FILE - Charleston, EIU

As high school seniors make plans for college, e-commerce website WalletHub has released its list of the best college towns in America, and several Illinois college towns made the grade.

Researchers looked at more than 400 college towns and cities across the nation. WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez said the team looked more 30 metrics for the research. The metrics included categories such as the cost of living, quality of higher education and crime rate.

Several Illinois college communities did well in the rankings.

Charleston, home of Eastern Illinois University, was the highest-ranked Illinois town on the list. It ranked 19th overall out of 415 towns and cities and fourth on the list of “Best Small Cities.”

Gonzalez said Charleston ranked high on the list because of the number of part-time jobs for college students and recent college graduates. She said 60 percent of all jobs in the Charleston area were part-time and geared toward students. Housing costs for EIU students are some of the lowest in the country.

Also in the top half of the list was the University of Illinois in Champaign. Gonzalez said Champaign also did well with part-time jobs for students.

"Things like the average monthly fitness club fee, average cost for food, things like movies and bowling,” Gonzalez said were all comparatively low in Champaign.

A category that Champaign did not perform well in was housing costs. Overall, Champaign ranked 111th.

Other Illinois communities that performed well included Chicago (64th overall) and Evanston (136th overall).  

The home of the Northwestern Wildcats performed exceptionally well in the category of “Highest Quality of Higher Education,” where Evanston was ranked fifth in the nation.  

Other college communities in the state did not perform well. Rockford was ranked 377th out of 415 towns and cities. Gonzalez said the unemployment rate and the number of part-time jobs was a major factor.

“The unemployment rate specifically for college-aged students and recent grads is one of the highest in the country at seven percent,” she said.

Rockford did perform well in categories such as the cost of living and housing costs.

Overall Rank   City/Town

64                    Chicago, IL

111                  Champaign, IL

136                  Evanston, IL

162                  DeKalb, IL

179                  Urbana, IL

207                  Springfield, IL

212                  Naperville, IL

217                  Carbondale, IL

274                  Joliet, IL

310                  Aurora, IL

332                  Normal, IL

335                  Peoria, IL

354                  Elgin, IL

377                  Rockford, IL

Staff Reporter

A Chicago area radio news veteran, Jim Moran covers statewide issues for The Center Square. Previously, he has worked as a news reporter/anchor and traffic reporter for numerous radio stations across Illinois and the St. Louis metro area.