As the summer draws to a close, many college students will be getting ready to enter the workforce, and nearly 50 percent of Florida’s graduates will move away to look for jobs in other states. Unfortunately, many of them will return home in dire financial straits within a year. It’s all fun and games to dream of moving to New York or Chicago or Los Angeles, but it’s important for college students to look not just at those big expensive destinations but to consider more affordable cities as well. Here’s a list of five that could be just right for taking the baby steps in a career, and in life.
1. Columbus, OH. Despite its small-town feel, Columbus is home to multiple Fortune 500 companies, helping the city maintain a phenomenally low unemployment rate: an impressive 4.4 percent. In fact, Columbus was barely affected by the recession and has continued to thrive economically for the past decade, making “top city” lists on numerous occasions, including lists from MarketWatch and Forbes. With its cost of living nearly 13 percent below the national average, Columbus is the perfect city for a fresh-faced graduate or budding family.
2. Omaha, NE. With an even lower unemployment rate than Columbus — 2.5 percent, the lowest in the nation — and a cost of living that’s nearly 13 percent below the national average, Omaha might be one of the more surprising cities on this list. With its Fortune 500 companies and affluent populace, such as Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway, Omaha offers many job opportunities, including jobs in agriculture, telecommunications, insurance, and freight transport.
3. Lansing, MI. The cost of living is about 8 percent below average in Lansing, but the housing market is the jewel here, with prices coming in 33 percent lower than those found in other major cities. Low-cost transportation, coupled with a 4.3 percent individual income tax, allows for a more comfortably full wallet.
4. Round Rock, TX. The median household income is $17,000 above the national average, while daily necessities like groceries are 17 percent cheaper — all combining to give a significant boost to your paycheck. As if that weren’t good enough, Texas has no state income tax. Money here goes a lot further than it would in other parts of the country.
5. Norman, OK. Norman incorporates some of the best parts of the other four listed cities. Cost of living is an incredible 16.2 percent below the national average. Unemployment is at 3.7 percent, second only to Omaha, and housing costs are 28 percent below average. With many of the city’s residents employed at the University of Oklahoma, Norman is very much a college town, but a bigger metropolis, Oklahoma City, is a mere 30 minutes away.
While the cities on this list might not be as flashy and glamorous as the ones many of us in our early 20s might yearn for, it’s important to remember that every journey begins with a step, not a leap. Now is the time for building a foundation, and picking the right location is vital to any beginning endeavor.