk State College in Winter Haven. US News & World Reports doesn’t give it a ranking, but notes that last year’s tuition was an astoundingly low $3,366. It is “least selective”, and the acceptance rate isn’t available.

Unfortunately, you have to drive a fair distance to reach a public, four-year university near Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, but if that’s doable, the closest schools include Indian River State College in Fort Pierce. US News & World Reports gives it a Regional Colleges South ranking of 60-79, reports that tuition and fees for this year is – just when you thought tuitions couldn’t get any lower — $2,640 (not including room and board). The school is “less selective” and has a 100 percent admission rate. If you’re willing and able to drive fifty miles, the University of Central Florida in Orlando gets a national ranking from US News & World Reports of 171, has a 2017-18 academic year tuition and fees (not including room and board) of $6,368, and is designated “more selective” with a 50 percent admission rate.

4 – San Francisco, California

Everyone knows the Bay Area in general, and San Francisco in particular, is one of the most expensive places in the world, so how can it come in fourth on a list of places where you can work your way through school? This community demonstrates the power of living in an expensive place – as long as someone else can cover your expenses – because higher costs can mean higher wages. San Francisco boasts a minimum wage of $14 and California has an average tuition rate of $9,680 for the current academic year, meaning a student can handily afford that tuition by working part-time during the school year and full-time during the summer. Combine that with a plethora of public schools – including world famous Berkeley – and prospective students might just learn to appreciate living with their parents a little longer. A student can expect to earn 159 percent of a full course load tuition.

Local public universities include one of the nation’s premier public universities, The University of California at Berkeley. US News & World Report gives it a national ranking of 21, reports that tuition for the 2017-18 academic year is higher than the state average at $14,098 (not including room and board), and notes admission is “most selective” with an acceptance rate of only 16 percent. For students who are just looking for something else, San Francisco State University gets a US News & World Report national ranking of 231-300, is actually cheaper than the state average, with a tuition for the 2017-18 academic year of $7,254 (not including room and board), and admission is “less selective”, with an acceptance rate of 68 percent. Other local public colleges and universities include California State University – East Bay in Hayward, and San Jose State University in San Jose.

Special Mention – Seattle, Washington

Seattle-Tacoma placed 13 on our list because its youth unemployment rate was at the median (and just slightly below average) of all the communities we examined. But if your teammate’s cousin’s girlfriend can hook you up with a job in Seattle proper, this community offers the best potential to cover tuition while working minimum wage of any community we rated.

You may remember when Seattle made headlines as the first place in America to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour, allowing locals to earn dramatically more than their peers around the country. With an average state school tuition of $9,480 (just under the nation’s median average in-state tuition of $9,580), working students can earn an amazing 203 percent of their full course load tuition costs… As long as they don’t have to pay their own living expenses. Despite the high minimum wage, Seattle didn’t fare well on our other list (ranking 81 out of 100), thanks to a high cost of living. Residents can expect to pay 26 percent more in rent than the average American, and even seven percent more for they stuff they buy.

Local public universities include the flagship campus of The University of Washington. US News & World Report gives it a national ranking of 56, reports tuition for the 2017-18 academic year is $10,974 (not including room and board), and notes admission is “selective” with an acceptance rate of 45 percent.

 

What’s the National Picture?

Compare where you live (or plan to live) to the averages and medians of the 100 Combined Statistical Areas we examined.

Working your way through school scores (Living on your own)

Metro

Score

Rent vs National Avg.

Cost of Goods vs National Avg.

Avg. In-State Tuition

Minimum Wage

Unemployment Rate
(Age 16-24)

% of Tuition Covered by Work

Albany, N.Y.

42

2%

-4%

$7,940

$9.70

13.5%

156%

Albuquerque, N.M.

65

-8%

-5%

$6,920

$8.50

13.0%

157%

Atlanta, Ga.

45

-10%

-4%

$8,570

$7.25

11.5%

108%

Augusta, Ga.

56

-32%

-5%

$8,570

$7.25

17.2%

108%

Austin, Texas

40

13%

-4%

$9,840

$7.25

10.8%

94%

Bakersfield, Calif.

53

-8%

-5%

$9,680

$10.50

19.0%

139%

Baton Rouge, La.

