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The Pros And Cons Of Retiring In A College Town

The pros and cons of retiring in a college town

College towns usually offer opportunities for continuing education, a diverse population, lots of restaurants, shopping and cultural events.

A recent column addressed the idea of moving in retirement. To be more specific: What are the pros and cons of retiring in a college town?

The advantages, at first blush, are clear: a stimulating atmosphere, opportunities for continuing education, a diverse population, a stable economy (for the most part), and, frequently, lots of restaurants, shopping and cultural events. That said, not every college setting will give you the experience you may be seeking.

To start, there are two ways to do this: You can simply settle in the town itself, or you can move into a “university-based retirement community,” or UBRC. That term — coined by Andrew Carle, an adjunct professor at George Mason University and chief operating officer at Affinity Living Group, a senior-housing company in Hickory, N.C. — describes real-estate developments that have some type of connection (formal or informal) with an academic institution.

A good example: Kendal Corp. (kendal.org) in Kennett Square, Pa., whose popular retirement communities in eight states (primarily in the Northeast and Midwest) are closely integrated with lifelong-learning programs. Residents—who typically live within walking distance or a short drive from a college campus — can audit classes, hear guest lecturers, and attend concerts, plays and athletic events.

University of Florida, Gainesville.

If you’re considering a move to a college town, keep the following in mind:

• Open arms? Maybe not. If continuing education is a primary reason for moving to a college town, research carefully just how much access you’ll have to classes and services. With budgets tight these days at many schools, administrators might not be as welcoming to nontraditional students as in the past.

• Not all UBRCs are created equal. Along the same lines…there are no set criteria for a university-based retirement community. Some developments help provide access to classes, campus fitness centers, libraries, special events—the works. Others simply are situated near a college or university with no particular educational benefits. Says Carle: “There are many communities that claim to be connected [to colleges and universities] but really aren’t.”

• Health care: a mixed bag. On the plus side…settling in a college town offers, potentially, access to top-flight medical care. (For instance: the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor.) That said, many retirees are attracted to small college settings. Here, it might be tougher to find specialists and the care you need.

Note: To get a feel for college towns, as well as some top UBRCs, check out two recent surveys by Bankrate.com, the personal-finance website. Search first for: top 10 college towns for retirees. And second: retirement communities university ties.

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