Two Central Coast community colleges rank high

April 27, 2011


Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara City College are named today as two of the best community colleges in the nation, according to the non-profit Aspen Institute.

The schools are now eligible to compete for part of a $1 million dollar fund, the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence where the winners will be selected in December.

The Aspen Institute, a humanistic studies organization, sought out to find the top 10 percent of the nearly 1,200 community colleges in America and released its list today of the 120 best schools, all two-year institutions.

The two Central Coast campuses join three other California institutions on the list including Coastline Community College in Fountain Valley, San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, and Mt. San Antonia College in Walnut. The remaining 115 colleges recognized in the ranking are located in 31 other states.

The Aspen Institute says it conducted a comprehensive review of available data from nearly 1,200 U.S. community colleges. It analyzed a series of factors including graduation and retention rates, and the total number of degrees and certificates awarded relative to total enrollment, taking into account part and full-time students.

In selecting the schools, the institute measured performance and improvement of students overall and took a closer look at how minorities performed at each college.

Citing the fact that more than six-million people enroll in America’s community colleges each year, the Aspen Institute says that an “unprecedented” number of students are choosing those programs over four-year universities where the costs are becoming increasingly out of reach for families.

“We cannot be satisfied merely with the fact that students are admitted to college. We must set the bar for community colleges much higher,” said Aspen Institute College Excellence Program Executive Director Josh Wyner in a statement today.

“To ensure student success and fuel economic growth for communities and the nation, community colleges must—now more than ever—make a commitment to excellence and stronger student outcomes,” he continued.

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The community colleges of California and the nation are rarely recognized for the outstanding role each plays in higher education. Lost in competition with the admirable public and private four-year institutions, community colleges often miss out on the accolades they deserve for educating more than six million students nationwide.

Among the top 120 is five of our own California Community Colleges. It is exciting to see so many of California’s community colleges being considered for this notable award. All five colleges deserve this honor, as they make a profound statement about the value and potential for community colleges. The nomination will only continue to motivate these colleges as they seek to earn a share of the one million dollar prize.

The timing for the nominations couldn’t be better, as support for community college plummets and the ability to maintain our institutions is threatened. This award provides recognition for the colleges in our system, while continues to promote excellence. It will shed light on the indispensable value of the community college system that serves our state and nation.

AHC has always been the better run college. If you want to graduate in two years, go to AHC. If you just want to mess around for 3 or 4 years and you’re not interested in graduating, go to Cuesta.

In the 80’s as a older student (20’s) I took classes at both AHC & Questa. Hands down, AHC was a far superior leaning experience. My younger brother started at Questa and he did not like it either. I suggested he try a semester at AHC and he never went back to Questa, transfered to CSUMB and graduated with class #1.

At Questa I felt I was back in high school, not learning anything, just putting in the time to move forward with the masses. At AHC, the instructors engaged us, motivated us and provided hands on learning experiences. For the first time as a student, I actually looked forward to going to school to learn something.

Congratulations to SBCC and Alan Hancock CC! I wonder how Cuesta fared in the study.