50

-16%

-5%

$9,300

$7.25

15.1%

100%

Birmingham, Ala.

47

-32%

-5%

$10,530

$7.25

15.3%

88%

Boise City, Idaho

65

-20%

-5%

$7,250

$7.25

13.4%

128%

Boston, Mass.

37

25%

-1%

$12,730

$11.00

11.0%

111%

Buffalo, N.Y.

66

-23%

-4%

$7,940

$9.70

10.3%

156%

Cape Coral, Fla.

65

1%

-4%

$6,360

$8.10

9.3%

163%

Charleston, W.Va.

66

-42%

-4%

$7,890

$8.75

14.7%

142%

Charleston, S.C.

31

-5%

-4%

$12,610

$7.25

13.8%

74%

Charlotte, N.C.

56

-16%

-5%

$7,380

$7.25

13.9%

126%

Chattanooga, Tenn.

62

-31%

-6%

$9,790

$7.25

13.9%

95%

Chicago, Ill.

23

13%

0%

$13,620

$11.00

14.2%

103%

Cincinnati, Ohio

69

-22%

-9%

$10,510

$8.15

11.3%

99%

Cleveland, Ohio

67

-24%

-6%

$10,510

$8.15

12.3%

99%

Colorado Springs, Colo.

43

3%

-5%

$10,800

$9.30

15.4%

110%

Columbia, S.C.

41

-22%

-5%

$12,610

$7.25

15.4%

74%

Columbus, Ohio

52

-18%

-4%

$10,510

$8.15

12.0%

99%

Corpus Christi, Texas

42

-16%

-4%

$9,840

$7.25

14.3%

94%

Dallas, Texas

39

0%

-4%

$9,840

$7.25

10.6%

94%

Dayton, Ohio

48

-30%

-4%

$10,510

$8.15

13.3%

99%

Denver, Colo.

41

21%

0%

$10,800

$9.30

9.3%

110%

Des Moines, Iowa

71

-10%

-6%

$8,760

$7.25

8.1%

106%

Detroit, Mich.

23

-13%

-3%

$12,930

$8.90

14.9%

88%

El Paso, Texas

48

-28%

-5%

$9,840

$7.25

14.6%

94%

Fayetteville, N.C.

53

-23%

-5%

$7,380

$7.25

19.5%

126%

Fort Wayne, Ind.

62

-31%

-4%

$9,360

$7.25

9.0%

99%

Fresno, Calif.

55

-11%

-5%

$9,680

$10.50

17.7%

139%

Grand Rapids, Mich.

51

-17%

-4%

$12,930

$8.90

11.1%

88%

Greensboro, N.C.

63

-30%

-4%

$7,380

$7.25

12.7%

126%

Greenville, S.C.

58

-31%

-4%

$12,610

$7.25

11.0%

74%

Harrisburg, Pa.

35

-14%

-4%

$14,440

$7.25

11.9%

64%

Hartford, Conn.

30

7%

-3%

$12,390

$10.10

13.2%

104%

Houston, Texas

39

0%

-5%

$9,840

$7.25

14.3%

94%

Huntsville, Ala.

54

-35%

-4%

$10,530

$7.25

12.4%

88%

Indianapolis, Ind.

51

-20%

-4%

$9,360

$7.25

11.1%

99%

Jackson, Miss.

55

-28%

-5%

$7,990

$7.25

17.6%

116%

Jacksonville, Fla.

57

-6%

-4%

$6,360

$8.10

12.6%

163%

Kalamazoo, Mich.

52

-24%

-4%

$12,930

$8.90

10.0%

88%

Kansas City, Mo.

72

-19%

-5%

$8,870

$7.70

9.5%

111%

Knoxville, Tenn.

72

-32%

-6%

$9,790

$7.25

11.0%

95%

Lafayette, La.

57

-31%

-5%

$9,300

$7.25

16.2%

100%

Lakeland, Fla.

72

-17%

-4%

$6,360

$8.10

10.2%

163%

Lansing, Mich.

31

-17%

-4%

$12,930

$8.90

15.0%

88%

Las Vegas, Nev.

64

-5%

-5%

$7,270

$8.25

12.5%

145%

Lexington,Ky.

