Popular site ranks Starkville among best college towns

Faith Lifer
Staff Writer

Personal finance website WalletHub recently ranked the city of Starkville among the top college towns in the country, with “Mississippi’s College Town” coming in at 25th overall and ninth among small cities with a population of fewer than 125,000 people.

Wallet Hub created the list for prospective college students by comparing over 400 U.S. cities, acknowledging that geographic location is an important factor for a student’s success and development.

Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill thinks the city’s recognition on Wallet Hub’s list demonstrates Starkville is moving in the right direction.

“We have a good relationship with the students and the university and I think this reflects that,” Spruill said. “We want (students) to feel like they’re at home when they’re here with us and I think that’s part of what we seem to be achieving and this validates that.”

“The more friendly and welcoming the community is outside of the university then I think the more comfortable the students are to be here,” Spruill added.

Spruill said attracting college students to Starkville helps the city grow.

“We want those students to want to come here and we want more to come here,” Spruill said. “That’s part of what makes us grow and be better and be smarter. And that increase in youth and vitality gives that well-rounded sense of who you are. It makes you dynamic; it makes you progressive.”

“We certainly want to continue to grow in a reasonable and thoughtful way,” Spruill added. “If you’re not improving and growing then you are in decline. And never should Starkville be in decline.”

Spruill said it’s also important for Starkville to remain attractive and viable to all ages. In fact, she said she’s even witnessed a trend in Starkville where parents are following their children to the community.

“These days parents are following students to college,” Spruill said “Parents are coming with their children to the university community, whether they’re doing it on a full-time basis or doing it with weekend homes so that they can enjoy the athletics or sporting activities or whatever it is that their children are doing.”

“We are a playful community, we are an education community and we are a retirement community,” Spruill continued. “And that means we are everything to everybody. We want to be good at that so we continue to work on that.”

One category Wallet Hub considered in its ranking of college towns was “Wallet Friendliness,” which Spruill thinks provides quantitative proof that Starkville is a reasonable place to live.

“These are actually numbers that the cost of living here is reasonable and affordable and the educational value is good, so I think those are very important things for us to be able to highlight,” Spruill said.

Another factor considered was social environment.

“Quality of life includes those things that go beyond just academics and books,” Spruill said.

For example, Starkville’s food plays a role in its quality of life.

“We build ourselves as, and we believe we are, the culinary capital of Mississippi and we continue to have opportunities for lots of food,” Spruill said. “I would love to see us expand our offerings, particularly in the downtown area as well as to include some food truck options that we don’t currently focus on. And that’s a density factor too.”

Spruill also noted that art plays a large role in the quality of life.

“Your life without art is poorer. We need to have art: music, theatre, murals, color— all of that makes your life better,” Spruill said. “We want to have as well-rounded of a community as we possibly can and I think any community without music is poorer for that and we’ve had some wonderful artists in town.”

Lastly, Wallet Hub considered the cities’ academic and economic opportunities.

“The community and the university have to work together to make a place where these students want to be,” Spruill concluded. “And obviously when they’re done with college we’d like them to stay here so that’s all a part of that. If we can make them feel like this is home, we staunch some of that brain drain that we keep hearing about. Because we want them to stay with us. We want them to continue to be a part of the community.”