So, about once a week, someone writes an article about “the 10 best community colleges.” This week, it was Wallet Hub’s turn. Unlike most articles, Wallet Hub didn’t stop at 10. They ranked nearly 700 community colleges across the country and 22 Michigan community colleges. They used 18 different measurements to determine their “best” list.
Wallet Hub started with the members of the American Association of Community Colleges. They didn’t include all members of the AACC, largely because of data availability. For Michigan, that left out Alpena Community College, Henry Ford College, Jackson College, Lake Michigan College, Northwestern Michigan College, and Schoolcraft College.
For the remaining Michigan community colleges, Wallet Hub evaluated them in three major categories: Cost and Financing, Educational Outcomes and Career Outcomes.
How Michigan community colleges ranked
|Overall Rank||College Name||Overall Score||Cost and Financing||Educational Outcomes||Career Outcomes|
|86||Monroe County Community College||61.75||188||237||214|
|116||Gogebic Community College||60.72||216||106||337|
|117||Lansing Community College||60.66||205||212||286|
|138||West Shore Community College||60.05||103||74||556|
|141||Kellogg Community College||59.98||92||285||469|
|167||St Clair County Community College||59.42||247||195||310|
|188||Washtenaw Community College||59.02||139||268||442|
|198||Macomb Community College||58.93||187||503||255|
|216||Montcalm Community College||58.55||225||240||392|
|246||Kalamazoo Valley Community College||57.56||156||404||452|
|259||Grand Rapids Community College||57.3||251||421||330|
|287||Bay de Noc Community College||56.69||180||209||562|
|298||Glen Oaks Community College||56.39||119||557||445|
|321||Muskegon Community College||55.71||268||317||466|
|347||North Central Michigan College||54.87||308||94||530|
|360||Kirtland Community College||54.54||307||134||528|
|366||Oakland Community College||54.3||164||598||443|
|374||Mid Michigan Community College||53.93||256||543||449|
|382||Southwestern Michigan College||53.68||218||573||472|
|467||Mott Community College||51.05||95||618||640|
|517||Wayne County Community College District||49.38||182||562||667|
Cost and Financing
I’m not usually a big fan of rankings. In many cases, the criteria are arbitrary. In this particular case, the rankings are at least interesting.
Rose Bellanca likes to proclaim WCC as “the best community college in Michigan.” According to Wallet Hub, that’s apparently hyperbolic. WCC landed in the 188th spot overall (top 30%) and 8th in the state. While WCC does have the lowest tuition rate in the state, there’s more to the cost of attendance than tuition. In this category, WCC ranks 139th overall, and 6th among Michigan’s community colleges. In Wallet Hub World, things like free community college, the average aid package, employment services for students, per-pupil spending, spending efficiency (my favorite) and faculty salary also drive the cost of attendance.
I have to admit to being disappointed the institution’s debt obligations and building neglect were not factored in as cost drivers. They’re ticking time bombs and should be thought of as such. By ranking WCC in the 8th spot, Wallet Hub is saying that there’s much more WCC could be doing to lower the cost of attendance.
WCC doesn’t score nearly as well in terms of “Educational Outcomes.” At 268th, WCC ranks in the top 40% of all community colleges, and the top 50% of all Michigan community colleges. Educational outcomes include the things you would expect: retention rates; transfer rates; graduation rates, etc. It also includes the ratio of full-time faculty to students. Pursuing a policy of tightly restricted growth for full-time faculty while permitting unrestrained growth of the administration has a detectable impact on students’ educational outcomes.
Here’s where the wheels fall off for WCC. Three criteria here tell a story: student loan default rate; median salary after attending; and share of former students earning more than the average high school graduate.
WCC receives the third-highest property tax assessment among Michigan community colleges. It has the resources to provide high quality education that delivers high quality results for its alumni. And yet, nearly 2 out of 3 WCC alumni are no better off than the average high school graduate in terms of earnings. WCC students don’t pay a lot, but they don’t get much, either.
That’s not hard to believe, but it is hard to accept. And it has to change.
We need Trustees who will put their rubber stamps aside and hold the College’s enormous administration accountable for improving this.
Photo Credit: Adam Theo , via Flickr