By CVO Staff
College towns come with a lot of perks. These include lively atmospheres, full calendars of local events, and usually, a lower cost of living compared to most other desirable places to live. College towns tend also to be very small by nature, the types of places where everyone knows everyone. That can be a challenge for the politically minded, especially when the rest of the town seems to hold opposite opinions on the most important social and economic matters. That’s why we’ve researched to find the 30 most affordable conservative college towns.
To create our list, we began by looking at the most conservative college towns. With few exceptions, these are places in which at least half of the voting populating is registered Republican. To figure out which of these college towns are most affordable, we looked at costs for housing, food, healthcare, transportation, utilities, and entertainment, and compared those costs to the national average.
30. State College, Pennsylvania
Penn State University
With a name like State College, it shouldn’t be too surprising that this charming Pennsylvania town has a culture that centers almost entirely on nearby Penn State. What may be a little more surprising is the fact that exactly half of State College’s population is registered Republican. This makes this fun small town an excellent option for conservatives looking for a town with more political diversity. Though State College’s overall cost of living is about 8% higher than the national average, this average is on the lower end of other towns with major universities. The average one-bedroom apartment is State College costs $935 per month. The average costs for utilities, transportation, and entertainment are all lower than the national average.
29. Tempe, Arizona
Arizona State University
Students make up only 1/3 of Tempe’s population, but this small city offers residents a fun college atmosphere. Hiking and biking on nearby trails are some of the most popular pastimes. Hotter days (it is Arizona, after all) can be spent enjoying the town’s many galleries, theaters, live music venues, and restaurants. Arizona costs have skyrocketed in recent years, though Tempe has remained relatively affordable. The median home price here is $243,000 — that’s about 31% higher than the national norm. Still, average costs for food, healthcare, utilities, transportation, and entertainment all fall well below the American average.
28. Auburn, Alabama
The solidly conservative Auburn, Alabama is your typical college town. It is home to about 62,000 people. The average age is 23 years old. Auburn is full of restaurants, inviting coffee shops, and recreational spots, plus a ton of historical sites. The strong local economy contributes to Auburn’s affordability. Transportation, utilities, food, and healthcare are all lower or on par with the national average. Housing options are plentiful but average about 12% higher than the national norm.
27. Dahlonega, Georgia
University of North Georgia, State University
Eighty percent of Dahlonega’s population votes Republican, making this picturesque small town the most conservative of all the places included on our list of the most affordable conservative college towns. Dahlonega’s cost of living is about 2.5% higher than the national average. That’s mostly due to the fact that limited options have driven up the local cost of healthcare. Housing and utility costs generally fall below the national norm, while food, transportation, and entertainment expenses tend to be right on par with other places in the U.S.
26. Provo, Utah
Brigham Young University
Provo, Utah is well known as the home of Brigham Young University, a school of about 32,000 students. Like BYU, Provo is predominantly Mormon, with 93.35% of the population identifying as Latter Day Saints. Furthermore, 88% of Provo’s population votes
Republican. Despite its traditional culture, the college town is quite modern, with lots of new construction and a booming tech industry. Though the cost of living is actually 1% higher than the national average, only Provo’s housing costs are higher than the national norm. Average costs of food, healthcare, utilities, transportation, and entertainment are lower.
25. Waxahachie, Texas
Southwestern Assemblies of God University
Waxahachie, Texas is a town of about 33,000 people in Ellis County, just south of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Home of Southwestern Assemblies of God University, Waxahachie is a family-oriented place. More than 50% of the population is married, and the median age is 31.8 years old. Like the rest of the Dallas/Fort Worth region, Waxahachie is more expensive than most of the rest of Texas. In fact, its cost of living is nearly 2% higher than the U.S. average. Residents new to Waxahachie will find healthcare and utilities to be Waxahachie’s biggest expenses. However, they’ll be happy to know that this conservative college town’s average food and transportation costs are lower than the national norms.
