Website’s survey pans N.C. community colleges based on sketchy metrics

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North Carolina is known for having an outstanding community college system, so a national personal finance website’s report card was surprising. WalletHub ranked the state’s colleges very low in a recent survey that was based on three factors: cost and financing, education outcomes, and career outcomes. Of 715 U.S. community colleges evaluated, Pamlico Community College near New Bern was the only North Carolina school to break the top 250. Central Piedmont Community College, the largest community college in the state based on enrollment, ranked No. 653.

North Carolina ranked No. 33 overall in a comparison of states with the best community colleges.

Community college system spokesman Brian Long downplayed the survey results.“Rankings are like opinions: Everyone’s got one,” he says. “A variety of organizations do them, and each one has different criteria. One of the things [WalletHub] put a lot of weight on was whether the state had free tuition,” which North Carolina doesn’t offer.

Other recent rankings tell a different story: A recent list of “The Best Community Colleges in America” by financial technology company SmartAsset found that North Carolina was home to six of the 10 top-ranked U.S. community colleges. Many businesses that have expanded in North Carolina praise the system’s worker-training programs.

“It just goes to show you rankings can run the gamut,” Long says.

North Carolina has the third-largest community college system with 58 institutions and more than 780,000 students. WalletHub, which is owned by Washington D.C.-based Evolution Finance, regularly publishes national surveys on myriad topics.

Here’s how other N.C. community colleges fared on the list:

5 highest-ranked N.C. schools

  • Pamlico Community College: 127
  • Stanly Community College: 259
  • Coastal Carolina Community College: 260
  • Montgomery Community College: 274
  • Piedmont Community College: 286

5 lowest-ranked N.C. schools

  • Martin Community College: 675
  • Lenoir Community College: 681
  • Robeson Community College: 699
  • Roanoke-Chowan Community College: 707
  • Bladen Community College: 711
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