WSCC receives top rank

MICHAEL KELLY The Marietta Times Washington State Community College was recently ranked first among 22 colleges in Ohio in a report that compared the colleges in the areas of affordability, student success and career outcomes.

The data publication Wallethub last week released rankings of community colleges across the country, and Washington State Community College topped the list of 22 in Ohio.

Wallethub is a data-gathering list maker, creating rankings for everything from best cities to retire to worst states to be taxed in.

The community college analysis included 17 data points divided into three categories: cost and financing, educational outcomes and career outcomes. From a possible 100 points, WSCC had an aggregate score of 47.94. Wallethub harvested data from the National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. News, U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Community and Economic Research and College Measures.

The highest ranked college in the country was the Arkansas State University campus in Mountain Home, Ark., which received a score of 66.13. On a national scale, WSCC still finished in the top third, ranked 275. The college showed even better in the career outcomes category, finishing 134, an indication that its graduates are being pulled into the workforce with a high ratio of salary compared to the cost of education, a low student loan default rate and maintaining a competitive median salary after 10 years in the workforce.

College president Vicky Woods said the Wallethub study included many of the same measurements the college itself tracks.

“It’s an external validation of the great job we’re doing to help students achieve their educational and career goals,” she said Wednesday. “We’re always assessing student success, and we have similar metrics we use to measure it.”

Woods said the Wallethub data reflected closely the way WSCC monitors its performance.

“We’re always doing things to reduce the cost of college, to make it affordable,” she said. “As for educational outcomes, we have an entire strategic plan to advance student success, in terms of completion and graduation rates. We have a continuous improvement plan in place in all three of those areas.”

The aspect of comparing WSCC to other institutions across the country was helpful, Woods said, but the college’s involvement with the Aspen Institute, a nonprofit global leadership forum, helps it put its efforts in a national context.

“It’s an opportunity to evaluate WSCC against institutes across the U.S. in many categories,” she said. “We’re already implementing initiatives that work in other institutions. As we near our 50th anniversary, we want to position ourselves not just as a leader within the state but as a leader in the nation in terms of student success.”

The No. 1 ranking in Ohio was tempered somewhat by Ohio’s ranking in an earlier Wallethub study of best and worst states for community college, which placed Ohio at No. 39. Additionally, the study put WSCC at a moderate disadvantage by giving only half-weight to transfers to other institutions. One of the college’s strengths is institutional agreements with other higher learning organizations, such as Marietta College, that make moving from two-year to four-year institutions easier for WSCC students.

“When I look at weighting, transfers should have been weighted heavier,” Woods said. “Often, these studies are designed for four-year universities, but for us a critical piece is transfers. Many of our students transfer before completing their degree, so they’ve completed their goal with us.”

Woods said the college wasn’t contacted by Wallethub during the study.

“The first I learned about it was when I started getting notes of congratulations from my colleagues,” she said.

On Wednesday afternoon, students Kelsey Johnson and Crenson Rogers were sitting with some friends in the commons area on the ground floor of the main campus building.

Johnson, a junior from Athens, said she likes the social and academic atmosphere at WSCC.

“There are lots of great and friendly people here,” she said. “The professors are extremely helpful. They actually care about what you’re learning.

Rogers, a sophomore from Racine, said a friend of his enrolled at Ohio University and was taken aback by the size of the classes.

“It just sounded like chaos,” he said. “I like the small college atmosphere here. They care about you, you’re not just a number.”

The college, established in 1971, this year has an enrollment of about 2,100 students and offers more than 45 programs of study.

Wallethub data study, Washington State Community College

¯ National ranking: 275.

¯ Score: 47.94.

¯ Cost and finance rank: 514.

¯ Education outcomes rank: 256.

¯ Career outcomes rank: 134.

¯ State ranking in Ohio: 1

¯ Number of Ohio colleges ranked: 22

¯Rank of Ohio among state community college systems: 39

¯Number of colleges ranked: 715.