Six Alternative Student Cities in US

United States is home to a large number of prestigious universities and colleges, boasting 10 times as many campuses as in any other country. As a result, US higher education system has something for everyone. We all know New York, Boston and Washington DC are the first choice for many students, but it is often the lesser-known places that people fall in love with. In this article, we take a look at a few alternative US cities and towns that offer a treat of culture and fascinating American history alongside world’s best universities.

Six Alternative Student Cities in US

Here are six alternative US cities for studying:

  1. Chicago

Chicago (nickname: ‘Windy City’ or Second City’) boasts diverse cultural offerings and has a large contribution in the field of music, visual arts, film and theater. Besides being a cultural hub, it is also a home to international technology, finance, telecommunications, transportation and communication industries.

Top Universities in Chicago:

  • University of Chicago
  • Northwestern University
  • University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC)
  • Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Loyola University of Chicago

Quality of living:

The rent in Chicago is extremely cheap. Statistically, the median gross rent is $1086 in New York whereas it is only $886 in Chicago. In Chicago, the streets are clean which takes it to top on the list of livability. This city is decorated with a number of parks: Grant Park, Millennium Park, Lincoln Park etc where you can enjoy fresh air while walking or release your tension when strained by your daily academic life. With industries, Chicago boasts a whole range of industries in the field of Banking, Venture Capital, Private Equity, Insurance, consulting etc. With the beautiful beaches, this city has a diverse cultural offering like Field Museum, Art Institute etc.


With an average university fee of around 18,000 USD, tuition fee in Chicago is not much but cost of living here is one of the highest in the country. You need to be prepared to invest a hefty amount of money here in your bid to obtain quality education from prestigious universities in this city.

Student Mix:

Chicago attracts a huge number of students from around the world from different backgrounds.


Chicago has a major transportation hub with two major airports and main freight rail hub of North America. Chicago offers free tourist trolleys that serve the downtown area.

  1. Los Angeles (LA)

The city of Los Angles has flourished in the field of education, entertainment, business, technology, research, medicine, culture and sports, international trade. LA offers high-quality education experience for the students that can be matched with the level that top cities in US offers.

Top Universities in Los Angeles:

  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • University of Southern California
  • California State University, Los Angeles

Quality of life:

Los Angeles is home to the most popular attraction of the world: Hollywood. Students living in LA get benefitted from the quality and variety of the city’s academic institutions and also enjoy a safe and crime-free environment. LA, once consider as not very safe city to live, has been experiencing a significant decline in the rate of crime since the mid 90s. The quality of life in LA is generally high and so are the cost of living due to the high property prices and rents. But fortunately, it is comparatively lower than New York. If you are living in Los Angeles, you will experience subtropical- Mediterranean climate with plenty of sunshine and hardly any rain.


As we have already mentioned that this city has a low affordability. Apart from providing world-class education facilities, this city has a weak point too, that is high average university fees of around $39,000 USD.

Student Mix:

With the centers of varied industries, Los Angeles emerges as a welcoming city with its people who are very humble in nature. This city can be an apt choice for a student who wants to experience high-quality education for considering a high range of choices in career.


The inter-city transportation system in Los Angeles includes United States’ largest port complex, passenger rail infrastructure and extensive light rail and subway lines, numerous airports, bus lines and freights. If you are studying in Los Angeles, you have a wide range of facilities in this city.

  1. Philadelphia

If you have an avid interest in US history and politics then Philadelphia can be your most preferred choice for you to carry out your studies in an environment of American culture and historical value. If you value vivid culture during your time spent while studying, then you can take advantages of rich history, architecture as well as theaters and musical experiences in Philadelphia.

Top Universities in Philadelphia:

  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Drexel University
  • Temple University

Quality of living:

If you are passionate about sports, a wide range of sports is played and enjoyed in college and university level in Philadelphia. This city offers you a wide range of food, with a large number of small family-owned food joints across the city. With major national parks, forests and breathtaking water bodies green spaces, Philadelphia has a setting for everyone. This city boasts one of the lowest costs of living and median home sales prices compared to the large metropolitan statistical areas, including Boston, New York and Washington, D.C.


Philadelphia is a very cheap place to live for students. With 34,300 USD as average university fees, Philadelphia colleges and universities also offer huge number of scholarships and awards to the students.

Student Mix:

Philadelphia is acknowledged for its friendly nature and spreading love amongst the people. It also boasts a good student population.


Transportation in Philadelphia involves various modes of transport buses, rapid transit, commuter rail, trolleys and the Philadelphia trackless trolley (trolleybuses). You can easily commute by rails or air utilizing Philadelphia International Airport.