24. Rexburg, Idaho
Brigham Young University—Idaho
Home to BYU Idaho and a population that is more than 93% Latter Day Saints, it’s no surprise that Rexburg, Idaho makes our list of the most affordable conservative college towns. While Rexburg’s cost of living averages only about 1-2% lower than the national average, this is good news when compared to so many other places in the western United States. Average costs for food, healthcare, utilities, transportation, and entertainment are all on par with the national norm. Housing averages are slightly more expensive. The current median home price for houses in Rexburg is just under $188,000.
23. College Station, Texas
Texas A&M University
Perhaps not surprising considering its name, College Station, Texas manages to maintain its college town feel despite being home to the fourth largest university in the nation. Much of the local culture revolves around the university, including the many restaurants and cafes, arts initiatives, and popular local sports teams. When it comes to cost of living, College Station falls about 3% below the national average. That makes it slightly higher than most other places in Texas, though it’s still affordable. Housing costs in College Station average 7% higher than what is typical. Expect to spend about $780 per month on a one-bedroom apartment. Despite higher housing costs, residents can save on lower food, healthcare, utilities, and transportation costs.
22. Tigerville, South Carolina
North Greenville University
With a total population of just over 1,800 people, and a median age of 20.5 years old, Tigerville, South Carolina is as thoroughly “college town” as they come. Situated near the Greenville metro, Tigerville’s cost of living is about 4% less than the national average. At about 12% less than the U.S. norm, Tigerville’s housing costs are some of the lowest in the region. A one-bedroom apartment can be found for an average of $613 per month. Average costs for food, healthcare, and entertainment tend to be a little higher in Tigerville. However, costs for utilities, transportation, and housing usually trend much lower.
21. Greenville, South Carolina
Furman University, Bob Jones University
According to a recent article by Movoto, Greenville ranks as South Carolina’s #1 city for Republicans. In fact, 63.99% of the local population vote conservative. This vibrant and historic town enjoys a well-educated population, not surprising, considering it’s home to two well-known colleges and is a stone’s throw to Clemson University. There is also a healthy interest in the outdoors. As you may have guessed by its name, many of its main streets are lined with green trees and foliage. Greenville is also affordable, with the cost of living averaging about 6% less than the U.S. average.
20. Columbia, Missouri
University of Missouri, Columbia College, Stephens College
Don’t be fooled by the fact that roughly half of Columbia’s 119,000 full-time residents are registered Democrat. This is a charming family-oriented town which celebrates many of the values conservatives look for in a potential hometown. The local economy is quite strong, and students from nearby colleges often stick around even after graduation. With lots of hiking trails, recreational areas, art galleries, and popular restaurants in town, Columbia enjoys a youthful vibe. Best yet, Columbia’s cost of living averages about 7% less than the national average.
19. Boiling Springs, North Carolina
Located not too far west of Charlotte is the small college town of Boiling Springs, North Carolina. Home to Gardner-Webb University, Boiling Springs is a close-knit community. The average age of the 4,600 residents is just 23 years old. About 59% of Boiling Springs votes Republican, making it a nice option for conservative North Carolina residents looking to live in an affordable area. Indeed, Boiling Springs’s cost of living runs 7% less than the national norm. This is due to Boiling Springs’s low housing costs, which run only about 75% of the typical American town.
18. Cedarville, Ohio
During the school year, the population of tiny Cedarville, Ohio doubles thanks to students from local Cedarville University. Cedarville encapsulates all that’s charming about Southwestern Ohio. It has loads of antique shops and myriad historical sites. It even has an impressive collection of cycling and hiking trails to better enjoy the natural scenery. It’s pretty affordable, too. The overall cost of living in Cedarville is approximately 7% less than the average cost of living for the United States. The least expensive categories are food, healthcare, housing, and transportation.
17. Findlay, Ohio
University of Findlay
The county seat of Hancock County, picturesque Findlay, Ohio is home to only 41,000 people. Findlay residents enjoy a cost of living that is 9% lower than the national average. The median home price here is just over $138,000, while a one-bedroom apartment can be rented for about $530 per month. That’s nearly 25% lower than the national norm. Costs for food, healthcare, utilities, transportation, and entertainment are also lower in Findlay.
