10 Pennsylvania community colleges to check out
by Aimee Hosler | October 21, 2013
Pennsylvania community colleges can pay off -- and not just in tuition savings (though they certainly may not hurt). A 2013 report from the Community College Research Center at Columbia University suggests that completing a two-year degree before transferring to a four-year college could carry a $50,000 premium over the course of 20 years, and another study from National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that community college transfers have higher college completion rates than students who go directly into four-year institutions. Even students who do not finish their college educations tend to earn more than high school graduates, notes The Hamilton Project. These trends matter anywhere, but may be especially meaningful in Pennsylvania where, according to the Lumina Foundation, increasing employer demand for educated workers is expected to exceed the state's attainment rate. In other words, Pennsylvania community colleges could help students better compete in tomorrow's job market. Here are just 10 schools in the state that are already offering students educational opportunities.
10 short-list-worthy community colleges in Pennsylvania
- Butler County Community College (Butler): Butler County Community College, or BC3, calls itself "The Smart Place to Start," and its track record may make that a difficult point to dispute. According to College Measures, BC3 had the second highest combined graduation and transfer rate of all reporting Pennsylvania community colleges in 2012. Other features that may help make the school unique: On-site child care through the Children's Creative Learning Center, a Scholars Program for academically-capable students and dozens of articulation agreements with four-year institutions both in and out of Pennsylvania.
- Community College of Allegheny County (Pittsburgh): According to its official website, this Pittsburgh-based community college can offer more than just a great education -- it also provides a campus life that can be enriched by athletics, social organizations and clubs, honor societies and stellar student services. Students can choose from more than 155 programs -- many of which can lead to associate degrees -- attending classes at four campuses, four neighborhood centers or even online. CCAC also allows students to participate in accelerated programs. Though CCAC says it is one of the largest public institutions -- two-year or otherwise -- in the state, its classes tend to be small and personal, averaging 19 students each, according to the school.
- Community College of Beaver County (Monaca): CCBC is nestled in the heart of Beaver County, just 40 miles west of downtown Pittsburgh. It serves a number of full- and part-time students each year who can transfer up to 60 units to four-year institutions via articulation partnerships. Yes, students can work to earn degrees and credentials in a number of more traditional subjects, but at CCBC, they can also work on obtaining training in areas like casino dealing and management, unmanned aerial vehicles, and even fire and rescue training. The college also offers a wide breadth of career services -- free to all students and alumni -- designed to help then conduct a successful job search.
- Community College of Philadelphia (Philadelphia): You cannot create a list of some of Pennsylvania's community colleges without featuring at least one Philly-based institution. According to its website, CCP served nearly 40,000 credit and non-credit students in 2012, and featured a number of programs designed to help them succeed, no matter how chaotic their lives might be. Such programs included night and weekend classes, Regional Centers throughout the city and a plethora of online classes. CCP is a proud member of Achieving the Dream, which is a long-term national initiative to help more community college students succeed by either completing their associate degrees or transferring to four-year institutions.
- Luzerne County Community College (Nanticoke): Luzerne County Community College is larger than most of the colleges featured on our list: according to College Measures, it reported nearly 5,000 full-time enrollments in 2012. LCCC reports that when surveyed, 95 percent of its graduates who continued their educations rated their preparation with the school "good" to "excellent." Overall, students can enroll in nearly 100 occupational programs in a number of disciplines including cyber security, aviation, music recording technology, surgical technology, and many, many more.
- Montgomery County Community College (Blue Bell): Montgomery County Community College enriches its community in a number of ways -- many of which extend well beyond the traditional classroom walls. For instance, locals and students alike can visit the observatory located on the Central Campus in Blue Bell, make use of the nationally-accredited Children's Center, and attend shows and programs offered through its extensive arts program. Students can access career and counseling services. Really capable students can also participate with MCCC's Honors Program, which allows them to enroll in small, challenging classes, apply for full tuition scholarships, and receive special recognition at commencement and on their transcripts. Like many Pennsylvania community colleges, Montgomery maintains a number of transfer partnerships with four-year institutions nationwide.
