Words & Deeds

This ranking of best college towns snubbed Boise. Wow. Look who made the grade in Idaho.

What makes a fantastic college town?

An outstanding Greek tradition? A bustling bar scene near campus?

A Smurf-colored football field?

None of the above. At least in Idaho.

To be the best college town in the Gem State, you need to be out in the boonies — and roughly 99 percent Mormon.

You need to be Rexburg, according to a new Reviews.org article choosing “The Best College Town in Every State.”

Idaho’s top college town is not fast-growing Boise with its nationally ranked football team. It’s not Moscow and its “nasty, inebriated” (yet totally adorable) culture. Pocatello didn’t get any love in this forehead-smacking analysis, either.

Nope. Idaho’s best college town is the home of BYU-Idaho. A rural no-party zone in eastern Idaho. A destination for zero intercollegiate athletics, zero Greek system and zero VHS copies of “National Lampoon’s Animal House” gathering dust in the stacks of the campus library.

No offense, my LDS friends. If you’re a student there, I’m sure you’re living the dream — living a “chaste and virtuous” life.

In that respect, Rexburg truly is an exceptional college town.

How many other universities have an honor code banning sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll — along with alcohol, coffee, tea, short skirts and beards? (Actually, I see no mention of rock ‘n’ roll in the Church Educational System Honor Code. This calls for a devil horns hand gesture! Rock on, Rexburg!)

But get this. Reviews.org ranks Rexburg as the fourth-best college town in the entire United States — behind Iowa City, Iowa (No. 1), Ithaca, New York (No. 2) and Champaign-Urbana, Illinois (No. 3).

(For the record, I drank a few beers while visiting Iowa City during my college years. It really is a fun town. Gabe’s Oasis is a classic music venue.)

Let’s ignore for a moment that, based on spelling in the list, Reviews.org appears to have dropped out of college. (Been to “Deleware” State University lately? Or the “Unviersity” of Wisconsin?) Or that Reviews.org describes itself as “a resource for finding and comparing information about tech products and in-home services.” (So why exactly is it attempting to rank college towns?)

Instead, let’s focus on the methodology, which included criteria such as rental costs, city access and — according to a media release — bar availability, which would seem to flat-out disqualify Rexburg.

Rexburg finished No. 2 among the nation’s best college towns for cost of living. (See, Boise, we need to give all those house-rich California transplants a map to Rexburg!) It also finished No. 1 for student employment. (Must be all those bartending jobs.)

Boise and Moscow? Nowhere to be found on the list.

(By the way, I get that Boise is not a traditional college town. We’re just used to having our rears kissed by every national rankings story — no matter what.)

Try not to take it too hard, Broncos and Vandals. If it ever comes down to a student snowball fight, you’ll bury Rexburg by combining forces.

The town’s entire population is something like 28,000. And that’s when students are around. If they’re home for the holidays or off on a mission, it’s closer to 8. (Oops, wait — I think that’s the campus curfew.)

One thing is certain, though. If you’re looking for the best college town in Idaho to keep your nose clean?

Rexburg for the win.

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Michael Deeds is an entertainment reporter and columnist at the Idaho Statesman, where he also has been a sportswriter, entertainment editor and features editor. Deeds co-hosts “The Other Studio,” a one-hour music show, at 8 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River.
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