Is Florence a college town?

Cities like Tuscaloosa and Auburn have a short, branded term that sums up their entire experience: college town.

The term, however, seems to be up for debate when it comes to describing Florence.

“I feel like Florence is a town with a college instead of a college town because, excluding the downtown and campus area, there is just not a young feeling about the area,” said Cara Depew, a UNA senior. “Everything is very old and unchanged, and it feels stuffy, quite frankly.”

Depew’s opinion is a popular one. Some UNA students notice a lack of a certain something that would make the difference.

“When I think of a college town, I think of lots of things going on all the time,” said Seth Lee, a senior at UNA.

The something missing seems to be a focus on the university and its students by the community. In a genuine college town, the school is better known than its location.

“Honestly, I didn’t even know UNA was in Florence when I was in high school,” said Kennedy Pope, a sophomore at UNA.

“I’m from Tupelo, and it is a city the size of Florence, but it doesn’t have a college, yet it has the same feel,” Depew said. “There are some venues and events more common to younger crowds, but they were also created by the younger crowd. The city doesn’t really lend itself well to creating events and places for such a large young adult population to thrive or let loose.”

Even though some students feel a lack of connection between the school and the town on a large scale, some specific cases fit the “college town” description better.

“I think the downtown area has a very strong college presence,” Depew said. “Many of the businesses support UNA programs and students by offering discounts and even internships.”

As in established college towns, university sports play a part in the feel of the community.

“It’s starting to go towards the college town vibe—I suppose—with us moving up in the football department, but it’s still got that small-town feel,” said Kristen Thornton, a sophomore at UNA.

Another way Florence fits the profile of a college town is in the student job market.

“I think there are lots of part-time jobs like restaurants and in stores at malls, but for occupational careers, I would think not,” Lee said. “I would think that since there is a college in Florence, most of the good jobs would be taken up already, and you’d probably have to have some kind of connection to get them.”

Even if Florence doesn’t live up to a status more than a “town with a college,” some said maybe it’s not such a bad thing.

“College towns are fun to visit, but I love Florence just the way it is,” Thornton said. “I like the fact that it’s small and personal and community oriented—that’s the main reason I came to UNA instead of going to a big college like Auburn.”