Move over, Starkville and Oxford: in a national ranking of college towns across the United States, Hattiesburg was the only Mississippi name to make the list, earning a spot on livability.com’s 10 Best College Towns 2014.
Due to high scores in ranking criteria such as student population, affordable housing, education sector jobs and entertainment venues, Hattiesburg was once again recognized as an exceptional place to live by national press. Earlier this year, Hattiesburg ranked 24th on greatvaluecolleges.net’s list of 50 Great Affordable College Towns in the U.S. Hattiesburg was the only Mississippi town to make the list. In 2011, Hattiesburg Historic Neighborhood was deemed by the American Planning Association to be one of the Great Places in America.
Hattiesburg is a nationally competitive location due to local community leader involvement, a revitalized downtown and dining and entertainment venues available to residents. The University of Southern Mississippi itself contributes largely to Hattiesburg’s high placement, as 14 percent of jobs in Hattiesburg are in the education sector. Students are willing to invest in the local economy and the presence of the college attracts a young age demographic to the area, according to livability.com’s article.
While the article notes the presence of William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Southern Miss’ neighbor, is not featured in the write-up of the town, although together the two schools bring in a total of 17,000 students to Hattiesburg.
Hattiesburg’s rank in 10 Best College Towns 2014 is a testament to the opportunities available in the city. Student turnout is always visible at local festivals and concerts such as Live @ 5, Downtown Art Walk and Hubfest. Popular and lively cultural events like these are one reason Hattiesburg is considered a great college town.
Local theater and musical groups have performances throughout the year, and the city draws nationally recognized speakers. Hattiesburg’s larger facilities boast space to host rodeos, fairs and even monster truck rallies. Access to two hospitals, a growing number of flourishing local businesses and outdoor activities like biking on the Longleaf Trace or playing golf at one of the city’s many courses are other draws to the Hub City.
Hattiesburg is also on livability.com’s list of Best BBQ Cities, highlighting the town’s abundance of delicious local eateries, a growing collection of ethnic options, Southern comfort food and high-end restaurants.
James Curtis, a doctoral English student, completed previous degrees in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and noted a huge arts presence there. Upon hearing that Hattiesburg had made livability.com’s 10 Best College Towns list, Curtis expressed surprise, although, he explains, it is due in part to being uninformed.
“I think that’s mostly because I’m not often aware of many of the events that go on around campus,” Curtis said. “I feel like you have to actively seek out places to hang out, and as a grad student, I don’t often have time to do that.”
“I really enjoy the community events around town. I just wish there were more things like that,” he said.
The livability.com list of 10 Best College Towns includes the homes of many major universities including Notre Dame, The University of Virginia and Iowa State University.