WalletHub ranks PDCCC highly

Published 10:41 pm Thursday, September 10, 2015

Paul D. Camp Community College came out a winner on a new ranking of the nation’s community colleges by website WalletHub.

The local college was ranked 29th out of nearly 700 community colleges from across the United States. The survey relied on 17 metrics in the areas of cost, classroom experience, educational outcomes and career outcomes.

“From my point of view, how we appear to be at the top of the ranking is mainly because of our size,” said Dr. Bill Aiken, interim president of Paul D. Camp Community College. “It seems to me the smaller schools seem to have an advantage over the larger schools.”

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Aiken said many of the survey’s metrics are things that inevitably give an advantage to smaller schools, such as the student-faculty ratio and the amount of interaction between students and their instructors.

“I think it’s more of the personal touch we’re able to provide, versus that of a much larger school,” Aiken said.

He also mentioned the college’s new “early alert system” that aims to get help for struggling students early in the process.

“If a student is headed towards difficulty in a particular class, we can begin to seek help for that student before the problem gets so severe it can’t be corrected,” Aiken said.

College facilities, especially the computer lab, also got high rankings.

Of the 17 metrics used in WalletHub’s survey, five were from the Community College Survey of Student Engagement, conducted by the University of Texas at Austin, which surveys community college students about their experiences.

“When students say positive things about their experience, that probably speaks stronger than any other thing,” Aiken said.

Dr. Tara Atkins-Brady, vice president of academic and student development for Paul D. Camp, said other areas that appeared strong in the WalletHub survey and the CCSSE data were student support and student engagement.

The college has a student support services program that offers tutoring and assigns “success coaches” to at-risk students to help them navigate the college experience, she said.

Aiken said student retention and completion remains a challenge for Paul D. Camp, as it is at many community colleges.

The college recently announced an 11.5-percent increase in its student headcount, a boost for the school following a March announcement that the previous president was being replaced ahead of his announced retirement due in part to declining enrollment and the financial problems driven by it.

“Now what we want to do is make sure we’re able to keep those students enrolled until they complete their program,” Aiken said.

Tidewater Community College, which has campuses in several other Hampton Roads cities, ranked 418th in the WalletHub survey.

Aside from the CCSSE data, other sources used by WalletHub were the National Center for Education Statistics, the Council for Community and Economic Research and the American Institutes for Research and Optimity Advisors.

For its part, the Center for Community College Student Engagement, which conducts the CCSSE study, opposes the use of its data in ranking colleges and said WalletHub’s approach was misleading, because it mislabeled and misused data from the CCSSE website and combined it with other data, likely from different timeframes. It also noted the WalletHub ranking left out about a third of the community colleges in the country due to missing data.