With the state's flagship university, award-winning public schools and a slew of private options, education is one of the cornerstones of Columbia.

With more than 13,000 full-time faculty and staff members, the University of Missouri is Columbia's largest employer. As a member of the Southeastern Conference and a major research university, the campus is a $2.1 billion enterprise that makes a big impact on the local economy.

Columbia College and Stephens College - which together serve more than 4,000 undergraduate students - also count among Columbia's cultural and educational assets, and are a big part of Columbia being named among the Top 10 Best College Towns by

The seventh-largest district in the state, Columbia Public Schools has an enrollment of 18,015 students and is another top employer with 2,417 faculty and staff. The district's ACT and SAT scores exceed state and national averages and 80-90 percent of Columbia students extend their education beyond high school. Columbia Public Schools have been recognized as a District of Distinction by District Administration magazine, a Top 15 School District ranking by and has been nationally recognized by SchoolMatch with a "What Parents Want" award.

Columbia also has a number of private school options from preschool through high school, with two Catholic schools and three other faith-based academies, several Montessori options for early childhood education and a secular independent school.