16.Spring Arbor, Michigan
Spring Arbor University, Jackson College
Tiny Spring Arbor, Michigan is an historic small town located in south central Michigan. Fifty-two percent of its 2,000 residents are registered to vote Republican, and Spring Arbor University is a small Christian college affiliated with the Free Methodist Church. Like much of the Jackson metro region, Spring Arbor has a lower cost of living than many other Michigan college towns. Indeed, cost of living here is about 9% lower than the U.S. average. Of all major categories, housing costs are the lowest in Spring Arbor, followed closely by utilities, food, and entertainment.
15. Lexington, Virginia
Washington and Lee University, Virginia Military Institute
Fifty-five percent of Lexington’s 7,200 residents may be registered Democrat compared to 43% Republican. But this small college town is home to Washington & Lee University and Virginia Military Institute, both of which are considered mostly conservative in on-campus culture. Despite rising living costs in Virginia, Lexington still enjoys a cost of living 10% lower than the national average. The median home price is $161,000. However, a one-bedroom apartment can be rented for an average $610 per month, which is nearly $300 less than the state average! Entertainment costs are also significantly less than what is typical, which is good news considering this historic town has a ton to offer.
14. Longview, Texas
Located about 130 miles east of Dallas, Longview is a typically Texan small city with an affordable cost of living and a population that’s a whopping 69% Republican. Longview’s cost of living averages about 11% less than the national average. The lowest cost categories are utilities, food, healthcare, entertainment, and housing. A one-bedroom apartment in this affordable college town can be rented for an average of $640 per month, while the median home price is about $130,000.
13. Hillsdale, Michigan
Though nearly 40% of Hillsdale’s population is registered Democrat, this small college town is home to what is perhaps the most conservative college in the country: Hillsdale College. The college hosts a ton of politically themed events, many of which are open to the public. When it comes to what it costs to live here, Hillsdale’s cost of living is a little more than 11% less than the national average. Housing in Hillsdale is only 55% of the national norm, with the median home price hovering just over $100,000. In fact, the only categories in which Hillsdale averages above the national average are transportation, healthcare, and food.
12. Wilmore, Kentucky
Located in the midst of Kentucky’s beautiful bluegrass region, Wilmore, Kentucky is the small-town home of Asbury University. Though it’s surrounded by picturesque horse farms, Wilmore is close enough to Lexington — Kentucky’s second largest city — to enjoy a strong local economy and plenty of food and entertainment options. Wilmore’s cost of living is about 11% less than the national average, with the most affordable category being housing.
11. Stillwater, Oklahoma
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, Oklahoma, home to Oklahoma State University, has a full-time population of about 49,000 people, 64% of whom are registered to vote Republican. The median age of Stillwater residents is 20 years old. The town’s youngish population is able to enjoy a relatively low cost of living that comes out to about 12% less than the national average. Typical housing costs in Stillwater average only about 79% of the American norm. Costs for transportation, entertainment, healthcare, utilities, and food also average less.
10. Rome, Georgia
Berry College, Shorter University
A whopping 70% of Rome’s population is registered Republican, making it one of the most conservative of all the places included on our list of the most affordable conservative college towns. Rome, situated close to Atlanta, boasts tons of college-town amenities in and around its picturesque downtown. The median home price here is about $104,000, which is pretty consistent with the fact that living costs in Rome are 14% less than the national average.
8. (Tie) Grove City, Pennsylvania
Grove City College
Grove City, home to Grove City College, is a small town nestled in the heart of picturesque Western Pennsylvania. This historic town enjoys a relatively young population. The median age of its approximately 8,200 residents is 25.1 years. Though Republicans in Grove City hold a slight edge over the Democrats (50.97% are registered Republican), the town is home to Grove City College, considered to be one of the most conservative schools in the country. The overall cost of living in this picturesque small town is 14% less than the national average, and costs for every major category come in less than the national average, too.
8. (Tie) Lynchburg, Virginia
Liberty University, Lynchburg College, Randolph College
Lynchburg, Virginia, home to well-known Christian school Liberty University, ranks as another affordable conservative college town. Thanks in part to its location next to the Blue Ridge Mountains, Lynchburg is at once both Appalachian mountain town and college town, with an Old South vibe thrown in for good measure. New buildings have popped up around the old, many of which are listed on the National Register. Lynchburg’s cost of living averages about 15% lower than the national average. The median home price is $127,500, while the average one-bedroom apartment leases for $588 per month — well below the state and national norms.
