With Americans struggling financially due to COVID-19 and a year of community college nearly three times less expensive than a year at a public four-year college, the personal-finance website WalletHub on Monday released its report on 2021’s Best & Worst Community Colleges, coupled with its state-by-state ranking of the Best & Worst Community-College Systems, as well as accompanying videos and expert commentary.
To read the full reports, visit:
• Individual Schools: https://wallethub.com/edu/best-worst-community-colleges/15076
• School Systems: https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-best-worst-community-college-systems/15073
To determine where students can receive the best education at the cheapest rates, WalletHub compared more than 650 community colleges across 19 key indicators of cost and quality. The data set ranges from the cost of in-state tuition and fees to student-faculty ratio to graduation rate.
Top 20 Community Colleges
State Technical College of Missouri (MO) came in at the top of the list, ranked number one, followed by College of San Mateo (CA); Saddleback College (CA); Butte College (CA); Santa Fe Community College (NM); Arkansas State University-Mountain Home (AR); Kauai Community College (HI); Ohlone College (CA); Northwest Iowa Community College (IA) and, rounding out the top 10 is Los Angeles Pierce College (CA).
Ranked at number 11 was Kapiolani Community College (HI), followed by De Anza College (CA); Los Angeles Harbor College (CA); Alexandria Technical & Community College (MN); College of Southern Maryland (MD); Irvine Valley College (CA); Los Angeles Mission College (CA); Northern Wyoming Community College District (WY); Evergreen Valley College (CA); and at number 20, Northwestern Connecticut Community College (CT).
States with the Best Community-College Systems are, Hawaii, ranked first, followed by Wyoming, Washington, Maryland, New Mexico, Connecticut, North Dakota, California, South Dakota and New York rounding out the top 10. Number 11 was Arkansas, followed by Wisconsin, Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon, Virginia, New Jersey, Michigan, West Virginia and Tennessee coming in at number 20.
Q: What can policymakers do to improve the quality of education and training at community colleges and the career prospects of graduates?
A: “More money is the usual answer, and it is true in this case. Community college expenditures per student have remained largely stagnant over the past quarter-century, despite increases in the cost of providing most personal services in the United States. Community colleges spend far less per student than most public regional universities, and only a third of what is spent per student at selective flagships in their state … Community colleges need to be able to attract and retain talented faculty and they need more resources in advising and academic support. This requires political will at the state level.”
David H. Feldman – Professor, College of William & Mary
Q: In evaluating the best and worst community colleges, what are the top 5 indicators?
A: “Typically, the rankings of all colleges that I have seen tend to favor larger, more financially endowed institutions with high enrollments and a record of awards to students and faculty … These, along with enrollment sizes, seem to compromise most college ranking systems. However, for community colleges measures such as the percentage of students going to and graduating from 4-year colleges with a bachelors’ degree, workforce certifications awarded, and types of student affairs programs and services offered should also be considered in these rankings. Students are looking for those kinds of experiences from community colleges.”
Matthew B. Fuller, Ph.D. – Associate Professor, Sam Houston State University
Q: What are the main challenges facing community college education during the current crisis? What are the best ways to overcome these challenges?
A: “As we have moved away from a more collective state-subsidized funding of higher education by shifting the burden onto students, colleges and universities are constantly in a state of financial uncertainty. This reality is precarious and makes both interim and long-term planning very difficult … Financial uncertainty for students is the very thing that makes student enrollment and persistence also precarious for them as they navigate the minefield of student loan debt. Countries who have thrived in the years following economic hardships did so by making deeper investments in their educational institutions and we would be well served to understand that reality.”
T. Jameson Brewer, Ph.D. – Assistant Professor, University of North Georgia