The perks of Portland

The numbers are in. Portland is officially awesome—especially for those attending Portland State.

The numbers are in. Portland is officially awesome—especially for those attending Portland State.

Portland is ranked fifth on the College Destinations Index (CDI) under the category of mid-sized metros, according to the American Institute of Economic Research (AIER). AIER is an independent organization that publishes on economic topics. The CDI rankings are not representative of specific universities, but more about the accessibility and quality of life that these cities provide to socially active people surviving on student loans and part-time jobs, such as myself, and most of you.

This may bring a bit of excitement and pride to an economic statistician reading this, but to the rest of the human race the implications are that your college fund is being well spent in the city of Portland.

The CDI ranked Seattle fifth in the rankings of major metro areas, while Corvallis ranked seventh on best college towns. No top-10 love for Eugene (although it has its benefits), but Corvallis, Portland and Seattle make up the only three areas ranked in the Pacific Northwest.

If you are “shopping” for colleges, this index shows where to find the best value. The CDI is formulated by 12 criteria, generally categorized as academic environment (holders of foreign passports, concentration of students), quality of life (average rent of two-bedroom apartment, arts and leisure) and professional opportunity (ratio of college-educated people in area, income per capita).

The results are hard to disagree with because their sources, such as the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are neutral. But to make a claim about the quality of a college destination based on those sources seems absurd. The stats about the citizens (the main differentiating factor between a college review and the CDI) act more as an attractor of professionalism and an idea of life for those that plan to stay after achieving their diploma.

For example, out-of-staters in Portland often celebrate no sales tax, tall trees and frequency of rain (not all do) and Portland brings up thoughts of artisans and downtown parks. Seattle, perhaps, brings thoughts of purchasing faux Gucci bags on Water Street, grunge music and Microsoft. I prefer Portland.

The city where a college resides is an important factor, but I hold that it is not as important as the college itself. When people search for a college, they may look into how much money they will make after graduation. They might also look for student diversity and definitely their cost of living. But what does it matter how many college graduates occupy the rest of the city? Why would the CDI include the number of artists and others in the “creative class?”

It seems to be about bragging rights. I won’t deny that location and off-campus amenities are important, and that is what the CDI attempts to highlight. In its attempts to do so, it risks oversimplification. The CDI doesn’t even mention overall health or happiness.

It’s notable that for a mid-sized metro, Portland has the highest marks for city accessibility. That means a significant number of people commute by foot or bike. No surprise there. We are only surpassed by major metros such as San Francisco, and a few smaller college towns that one could walk across.

About half of the 75 schools listed on the CDI are concentrated along the East Coast and the southern slant of California in traditionally more developed and wealthy areas. The rest are scattered across the country.

There are several things one simply cannot capture with statistics. When it comes down to it, the numbers are significant but they can’t quite represent the pristine nature of Forest Park or the nearby escapes such as Mt. Hood and the Oregon Coast. Nor do they consider the sewage overflows in the Willamette River. If they could contribute surroundings and something other than leisure and money into the category Quality of Life, this index would have a better foundation in reality. In the meantime, despite the city’s downfalls, it’s not difficult to agree with the rankings—the index is done well in the end.

Portland is a thriving city, with an ever-blossoming music scene and plenty of places that are easy to get to. I have never felt uneasy about walking downtown alone at night, which might be hard to say if I lived in Seattle. For the more studious, there are many used bookstores, and Portland has the advantage of beautiful aesthetics at almost every corner.

Although I am a fan of all things ancient, Portland boasts a very modern atmosphere—the city is just less than 160 years old. Portland also holds tight to sustainability and people often take the responsibility themselves. Here at PSU, we are right in the center of it. Things are sure to change if the city grows, but for now, it is a haven for students and a jewel in the crown of Oregon.

As for us students, we are all just looking for a quiet and secure place to study, right?