The rankings are in for this year’s analysis of the top degree-producing community colleges by Community College Week. In addition to listing the top 100 schools, researchers also discovered that the overall number of associate degrees earned made a jump this year, to top one million for the first time in history. Some schools that made significant contributions to this total are now celebrating their accomplishments with recognition in the rankings.
How States Fared
The latest analysis also looked at the number of associate degrees by state. That total number was weighed against the total population in the state, to get a more accurate idea of the percentage of state residents earning degrees or certification from community college. While states with larger populations also tended to issue more associate degrees, some states turned out more community college graduates as a percentage of their total population than others.
The state with the most associate degrees during the 2011-2012 academic year was California, with 114,612 degrees awarded. California also boasts one of the largest overall populations in the country, as well as the largest community college system in the U.S. However, the second biggest degree-producing state was Florida, even though that state ranked fourth in overall population.
Other states that ranked in the top 10 in terms of degree productions included:
- New York (69,654)
- Texas (69,654)
- Arizona (62,990)
- Illinois (41,618)
- Ohio (35,871)
- Michigan (33,322)
- Pennsylvania (29,794)
- Washington (28,977)
The smallest number of associate degrees was earned in Vermont, where just 1,196 two-year degrees were awarded. This state ranked second from the bottom in terms of population. The state with the lowest population was Wyoming, which awarded 2,924 associate’s degrees during that academic year.
The recent analysis also noted a steady upswing in the number of associate degrees earned, which has been on an uptick since 2001. That trend increased even more when the “Great Recession” hit in 2008, indicating that the larger number of college enrollments could have been spurred by the skyrocketing unemployment rates at the time. However, even in the past two years, as the economy has begun to stabilize and turn around, the increases in number of associate degrees earned has continued.
During the 2010-2011 school year, the number of associate’s degrees awarded increased by 11 percent. This year, the increase was slightly smaller at eight percent. What is also interesting is that the number of short-term certificates (earned in less than two years) has declined over the past two years, even as two-year degrees have continued to increase. During the most recent academic year, the trend seemed to turn to longer certificate terms that took between one and two years to earn. Researchers were unable to pinpoint a reason for this trend, based on the current information available.
This year, the top degree-producer for two-year schools was Ivy Tech College, with a total of 8,940 associate’s degrees earned during the 2011-2012 academic year. The majority of those degree earners (83 percent) were white students, while seven percent were African-American and another three percent were Hispanic. The next community college on the list was Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), with 5,452 associate’s degrees awarded.
Both of the schools remained consistent from 2012, when Ivy Tech ranked third and NOVA ranked seventh. Because both two and four-year schools were included in the rankings, the community colleges on the list do not rank consecutively. The rest of the two-year schools in the top 10 degree producers were as follows:
- Lone Star College System, TX (4,208 associate degrees)
- Houston Community College, TX (3,860 associate degrees)
- Hillsborough Community College, FL (3,843 associate degrees)
- El Paso Community College, TX (3,790 associate degrees)
- Salt Lake Community College, UT (3,550 associate degrees)
- Suffolk County Community College, NY (3,438 associate degrees)
- Tarrant County College District, TX (3,365 associate degrees)
- Tallahassee Community College, FL (3,278 associate degrees)
Texas Excels in New Rankings
One state that is particularly celebrating their achievements on the community college level is Texas. According to the Houston Business Journal, three Houston-area schools made the rankings, as well as 10 schools statewide. This is two more than the Texas total of eight last year. The Houston institutions included the Lone Star College System, Houston Community College and San Jacinto Community College.
All three of these schools showed an increase in the number of associate’s degrees awarded over the previous year. Other Texas schools that made the grade included El Paso Community College, Tarrant Community College, Central Texas College, South Texas College, San Antonio College, Collin County Community College District, and Austin Community College District.
The website for San Jacinto Community College also noted the school’s ranking, coming in 32nd in the nation with a total of 2,840 associate’s degrees awarded. The report stated that the college has been focusing on improving completion rates as a part of its overall student success agenda. As a result of their efforts, the school has seen a 27.6 percent increase in degrees awarded over the past two academic years.
“The value of an associate degree is more apparent now than ever, as companies look to hire employees with not just skills for the job, but those who also possess a well-rounded education, complete with soft skills,” Dr. Brenda Hellyer, chancellor for San Jacinto Community College, stated on the school’s website.