For the third time in a row, Butler County Community College has been ranked the top community college in the state.
The ranking comes from Schools.com , which used a 10-point scale in ranking the state’s 14 community colleges through factors including total cost, student-to-faculty ratio, and outgoing transfer rate.
“What is remarkable about this is that the bar has been set so high, and yet for a third consecutive ranking, we have achieved that No. 1 status,” BC3 President Dr. Nick Neupauer said. “It’s not just a single variable that resulted in this ranking. From a board of trustees’ perspective, it’s keeping that tuition low. It factors in our distance education program. And to have our students move along to graduation takes efforts from our outstanding faculty members.”
The third consecutive No. 1 ranking follows BC3 being recognized in January and for a second year in a row as having the most affordable tuition and the highest salary-to-cost ratio among more than 40 regional colleges and universities, according to U.S. Department of Education College Scoreboard data analyzed and published by the Pittsburgh Business Times.
“I believe that this ranking makes it clear that the faculty, administration and staff of the college are committed to providing students with the highest quality and most affordable education and training possible,” Joseph E. Kubit, chairman of BC3’s board of trustees, said in a statement. “This third ranking by Schools.com should serve to prospective students as another objective indicator of the high quality of this institution that they can and should consider when choosing a college.”
Butler County Commissioner Kim Geyer is a 1984 BC3 graduate and has served as a BC3 trustee since 2011.
“BC3 consistently rises to the top because of the stability of its leadership and collaborative efforts in the classroom,” Geyer said. “In a day and age in which most institutions are experiencing declining enrollments, and students nationwide are incurring higher student debt, it is refreshing to recognize that BC3 provides an alternative solution for a quality and affordable education that propels students toward future success.”
Danny Tran, Schools.com marketing director, said, “(The third No. 1 ranking) speaks a lot to the quality of education, cost, all the different factors that we looked at of how BC3 compares to the other community colleges in the state.”
BC3’s main campus is in Butler Township but the school has five satellite campuses in four counties outside of Butler: BC3 @ Armstrong in Ford City, Armstrong County; BC3 @ Brockway in Brockway, Jefferson County; BC3 @ Cranberry in Cranberry Township, Butler County; BC3 @ LindenPointe in Hermitage, Mercer County; and BC3 @ Lawrence Crossing, New Castle, Lawrence County.
This semester, nearly 30 percent of BC3’s students are enrolled at the school’s additional locations.
BC3’s most recent two classes of students (in 2017 and 2018) have been its largest this century averaging 581 students.
More than 290 BC3 students this spring are taking only distance education courses and are included in the 875 enrolled in at least one online class, according to the school.
Among them, Kelsey Scott, of Greenville, Mercer County, the mother of a 7-year-old daughter who this spring is taking financial accounting and income taxation courses online from BC3 toward her goal of becoming an accountant.
“Online courses help a lot,” Scott said. “I can still work and my daughter can still do her sports and all of her activities. When she goes to sleep, I can do all of my homework and all of my classes instead of going to an actual building and trying to fit everything in. That would be more difficult.”
BC3 offers more than 100 courses that are fully online, and nearly 30 hybrid – online and face-to-face – courses, according to Ann McCandless, BC3’s dean of educational technology. The school also offers five-week online Fast Tracks, held consecutively throughout the semester, and online certificates of achievement in business skills and human resource management specialist; online workplace certificates in Microsoft Office specialist and basic manufacturing; and an online certificate in management of applied technology.
BC3’s average net annual price of $4,727 was the lowest among 43 public and private institutions in western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and West Virginia, according to U.S. Department of Education College Scoreboard data published in January.
“I have no intention of carrying debt through life,” said Michael Booser, of Butler, a computer science major who attends BC3’s main campus. “BC3’s affordability is appealing to me because I am able to radically reduce the cost of pursuing a bachelor’s degree.”
BC3’s salary-to-cost ratio – a measurement of graduates’ salaries 10 years after commencement for every dollar a student pays to attend the institution – was the highest at 7.45, according to U.S. Department of Education College Scoreboard data published in January. BC3 in 2017 topped 41 other regional institutions in average net annual price and salary-to-cost ratio.
Additionally, the BC3 Education Foundation awards more than $200,000 in scholarships annually, according to the school.
Pennsylvania college students owe an average of $36,193 in student-loan debt, the highest in the nation, LendEdu reported Aug. 8.
“Going to BC3 has been the best financial decision I have made for myself,” said Jadon Carlson, of Dayton, Armstrong County, who attends BC3 @ Armstrong and BC3’s main campus and will graduate in May with a degree in criminology. “Graduating debt-free means I can cut my tuition costs in half when I transfer. That makes me so excited.”
Credits from BC3, which offers 56 two-year career and transfer programs, transfer to public, private and online institutions. Approximately 70 percent of BC3’s students are enrolled in programs that can be transferred to four-year schools, according to school officials.
Brooke Reitz, of Brockway, is an early childhood education (Pre K-4) major who expects to graduate from BC3 @ Brockway in May debt-free and transfer to Clarion University of Pennsylvania.
“I saved a ton of money going to BC3,” Reitz said. “Since I am earning my associate degree, I should enter Clarion as a junior, meaning that my credits will transfer and for a much lower cost.”
BC3’s 500 outgoing transfer agreements are the third-most among the 14 institutions within the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, according to the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Center.
BC3’s spring open houses are scheduled for March 27 at BC3 @ LindenPointe; April 3 at BC3’s main campus; April 11 at BC3 @ Cranberry; April 17 at BC3 @ Lawrence Crossing; April 22 at BC3 @ Brockway; and May 1 at BC3 @ Armstrong.
Following BC3 in Schools.com’s Top Five were Pennsylvania Highlands Community College, Johnstown; Delaware County Community College, Media; Lehigh Carbon Community College, Schnecksville; and the Community College of Philadelphia. Other institutions within the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges are Bucks County Community College, Newtown; the Community College of Allegheny County, Pittsburgh; the Community College of Beaver County, Monaca; Harrisburg Area Community College; Luzerne County Community College, Nanticoke; Montgomery County Community College, Blue Bell; Northampton County Community College, Bethlehem; Reading Area Community College; and Westmoreland County Community College, Youngwood.
BC3 President Dr. Neupauer has led the school for the past 12 years, which exceeds that of any current chief executive officer among Pennsylvania’s community colleges, its 14 State System of Higher Education institutions and its four state-related schools – Lincoln, Penn State and Temple universities, and the University of Pittsburgh.
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