51

-23%

-4%

$10,300

$7.25

11.5%

90%

Little Rock, Ark.

73

-29%

-4%

$8,550

$8.50

9.8%

127%

Los Angeles, Calif.

30

51%

2%

$9,680

$12.00

14.5%

159%

Louisville, Ky.

60

-25%

-5%

$10,300

$7.25

11.6%

90%

Madison, Wis.

56

2%

-4%

$8,960

$7.25

8.1%

104%

McAllen, Texas

46

-42%

-4%

$9,840

$7.25

16.3%

94%

Memphis, Tenn.

47

-24%

-4%

$9,790

$7.25

14.5%

95%

Miami, Fla.

42

24%

-2%

$6,360

$8.10

12.6%

163%

Milwaukee, Wis.

65

-7%

-6%

$8,960

$7.25

10.1%

104%

Minneapolis, Minn.

42

6%

2%

$11,300

$9.50

7.6%

108%

Mobile, Ala.

59

-31%

-4%

$10,530

$7.25

10.1%

88%

Modesto, Calif.

53

-10%

-5%

$9,680

$10.50

21.6%

139%

Nashville, Tenn.

60

-14%

-5%

$9,790

$7.25

8.1%

95%

New Orleans, La.

47

-9%

-5%

$9,300

$7.25

14.4%

100%

New York, N.Y.

34

48%

7%

$7,940

$11.00

14.1%

177%

North Port, Fla.

54

5%

-4%

$6,360

$8.10

12.4%

163%

Oklahoma City, Okla.

60

-22%

-4%

$8,460

$7.25

11.7%

110%

Omaha, Neb.

65

-16%

-4%

$8,270

$9.00

9.1%

139%

Orlando, Fla.

67

-1%

-5%

$6,360

$8.10

11.9%

163%

Palm Bay, Fla.

67

-8%

-4%

$6,360

$8.10

10.3%

163%

Philadelphia, Pa.

10

7%

0%

$14,440

$7.25

15.2%

64%

Phoenix, Ariz.

43

-5%

-4%

$11,220

$10.00

11.7%

114%

Pittsburgh, Pa.

38

-24%

-4%

$14,440

$7.25

12.3%

64%

Portland, Maine

50

3%

-3%

$9,970

$10.68

8.5%

137%

Portland, Ore.

42

6%

-3%

$10,360

$10.25

11.2%

127%

Raleigh, N.C.

55

-7%

-4%

$7,380

$7.25

11.3%

126%

Reno, Nev.

55

-3%

-5%

$7,270

$8.25

13.7%

145%

Richmond, Va.

27

-4%

-4%

$12,820

$7.25

15.1%

72%

Rochester, N.Y.

57

-7%

-4%

$7,940

$9.70

10.6%

156%

Sacramento, Calif.

55

14%

-5%

$9,680

$10.50

13.3%

139%

Salt Lake City, Utah

71

-6%

-5%

$6,790

$7.25

7.6%

137%

San Antonio, Texas

54

-11%

-5%

$9,840

$7.25

10.9%

94%

San Diego, Calif.

34

63%

0%

$9,680

$11.50

12.8%

152%

San Francisco, Calif.

44

74%

6%

$9,680

$12.00

10.3%

159%

Savannah, Ga.

50

-14%

-5%

$8,570

$7.25

19.4%

108%

Seattle, Wash.

40

26%

5%

$9,480

$15.00

12.5%

203%

South Bend, Ind.

54

-30%

-4%

$9,360

$7.25

12.6%

99%

Spokane, Wash.

66

-17%

-5%

$9,480

$11.00

12.2%

149%

Springfield, Mo.

76

-34%

-4%

$8,870

$7.70

7.2%

111%

Springfield, Mass.

35

-8%

-4%

$12,730

$11.00

14.7%

111%

St. Louis, Mo.

74

-18%

-7%

$8,870

$7.70

11.0%

111%

Syracuse, N.Y.

56

-14%

-4%

$7,940

$9.70

11.9%

156%

Tampa, Fla.

45

1%

-4%

$6,360

$8.10

13.8%

163%

Toledo, Ohio

46

-34%

-4%

$10,510

$8.15

14.7%

99%

Tucson, Ariz.

