Buffalo, Albany Rank Among Top 10 Cities for College Graduates

Buffalo and Albany have made the top 10 list of best cities for new college graduates according to real estate size Zillow.

Buffalo was ranked the fifth best city for new grads and Albany in eighth place due to higher starting salaries and lower rents compared to other major cities.

Colorado Springs, CO, was named Zillow’s top market for college grads in 2023, highlighting how, this year, markets with a smaller population, relatively affordable rents and lots of career prospects contribute to a high quality of life for individuals beginning a new phase in their lives.

Trailing behind Colorado Springs are Spokane, WA, and Des Moines, IA — two relatively small markets with plenty of job opportunities and lower rents than the national median.

To determine the ranking, Zillow created an index combining each metropolitan area’s rent-to-income ratio, average salary for recent college graduates, job openings and the share of the population in their 20s. The analysis identifies cities that not only provide promising career prospects but also ensure a manageable rent burden for fresh graduates embarking on their next exciting chapter.

“Graduating from college and moving to a new city to start your career is a major milestone. For many, it’s a reality check when they realize how much of their hard-earned paycheck goes straight to rent,” said Anushna Prakash, an economic data analyst at Zillow. “Zillow’s top markets for college grads are buzzing with abundant job opportunities, a chance to connect with fellow 20-somethings, and rent prices that allow more freedom to spend on nights out or even start saving for a down payment. They’re great places to kick-start life’s exciting next chapter.”


Typical Rent (Zillow
Observed Rent Index –

Average Salary for
Recent College Grads

Rent-to-Income Ratio

Colorado Springs, CO

$         1,824

$                             63,190

35 %

Spokane, WA

$         1,563

$                             61,162

31 %

Des Moines, IA

$         1,202

$                             59,697

24 %

Phoenix, AZ

$         1,918

$                             62,324

37 %

Buffalo, NY

$         1,257

$                             59,929

25 %

Albuquerque, NM

$         1,531

$                             59,163

31 %

Bakersfield, CA

$         1,767

$                             66,195

32 %

Albany, NY

$         1,524

$                             63,513

29 %

Portland, OR

$         1,856

$                             71,618

31 %

Little Rock, AR

$         1,199

$                             51,294

28 %

Second-largest markets offer college grads a quality life

Both Colorado Springs and Spokane hold the distinction of being the second-largest markets by population in their respective states. These vibrant regions offer abundant job opportunities along with rents that are more affordable than their larger metro counterparts Denver and Seattle. In Colorado Springs, the typical rent is $1,824, compared to $2,031 in Denver. In Spokane, the typical rent is $1,563, compared to $2,223 in Seattle. College graduates flock to these areas, seeking an excellent quality of life, outdoor recreation and economic prospects at a reasonable cost. The two are also college towns, anchored by UC-Colorado Springs and Gonzaga University, respectively, giving them a head start at attracting 20-somethings when many recent graduates stick around to start their careers.

Phoenix and Portland are the largest markets on the list

Among the top metros, Phoenix and Portland stand out as the largest markets by population size. While their typical rents rank highest on our top-10 list, Portland’s generous average salary for recent college grads offsets the higher living costs, ensuring a relatively manageable rent-to-income ratio. Phoenix, on the other hand, takes the crown for its abundance of job opportunities, surpassing all other analyzed metro areas. When combined with factors such as the vibrant population of 20-somethings and favorable rent-to-income ratios, both Phoenix and Portland emerge as exceptional choices for recent graduates seeking a flourishing start to their professional journeys.