Community colleges have become the main focus of higher education in recent years, as the United States strives to fill the workforce needs of the 21st century. Completion rates for community colleges are more important than ever before, as students must complete their training programs to become productive members of the global marketplace. To help prospective students locate the community colleges with the greatest odds of success, Community College Week releases annual analyses of the community colleges that produce the most associate degrees each academic year.
About the Analysis
The data for the annual Top 100 Analysis is collected by the National Center for Education Statistics. The list includes associate degrees earned during the 2010-2011 school year, with total degrees earned and breakdowns according to race. The breakdowns were handled by a two-question format students were asked to answer, according to the website for Community College Week. Students were first asked if they were of Hispanic or Latino heritage, and then they were asked to check off various races that applied to them, including African American, Native American and Asian American.
This year’s analysis found record increases in the number of associate degrees earned over the past three years. As associate degrees appear to be on the rise, certificate programs, which can usually be earned in less than two years, seem to be on the decline. It is also interesting to note that the number of associate degrees earned at public community colleges was just 61 percent. Proprietary institutions (for-profit schools) accounted for 21 percent of the total associate degrees earned, and the remainder was actually earned through four-year institutions. Because some community colleges now offer bachelor degrees as well as their two-year programs, they are classified as four-year schools in this analysis.
Community College Week did speculate that at least a portion of the increase in degrees earned could be attributed to recent economic conditions. As many Americans found themselves out of work, some returned to community colleges for additional training or re-training that would help them re-enter the workforce. Financial assistance through stimulus funds may have also fed that trend. The website predicts that trends may even out over the next couple of years, as unemployment rates improve and some community colleges are forced to cap enrollment to handle student load more effectively.
NOVA Takes Top Spot
The top degree-producing schools among community colleges during the 2010-2011 school year was Northern Virginia Community College, according to the Top 100 List. Northern Virginia Community College, known to students and staff as NOVA, has six campuses throughout Virginia, in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudon, Manassas, Medical and Woodbridge. The school was established in 1964 and is now considered the largest educational institution in the state and the second-largest community college in the United States.
During the 2010-2011 academic year, NOVA handed out 4,695 associate degrees. Of that number, 45 percent went to white students, 12 percent went to African American students and another 12 percent went to Hispanic students. Asian Americans earned 16 percent of the degrees at NOVA, and Native Americans earned another eight percent. The school awarded 925 degrees to minority men and another 1,348 degrees to minority women that year.
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Houston Community College Number Two in Degree Earners
The second spot on the top 100 list went to Houston Community College, which awarded 3,606 associate degrees in 2011. The school is located on Main Street in the heart of Houston, Texas. This school boasted a 2012 fall enrollment of more than 70,000 students; 60 percent of that population is either Hispanic or African American. Houston Community College offers a number of associate degree options, including an Associate in Arts, Associate Arts in Teaching, Associate in Science, and Associate in Applied Science.
According to the Community College Week list, 25 percent of the students earning an associate degree in 2011 were African American, while another 23 percent were Hispanic. This school also awarded 23 percent of its degrees to non-resident alien students. Just 14 percent of the total degrees distributed were given to white students of the school.
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Salt Lake Community College Offers Multiple Campuses, Degree Options
The third community college on this year’s list was Salt Lake Community College. As the largest college in the state of Utah, this institution boasts a student population of more than 60,000 students on 13 campuses across the state. Despite its massive size, classroom ratios are approximately one professor for every 20 students, which guarantees personalized instruction for all students at the school, according to the college’s website.
Salt Lake Community College awarded 3,414 associate degrees in 2011, with 81 percent of those degrees going to white students at the school. Just two percent of the students earning degrees were African American, and another six percent were Hispanic. This school also offers a variety of associate degree options, including an Associate of Arts, Associate of Applied Science, Associate of Science, and an Associate of Pre-Engineering. The college currently has more than 120 fields of study to choose from.
The Community College Week analysis provides insight into the community colleges nationwide that are seeing the best degree production. It is important to note that these figures do not necessarily indicate completion rates for schools overall – schools with higher student populations typically produce more associate degrees than smaller schools. However, this list does provide valuable information on the number of associate degrees earned in any given year, and you can peruse the entire Community College Week list to see where your prospective campus ranks.
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