Investment homes in cool school towns

College cribs

If you're sending junior off to college, you know room and board is a big part of the expense.

Instead of writing a rent check (or paying a dorm fee), why not buy a place for your collegiate kid to crash? It's an investment that can pay off in future rental income.

We used the 2012-2013 College Destinations Index from the American Institute for Economic Research to find top college towns. Even if you don't have a student, these are good communities in which to invest.

From there, we searched for homes on the market that would make fine rental properties.

Square footage, number of bedrooms and unique amenities vary, but these homes all are located in areas where the major focus is the college, which means a solid student population.

Using data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, we made sure the typical mortgage won't exceed the area's average rent.

Prices range from $139,000 to $199,500, or a monthly payment of $578 to $830, assuming a 20% down payment and today's average mortgage interest rates.