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Terre Haute ranks as one of 10 Best College Towns in the US for 2020

News | 01.09.2020

by Karen Dyer, vice president for advancement and strategic initiatives

Why yes, Terre Haute is a great college town! Thanks for noticing!

In an article published January 2, the “College Gazette,” recently ranked Terre Haute, Ind., number five on its 10 Best College Towns in the U.S list. The “College Gazette” is a national resource for higher education that shares articles, admission information and the latest college news.

“The best college towns are brimming with energy, innovation, and a lively environment appealing to both college students as well as working professionals alike,” states the article, which ranked the best college towns on quality of life metrics including performing arts, reasonable rents, safety, quality of resident schools, nightlife and restaurants.

Terre Haute has been a college town since the mid-1800’s with the founding of three of its institutions before the turn of the last century while it was still considered to be the wilderness of Indiana. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, Indiana State University, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and Ivy Tech Community College all call Terre Haute home.

So, what makes Terre Haute a great college town?

It’s the green space, according to the ranking, that puts this river town on the map. More than 1,000 acres of parks, trails, golf courses and numerous other outdoor recreational opportunities include the world-class LaVern Gibson Cross Country Course, the award-winning Griffin Bike Park, the National Road Heritage Trail which already crosses through Indiana State and Rose-Hulman campuses and designation as a “Tree City USA” town. It is no wonder Terre Haute lands a spot on the list. With two of the four colleges already named as a “Tree Campus USA” and a third designation underway, the campus green spaces provide part of the allure for Terre Haute with their well-coiffed quads, sweeping lawns and park-like settings. The successful 2018 International Air Show was listed in the article as one of the contributing factors to the ranking. In addition, Terre Haute is also designated as one of only eight arts and cultural districts in the state by the Indiana Arts Commission.

“The leadership of SMWC along with that of the other colleges have been intentional in fostering this idea of our community being a college town – one that is attractive for all our students,” said Dottie L. King, Ph. D., president of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

In 2018, King began leading an effort in Terre Haute for the community to more boldly stake its claim as a college town. In collaboration with all local institutions, the city installed “College Town” banners in the historic downtown listing each of the institutions.

“The four institutions of higher education in Terre Haute differ widely in student population and mission, yet we share a common goal to provide a world-class education to our students along with a warm Indiana and Wabash Valley welcome. We are very proud of our town,” said King.

Indiana Senator Jon Ford, representing District 38, has worked diligently advance Terre Haute through opportunities to expand trail systems, build a convention center and establish an arts district, all while advocating to raise awareness and resources for growth in the community. “It’s very heartening to have Terre Haute listed as one of the Best College Towns for 2020,” said Sen. Ford. “The community has worked hard to be a city that is intentional about its quality of place, with many great things to do and beautiful space in which to do them. This accolade positions Terre Haute to receive its moment in the well-deserved spotlight.”

In 2019, Terre Haute launched a community plan and branding effort called, “See You in Terre Haute,” with a goal of increasing awareness of the city’s wide range of resources and strong vision for growth. In addition to its vast parks and trail system, the city boasts nine museums and the oldest professional orchestra in Indiana, the birthplace of the historic Coke bottle and features an extensive public art collection. The Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2018 and is one of only a few historic districts designations in the state.

The community continues to look for ways to grow and offer more amenities that college students, parents and other visitors might seek when looking for a robust college town.

David Patterson, executive director of the Terre Haute Convention and Visitors Bureau noted that Terre Haute has a long history of welcoming college students to the community. Last year, the community hosted five state, two regional and two national championships in cross country, chess, gymnastics, soccer, basketball, swimming and quarter midget racing.

“Terre Haute has so much to offer, and I am ecstatic to see our community being recognized in this way. We are an event-based market for visitors. Our relationship with our institutions is vital to the success of these events,” said Patterson. “Our students and those who come to compete from around the nation often find that the community has much to offer.”

Currently underway is a new convention center slated to open in 2021 that will provide more hotel space, new restaurants and the reopening of a historic bar adding to the continued revitalization of downtown. SMWC and various community partners also seek to connect the west side of the city through the trail systems, eventually linking Wabash Valley trails to the state-wide system.

“Seeing Terre Haute recognized as one of the best college towns in America confirms what we already know… this is a great place to live, work, play… and get a top-notch education. While Terre Haute has always provided students with a great atmosphere, exciting developments in the past few years will keep building on those offerings and create even more energy and excitement in our community,” commented Kristin Craig, president of the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce.

To view the full list, visit CollegeGazette.com.

About the institutions: Saint Mary’s Academy (now Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College) was the first college in the community, founded in 1840 by Indiana’s only saint, Mother Theodore Guerin and her five companion Sisters of Providence. SMWC was followed by Indiana State Normal School (now Indiana State University) in 1865 and Rose Polytechnic Institute (now Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology) in 1874. Ivy Tech Community College was founded in 1963 as Indiana’s Vocational Technical College as the fourth institution of higher education in Vigo County.