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Schools in the USA

How Community Colleges are Ranked in the US

In the US, a whole industry has arisen focused on the ranking of universities and colleges, with the majority of these rankings focused on bachelor's and master's degree programs at universities and 4-year colleges. This doesn't mean there are no rankings to consult for community colleges, though!

Two main sources of community college rankings are The Washington Monthly and Community College Week. Community colleges and their programs may also ranked by industry-specific publications, for example, in the case of community college design programs, DesignIntelligence magazine. As well, some publications have specialty sections, such as BusinessWeek's "D-Schools" ranking list, so be sure to check not just community college institutional ranking, but the ranking of programs in the particular field you're interested in.

Another source of information is professional associations: these organizations sometimes publish online reports of student surveys on various schools and programs, which provide still more school or program "rankings." These associations--for example the College Art Association (CAA)--often offer awards and honors for teaching excellence, and looking at who they have honored can also be used to supplement your 'ranking' of schools. Less "official" rankings can also be found in student-based resources like StudentsReview, and you may want to scan journals about community colleges--for instance CommunityCollegeTimes.com--to see which schools are mentioned and what is said about them. This kind of news may not be ranking per se, but the information is yours to use and interpret.

Each of these sources, however, uses its own particular set of criteria for ranking schools and programs. In the case of the controversial Gourman Report (which ranks all undergraduate programs), the author specifically refuses to disclose his methodology. How then should all these rankings be interpreted?

First, the ranking reports often come with data to support conclusions, and while data collection may be criticized, statistics are generally comparable. So the reports can be used by you to compare institutions and schools on the basis of the data provided.

Second, the statistics that come from the rankings can also suggest topics that can be investigated in more detail. For instance, if a school offers co-op or industry internships but has only a few listings of frequent employers for graduates, you may want to ask why.

All community college and program rankings have one other thing in common: they are a list of institutions and schools. Scanning the list might suggest a school that you had not considered or perhaps even heard of. Used this way, the rankings can help expand your list of schools that can then be researched in more detail.

However, you should never judge based on rankings alone. Rankings are important, but there may be other factors that need to be taken into consideration. Schools that are less prominent may have a program that might suit your needs better than any nationally ranked schools. Lesser known regional universities and colleges may also be a wise choice if you wish to remain close to home during your studies. Often times, these schools may have the strongest relationships with local companies and employers. Once you have accumulated this information, you should be able to create your own school rankings.

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