As Connecticut prepares to merge its 12 community colleges into one institution with 12 campuses, a new analysis suggests that the current configuration of the community college system is one of the nation’s best.
The analysis found that Connecticut’s community college system is ranked as the 5th best in the nation, and one of the colleges – Northwestern Connecticut Community College in Winsted – is ranked as the sixth best community college in the country.
In addition to Northwestern Connecticut CC, the personal finance website WalletHub, which conducted the analysis, ranked Manchester Community College, Naugatuck Valley Community College, Asnuntuck Community College and Capital Community College as among the state’s best. A total of five of the state’s 12 community colleges were in the top 100: Manchester Community College ranked #40 in the nation, Naugatuck Valley ranked #59, Asnuntuck ranked #64, and Capitol Community ranked #89.
The website noted that with many Americans struggling financially due to COVID-19 – and a year of community college nearly three times less expensive than a year at a public four-year college – community colleges are an increasingly attractive higher education option.
The site compared more than 650 community colleges across 18 key indicators of cost and quality, naming as the best community college systems: 1. Wyoming, 2. Washington, 3. Maryland, 4. Hawaii, 5. Connecticut, 6. New Mexico, 7. New York, 8. California, 9. Arkansas, and 10. South Dakota. Among the metrics used were tuition costs, transfer rates, student-loan defaults and the presence of free community college education.
For their state-by-state analysis, WalletHub 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 nation’s best community colleges, according to the analysis, are: 1. State Technical College of Missouri (MO), 2. Arkansas State University-Mountain Home (AR), 3. College of San Mateo (CA), 4. Northwest Iowa Community College (IA), 5. Northern Wyoming Community College District (WY), 6. Northwestern Connecticut Community College (CT), 7. Ohlone College (CA), 8. Alexandria Technical & Community College (MN), 9. Casper College (WY) and 10. Orange Coast College (CA).
“Students who earn their general-education credits at a community college before transferring to an in-state public four-year university can potentially save a lot of money,” the website points out. “Community colleges have a number of attractive qualities. They often provide more flexible schedules, smaller class sizes and rigorous coursework.”
Among Connecticut’s other community colleges, Norwalk Community College was ranked #125, and Quinebaug Valley Community College was ranked #173.
Connecticut’s controversial plan to merge its 12 community colleges into one institution, which would become among the nation’s largest community colleges, is moving forward and is expected to fully take effect in 2023. At the most recent meeting to review the plan in June, the New England Commission of Higher Education – the region’s accrediting body – accepted the latest updates from the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system on its plans and voted to take no further action on concerns raised through public comment. The system also presented the approved name for the new college, Connecticut State Community College. The commission asked the system to provide more information on the system of internal governance for the college, current and projected enrollment, and the budgets and position changes at the 12 separate colleges and the proposed single college, according to published reports.
Data used to create the ranking were collected from the National Center for Education Statistics, Campaign for Free College Tuition, U.S. Department of Education and Council for Community & Economic Research, according to WalletHub.