Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Small town: Living in a College Town

Hello Fernando,
               I have been reading your blog for some time now with great enthusiasm. Thank you so much for keeping up with these posts, I have been studying survival/prep- books/websites for quite sometime now and consider your  advise to be some of the best out there, not to mention that it's also extremely entertaining. I wish most authors could write in there own language as well as you do in English. 
        I have been thinking about buying a home for some time now but I am confused about where would be the best place to buy, as well as the best time to buy property? I live in a small midwestern  town of about 70,000 people, the problem is this town is also home to one of the country's major universities (who's major fields of study include law, art, psychology, business, education, music, political science, nursing, ect). and at least 35,000 or half of people are students from some place else many from outside the country. I have lived in this town my whole live my family and all my friends are here.We have always enjoyed a low crime rate the unemployment rate here has always been lower than the national average but so is the average income, most of the jobs are low wage service jobs filling the demands of the student population that lives here bars, resaturates, bookstores, cleaning, and so on. ( we used to have many high paying factory jobs but those went out with N.A.F.T.A of course, the factory that are left don't pay very well at all)    Noticing the parallels between your country and mine I guess my question is what tends to happen in places like the one I live in during an economic collapse when the people who live here depend on the university as essential to the local economy? Many people in the surrounding small towns drive here for work.  Do people tend to drop out of college more? What happens to the local real estate/ job markets, what happens to the housing market when half of that market is consisted of temporary housing including houses apartments and dorms designed to shelter half of the population?. What becomes of the jobs in these kinds of places during a collapse?    


Thanks a lot G.  I try to write as well as I can but know my English is limited. Hey, as long as people get what I’m trying to say and we can communicate properly I’m ok. :-)

Lets start with the pros of your location.

Family and Friends:
Terrific asset, so keep this one in mind. Often the greatest con when moving is not having friends and family to lend you a hand when needed.
Small community: This means less petty crime, but even in the small ones there’s meth labs and such, so it will depend a lot on your particular location.
An understanding of your location: You already know your way around, topographically speaking, but even more important, the who’s who of your area.
The college: About your question. At first there’s more drop outs, but later there’s more students than before. This is something that happened here and I believe it would happen too in other countries with a certain cultural level. The Explanation for this is that, since there’s no jobs, the young adults at least see a point in getting more education to be more competitive and have better job opportunities in the future. Expect 2 or 3 year careers with a good job opportunity to be in demand. Think of the process this way: 20 to 30 guy still cant find a job or just lost his and inn’t finding one, either he/she goes back to live with their parents, maybe their spouse supports them in the meantime so hey go looking for careers with good levels of employment. This will happen a lot, its already happening and I know some people in USA doing just this.
The college is also a pro because it provides public jobs. Government type jobs go up during times like these because they are ways in which the government, both state and federal, create jobs and reduce the unemployment rates.

Small town: This is also a disadvantage because it means less jobs, as you well observe. That’s why I often mention the importance of living close enough to a larger city where jobs are easier to get, where there’s a diverse and wide offer of employment.
You asked, “What becomes of the jobs in these kinds of places during a collapse?” Well, that’s the bad part about small towns with few job providers. A couple of them close because of the crisis and the town may die, more than enough examples of that all over the world.  
College: Both a pro and con. Its nice to have it and providing jobs, but its also bad that, if the college suffers, all the jobs related to it are compromised as well.
All in all, I think that the college town has some issues common to other small towns that dont have the critical mass to be a focus of jobs on its own, but since its education-based it has certain advantages as well and I’d prefer it over a town that depends exclusively on an industry or line of production that may as well close one day, killing the town.



Anonymous said...

Despite the weak economy students still enrolling in college classes. Was asked to teach two courses this summer for the first time in ten years. Normally I just teach spring and fall night classes as a part-time job.

Most students trying to complete degrees to become teachers. Sadly, thousands of teachers laid off in the local counties. I fear many of these students are headed towards a dead end. :(

Unknown said...

In my region there is a bit of a shortage of teachers, which is very good news for me.

If you are starting out teaching I suggest that you make friends with some very well off people and start a tutoring business on the side. A lot of teachers make more money tutoring than they do teaching in this region.

Anonymous said...

70,000 people is a small town? Ferfal, can you tell me if that really counts as a small town? I thought I moved to a big town with a diversified economic base, and we only have about 20,000. Is that too small?

DonB said...

"I wish most authors could write in there own language as well as you do in English"

Now that's comedy. Putting a grammar error in like that was brilliant!

Just kidding. We all do that. I always cringe when I discover a mistake like that seconds after I have clicked submit.

FerFAL said...

Good point Noland, I too know a teacher that focuses on teaching classes that have particularly hard final exams, she went from tutoring to "tutoring" a small classroom of 20-30 people. She makes VERY good money that way. Architecture students, ingenering, they all come to her for help with structural calculus classes. Smart woman, she deserves every penny she makes.
Math teachers usually have a good demand too, even in highschool.


Anonymous said...

Hey! Teacher, leave those kids alone!

Overthrow the Universities (and the Public Schools, too)


Anonymous said...