52

-12%

-5%

$11,220

$10.00

17.6%

114%

Tulsa, Okla.

54

-26%

-4%

$8,460

$7.25

14.5%

110%

Virginia Beach, Va.

29

4%

-4%

$12,820

$7.25

13.3%

72%

Visalia, Calif.

56

-18%

-5%

$9,680

$10.50

17.1%

139%

Washington, D.C.

38

46%

2%

$9,580

$12.50

12.7%

167%

Wichita, Kan.

60

-28%

-4%

$9,230

$7.25

10.5%

101%

Youngstown, Ohio

51

-40%

-4%

$10,510

$8.15

13.3%

99%

Average of 100 Examined CSAs

51

-10%

-4%

$9,644

$8.46

12.7%

117%

Working your way through school scores (Living at home)

Metro

Score

Avg. In-State Tuition

Minimum Wage

Unemployment Rate (Age 16-24)

% of Tuition Covered by Work

Albany, N.Y.

62

$7,940

$9.70

13.5%

156%

Albuquerque, N.M.

66

$6,920

$8.50

13.0%

157%

Atlanta, Ga.

58

$8,570

$7.25

11.5%

108%

Augusta, Ga.

29

$8,570

$7.25

17.2%

108%

Austin, Texas

51

$9,840

$7.25

10.8%

94%

Bakersfield, Calif.

40

$9,680

$10.50

19.0%

139%

Baton Rouge, La.

29

$9,300

$7.25

15.1%

100%

Birmingham, Ala.

15

$10,530

$7.25

15.3%

88%

Boise City, Idaho

54

$7,250

$7.25

13.4%

128%

Boston, Mass.

65

$12,730

$11.00

11.0%

111%

Buffalo, N.Y.

84

$7,940

$9.70

10.3%

156%

Cape Coral, Fla.

94

$6,360

$8.10

9.3%

163%

Charleston, W.Va.

50

$7,890

$8.75

14.7%

142%

Charleston, S.C.

22

$12,610

$7.25

13.8%

74%

Charlotte, N.C.

50

$7,380

$7.25

13.9%

126%

Chattanooga, Tenn.

31

$9,790

$7.25

13.9%

95%

Chicago, Ill.

36

$13,620

$11.00

14.2%

103%

Cincinnati, Ohio

52

$10,510

$8.15

11.3%

99%

Cleveland, Ohio

47

$10,510

$8.15

12.3%

99%

Colorado Springs, Colo.

33

$10,800

$9.30

15.4%

110%

Columbia, S.C.

11

$12,610

$7.25

15.4%

74%

Columbus, Ohio

48

$10,510

$8.15

12.0%

99%

Corpus Christi, Texas

27

$9,840

$7.25

14.3%

94%

Dallas, Texas

51

$9,840

$7.25

10.6%

94%

Dayton, Ohio

38

$10,510

$8.15

13.3%

99%

Denver, Colo.

72

$10,800

$9.30

9.3%

110%

Des Moines, Iowa

71

$8,760

$7.25

8.1%

106%

Detroit, Mich.

16

$12,930

$8.90

14.9%

88%

El Paso, Texas

24

$9,840

$7.25

14.6%

94%

Fayetteville, N.C.

34

$7,380

$7.25

19.5%

126%

Fort Wayne, Ind.

62

$9,360

$7.25

9.0%

99%

Fresno, Calif.

41

$9,680

$10.50

17.7%

139%

Grand Rapids, Mich.

41

$12,930

$8.90

11.1%

88%

Greensboro,N.C.

57

$7,380

$7.25

12.7%

126%

Greenville, S.C.

40

$12,610

$7.25

11.0%

74%

Harrisburg, Pa.

31

$14,440

$7.25

11.9%

64%

Hartford, Conn.

44

$12,390

$10.10

13.2%

104%

Houston, Texas

26

$9,840

$7.25

14.3%

94%

Huntsville, Ala.

34

$10,530

$7.25

12.4%

88%

Indianapolis, Ind.

51

$9,360

$7.25

11.1%

99%

Jackson, Miss.

34

$7,990

$7.25

17.6%

116%

Jacksonville, Fla.

