photo -

Colorado Springs has long been known as Colorado's premier military town, which we wear as a badge of honor. Local installations train future Air Force pilots, combat troops, and host some of the highest cyberspace and intelligence technology in the world.

Meanwhile, another identity has become equally impressive.

Colorado Springs is the state's premier college town and one of the great college communities in the nation.

Sure, Boulder hosts the University of Colorado's highly reputable "flagship" campus. But Colorado Springs hosts the fastest growing campus in the system, which in decades might be the largest campus in the state's university system. It could be Colorado's version of UCLA to UC-Berkeley.

Meanwhile, anyone who disputes that Colorado Springs has emerged as Colorado's top college town must contend with rankings released Tuesday by U.S. News & World Report - the gold standard in "best-of" lists.

The magazine ranked our community's Colorado College as the best innovative liberal arts school in the country. Let that sink in. Not among the best. The best. That distinction alone would make the Springs a formidable college town like those East Coast burgs that host Ivy League schools.

But U.S. News did not stop there. The magazine ranked the Air Force Academy for having the best civil engineering program among all public colleges and universities. Got that? Not among the best. The best.

Then there was the matter of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, which just keeps growing and adding programs such as a new branch of the CU system's medical school. In the U.S. News rankings, UCCS tied for sixth place among the top public schools of the west.

With three of the highest-rated four-year institutions in the country, Colorado Springs can hold its head high in the company of Chicago, New York and Los Angeles - all much larger cities - in terms of higher education. Among cities roughly the size of the Springs, only Washington, D.C., comes to mind as home to more top-tier colleges and universities.

The improving distinction of our community's four-year colleges should be a strong consideration for employers looking for a culture of education and enlightenment. Here, they will find a bounty of emerging, educated professionals ready to settle down and start families.

As indicated by the University of Colorado at Boulder, the future of higher education funding and placement will be built on partnerships with commerce and industry. By helping fund higher education, industries have more say in getting the quality of graduates they need.

For colleges, partnerships with employers mean rising placement rates that attract more good students.

Colorado Springs is a military town and should proudly promote itself as such. Going forward, it is no less a college town. The balance makes this a world-class city at the base of America's most majestic mountain. Indeed, times are good in Colorado Springs.

0