Best College Towns in Michigan
Editor & Writer
Editor & Writer
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- Michigan has 40 four-year colleges for you to choose from, each with its own features and benefits.
- Ann Arbor is the perfect college town, offering both nightlife and outdoor activities.
- Smaller college towns like Mount Pleasant provide one-of-a-kind cultural experiences.
- Michigan's cost of living is the 15-lowest in the nation, making school here more affordable than average.
College towns have a distinct vibe. Everywhere you turn, there are mom-and-pop shops and great local eats. Your evenings and weekends are buzzing with opportunities to view live entertainment, visit an art show, or go to a festival. This holds true for the best college towns in Michigan.
Living in a college town in the Wolverine State is a unique experience because you'll be surrounded by nature. With its 19.3 million acres of forest, sandy beaches, and wooded and open wetlands, Michigan has a lot to explore, and deciding where to live and study in the Great Lake State is no easy choice.
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Top 5 College Towns in Michigan
So how did we come up with the best college towns on our list? We focused on towns that provide a rich college experience with cultural events and easy access to recreational activities. We also looked at student employment rates and the size of the undergraduate population of the town.
Population estimates are from the U.S. Census Bureau for 2023 and undergraduate population estimates are from college websites.
1. Ann Arbor
- Colleges: University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, Concordia University at Ann Arbor
- Population: 123,851
- Undergraduate Population: 27%
Ann Arbor is a sports mecca, home to the Big 10 School, the University of Michigan. The small town is teeming with unique shops, entertainment venues, and international cuisine offerings that mirror the town's diversity.
The beauty of Ann Arbor is you can paddle board the Huron, explore the biking and hiking trails of the city's parks, or spend the winter months outdoors ice skating or snow-shoeing.
With such a thriving community, students have many career opportunities in Ann Arbor, whether seeking a part-time job or a coveted internship.
2. Mount Pleasant
- Colleges: Central Michigan University
- Population: 21,094
- Undergraduate Population: 54%
Mount Pleasant is a smaller college town nestled in the heart of Michigan. Located just a few short miles from the Isabella Indian Reservation, you can explore the Ziibiwing Cultural Center or attend the annual Saginaw Pow Wow when you're not studying.
Mount Pleasant also has lush nature parks known for their wildflowers, wetlands, and fishing along the Chippewa River.
In addition to the usual campus jobs and employment around the city, students can find jobs at Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort.
3. East Lansing
- Colleges: Michigan State University
- Population: 47,340
- Undergraduate Population: 81%
East Lansing is home to one of the nation's premier land grant universities, Michigan State University (MSU), located only 3 miles from the state's capitol.
East Lansing is the home to the MSU Broad Art Museum, funded by the same philanthropists as the famous Broad Museum in Los Angeles. You can also find quaint shops, restaurants, and bars along the Grand River.
Students can find jobs on the MSU campus and around town. The free CATA bus system makes getting to and from work, school, and campus housing easy.
- Colleges: Eastern Michigan University
- Population: 19,732
- Undergraduate Population: 58%
Known by Michiganders as Ypsi, this quaint college town is the second-largest contiguous historic district in the state. It gets its unique name from a hero of the Greek War of Independence.
Ypsi is also known for its avant-garde scene, its aviation and automobile museums, and numerous Theaters. It also holds numerous festivals in Depot Town, with themes from Elvis to Orphan Cars.
Many student jobs are readily available on the Eastern Michigan University Campus as well as surrounding businesses.
5. Big Rapids
- Colleges: Ferris State University
- Population: 7,858
- Undergraduate Population: 90%
Named for the swift currents of the Muskegon River, Big Rapids is home to the only college of optometry in Michigan, housed at Ferris State University. The city is ideal for students who want a small-town feel with a youthful atmosphere.
The small town has several parks along the 3.5-mile Big Rapids Riverwalk. It's meant to get you out in nature to relax, explore the trails, and even try your hand at fishing.
Students seeking employment will be most successful with on-campus opportunities.
Frequently Asked Questions About College in Michigan
What is the cost of living in Michigan?
The cost of living in Michigan is the 15th-lowest in the country. This makes attending schools in Michigan a sound financial choice. With housing costs nearly 20% lower than the national average, living in a college town in Michigan will give you the most bang for your buck.
What is the best college in Michigan?
The best college in Michigan is the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor. Known as a "Public Ivy," the school is known for its excellence in academics and athletics. It is also one of the top research institutions in the world, with over $1.4 billion in research funding. U of M is also known for its stellar graduation rate of 93%.
How many colleges are in Michigan?
There are about 40 four-year colleges in Michigan, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. There are also 31 public community colleges and several technical institutions.