2017’s States with the Best & Worst Community-College Systems
University education is out of reach for many Americans, especially those from low-income households. But thanks to community colleges, higher education is more accessible than ever. Compared with public four-year institutions, where tuition and fees cost three times as much on average, community colleges offer an unbeatable value in terms of not just affordability but also quality.
Multiple states and numerous cities across the U.S. have even initiated “College Promise” programs that grant their residents free rides to community college. New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Tennessee are blazing the trail of this college-for-all circuit, while several other states, such as California, Illinois and Oklahoma, have introduced legislation to follow the same path. Such initiatives are proving to be more critical than ever, with public-college costs rising faster than private-college tuition rates and the need for post-secondary training in most jobs seeing steady growth through 2020.
Community colleges will be able to help meet that demand. In 22 states, these schools have expanded their offerings to include four-year baccalaureate programs in high-demand fields. Community-college students are even known to outshine their university peers. In an assessment of learning outcomes over a 10-year period, the Educational Testing Service found that “community college students caught up with and significantly outperformed students from liberal arts colleges … and made significant improvement in critical-thinking skills.”
Drawing on the findings of WalletHub’s analysis of the best and worst individual community colleges in the U.S., we present a state-by-state ranking of community-college systems below. Read on for the results and our detailed methodology.
|9||New York||34||North Carolina|
|23||New Hampshire||N/A||Rhode Island|
In order to determine the best and worst community-college systems in the U.S., we drew upon the results of our analysis of 2017’s Best & Worst Community Colleges, which was conducted at the individual-school level across a sample of 728 institutions and 14 key metrics.
For our state-by-state analysis, we calculated a weighted average of the scores earned by the community colleges in each state and the number of students enrolled in each school. The state with the highest average corresponds with a rank of No. 1, or the best community-college system. We also took into account only the states that had at least two community colleges present in our sample of the Best & Worst Community Colleges in order to ensure comparability of results.
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the National Center for Education Statistics, Council for Community and Economic Research and College Measures.
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