No matter the economic climate, a college education remains the mainstream path for many Americans looking to climb up the social ladder and achieve the American dream. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, some 20.5 million students are expected to attend American colleges and universities this fall, and the cohort is undeniably a huge driver for the economy, especially on the local level.

A Brookings study finds that an over a lifetime, the average bachelor’s degree holder contributes $278,000 more to local economies than the average high school graduate through direct spending. Meanwhile, a number of employers are drawn to certain locations to take advantage of talents from local colleges, (as explained in this New York Times story that Uber tested in Pittsburgh in light of Carnegie Mellon University). Similarly, housing markets in many college towns largely benefit from the presence of big higher-education institutions as well. Increasing demand and ever-rising home prices have attracted many builders and developers to break ground in college towns. Many parents also find it alluring to buy homes for their students to live in, and then sell at a profit after graduation. A Coldwell Banker survey found that more than one-third of agents across the country are seeing more buyers looking to purchase properties for their children than in previous years. In short, the building in a college town can be a lucrative business builders can't afford to neglect.

We’ve mashed up Metrostudy data with CityLab’s recently published ranking of America’s leading college towns to get a bigger picture of the opportunities in college town housing markets across the country. Using 2014 enrollment data for 750 metros of all sizes, CityLab rolled out a list of the top 10 large metros (more than one million residents), and mid-sized metros (between 100,000 and one million residents) for college towns. Paired with median new home price data from Metrostudy for the second quarter of 2016, we've provided a gauge of future potential in each of the top college towns. Hover over the interactive map below to explore the information for both large and mid-sized metros.

The geographical distribution of college towns paints an interesting picture. Unlike the top large metro college towns, the leading mid-sized college towns are primarily concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest region, and boast a very affordable price tag. Eight of top 10 mid-sized college towns posted a median closing price lower than the national median ($259,800) in the second quarter, and six of them are below $250,000. Ithaca, N.Y., where Cornell University is located, is by far the most expensive mid-sized college town on our map, with a median price of $346,900, but it is still much cheaper than most large college towns.