73

$6,360

$8.10

12.6%

163%

Kalamazoo, Mich.

50

$12,930

$8.90

10.0%

88%

Kansas City, Mo.

74

$8,870

$7.70

9.5%

111%

Knoxville, Tenn.

52

$9,790

$7.25

11.0%

95%

Lafayette, La.

26

$9,300

$7.25

16.2%

100%

Lakeland, Fla.

91

$6,360

$8.10

10.2%

163%

Lansing, Mich.

15

$12,930

$8.90

15.0%

88%

Las Vegas, Nev.

66

$7,270

$8.25

12.5%

145%

Lexington, Ky.

41

$10,300

$7.25

11.5%

90%

Little Rock, Ark.

78

$8,550

$8.50

9.8%

127%

Los Angeles, Calif.

57

$9,680

$12.00

14.5%

159%

Louisville, Ky.

41

$10,300

$7.25

11.6%

90%

Madison, Wis.

71

$8,960

$7.25

8.1%

104%

McAllen, Texas

17

$9,840

$7.25

16.3%

94%

Memphis, Tenn.

27

$9,790

$7.25

14.5%

95%

Miami, Fla.

73

$6,360

$8.10

12.6%

163%

Milwaukee, Wis.

65

$8,960

$7.25

10.1%

104%

Minneapolis, Minn.

73

$11,300

$9.50

7.6%

108%

Mobile, Ala.

51

$10,530

$7.25

10.1%

88%

Modesto, Calif.

39

$9,680

$10.50

21.6%

139%

Nashville, Tenn.

62

$9,790

$7.25

8.1%

95%

New Orleans, La.

34

$9,300

$7.25

14.4%

100%

New York, N.Y.

65

$7,940

$11.00

14.1%

177%

North Port, Fla.

76

$6,360

$8.10

12.4%

163%

Oklahoma City, Okla.

57

$8,460

$7.25

11.7%

110%

Omaha, Neb.

85

$8,270

$9.00

9.1%

139%

Orlando, Fla.

79

$6,360

$8.10

11.9%

163%

Palm Bay, Fla.

90

$6,360

$8.10

10.3%

163%

Philadelphia, Pa.

9

$14,440

$7.25

15.2%

64%

Phoenix, Ariz.

62

$11,220

$10.00

11.7%

114%

Pittsburgh, Pa.

29

$14,440

$7.25

12.3%

64%

Portland, Maine

83

$9,970

$10.68

8.5%

137%

Portland, Ore.

68

$10,360

$10.25

11.2%

127%

Raleigh, N.C.

67

$7,380

$7.25

11.3%

126%

Reno, Nev.

58

$7,270

$8.25

13.7%

145%

Richmond, Va.

11

$12,820

$7.25

15.1%

72%

Rochester, N.Y.

83

$7,940

$9.70

10.6%

156%

Sacramento, Calif.

59

$9,680

$10.50

13.3%

139%

Salt Lake City, Utah

84

$6,790

$7.25

7.6%

137%

San Antonio, Texas

50

$9,840

$7.25

10.9%

94%

San Diego, Calif.

64

$9,680

$11.50

12.8%

152%

San Francisco, Calif.

86

$9,680

$12.00

10.3%

159%

Savannah, Ga.

27

$8,570

$7.25

19.4%

108%

Seattle, Wash.

76

$9,480

$15.00

12.5%

203%

South Bend, Ind.

41

$9,360

$7.25

12.6%

99%

Spokane, Wash.

69

$9,480

$11.00

12.2%

149%

Springfield, Mo.

80

$8,870

$7.70

7.2%

111%

Springfield, Mass.

38

$12,730

$11.00

14.7%

111%

St. Louis, Mo.

66

$8,870

$7.70

11.0%

111%

Syracuse, N.Y.

73

$7,940

$9.70

11.9%

156%

Tampa, Fla.

66

$6,360

$8.10

13.8%

163%

Toledo, Ohio

29

$10,510

$8.15

14.7%

99%

Tucson, Ariz.

34

$11,220

$10.00

17.6%

114%

Tulsa, Okla.

39

$8,460

$7.25

14.5%

110%

Virginia Beach, Va.

