A higher degree
This Austin neighbor makes the grade as one of the best U.S. college towns
San Marcos may get overshadowed by Austin, but it’s still in a class of its own. A recent ranking from financial news and opinion website 24/7 Wall St. puts San Marcos at No. 28 among the 30 best college towns in the U.S.
To identify the best college towns in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed U.S. Census Bureau data about the affordability, economy, health, safety, commuting, arts and entertainment, and dining in college towns across the country. The website considered places with at least 30,000 residents and where at least one-fourth of the population is enrolled in college.
San Marcos — about 30 miles southwest of Austin and 50 miles northeast of San Antonio — is home to the main campus of Texas State University. The university’s San Marcos and Round Rock campuses collectively boast an enrollment of around 38,000.
According to 24/7 Wall St., nearly 35 percent of the residents of San Marcos are enrolled in college, and almost 34 percent of local adults have a bachelor’s degree.
“San Marcos offers everything you can find in Austin in a less crowded setting.…The city plans to grow responsibly to ensure traffic keeps moving, places stay affordable, and its overall vibe mixes a little of San Antonio, a little of Austin, and a lot of Hill Country,” according to Trace, a master-planned community in San Marcos.
Among other accolades, San Marcos has in the past several years been dubbed one of the coolest towns in the country, one of the best U.S. cities for postgraduates, and one of the country’s best places for retirees.
Aside from being a vibrant college town with a population over 67,500, San Marcos was recently proclaimed the Mermaid Capital of Texas.
“By adopting the mermaid as a symbol of the city, the people of San Marcos are encouraging public interest in the natural environment and highlighting the central role their community is playing in preserving the water resources of the Lone Star State,” according to a resolution passed in 2021 by state lawmakers.
The only other Texas college town to appear on the 24/7 Wall St. list is 22nd-ranked College Station, home to the main campus of Texas A&M University. Cambridge, Massachusetts, home to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, grabs the No. 1 spot.
“College towns tend to be some of the best places to live — they are typically affordable areas with an abundance of entertainment and dining options. They tend to have healthy economies, and a young, well-educated population,” 24/7 Wall St. says. “Some college towns stand out as some of the best places in the country to live, work, and receive an education.”