7. Anderson, South Carolina
Of Anderson, South Carolina’s approximately 27,000 residents, a whopping 68% are registered Republican. This solidly conservative town is home to Anderson University, which both The Princeton Review and US News and World Report consistently rank as one of the best universities in the South. Whether residents choose to live in Anderson for four years or 40 years, they’ll enjoy an extremely affordable cost of living. Indeed, Anderson’s average cost of living is only about 85% of the national average. That makes Anderson a cheaper place to live than the rest of the Greenville metro area and even South Carolina as a whole.
6. Upland, Indiana
Tiny Upland, Indiana is home to Taylor University and about 3,800 people, the majority of whom are in their early 20s. That makes Upland’s extreme affordability even more intriguing for young people looking to be surrounded by like-minded folks. Cost of living here is a whopping 15% lower than both the state and national averages. Limited options make average healthcare costs slightly higher than nearby towns. However, Upland residents can expect to pay far less for entertainment, transportation, utilities, food, and especially, housing.
5. Jackson, Tennessee
Union University, Lane College, University of Memphis Lambuth
Jackson, Tennessee has such a strong Southern culture that its picturesque downtown and 1950s-era bus station are often used as filming locations for movies. About 54% of the town’s 67,000 residents are registered Republican, so conservative students at Jackson’s three major colleges will feel right at home here. In terms of living costs, Jackson comes in at about 17% less than the U.S. average. That’s also less than the Tennessee state average. Entertainment and transportation rank as Jackson’s most expensive expense categories, while housing, food, and healthcare are some of the most affordable.
4. Kirksville, Missouri
Truman State University, A.T. Still University
Home to Truman State University, often ranked the best public university in the Midwest, Kirksville, Missouri is a college town in which 56% of residents are registered Republican. As if that weren’t enough to make Kirksville an easy addition to our list of the most affordable conservative college towns, it also enjoys a cost of living that’s about 18% less than the national average. Kirksville residents pay about half of the rest of the country for housing. Costs for healthcare, food, transportation, and entertainment are about on par with the U.S. average.
2. (Tie) Ashland, Ohio
As you drive into Ashland, Ohio, you’ll be welcomed with a sign that declares this small town the “Headquarters of Nice People!” Indeed, Ashland enjoys a reputation for being a tightly knit community. Though Ohio’s politics are notoriously unpredictable, Ashland is solidly conservative, with 64% of its 20,000 residents registered Republican. Ashland is also affordable. Its average cost of living ranks nearly 19% lower than the U.S. average, with housing costs averaging half of typical U.S. costs. For example, a one-bedroom apartment in Ashland can be rented for about $550 per month, while the average home is likely to cost about $98,000.
2. (Tie) Steubenville, Ohio
Franciscan University of Steubenville
The historic town of Steubenville, Ohio is one of those places where everyone knows everyone. It has a population of nearly 20,000. Steubenville is a family-friendly community boasting safe neighborhoods, a rich history dating back to the late 18th century, and enough public arts works to have earned it the nickname “City of Murals.” Steubenville’s cost of living is about 18% less than the national average, thanks in part to its sizable student population. In addition to Franciscan University, there is also a women’s seminary and a community college. Though average food, transportation, and utilities costs are slightly higher in Steubenville, housing costs average 60% less than the national norm. Median home prices currently hover around $70,000.
1. Atchison, Kansas
Fifty-nine percent of Atchison, Kansas residents vote Republican, making it an excellent alternative to nearby locales like Kansas City, Topeka, and Lawrence. Atchison is also delightfully affordable, with a cost of living that is a whole 19% lower than the national average. Food, healthcare, transportation, and entertainment costs don’t tend to vary much from the norm. Housing costs average about 55% lower than typical housing costs in the United States. Expect to pay about $540 per month for a one-bedroom apartment in Atchison, and about $83,000 for a single-family home.