A recent study named one small town in Alabama one of the fastest-growing college towns in the United States, even as enrollment in higher education is declining nationwide.
According to BrokeScholar, Auburn is the fifth fastest-growing college town in the U.S. behind Bozeman, Mont. (Montana State University), Oxford, Miss. (Ole Miss), Cedar City, Utah (Southern Utah University), and San Marcos, Texas (Texas State University).
Researchers analyzed census populations of 150 cities around the U.S. with at least one major university in years 2000, 2010, 2020 and 2023 to calculate the percentage and compound annual growth rates (CAGR) from raw population change. They then ranked college towns by their CAGR from highest to lowest.
Most college towns experienced some growth, but a portion did not. Castine, Maine (Maine Maritime Academy), for instance, experienced a 2.15% population decline. Almost half of the top 25 fastest-growing college towns are in the South.
Both Bozeman, Mont. and Oxford, Miss., experienced population growth since 2000 of over 100%. Auburn's population growth since 2000 was 91%.
Other than a slight enrollment decline in 2021, Auburn Univerity's enrollment increased yearly from 2013 to 2022. Numbers are not yet available for the 2023-2024 school year, which began on August 16.
Nevertheless, Auburn's population growth is higher than the growth of enrolment at the university. Since 2000, Auburn University's enrollment has increased by 45%. In 2022, Auburn enrolled 31,764 students, compared to just 21,860 in 2000.
According to the U.S. Census, Tuscaloosa also experienced a major population increase since 2000, though not as substantial as Auburn's. Tuscaloosa grew by a little over 40% during that timeframe, with just over 78,900 people in 2000 and around 110,600 people in 2022.
Meanwhile, the University of Alabama experienced over a 100% increase in enrollment, with only 19,318 students in 2000 and 38,645 in 2022.
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