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Higher Costs Put Pa. Community Colleges Near Bottom of Rankings

NCC Community College

Of the 13 Pennsylvania community colleges included in a new ranking of 698 institutions, the best placement the Keystone State managed was Bucks County Community College’s 438th place finish.

Est. Read Time: 3 mins

(The Center Square) – A new ranking of community colleges and community college systems across the country doesn’t have much in the way of good news for Pennsylvania.

Of the 13 Pennsylvania community colleges included in a new ranking of 698 institutions, the best placement the Keystone State managed was Bucks County Community College’s 438th place finish. The other 12 Pennsylvania schools ranged from 532nd to 669th, with Northampton Community College ranked in 620th place overall and Community College of Allegheny County bringing up the rear.

NCC Community College

Students walk to class on the main campus of Northampton Community College in Bethlehem Township in October 2019.

The rankings were compiled by financial website WalletHub using a set of 18 metrics to compile grades based on quality and affordability.

Cost was a massive weight on the Pennsylvania schools in WalletHub’s rankings. In that subcategory, none of the state’s schools did better than 659th. When it comes to the other two groups, for instance, Bucks County did much better, with a 324th place ranking in educational outcomes and 35th in the nation in career outcomes.

Northampton Community College ranked 486th in Education Outcomes and 257th in Career Outcomes.

Lehigh Carbon Community College (LCCC) was not among the 13 Pennsylvania community colleges that were ranked.

For the state rankings, WalletHub only looked at the 41 states that have at least two community colleges. Out of that group, Pennsylvania as a whole was ranked 38th, ahead of only Alabama, Mississippi and last-place Ohio.

WalletHub spoke to Lindsay Page, an associate professor of research methodology at the University of Pittsburgh. Page said community colleges are essential for providing a trained workforce that increasingly requires a number of technical skills.

“[Community colleges should have] programs that are tightly integrated with the needs of the local labor market and local industries; coupled with local industries to orchestrate on-the-job internship experiences for students [and] provide career counseling and job placement supports,” Page wrote.

Page also suggested that the federal government should step in and offer relief to beleaguered higher education institutions that may find it difficult to weather the COVID-19 crisis.

“Will more students return to higher education right now because of the downturn in the economy/labor market? Or, will potential and current students hold off because they prefer to wait until fully in-person education is possible,” she wrote. “Because of this uncertainty in enrollment, it will be hard for colleges to plan and project budgets.”

Last week, TribLive reported that enrollment was down about 18 percent at two schools, Allegheny and Westmoreland community colleges. Officials were hopeful that the number would rebound, given that past economic downturns have seen increases in enrollment.

Dave Lemery is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience. He was the editor of Suburban Life Media when its flagship newspaper was named best weekly in Illinois, and he has worked at papers in South Carolina, Indiana, Idaho and New York.

The Center Square

The Center Square fulfills a need for high-quality, publicly available statehouse and statewide news across the United States. Staffed by professional journalists who engage readers with essential news, data and analysis, The Center Square-Pennsylvania was previously known as Pennsylvania Watchdog and PA Independent.


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About the author

Josh Popichak

Josh Popichak is the owner, publisher and editor of Saucon Source. A Lehigh Valley native, he's covered local news since 2005 and previously worked for Berks-Mont News and AOL/Patch. Contact him at

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