What Schools Were the Top Degree Producers Last Year?

What Schools Were the Top Degree Producers Last Year?
Check out the latest rankings by Community College Times that shows the community colleges that were the top degree producers in the country last year.

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 the top one million for the first time in history. Some schools that contributed significantly 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 certifications from community colleges. 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.

California had the most associate degrees during the 2011-2012 academic year, with 114,612 degrees awarded. California also boasts one of the country's largest overall populations and 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:

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. Wyoming, the state with the lowest population, awarded 2,924 associate’s degrees during that academic year.

The Upswing

The recent analysis also noted a steady upswing in the number of associate degrees earned, which has increased since 2001. That trend increased even more when the “Great Recession” hit in 2008, indicating that the skyrocketing unemployment rates could have spurred the more significant number of college enrollments at the time. However, even in the past two years, as the economy has begun to stabilize and turn around, the increase 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. Interestingly, 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 could not pinpoint a reason for this trend based on the current information available.

This video examines the history of two-year colleges in Minnesota.

Top Producers

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. Most 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:

Texas Excels in New Rankings

One state that is particularly celebrating its achievements on the community college level is Texas. According to the Houston Business Journal, three Houston-area schools made the rankings, as well as ten 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 San Jacinto Community College website 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.

This video offers a look at Eastern Iowa Community College.

“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.

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