Latest ranking: Portland has among most educated young adults in America

I hear you. If it’s not the food, it’s the beer. If it’s not the beer, it’s the coffee. If it’s not the coffee, it’s the environmental friendliness or the farmers’ markets or the healthy living culture or the eligible women or the minor league sports or…

There have been so many national rankings to have come out over the last four or five years touting Portland as being or having among the best this or that in the country, it’s been hard to keep track of them all.

University of Maine School of Law graduates in Portland (Photo courtesy of Maine Law)

The latest addition to the pile is timely, considering the start of school this month: Online credit and gift card marketplace CardHub issued it’s presumably annual Back-to-School report and ranked Portland third in the country in one of its lists of the most learned cities.

What authority an online credit and gift card marketplace has to rank U.S. cities based on education levels, I have no idea. But the outfit seemed to use solid — if not broad — data in making its assertions, claiming that with 17.3 percent of Portland residents between the ages of 18 and 24 carrying college degrees, Maine’s largest berg deserved a spot just behind Madison, Wisc., and Charlottesville, Va.

Madison took the top spot with 17.9 percent of its residents walking around with college diplomas, while Charlottesville came in second with 17.6 percent. Tying Portland at No. 3 was Ithaca, N.Y., and chasing at what would be another tie in the fifth spot were Washington, D.C., and Boulder, Colo., with 17.2 percent each. Fellow New England town Lebanon, N.H., is right up there, as well, with 17.1 percent.

Oh, so close.

Here’s what Portland Mayor Michael Brennan said about the latest plaudits in a statement released by his office today:

Our highly educated citizenry has been a key component for the city’s economic and educational success. Our educated workforce attracts businesses, fosters the entrepreneurial spirit and perhaps most importantly, provides words of wisdom as well as educational and professional opportunity to the next generation. Today’s report highlights the fact that Portland’s quality of life, cultural opportunities and professional atmosphere serve as a magnet attracting people and economic opportunity to the city.

For what it’s worth, Madison is home to the flagship University of Wisconsin campus and its student population of more than 42,000, as well as Herzing University, Edgewood College and even a small University of Phoenix campus. Charlottesville has the University of Virginia’s flagship campus and its 24,000 someodd students, and Ithaca is home to the 21,000-student Cornell University and the nearly 7,000-student Ithaca College.

University of Southern Maine and University of New England both have significant campuses in Portland, of course, but both schools have larger properties out-of-town.

It’s also perhaps worth noting here that once the CardHub rankings are expanded to include residents age 25 and older, Portland drops off the list. Ithaca, Charlottesville, Washington, D.C., and Boulder stay in the top 10 in terms of percentage of population over 25 with college degrees, joined mostly by other cities that count huge flagship-sized universities among their residents — Ann Arbor, Mich., Durham, N.C., Lawrence, Kan., and Corvallis, Ore., for instance.

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Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.