McDowell Technical Community College has been ranked 17th best community college in the United States by SmartAsset, an online financial technology company which describes itself as having “… the best personal finance advice on the web.”
“The Best Community Colleges in America- 2020 edition” is part of the company’s annual review of community colleges nationwide based on selection criteria which aims to find which community colleges are providing a combination of quality education at affordable prices. This is the seventh year that SmartAsset has completed this type of review.
The SmartAsset review looked at 821 colleges using IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) data maintained by the federal government. Data for the review came from the 2018-19 school year and included data on student graduation rates, student transfer rates to four-year institutions, student-to-faculty ratios and cost of tuition and fees.
You can see the entire study here: https://smartasset.com/checking-account/best-community-colleges-in-america-2020
North Carolina’s Community College System continues to perform extraordinarily well in SmartAsset’s annual ranking. Ten North Carolina community colleges cracked the top 25 list this year, up from six last year: (listed alphabetically) Brunswick (No. 1), Carteret (No. 4), Catawba Valley (No. 25), College of the Albemarle (No. 2), McDowell Tech (No. 17), Montgomery (No. 24), Piedmont (No. 14), Randolph (No. 18), Surry (No. 16), and Vance-Granville (No. 19).
“Our faculty, staff and trustees continue to build on a strong track record of quality, affordable education and low student-to-faculty ratios,” said Ryan Garrison, interim president at McDowell Tech. “Dr. Gossett, our most recent president, led our faculty and staff in a continuous improvement project that is now reaping rewards for us and for our students.
“As our graduation rates continue to improve and the number of students transferring to four-year institutions for baccalaureate degrees grows, we expect to continue performing well in this ranking.”
“Our state legislators also play a major role in helping NC remain strong in SmartAsset’s ranking,” said Garrison. “Representative Josh Dobson and Senator Ralph Hise and other members of the North Carolina General Assembly continue to keep tuition rates low in North Carolina, which obviously affects the affordability metric in the ranking.”
The North Carolina Community College System is the third largest community college system in the nation behind California and Texas. Ironically, neither of those states, nor New York, which has the fourth largest system, has colleges ranked in the top 25 in this year’s survey. That is largely due to the high cost of tuition and fees in those states.
“While North Carolina as a whole performs well in SmartAsset’s annual ranking of community colleges, it is interesting to note that only five of the 58 community colleges in North Carolina outperformed McDowell Tech in the review, although we are in the bottom tier of those 58 colleges in terms of size,” Garrison continued. “When you consider the quality of our programs, our low tuition and fees, our friendly, personal touch and the strength of our financial aid program, there should be no reason for students to look elsewhere for their higher education needs, at least for the first two years.
“During these trying times, with heightened issues of health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, enrolling in a four-year residential college in a more densely populated area of the state or country may not make sense for everyone, especially when you consider the quality and affordability of our programs,” said Garrison. “Although health and safety protocols will likely make our fall semester look different than past years, we will offer a full complement of online, hybrid and in-person classes to meet the needs of as many students as possible.
“COVID-19 has certainly presented some challenges for us,” Garrison concluded, “but our faculty and staff will continue rising to the occasion. We did not become 17th best community college in the nation by resting on our laurels or shying away from hard work. I know that our folks will continue to make us proud.”