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Carroll Community College ranked best in Maryland in survey: ‘This is what makes us different’

Carroll Community College officials are proud of how their institution has handled itself before and during the COVID-19 pandemic when it comes to giving its students a chance to succeed.

The Westminster-based school is now recognized on a national level for that effort, recently ranking No. 21 among 698 schools that were evaluated in a survey conducted by financial website WalletHub titled, “2020′s Best & Worst Community Colleges.” That placing put Carroll Community above all other Maryland community colleges.

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“To be able to maintain this high quality of education that we provide for students even in the midst of the pandemic, I think just speaks so highly to the dedication of the people who work at the college,” Carroll Community provost Rose Mince said. “Certainly the faculty, but really it takes everyone.”

The data used for the analysis was collected from sources including the National Center of Education Statistics and the U.S. Department of Education, according to a Carroll Community news release. The colleges that participated were analyzed using several factors across three dimensions, focusing on cost and financing, education outcomes, and career outcomes.

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The study noted that “students who earn their general-education credits at a community college before transferring to an in-state public four-year university can potentially save a lot of money.” For Carroll Community, that equates to $9,052, according to its news release.

“In all of our recruiting, this is a great way to kind of call out some of the things that we do really well,” said Kristie Crumley, associate provost, student affairs and marketing. “We always try to showcase what makes us different from other places, and it’s not just about the fact that we have the lowest tuition in the county or anything like that. But it’s also about the high quality that we are giving and that we are trying to always make sure that we are providing for students.”

In addition to affordability, which has become a challenge for some amid the coronavirus pandemic, the study analyzed outcomes for students, in terms of both education and career. Carroll scored at a high level along dimensions such as first-year retention rate, graduation rate, and student-faculty ratio, according to its news release.

The college had a little more than 3,100 credit students enrolled in the fall of 2019, according to numbers from Natalie Crespo, Carroll’s director of institutional research. The college’s smaller stature bodes well for class sizes and for more personalized learning, school officials say.

“The size of our school is really one of those benefits that we always try to call out,” Crumley said. “The fact that we can rise to the top here is pretty exciting.”

Carroll Community’s nursing program also received recent recognition. Its licensed practical nursing program earned the No. 2 spot on practicalnursing.org’s rankings for Maryland. The site said the school offers “an excellent practical nurse certificate program” and is “a learning-centered community, engaging students to prepare them for an ever-changing world as qualified, compassionate nurses.”

Nancy Perry, nursing program director and allied health division chair at the college, said the licensed practical nurse (LPN) program is a “completer” program for students enrolled in the registered nursing (RN) program. Most of the students who complete the LPN program find jobs in long-term health care, Perry said, and this summer the program included 15 students. That helped with the closer communication and personalized learning that the college prides itself on, Perry said.

Carroll Hospital is a usual landing spot for many of the RNs who earn degrees from Carroll Community, Perry said. Nurses can also pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) at the same time by taking advantage of partnership agreements between the college and four-year institutions.

“About 20% of our students are enrolled in a bachelor’s program the same time they’re taking nursing courses with us,” she said. “Typically they finish within 6 months to a year. It’s nice to get ... recognition that we are that high in the state.”

Mince said it’s important to note the WalletHub rankings include what was taking place on the campus before the pandemic-related school shutdown, as well as its current status, with hybrid learning.

Carroll Community is offering a variety of online instructional formats, including synchronous classes conducted live by faculty and asynchronous classes that students can access at any time. Hybrid courses and face-to-face instruction will be limited and focused on Allied Health programs, various skilled trades, classes that require hands-on use of equipment, those with a certifying body that requires face-to-face instruction, and a limited number of general education courses for students who opt for in-person instructions.

The college was able to fulfill every student’s request for technology, such as laptops or hotspots, Mince said, which is just one of the many ways the school maintains a high standard.

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“This is the Carroll way,” Mince said. “This is what makes us different.”

Funds awarded

Carroll Community College is one of 26 adult education providers set to receive state and federal funds handed out by the Maryland Department of Labor. The community college is one of 16 involved in the grant, and it will receive $187,567, according to a Sept. 17 news release from MDL.

These organizations are slated to receive a combined $16.8 million, according to the release, and will continue to expand access to adult education opportunities for Marylanders in the areas of adult basic and secondary education, English language acquisition, and civics education.

Carroll Community is also set to receive part of Gov. Larry Hogan’s announced $10 million set aside to help some of Maryland’s community colleges amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The school will get $344,003 from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund, according to a Sept. 22 news release from the state.

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