Uniquely College Park – Age and the Definition of A College Town



A brief analysis of College Park’s age distribution the other week revealed that UMD has easily the youngest college town of it’s peer schools. This brought about a deeper question: what exactly is a “College Town”? This question produces a vague answer – a place where a “college or university and the cultures it creates exert a dominant influence over the character of the community.” Using this definition we decided to eliminate large cities and state capitals with universities in this analysis.

One commenter pointed out in our last post that CP’s population is miniscule (25,000) compared to Chapel Hill (52,000), Urbana-Champaigne (110,000), Ann Arbor (114,000), and Berkeley (102,000). Basically, it’s clear that you can place college towns on a continuum whereby a university can be an increasingly less important player in the community (either because of the large size of the town or small size of the college).

This time we compared CP to 19 other “college towns” and came up with the chart you see above. These towns range in population from 17,000 to 114,000 but still average about twice (50,000) College Park’s population. Not only did we find that College Park’s population has an unusually high percentage of undergraduate aged people (very roughly we’ll say its about 45% undergrad), but we had great difficulty finding another major university (and similar sized, discrete political unit/a.k.a. town) tucked into a major metro area. Apparently other states placed their land-grant universities a little further off the beaten path than Maryland did.

We do like a point PG County Councilmen Eric Olson made on our first iteration of this: virtually every other town on the chart has a second spike around the graduate student age range. College Park just can’t hold on to grad students.

A separate study using 59 towns found that 18-24 year olds averaged about 30% of the population of those towns in the year 2000. College Park was more like 50%.

>>See Our Excel Sheet: College Town Age Comparison

3 thoughts on “Uniquely College Park – Age and the Definition of A College Town”

  1. Fascinating analysis. I am wondering if the relatively small size of College Park has to do with the borders of surrounding towns. Elsewhere, neighborhoods like University Park and University Hill might actually belong to the college town. Here they belong to other jurisdictions, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

    With respect to graduate students, College Park is too expensive. The town also does not provide any entertainment that graduate students enjoy. Of course, there is the College Perk. If there was affordable housing and a whole town square with College Perk type businesses then there would be more graduate students.

    It would also be nice if the university would finally pay graduate employees a living wage.

  2. In response to “The town also does not provide any entertainment that graduate students enjoy,” we should also keep in mind that a good portion of undergraduates share the same dissatisfaction with the entertainment options here, too.

  3. This is very interesting and thank you for continueing the analysis. I would agree with Hellmut that some of the surrounding towns would likely be part of other college towns. I believe that part of the lack of a bimodel peak for graduate students is the choice of grads to live in the district. I know many GSs that live in DC because of the hip environment that it offers and the easy transport offered by the metro. Another college town that would be interesting to examine would be New Brunswick/Piscataway (Rutgers). Rutgers shares being on the outskirts of a major hip city, and is surrounded by towns. Many RU Graduate students chose to live in other surrounding towns (edison, highland park, North Brunswick, etc) or commute in from NYC or even the shore. New Brunswick has made great strides to become more of a work/live environment and feels much more comfortable about what they have to offer.

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