Students attending college and living in the Spokane area appear to have chosen one of the better cities in the U.S. to work their way through school, judging by data from a recent study.
In an evaluation of 227 U.S. cities that are home to a four-year college or university, Spokane ranked third on the list of best cities for working students.
The study factored in local minimum wage and unemployment rates, as well as the quality and cost of higher education as reflected in an earlier study of best value colleges in the U.S.
The survey was conducted by SmartAsset, a New York-based, four-year-old financial technology company that specializes in providing free financial data to individuals and businesses on its website at www.smartasset.com.
Nick Wallace, the data editor who conducted much of the survey’s research, says the goal was to determine where students were able to most effectively use work income to help pay for college.
“There’s been a lot of talk over the last few years about student loan debt, and the increasing cost of attending college. Many students work part time and pay their loans as they attend,” says Wallace. “We were curious as to which cities are the best to be able to work as you go to school.”
According to SmartAsset, in order to find the best cities for working students, researchers first looked at data on each city, considering the minimum wage, unemployment rate for workers with some college education, and median monthly rent. These factors were used to calculate a score representing the strength and accessibility of the job market within each city. Researchers then averaged that score with scores from an earlier study of best value colleges.
Rent and unemployment data used in the study was taken from the U.S. Census Bureau. Minimum wage data was based on the applicable city, state, or federal minimum wage. For jurisdictions that differentiate between large and small employers, researchers used the large employer rate. Likewise, for areas with minimum wage increases scheduled for this year, the updated rate was used.
Rapid City, S.D., ranked highest in the list, due in part to having the lowest unemployment rate of 2.3 percent for workers with some college education. Rapid City’s South Dakota School of Mines and Technology also rated as the top value college in South Dakota in SmartAsset’s 2015 study, and number 22 in the U.S.
Seattle ranked second among best cities for working students, a fact that Wallace, a University of Washington graduate, found a little surprising at first.
“It was interesting to see Seattle rank second. I think the increased minimum wage has had a lot of effect on both Seattle and Spokane, perhaps larger than we’d realized,” says Wallace.
Seattle has one of the highest minimum wages in the country at $13 per hour for large employers, and $10.50 for tipped employees, a figure that is more than four times the federal tipped-employee minimum of $2.13. This higher minimum wage is a good thing for students, who often work in lower-wage industries, such as food service.
According to the survey, Seattle’s growing economy also has led to job openings with employers in technology, health care, financial services, and education, which also can mean more internship opportunities for students in a variety of majors.
Spokane, with its third-place ranking, also benefits from the high state minimum wage, as well as relatively low living expenses.
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