How Much You Need To Be ‘Rich’ in 25 Major College Towns

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The towns that host America’s big colleges and universities offer a lifestyle that’s different from any other slice of America — and not just for those who live in the campus dorms. College towns have young, educated populations, and all the nightlife, entertainment and attractions that pop up wherever that demographic goes.

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Colleges and universities are often partnered with major research hospitals, which can improve healthcare access for the entire region. College towns tend to host lots of community events and have higher rates of volunteerism — and the really big ones boast a sports scene that’s the envy of even some pro franchises. Perhaps most importantly, according to Bob Vila, college towns tend to come much cheaper than traditional municipalities with comparable amenities. You can live richer in many college towns, that is, than you could in a metro region that delivers all a college town has to offer.

Using data from Parade and the American Community Survey, GOBankingRates identified how much money you would need to be considered rich in one of America’s biggest college towns. The results reveal the average income of the top 20% and top 5% in each town.

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Keep in mind when reading that nationwide, the lowest average income you would need to squeak into the top 20% is $131,350. The average income of the top 20% is $238,035 and the average income of the top 5% is $430,662. You’ll notice that in eight of the top 10 college towns on this list, you can squeak into the rich people’s club with just five figures.

Keep reading to learn what it takes to live like a king in your favorite college town.

Gainesville, Florida

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $84,313
  • Average income of the top 20%: $152,126
  • Average income of the top 5%: $271,609

Tucson, Arizona

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $86,761
  • Average income of the top 20%: $142,548
  • Average income of the top 5%: $236,763

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Athens, Georgia

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $89,304
  • Average income of the top 20%: $162,791
  • Average income of the top 5%: $285,784

Bloomington, Indiana

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $89,805
  • Average income of the top 20%: $164,102
  • Average income of the top 5%: $283,402

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State College, Pennsylvania

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $90,684
  • Average income of the top 20%: $171,136
  • Average income of the top 5%: $290,764

Ithaca, New York

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $96,773
  • Average income of the top 20%: $185,171
  • Average income of the top 5%: $324,026

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New Haven, Connecticut

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $96,992
  • Average income of the top 20%: $178,854
  • Average income of the top 5%: $318,312

Oxford, Ohio

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $98,491
  • Average income of the top 20%: $173,500
  • Average income of the top 5%: $276,419

Fayetteville, Arkansas

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $100,768
  • Average income of the top 20%: $186,022
  • Average income of the top 5%: $338,664

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $101,283
  • Average income of the top 20%: $191,186
  • Average income of the top 5%: $344,724

Ames, Iowa

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $103,079
  • Average income of the top 20%: $173,100
  • Average income of the top 5%: $284,960

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Champaign-Urbana, Illinois

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $104,941
  • Average income of the top 20%: $207,921
  • Average income of the top 5%: $389,076

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $105,646
  • Average income of the top 20%: $199,357
  • Average income of the top 5%: $367,145

Iowa City, Iowa

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $109,552
  • Average income of the top 20%: $185,842
  • Average income of the top 5%: $311,347

Corvallis, Oregon

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $110,507
  • Average income of the top 20%: $195,450
  • Average income of the top 5%: $338,673

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Burlington, Vermont

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $110,597
  • Average income of the top 20%: $186,745
  • Average income of the top 5%: $313,781

Columbia, Missouri

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $113,162
  • Average income of the top 20%: $194,474
  • Average income of the top 5%: $333,846

Madison, Wisconsin

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $125,849
  • Average income of the top 20%: $216,021
  • Average income of the top 5%: $379,651

Fort Collins, Colorado

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $131,218
  • Average income of the top 20%: $213,515
  • Average income of the top 5%: $355,147

Charlottesville, Virginia

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $134,288
  • Average income of the top 20%: $261,631
  • Average income of the top 5%: $494,072

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Austin, Texas

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $145,166
  • Average income of the top 20%: $267,777
  • Average income of the top 5%: $485,554

Ann Arbor, Michigan

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $147,692
  • Average income of the top 20%: $258,567
  • Average income of the top 5%: $445,352

Boulder, Colorado

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $166,906
  • Average income of the top 20%: $304,222
  • Average income of the top 5%: $532,466

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $190,337
  • Average income of the top 20%: $349,298
  • Average income of the top 5%: $628,727

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Berkeley, California

  • Lowest income to be considered “rich” (Top 20%): $196,103
  • Average income of the top 20%: $354,606
  • Average income of the top 5%: $624,426
More From GOBankingRates

Methodology: For this piece, GOBankingRates used Parade’s “These Are the 50 Best College Towns in the U.S.” to find the list of major college towns. With these 25 cities isolated, GOBankingRates then used American Community Survey income quintile data to find each city’s: (1) lowest income to be considered in the top 20% richest income bracket; (2) the average income of the richest 20% and (3) the average income of the richest 5%. Only factor (1) was considered in the final rankings. All data was collected and is up to date as of Nov. 15, 2021.

About the Author

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street's investment community in New York City.

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