  1. San Diego

Sam Diego boasts one of the most beautiful beaches, a stunning harbor and plenty of spaces that students can explore when studies become too stressful. This city is home to a huge number of private college and universities.

Top Universities in San Diego:

  • San Diego State University, San Diego (UCSD)
  • University of California
  • UCSD School of Medicine
  • Jefferson School of Law
  • California Western School of Law
  • University of San Diego of Law

Quality of life:

San Diego is known to be one of the safest large cities in USA along with robust healthcare system that is the best in the nation. This city boasts a unique combination of outstanding weather, great coastal location and easy access to both recreational and cultural activities. If you are an art lover, San Diego is a haven for you because it has the Museum of Contemporary Art and San Diego Museum of Art and other arts and humanities organizations. In weekend, you have so many options, go to zoo, sit on a beach and enjoy the sunny day or go to a secret bar. Compared to Los Angeles and the Bay area, rent and mortgages are fairly low, giving a metropolitan experience at less than $2000 a month.


San Diego is America’s cheapest city. With $29,000 USD as an average higher education fees, San Diego colleges and universities support students by providing them financial aid in various forms. If you are living off-campus, then also you have the lowest rent to pay compared to New York, San Francisco and Washington D.C.

Student Mix:

Ethinically diverse college campuses in San Diego offer students the opportunity to collaborate with students from different racial and ethnic groups.


San Diego is efficiently connected by San Diego Trolley, Coaster, Sprinter, the Pacific Surfliner. You can also opt for ferry services if you are traveling in the morning and afternoon.

  1. Newark

Newark is home to a fair number of academic institutions. Most educational institutions are found in the University Heights Districts which boasts 40,000 students and members of staff. When a lot of newest businesses initiated their journey in this city, a new crowd of students got attracted to this city and is now the third largest city in terms of population.

Top Universities in Newark:

  • New Jersey Institution of Technology (NJIT)
  • Rutgers (Newark Campus)
  • Essex Country College
  • Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences
  • University of Delaware (Newark Campus)
  • Berkeley College

Quality of Life:

Although Newark does not have breathtaking beaches like San Diego, but it boasts some of the most beautiful architecture and historical cultures along with a number of galleries, museums and performances arts centers across the city. The best thing is New York is just a stone’s throw from Newark. When you can enjoy the humdrum of New York city, you can also have the cheaper cost of living, food and accommodation in Newark.


As it is has been mentioned earlier, Newark boasts a cheaper cost of living in terms of paying rent or owning an apartment compared to its neighbor city of New York. You can also live in ‘Global Community Apartments’ with your host family.

Student Mix:

The colleges and universities in Newark possess a diverse student body belonging from different racial and ethnic groups. The percentage of white people is 25 percent, whereas Latino is 23.3 percent and Asian: 21.9 percent.


Newark has unique transit trains from Airport that can take you anywhere in New York and New Jersey, without ever worrying about the traffic and tolls. It is a cheap and faster way of traveling even for students.

  1. San Francisco

It is a wonderful city if you are looking to live on a reasonable budget. It may be of your interest to know that San Francisco Bay is home to one of the leading financial centers like Facebook, Apple and IBM. Since 1990s, the demand of skilled technology workers has attracted white-collar from all over the world, and this makes San Francisco as one of the most preferred alternatives for students.

Top Universities in San Francisco:

  • Stanford University
  • University of California, Berkeley (UCB)
  • University of San Francisco
  • University of California, San Francisco

Quality of living:

San Francisco boasts a few students’ most favorite things like festivals and concerts. Randomly held awesome cultural events will definitely catch your eyes too. With notable landmarks like Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars and China Town, the city has something for everyone. This city is mostly famous for its chilly summer fog, steep rolling hills and unique mix of Victorian and modern architecture which students find fascinating.


Despite these perks, this city stands high in the quality of life index which means rent, electricity, healthcare and transportation costs are high. But it is comparatively lower than New York and other top cities in US. But the university fees for best educational institutions are high with an average university fee of around 38,000 USD. If you overlook this one, it can be one of the best alternatives for you.

Student Mix:

It is famous since the 1960s as the ‘Flower power’ and remains until date as one of the most iconic cities and frequently visited cities by international students.


It has an extensive network of bus, trolleybus, streetcars, and cable cars lines that serve every tourist destination, shopping destination and neighborhood located within the city limits. You can check the schedules and route maps for individual lines online.

While joining a university or college, it is important to examine not only an institution’s intellectual environment but also the city that the students will call home for several years to come. Here six alternative US cities have been assessed in terms of its quality of living, educational and employment opportunity, affordability, diversity of student and transportation of the city. Now it is up to you to choose the most suitable alternative based on your preferences.

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