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Lawson State Named to Nation’s Top 50 Community Colleges


3060 Wilson Road
Birmingham, AL 35221

Contact: Geri Albright
Director of Public Relations
(205) 929-6315
(205) 370-8201

Lawson State Named to Nation’s Top 50 Community Colleges

BIRMINGHAM, AL  (August 26, 2010) – Lawson State Community College has been ranked by Washington Monthly as one of “America’s 50 Best Community Colleges.”  Lawson State ranked number 39 out of more than 600 nationwide on the 2010 Community College Rankings list.

“We are very proud to have made the list. What makes this even more significant is that the results were based largely on student engagement and student experiences at the Colleges," said Dr. Perry W. Ward, president of Lawson State Community College.  "It becomes our goal and responsibility everyday to give our students the very best in order to advance them to the next stage in life."

What distinguishes the top 50 from among the rest?  Kevin Carey in writing for the Monthly noted that at the best community colleges, teaching comes first.  “While all the schools on it (the list) are inexpensive, have open admissions, and are largely unknown outside their local communities, they stand out in teaching and helping students earn degrees.  When it comes to quality of instruction, they outperform not only their two-year peers, but many elite four-year research universities as well,” he said.

When comparing two-year college resources to those of four-year colleges, the inequity is quite obvious.  Resources for community colleges pale in comparison, thereby creating an immediate challenge to be able to provide the same level of parity for two-year students with fewer means.  As per Carey, “Community colleges have the toughest job in higher education, teaching academically and financially with a fraction of the resources given to four-year institutions.”

To develop its rankings, The Monthly coupled and updated survey information from the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) with data from the U. S. Department of Education.

CCSSE, a non-profit organization established in 2001 at the University of Texas at Austin, questions students about institutional practices and student behaviors that tie directly into student learning and retention rates.   It furthermore provides information about effective educational practices in community college and assists institutions and others in using that information to promote improvements in student learning, persistence and attainment.

According to Carey, “CCSSE has surveyed hundreds of thousands of students at over two-thirds of all community college in America about practices including the number of books and papers assigned the frequency of group assignments, the amount of student interaction with faculty, hours spent preparing for class, and the quality of support services.”

CCSSE data show that Lawson State scored above 50 percent in the five measures and methodology categories and scored better that 55 percent in at least four.  Categories and Lawson State scores were: Active and Collaborative Learning (59.1 percent), Student Effort (54 percent), Academic Challenge (58.1 percent), Student Faculty Interaction (56.3 percent) and Support for Learning (57.6 percent).  The four-year graduation rate for Lawson State students was 24 percent.

Most notably, Lawson State students surveyed at 58.1 percent for Academic Challenges.   This shows that Lawson placed in the top 10 out of the 50 community colleges ranked.  Carey said that the best community colleges have found that when you set high expectations, students will live up to them – even when those students face barriers to graduation.  “Student engagements ranks as one of our priorities at the college,” said Dr. Bruce Crawford, Vice President for Instructional Services.  “We have found that engaging students in every aspect and holding them accountable, in the classroom and beyond, is a formula for success.”   

Lawson State Community College is a comprehensive community college which was established in 1949.  The college seeks to provide accessible, quality educational opportunities, promote economic growth, and enhance the quality of life for students.  The college is dedicated to providing affordable and accessible lifelong learning opportunities in order to prepare students for employment and career advancement, or to transfer to senior institutions. 

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