- Northampton Community College (Bethlehem Township): Situated 90 miles away from New York City and just 60 miles from Philadelphia, Northampton Community College resides in a prime location. According to Morning Call, not only has the school been named the best workplace in Lehigh Valley in 2013, but two of the last three Pennsylvania professors of the year have come from the college. As of 2013, students can choose from nearly 100 transfer and career programs, and are able to work toward associate degrees, certificates and diplomas. The school offers a number of non-credit and community programs as well, such as professional development courses, personal enrichment classes and youth programs. NCC is also one of the few community colleges in the state to offer on-campus living.
- Pennsylvania Highlands Community College (Johnstown): Like many of the colleges featured on our list, College Measures reports that Highlands boasted one of the highest completion rates in the state in 2012 of all schools reporting data. And, also like many schools, the college offers articulation agreements with several four-year schools, helping to make transferring credits simpler. Highland's benefits may not end there, however: According to its website, the school is home to dozens of student cultural and academic clubs, including a motorcycle club and the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. In addition to offering associate degrees, diplomas and certificates that students can work toward in a number of disciplines, Highlands students can enroll in dozens of continuing education courses in fields like health care, education and information technology.
- Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology (Lancaster): Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, or Stevens College for short, is a small, historic, tree-lined campus serving fewer than 1,000 full-time students annually. It is also the only community college in Pennsylvania to be considered for the Aspen Institute's Award for Community College Excellence in 2011 and 2013 -- the only two years to date the award has been offered. According to College Measures, Stevens College's combined transfer and graduation rate and its salary-to-cost ratio ranked among the highest of all reporting Pennsylvania community colleges in 2012. One other feature that may help to set Stevens College apart from other programs: its residence halls, which, as of 2013, can provide on-campus living accommodations for up to 400 students.
- University of Pittsburgh in Titusville (Titusville): Do not let UPT's name full you: according to College Measures, this institution is a public two-year community college that just happens to be affiliated with the four-year University of Pittsburgh. College measure classifies UPT as a small school with fewer than 500 full-time enrollments in 2012, but its 52.6 percent 2012 combined transfer and graduation rate was the highest of all reporting Pennsylvania community colleges (Note: Three of Pennsylvania's 20 community colleges did not report). UPT offers associate degrees, certificates and diplomas in more than 100 majors and pre-professional tracks, and offers transfer programs for students pursuing bachelor's degrees. Because UPT is a University of Pittsburgh institution, full-time students (with rare exception) are expected to live on campus their freshman year.
Pennsylvania community colleges: Finding a solid fit
Most Pennsylvanians have access to a community college education, either on campus or online. That does not mean that the nearest school is necessarily the one well-suited for your needs. Just as with four-year schools, programs can vary tremendously from one two-year institution to the next. We recommend researching a handful of Pennsylvania community colleges to ensure you find the one that may suit your budget, goals and personal learning style.
“The Economic Benefits of Attaining an Associate Degree Before Transfer: Evidence from North Carolina,” Columbia.edu, July 2013, Clive Belfield. http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/media/k2/attachments/economic-benefits-associate-degree-before-transfer.pdf
“Baccalaureate Attainment: A National View of the Postsecondary Outcomes of Students Who Transfer from Two-Year to Four-Year Institutions,” nscresearchcenter.org, 6 August 2013. www.studentclearinghouse.info/signature/5/
“Is Starting College and Not Finishing Really That Bad?,” hamiltonproject.org, June 2013, Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney. http://www.hamiltonproject.org/papers/what_happens_to_students_who_fail_to_complete_a_college_degree_is_some/
"NCC professor honored by Carnegie Foundation," mcall.com, 18 November 2011, Daniel Patrick Sheehan. http://articles.mcall.com/2011-11-18/news/mc-ncc-professor-of-the-year-20111118_1_ncc-professor-monroe-campus-vasiliki-anastasakos
"NCC: A college of the community," mcall.com, 4 March 2013, Ann Wlazelek. http://www.mcall.com/business/topworkplaces/mc-ncc-top-workplaces-20130304,0,4041558.story
"Pennsylvania education," collegemeasures.org.http://www.collegemeasures.org/