Dean Kahn

National survey results are in: 6 things college students should know about Bellingham

Western Washington University freshman Jake Branscum-Higuera carries his belongings into the Fairhaven Complex on Saturday, Sept. 17, in Bellingham.
Western Washington University freshman Jake Branscum-Higuera carries his belongings into the Fairhaven Complex on Saturday, Sept. 17, in Bellingham.

Welcome to Bellingham, college students. Whether you’re returning old hands or first-timers, I’m sure you’re busy settling in – especially if you’re one of the 2,800 first-year students at Western Washington University – because Wednesday, Sept. 21, is the first day of classes at Western.

Most freshmen at Western are new to Whatcom County, so here’s a six-pack of things to know about Bellingham and Washington state:

Good place to live and work

Washington is the second best state in the country in which to make a living. In a 2016 report by, Washington took the silver because of its high median salary, and its lack of a state income tax offset the state’s higher-than-average cost of living. It was the second year in a row Washington placed second. The best state in which to make a living? Wyoming.

Not a good place for young adults

Interestingly, another report this year calls Washington the worst state for 20- to 24-year-olds trying to find affordable schooling, get their careers going, and survive on low wages with high student loan payments. Factors looked at included unemployment for young adults, supply and cost of rental housing, in-state cost at four-year public colleges, access to high-speed broadband, and the prevalence of fitness clubs and drinking establishments. The best state for millennials? North Dakota.

Great place for nature lovers

You probably know, or have heard, that Whatcom County is a nature wonderland, with easy access to the Salish Sea and to Mount Baker Ski Area and other parts of the North Cascades.

But don’t take my word for it. Outside magazine’s 2016 list of the 16 best places to live includes Bellingham. It was one of two places in Washington, with Seattle, to make the nationwide list. The best place to live? Billings, Mont.

Good state for teachers

For education students, Bellingham is the 51st best place in the country for K-12 teachers to live and work. GoodCall analyzed 913 cities for its 2016 report, looking at teacher salaries, school quality, cost of living, job competition and quality of life.

Washington state as a whole did well. Of the 100 top cities, 11 were in Washington, including four that rated higher than Bellingham: Pullman, Wenatchee, Centralia and Shelton. Washington cities on the list below Bellingham were Port Angeles, Spokane, Mount Vernon, Othello, Bremerton and Oak Harbor. The best place to teach? Altoona, Pa.

Somewhat equal for women

Female students should know that Washington is the 11th best state for women’s equality, according to a 2016 report by WalletHub. The study looked at gender disparities for earnings, executive positions, work hours and joblessness, as well college degrees, math and reading test scores and graduation rates. The study also looked at disparities in congressional representation, state legislatures and elected state executives.

Washington rated high in “workplace environment” and “political empowerment,” but poorly in education. The best state for women’s equality? Hawaii. The worst? Utah.

Beer snobs or connoisseurs?

A Priceonomics survey came out a year ago, but the topic is, I understand, of interest to college students: beer. Among its findings, the survey listed Bellingham as the No. 1 “Beer Snob” city in the country, because 92 percent of bars and restaurants here didn’t serve Bud Light, Coors Light or Miller Lite.

If you like those beers, Bellingham isn’t your kind of beer town. But if you like award-winning beer from a multitude of local breweries, you’ve come to the right place.

Dean Kahn: 360-715-2291