The largest city I would live in would be around 15,000, and ideally if I could, I'd live in a town with about 500 or less. A strong sense of community is very important and is not found in a population with diverse orgins and backgrounds or large numbers. Where one should ideally locate depends upon their assumptions of how severe a crisis might become.

The severity expected can be different for each given city or region. Would you choose to live near Los Angles or Salt Lake city? The odds of a catastrophic collapse are low, yet the triggers for such are numerous. If living in or around L.A., a Mad Max situation can easily occur, while in my little part of world, life would not change one bit, except for our TV viewing habits. Of course the need for a job often dictates. Those with other sources of income may have options and if in need of a job later, they can move to any city. A

russell1200 said...

You have no opportunity cost when going to school if you are unemployed: you forego no wages. State University enrollment increases with downturns.

On the negative side, most of the State Universities get a large percentage of their operating budget from the State. Someone I know in Michigan said his school was about 30%. So with very large State deficits and growing reluctance by the Federal Government to keep lending money to the States, their will be either cutbacks, or very large tuition increases.

City populations in the United Stated can be misleading. In some areas States the City can easily expand its legal borders into adjacent unincorporated areas. In others it is very difficult. Some of the mid-western cities (Kansas City) have very little population outside of their immediate metropolitan areas-so while they may sound large, they are actually not much bigger than some East Coast Cities whose population counts do not include adjacent cities.

So if you're example city was Lawrence, KS it would be a much smaller town than its population would indicate, and many of the students will head home if it gets really bad, further reducing the population.

Unknown said...

In Louisiana the legislature recently decided, due to budget shortfalls for a variety of reasons, to cut funding to our state universities by a pretty significant amount. To counter this, they decided to let the universities raise tuition without the need for legislative approval.

The result was not cutbacks or tuition rising, it was both cutbacks and tuition rising. Still, education in this state is comparatively cheap.

Baja Publishing said...

Great post and as always, great advice from Ferfal. Thanks again for your blog. It is a treasure of information.

That said, I think it's important to recognize that any city that relies on one or two large employers is extremely vulnerable to downturns. Pueblo Colorado (pop 100K) relied heavily on CF&I Steel until the early 1980s when the company ran into financial difficulty and citywide unemployment spiked to 24%. The unemployment rate there has remained above the national average ever since....for almost 30 years.

Most major universities won't shut down, but many smaller ones will. Such was recently the case with Dana College in Blair, Nebraska. Dana was a special case, but I suspect many less well endowed schools will face a similar future. Even large schools face draconian budget cuts as state after state plunges into insolvency.

If I had family where I lived and it was affordable, I'd stick it out. If not, I'd seek out a small town with a diversified economy and a low cost of living. I would be very wary of places where the largest employers are all government subsidized (schools and hospitals).

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute, and good luck to all.

thsu said...

I have to agree with russell1200. City sizes in the USA are very misleading.

Take Salt Lake City with only 180,000 people - but if you looked at all the suburbs, most only 10-15 miles away, the population increases to 1 million.

Saying the town you live in has only 20,000 people does not mean much. You really have to figure out if your town is isolated, like an oasis in the desert, or if your town is really a satellite suburb of a much larger metropolitan area.

An "oasis in the desert" town might have only a single large employer. A "satellite suburb" might have a dozen large employers close by.

Unknown said...

The US is a huge country and it is likely that many different scenarios will play out and the impact highly varied from region to region. On one end of the scale is the milder, Argentina-type impact (yes, I said "milder"!); on the other end is the full-blown, Weimar Republic-type impact (Seriously, read "When Money Dies"--someone left a link to a pdf copy of this on another thread; it is an EYE OPENER!). However, regardless of which end of the scale the SHTF in your area, it is good adice to be prepared for massive spikes in all types of crime, food shortages and social turmoil--riots, violent strikes, political assassinations, etc. Have a safe place to stay, a couple of months worth of rations and a fresh water supply (natural or bottled). And, probably the most important, have friends and/or family you can depend on. You can survive the initial SHTF alone, but we are social beings--hermits go mad. Heck, even Mad Max learned that lesson....

Oh, and, I have to say this, get to know your Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, because this life, whether brutal or blessed, is still short compared to eternity!

Anonymous said...


Regarding small towns: I don't know if it was Howard Ruff, or Mel Tappan that warned against small towns that had only one major industry/employer.

If your small town has only one industry, whether it is agriculture or a factory or a school, it is vulnerable and almost held hostage to that industry. By threatening to close the school, the politicians can hold the town hostage and coerce them into making all sorts of concessions. When you have two or three industries, this is less of a problem. The more diverse the economy, the better off you are.

That being said, most small towns are dominated by one industry. If there were more than one, it wouldn't be a small town anymore.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the post about living in a VERY small town with a population of around 500: the remote country towns are beautiful to live in, but in my experience, do NOT expect to feel a strong sense of community. I owned a home in a place like this for years and my family, like all the other transplanted families there were totally ignored and disliked. I have spoken to at least 25 other people over the years who moved to small town and they experienced the same thing. There is almost always a sense of "outsiders"are coming into their village. The animosity in many cases can be extreme (Google the experiences of transplanted people to Accord, NY as one example). I would still have a small property in a remote area as a weekend place or a plan B, but I no longer have any illusions of being welcomed in a small town with open arms.