Ranking and Assessment


Rankings allow prospective students to research potential community colleges. By having a quantitative measure, it is easier for students to gain an understanding of overall performance and quality. In this section, you will find organizations that create ranking systems as well as their methods for doing so.

  • Washington Monthly – One of the most prominent ranking institutions in community college rankings, Washington Monthly provides its top 100 schools here. Scores are derived using CCSSE data.
  • A Note on Methodology – Released by Washington Monthly, this article explains the means by which ranks are calculated. The categories taken into account for these rankings include: active and collaborative learning (29%), student effort (12%), academic challenge (19%), student-faculty interaction (14%), and support for learners (12%), graduation rates (15%).
  • An example of higher education ranking methodology can be found here. In this case, scores given are based on directly relative calculations.
  • The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program rewards top performing community colleges that show substantial improvement over time. The ratings are also based on student success and excellence.
  • Community College Week Top 100 – Community College Week offers a large collection of awarded associate degrees across a number of disciplines. One-year and two-year certificates are also shown for different areas of study.
  • The Community College Review provides a great deal of information for community colleges nationwide including state specific data. Graphs and tables of relevant statistics are easily accessible.
  • Top US Community Colleges Awarded for Digital Technology – Converge Magazine ranks community colleges based on the inclusion of digital technology. Those included are national leaders in using technology to improve education.
  • Digital Community Colleges Survey – The Center for Digital Education, working with the American Association of Community Colleges compiled this list of small, medium, and large community colleges that are digitally inclusive. Inviting over 1000 community colleges to participate, this study includes institutions from all over the country.
  • The Other College Rankings –Joshua Green reports on the collaboration between Washington Monthly and Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in analyzing data surrounding community service. They find that the nation’s most prestigious institutions fail to serve their communities, while others succeed.

Ranking Controversy

Ranking of any sort is prone to controversy.  There are some theoretical problems that challenge the practice of ranking. Some argue that there are many issues inherent in trying to rank the “best” colleges. Ranking may not account for more complex factors involved in creating an educational experience.

  • Evaluating Community College Rankings explores some of the problems with attempting to rank community colleges based on certain data. Many ranking systems fail to capture complex components of education that would be lost through such attempts.
  • Simplistic rankings aren’t helpful in accurately conveying the quality of an education at any given institution. Institutions of higher learning are more complex than ranking systems can represent.
  • The Education Conservancy is an anti-ranking organization that actively boycotts systems such as US News and World Report’s college ranking. Working to improve the college admissions process, the Education Conservancy is interested in advancing the potential for education.
  • Community College Rankings are Inadequate – USA Today argues against the Aspen Institute’s attempt to rank community college programs. Critics claim that the ranking is unfair and utilizes data systems that are not complex enough to appropriately handle the task at hand.
  • There are a number of avenues for manipulation in ranking systems. Organizations such as US News may be especially prone to manipulation as it operates primarily for a profit.
  • Lloyd Thacker asks, Is the College Admission Process Too Obsessed With Rankings? In this article, he presents the background behind the current obsession and goes on to provide solutions for the problem.
  • Currently, US News is partnered with Bisk, which is in the business of online education. Many feel that this partnership may result in lead generation and dubious practices pertaining to ranking.
  • The New England Journal of Higher Education offers a number of articles that contribute to and address the state of higher education. One of the pieces included in this edition titled “Pulling Rank” looks at problems of ranksteering.
  • A joint interview between prominent anti-rankist Lloyd Thacker and US News and World Report’s Brian Kelly on the pros and cons of rankings.  Thacker argues that such ranking encourages competition and not education, while Kelly maintains that colleges are responsible for inflating the rankings themselves.
  • NCHEMS Information Center – The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems Information Center works to make data meaningful. The center is aimed at improving policy through necessary information.

Assessment and Classification

In addition to ranking, institutional classifications of other sorts are important to analysis and assessment. This section offers resources that provide information on efforts to measure performance. Reports that discuss ways of improving performance are also included.