Tucson, AZ

Tucson Best City for College Grads in the Southwest

Greyson F

A new college graduate.MD Duran/Unsplash

For many of us here in greater Tucson, there’s no better place to call home. The weather is beautiful for the vast majority of the year, there’s plenty to do around town, there are different communities depending on what you’re looking for, and it’s one of the best-known food towns in the country as well. All of that adds up to a nice place to live. 

According to Smart Asset’s latest Best Cities for New College Graduates, Tucson is also one of the best cities in the country for a recent college grad. Graduates don’t need to be coming from the U of A either. Every year, the financial website looks at several variables to help determine what cities are the best for college grads. These numbers include whether jobs are available in the city, an affordability factor, and the number of activities available within the city. Smart Asset then compiles the numbers together to determine how desirable the city is to someone fresh out of college, looking for a job. 

Based on the numbers, Tucson ranks as the 19th best city for college graduates to call home. This makes it not only the top city in Arizona but the top city in the entire Southwest (including California and Texas). Phoenix did well, coming in just behind Tucson at 25. 

Each of the categories is scored from 0 to 100. To come up with the score for jobs, Smart Asset considered the unemployment rate for college graduates, the overall unemployment rate in the city as of January 2021, the average earnings for graduates, as well as all jobs available on the job website Indeed. This category is actually where Tucson scored the lowest of the three categories. It had a total of 24.23 out of 100 for its job score (this is the lowest of any city found in the top 35). What really makes Tucson shine for new college graduates is its affordability score and its fun score. 

Tucson has an affordability score of 89.86 out of 100. This would place it as the fifth most affordable city in the top 35. To determine how affordable a city is, Smart Asset looks at the overall cost of living as well as the average monthly rent of the city. 

The third metric is the fun score, which Tucson scored 74.94 out of 100. To determine this score, the website looked at the number of entertainment establishments, restaurants, and the percentage of bars and restaurants that specifically cater to individuals between the ages of 20 and 29. 

For comparison purposes, Phoenix did far better on its job score of 71.27, but it had a lower affordability score of 58.45, and its fun score was only 53.69. Outside of the two Arizona locations, Texas is the only other Southwestern-based state to have a city on the list (it has three). The first is Austin at 22, followed by San Antonio at 26, and Lubbock at 28. 

As for the top 10 cities in the United States for college graduates to live in, many are located in larger Midwestern cities, mostly due to the affordability of the cities and more centrally located entertainment options. Cincinnati, Ohio scored tops on the list, followed by Columbus, Ohio. Milwaukee came in third, followed by St. Louis at four, Pittsburgh at five, Lexington, Kentucky at six, Madison, Wisconsin at seven, Indianapolis, Indiana at 8, Nashville at nine, and Louisville rounded out the top 10. 

Tucson continues to improve on its ranking from last year, and if the city sees a bounce back with more jobs over the next 12 months, there’s a good chance Tucson’s rankings will continue to rise for the 2022 release of Smart Asset’s Best Cities for New College Grads.

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