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New report card ranks Austin among 10 most educated cities in the U.S.

New report card ranks Austin among 10 most educated cities in U.S.

University of Texas at Austin aerial
Austin comes in at No. 10 for well-balanced quality and accessibility of education; significantly better than the rest of the state. Photo by dszc/Getty Images

As much as Austin is a music town, a foodie town, a wacky arts town — it can be those things because it’s a college town. (Even though Janis Joplin never finished college, her singing career really broke out when she started hanging out with fellow University of Texas students). This July, personal finance website WalletHub found that the Austin metro area ranked No. 10 in its list of the most and least educated cities in the United States.

WalletHub started with the country’s 150 most populated metropolitan areas, and compared them over 11 metrics addressing population shares by highest level of education (the great majority of the weight of the study), quality of schools, summer learning opportunities, and education equality.

The top 10 most educated U.S. cities, according to WalletHub, are:

1. Ann Arbor, Michigan
2. San Jose, California
3. Washington, D.C.
4. Madison, Wisconsin
5. San Francisco, California
6. Boston, Massachusetts
7. Durham, North Carolina
8. Raleigh, North Carolina
9. Seattle, Washington
10. Austin, Texas

(CultureMap has simplified these cities from metropolitan areas for readability.)

Of these 10 cities, half are capitals, including the nation’s capital at No. 4. This could be as much a fact of population-based methodology as an indication that capitals tend to be very well educated (i.e. states like Maine are represented only once, by its capital city, which happened to do quite well at No. 16). However, the least educated capital was Salem, Oregon (No. 116), demonstrating a much lower prevalence in the lower rankings.

Austin did well, but did not stand out dramatically, in the composite categories of “educational attainment” and “quality of education and attainment gap,” at Nos. 11 and 13, respectively. The University of Texas at Austin, the highest nationally ranked school in Texas at No. 38, also ranked second-highest statewide for investment efficiency in 2022. (Plus, there are 19 other colleges within 60 miles, according to the Austin Chamber of Commerce.)

The rest of Texas lags significantly behind in the WalletHub rankings, with Dallas cracking the top half at No. 73. Houston (No. 88) and San Antonio (No. 105) hung around the middle, with other Texas spots (Killeen, El Paso, Corpus Christi, Beaumont) falling even lower. McAllen and Brownsville came third and second to last overall.

One limiting factor in this survey of education is its focus on formal, in-school education. Although most of Texas could stand to improve its numbers in these realms, Austinites are afforded one more luxury as Texans: an opportunity to look deeper at the community values around them that elude or resist standardization. Maybe wait until school’s out, though.