There are lots of sources of information for students searching for the “best community colleges in the country.” A student can even find several information sources about the best community colleges in California, Texas, Florida, or New York. But, coming up with an authoritative list of the best community colleges for transferring credits is much harder to find.
This is unfortunate because community colleges across America helped over 1.3 million of their students save $20 billion dollars in tuition on their way to a bachelor's degree last year. The key is selecting a community college that has a proven track record of helping its students to transfer all of their credits when they continue their education at a four-year college or university.
So, The Advocate of Affordable College set out to identify the most authoritative sources of information for students searching for the best community colleges for transferring credits. Here’s what we found:
When we Googled “best community colleges for transferring credits,” the top listing was “The 50 Best Community Colleges in the United States,” an undated post without a byline on TheBestSchools.org blog. Now, TheBestSchools.org says it’s “an independent organization” and claims that it makes every effort “to avoid bias and conflicts of interest.” But, it also appears to be a marketing website that steers prospective students to online colleges. So, students using their list need to ask the question, “Would you trust the information presented in this article?”
On the other hand, this post does appear to provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic. For example, TheBestSchools.org selected the top community colleges based on a comparison of several studies and ratings of community colleges as well as their own review of notable community colleges. To come up with a list of the top community colleges, TheBestSchools.org weighed several factors, including:
- Sustained Achievement Outcomes: Ongoing success in student perseverance and completion of Associate Degrees and/or transfer to four-year colleges
- Learning Outcomes: Values and practices that actively engage students and require them to stretch academically; explore learning freely; pursue a variety of educational experiences and areas of study.
- Deployment Outcomes: Strong rates of employment, salaries and advancement for graduates matched with workplace skill needs
- Equitable Outcomes: Policies and practices that result in student diversity and success among low-income students and underrepresented racial/ethnic groups (African American, Hispanic/Latino and Native American)
- Cost-to-Value Outcomes: Reasonable tuition costs, access to financial aid resources and an emphasis on minimizing post-school debt.
So, we had to dig deeper to discover if news sites or any of the community colleges that appeared on this list took their rankings seriously. And we found that several did.
An undated article by Kristie Sweet of Demand Media, entitled, “Top Rated Community Colleges in America,” appears in the Education section of SeattlePI.com. It looks at four community colleges that appeared in a list published by The Aspen Institute, an academic study organization, in 2013. These four community colleges – Santa Barbara City College in California, Walla Walla Community College in Washington State, Kingsborough Community College in New York, and Lake Area Technical Institute in South Dakota – also ranked high on the list of the 50 best community colleges from TheBestSchools.org.
In June 2013, Southeast Community College (SCC) in Lincoln, NE, distributed a press release that announced that “SCC ranked 12th-best community college in U.S. by TheBestSchools.org.” In the press release, David Redfearn, a marketing analyst for the site, said rankings and studies by the Aspen Institute, Washington Monthly, CNNMoney, and Community College Week were used to compile the list of 50 best community colleges by TheBestSchools.org.
In October 2013, Brazosport College (BC) in Lake Jackson, TX, distributed a press release that said, “BC ranked among nation’s top community colleges.” And in December 2013, Coconino Community College (CCC) in Flagstaff, AZ, distributed a press release that said, “CCC ranked in top 50 community colleges in U.S.” Other community colleges also distributed press releases about their rankings.
So, what useful information can we glean from our analysis of this information source?
First, if you use Google to search for “best community colleges for transferring credits,” the #1 result comes from a source that is three years old. So, the rankings by TheBestSchools.org may be out of date.
Second, all the unnamed author of the article in TheBestSchools.org did was compile the rankings and studies by the Aspen Institute, Washington Monthly, CNNMoney, and Community College Week. So, if I were looking for a more up-to-date source of information, these are the places where I’d start.
It other words, the #1 result in Google is a mixed bag.
- The post appears to be written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, but upon closer inspection this post doesn’t really contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond the obvious.
- The topic seems to be driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, but the site isn’t really a recognized authority on this topic.
- The post seems to be edited well, but the post doesn’t provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis.
- The page appears to provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results, but this is not the sort of page that you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend.
To summarize, coming up with an authoritative list of the best community colleges for transferring credits is much harder to find than doing a quick search on Google. So, The Advocate of Affordable College will continue looking for the most authoritative sources of information on this topic.
(Greg Jarboe is the editor of The Advocate of Affordable College blog and the former editor of the Knowledge Transfer blog. He’s also the president and co-founder of SEO-PR, an instructor at the Rutgers Business School, the content marketing faculty chair at Market Motive, as well as the author of YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day.)