For what it's worth

COURTESY // Gustavo Vasquez

College is more than the classes one takes—it’s an experience entirely unique to the individual that can’t be judged by anyone other than the student.

The Economist Magazine released a ranking of universities in the U.S. in October based off of the economic value of a degree from each respective college. Out of 1,275 colleges, Sonoma State University was ranked 1,030th and among other California State University’s, Sonoma State was ranked last for economic value of the degree.

In the same study, Sonoma State finished ahead of UC Berkely, Brown and Yale University (with Yale finishing ing in the bottom 10 in the nation) This study not only brings to question the credibility of college rankings in general but also whether a ranking system is an effective and honest representation of a university’s worth.

According to The Economist’s ranking, the average salary of a Sonoma State graduate is $45,600. Can the value of a college degree be solely based on a monetary figure?

The answer is no. College is an experience made up of classes, extracurricular activities and most importantly, memories—memories that can’t be ranked by a dollar amount.

Those memories and experiences someone has in college are unique to the individual and a ranking or a magazine article can’t tell a college graduate their degree is worth more or less than someone else’s. Even if the college one attends is not labeled “prestigious,” a college education is about what the student makes of themselves at the school, not the school itself.

A student could be going to Stanford and learn absolutely nothing or on the other hand, a student could be going to a humble community college and come out a well-rounded, educated person.

Another respected publication, U.S News and World Report, released its annual college rankings last week as well, ironically ranking Sonoma State as one of the top public university in the western region as no. 48 out of 87 colleges. With both The Economist and U.S News and World Report known as credible and respected sources, why is there such a disconnect between the two rankings?

Some may consider Sonoma State to be a liberal arts college, with the focus of students’ studies being on a broad array of subjects rather than one specialized or specific research topic. With that said, Sonoma State is the only CSU to be a member of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges—proving its status as a liberal arts college.

Could the ranking by The Economist be based on the fact that the education students’ receive at Sonoma State leans toward that of liberal arts rather than specialized research?

A 2010 article from CBS News lists five reasons why students should attend a liberal arts university instead of an Ivy League or research-focused university.

Among those reasons, the author puts an emphasis on how liberal arts colleges often have small class sizes, student-focused professors and a more affordable price tag—statements all true to Sonoma State.

Many students perform much better in an environment where their education is more individually-based rather than competitive performance-based. Students have to find the college environment that best suits their needs, not pick one from a biased and skewed ranking list.

Students often hear college is what you make it—and regardless of how cliché that might sounds, it proves to be true.

The Internet is filled with an endless amount of college rankings and reviews, but when it comes to the worth of an education, no one can put a pricetag on a degree, not even The Economist.