The “college experience” is about more than simply attending a top-notch university. The city or town where the school is located also is important, the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) suggests in its 2012 “AIER College Destinations Index” .

The AIER CDI includes the top 75 towns and cities in the United States for college students, based on a larger evaluation of the 227 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) with student populations of 15,000 or more.

Debuting on the AIER CDI for the very first time, Missoula placed #20 in the ranking of the best college towns for the 2012-2013 academic year.

AIER spokesman Steve Cunningham says despite the negative publicity Missoula and the University of Montana have received over the past year, the city still excels in the areas of academic environment, quality of life, and professional opportunities.

AIER spokesman Steve Cunningham