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Top 10 small metro destinations for college students (population 250,000 and 1 million residents):

1. Boulder

2. Ann Arbor, Mich.

3. Bridgeport, Conn.

4. Trenton-Ewing, N.J.

5. Gainsville, Fla.

6. Madison, Wis.

7. Durham, N.C.

8. Santa Cruz, Calif.

9. Honolulu

10. Fort Collins

Source: American Institute for Economic Research

The American Institute for Economic Researched on Wednesday named Boulder the best small city for college students in its 2010-2011 College Destinations guide.

This is the second straight year Boulder has been No. 1 among cities with 250,000 to 1 million residents.

The institute analyzed 222 metropolitan areas based on 12 criteria, including student concentration, diversity, research capacity, cost of living and arts and leisure.

While Boulder ranked high in all categories, it was the city’s professional opportunities that put Boulder on top, said Kerry Lynch, senior fellow at the research institute.

“The per capita income in Boulder was very high,” Lynch said. “The unemployment rate was relatively low and the population of young adults with college degrees was also very high.”

New businesses and entrepreneurial activity in Boulder were high, as well, giving the city a final boost to the top spot.

Malinda Miller-Huey, spokeswoman for the University of Colorado campus, said that while CU officials are glad Boulder topped the list, such statistics get “little stock” from the university.

CU junior Sarah Kell said with so many outdoor activities it makes sense that Boulder ranked so high.

“There’s just so much to do here,” Kell said. “Students are young and they want to get out and do something, so this is a great place to be.”

CU junior Thomas Wang said public transportation and tons of options for after-school activities make the overall university experience more appealing.

“It’s not all about school,” Wang said. “It is also about having a social life and having fun.”

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