23

$12,820

$7.25

13.3%

72%

Visalia, Calif.

43

$9,680

$10.50

17.1%

139%

Washington, D.C.

72

$9,580

$12.50

12.7%

167%

Wichita, Kan.

61

$9,230

$7.25

10.5%

101%

Youngstown, Ohio

40

$10,510

$8.15

13.3%

99%

Average of 100 Examined CSAs

51

$9,644

$8.46

12.7%

117%

Methodology:

For “On Your Own”, the top 100 Combined Statistical Areas by population were ranked against all examined CSAs according to the following characteristics:

  • Percentage of average in-state tuition a student could expect to pay working 1,280 hours a year at minimum wage. ((1,280 x [local minimum wage]) / [average in-state tuition])
  • Unemployment rate for the population aged 16 – 24
  • Average rent price parity
  • Average goods price parity

The score is sum of all ranked parts (equally weighted) divided by four, for a total possible score of 100 and a lowest possible score of four, and then rounded to the nearest integer. Final rankings are determined by the sum of all ranked parts, prior to division by four.

For “Living at Home”, the top 100 Combined Statistical Areas by population were ranked against all examined CSAs according to the following characteristics:

  • Percentage of average in-state tuition a student could expect to pay working 1,280 hours a year at minimum wage. ((1,280 x [local minimum wage]) / [average in-state tuition])
  • Unemployment rate for the population aged 16 – 24

The score is sum of all ranked parts (equally weighted) divided by two, for a total possible score of 100 and a lowest possible score of two, and then rounded to the nearest integer. Final rankings are determined by the sum of all ranked parts, prior to division by two.

Notes: Average rent and average cost of goods are the weighted (by youth population, ages 16-24) averages of those averages within component MSAs. Where there were multiple tuitions or/and minimum wages within a CSA, the lead city or state was used, except for the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA CSA, where the minimum wage for San Francisco was used. The youth unemployment rate was calculated on the CSA level as the total unemployed population aged 16-24 divided by the total civilian population aged 16-24 in the labor force.

We assume that our hypothetical students would have at least 100 percent of their federal taxes refunded, but recognize that personal and family circumstances differ, and there may be substantial changes to tax policy.

References:

  1. “Figure 6: 2017-18 Tuition and Fees at Public Four-Year Institutions by State and Five-Year Percentage Change in In-State Tuition and Fees,” CollegeBoard, October 2017. Available at: https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/2017-18-state-tuition-and-fees-public-four-year-institutions-state-and-five-year-percentage (retrieved November 27, 2017).
  2. American FactFinder Community Survey, US Department of Census, 2016.
  3. “State Minimum Wages / 2017 Minimum Wage by State,” National Conference of State Legislatures, January 5, 2017. Available at: http://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/state-minimum-wage-chart.aspx (retrieved November 27, 2017).
  4. “Inventory of US City and County Minimum Wage Ordinances”, UC Berkeley Labor Center, November 16, 2017. Available at: http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/minimum-wage-living-wage-resources/inventory-of-us-city-and-county-minimum-wage-ordinances/ (retrieved November 27, 2017).
  5. Table 6. Regional Price Parities by Metropolitan Area, 2015, “Real Personal Income for States and Metropolitan Areas, 2015”, Bureau of Economic Analysis, June 22, 2017. Available at: https://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/regional/rpp/2017/pdf/rpp0617.pdf (retrieved November 27, 2017).
  6. “Tuition costs of colleges and universities”, National Center for Education Statistics Fast Facts. Available at: https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=76 (retrieved November 27, 2017).
  7. Philip Trostel, “Beyond the College Earnings Premium. Way Beyond.”, The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 29, 2017. Available at: https://www.chronicle.com/article/Beyond-the-College-Earnings/239013 (retrieved November 27, 2017).
  8. “Upcoming Minimum Wage Increases”, New York State Department of Labor. Available at: https://labor.ny.gov/workerprotection/laborstandards/workprot/minwage.shtm (retrieved November 27, 2017).
  9. “Best Colleges” rankings, US News & World Report. Available at https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges (retrieved December 5, 2017).

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Kali McFadden
Kali McFadden |

Kali McFadden is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kali at kali.mcfadden@magnifymoney.com

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