Editor's Note: A collegiate culture

When people say "college town," they typically mean somewhere like Athens or Gainesville or Clemson — places with economies almost completely defined by the ginormous institutions of higher education in their midst.

Savannah isn't quite one of those towns. Our economy is much more diversified, with tourism and the port coming in well ahead of, say, home football weekends.

But the lifestyle, in many parts of town, is pure college. Each year we pay tribute to this side of Savannah life and welcome new students to town with our College Issue.

The tourist-and-affluent retiree magnet otherwise known as downtown Savannah wouldn't be what it is today without the enormous influx of development and investment by the Savannah College of Art and Design, which continues to increase its footprint year after year.

The beautiful part — and what makes the present moment a truly wonderful time to live and learn in Savannah — is that now we're living in a sort of post-SCAD era. SCAD is as important as ever, but a bunch of influential and ambitious alumni have settled here after their college days, raising families, opening art galleries, starting businesses and bands.

Maybe that will be you one day, newly-arriving college student. And if you don't go to SCAD, there are still plenty of opportunities to make your mark.

A critical mass has formed. There's a bustling new economy in Savannah, one that owes its origin to college activity but has developed well beyond events directly affiliated with any particular college.

This new economy is embodied in the coffeehouses and galleries and clubs and shops that you'll hang out in during your time in Savannah. And like so many other people these days, maybe you'll eventually decide to stay and hang around some more after you're done with school.

Savannah's not just about SCAD. It also has a huge public university presence, in the form not only of Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah State University, and Savannah Tech, but the University of Georgia (which administers the large research/aquarium Marine Extension Service complex on Skidaway Island) and Georgia Tech (which offers professional and continuing education at its campus off I-95).

There's also a host of private institutions like South University and the brand-new Savannah Law School, as well as nationally-affiliated institutions like Strayer University, St. Leo's University, Troy University, and the University of Phoenix.

These educational assets have an outsized effect in a city as small as Savannah. Despite our, um, charming tendency to think of Savannah as much larger than it really is, the truth is that Savannah is pretty tiny.

We're only the 145th most populous metro area in the U.S. — Hickory, N.C., is ahead of us, to give you some perspective— a fact which makes our relatively large college/university presence all the more impactful.

You'll notice we don't call this a "College Guide." It's not really a guide to colleges. Your school has a PR department for that kind of stuff. They get paid to do that.

What we try and do in this issue is just have some fun. We want to introduce you to some of the more meaningful day-to-day aspects of life in Savannah that make this such a special place to spend four (or six, or eight) years as you pursue your education, not to mention whether you might decide to stick around afterward....

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