Good afternoon, whiteviolet, from realjohnboy in Charlottesville, Virginia. Here are some thoughts. The northern Virginia suburbs of D.C. would work on most counts except affordability. It is pretty much an urban sprawl which appeals to some.
Charlottesville is home to UVA. Excellent in all categories plus a top notch hospital to boot. You didn't mention that as being potentially important . More bookstores and restaurants per capita than most any other place. Lots of cultural stuff and adult education opportunities. Public transit within the city is pretty good and getting better. Air and rail N-S and E-W is pretty good, although you might have to transfer in DC, Atlanta or Cincy.
Affordability is an issue. You did not define the word, but things are not cheap here because of the overhanging student market and too many high listings on the "Best Place to Retire in America." I can tell you that "someone" I know has a cute 5-unit townhouse property with high-end 2-BR, 2.5 baths on a nicely landscaped area 4 miles from downtown with public transport for $1200/month.
I would also suggest looking at the Blacksburg-Roanoke and Harrisonburg areas. Both have universities and community colleges. I would guess that they are perhaps 10 or 15 years behind C'ville on the "cultural events" scorecard. They rank pretty high, higher than Cville, on the affordability meter.
I can't talk about the coastal area if your friend is an ocean fan. Pretty urban.
I hope this helps.