Q&A - August 26, 2016

When choosing where to go to college, students should really consider the academic reputation and price of tuition, but they more often look at the setting where the school is located. The attractiveness and amenities of the campus certainly factor into their decisions, but students also scrutinize the town where the campus is located.

When leaving home for the first time, students are really choosing a place to live as well as a place to go to school. So when trying to attract students, an appealing community is just as important as an appealing campus.

Q: Does Okmulgee have what it takes to become a “college town?”

While it is true that Okmulgee, Oklahoma is the home of Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology (OSUIT), it takes much more than having a college for a town to be considered a true college town. To start this conversation, we need a basic definition of a college town. I would suggest that a college town is a place where the local college plays an integral part in the economy and culture of the entire community. It is where the college and city are inextricably linked to make it a great place to live (whether in a dorm or permanent home). True college towns are places where the identity of the city is both shaped by and complementary to the presence of its local college or university, creating an environment that is welcoming to young adults and enjoyable for all residents whether they are enrolled in classes or not. These places become melting pots where young minds meet old traditions.

It does not require an advanced degree in urban planning to understand that a good college town appeals to more than just students. Sure, a quality education is a great outcome, however there is more to life than what you find in a college textbook or classroom. With a student population comes the vitality of college life and student activities. College town residents clearly benefit from both the economic stability that a university provides and the youthful energy that students bring.

In a college town, the college is not only a major employer, but also the reason for more plentiful shops, restaurants, and entertainment businesses. You should be able to easily tell if classes are in session or not with a quick glance at the mix of people on a busy downtown sidewalk.

Not all college towns are alike, that’s part of the allure. Yet, some of the key factors that make a town a good college town and a great place for students include: friendly people, public safety, good weather, scenic beauty, public transportation, affordable rental housing, plenty of jobs for students, businesses that cater to students, fun things to do off campus, and good relationships between the community and the college campus (town and gown relations). I believe Okmulgee has many of these characteristics and is well on its way toward establishing itself as a true college town.

If you have additional questions or comments about the relationship between OSUIT and Okmulgee, please send them to me at osuit-president@okstate.edu.