Penn College’s Growing Programs Climb in National Rankings

Pennsylvania College of Technology is ranked in the top 50 associate-degree-producing colleges in the nation and is in the top 20 for several areas of study– including three top-five rankings– in a recent survey conducted by a national publication covering community, technical and junior colleges.

Community College Week annually reports the nation’s Top 100 associate degree, one-year certificate and two-year certificate producers. This year, Penn College tied for the 50th slot with Edison Community College in Florida, having 982 associate-degree and certificate graduates in 2005-06. Community College Week released the list in its June 18 issue.

Among its top-five finishes, Penn College ranked third in the nation for the number of graduates earning associate degrees and certificates in “parks, recreation and leisure activities,” and “precision production,” and fifth in the nation for associate degrees and certificates in “engineering-related technologies/technicians.” The publication uses statistics reported to the U.S. Department of Education, categorizing degree offerings using the same classifications.

The “parks, recreation and leisure activities” category includes the college’s physical fitness specialist associate degree, which prepares its graduates to become leaders in the business aspect of the physical-fitness industry. It marks a jump for the growing program from a No. 29 ranking on the 2006 list.

“It is an honor to be in this ranking and is indicative of the program’s strength and dedication to academics, and to the quality of the equipment obtained that the students train on,” said Ron E. Kodish, assistant professor and department head of fitness and lifetime sports at Penn College.

The college’s other No. 3 ranking, in “precision production” programs, includes associate degrees in welding technology and toolmaking technology, as well as two-year certificates in welding and machinist general and one-year applied technical studies certificates in welding and machining. This is a climb from the college’s No. 5 ranking on last year’s list.

“The rankings reflect the strong relationship established between our programs, faculty and industry,” said Lawrence J. Fryda, dean of the School of Industrial and Engineering Technologies, which houses many of the majors included in both the precision production and engineering-related technologies categories. “Industries help fine-tune the directions for the programs and also to deliver the message to the public that these fields represent very successful career paths for young people to pursue.”

Increased graduates also yielded a climb in the ranks for the college’s “engineering-related technologies/technicians” majors, from No. 6 in 2006 to No. 5 in 2007. The college awarded 306 associate degrees and certificates in these majors during the survey period, and deans from the schools of Construction and Design Technologies and Transportation Technology, which offer several of the college’s engineering-related associate-degree majors, echoed the sentiment that the rankings have been achieved in large part because prospective students are getting the word about the value of a technical education and of the quality programs found at Penn College.

“I think the rankings reflect the importance of the need for high-quality graduates with technical skills in key businesses and industries,” said Tom F. Gregory, dean of construction and design technologies. “Our enrollments in the School of Construction and Design Technologies have grown about 50 percent since 2000, and the number of businesses coming to or calling the college has grown proportionately, as well. Employers are hiring our graduates and liking the candidates they find here. Students and parents are getting the word that technical careers can be exciting, challenging, and lucrative, with opportunities across many career areas.”

The School of Construction and Design Technologies hosts such engineering-related technology associate degrees as architectural technology; building construction technology; electromechanical maintenance technology; and heating, ventilation and air conditioning technology.

The engineering-related technologies category also includes associate degrees in automotive technology and a two-year certificate in automotive service technician, both offered by the college’s School of Transportation Technology.

“We have experienced a tremendous interest in our automotive majors, to the degree that prospective students need to apply a year early for admission,” said Colin W. Williamson, dean of the School of Transportation Technology at Penn College. “Additionally, we have experienced a 100-percent placement for the reporting graduates for the last five years. The automotive majors are also popular in the Northeast region, as over one-third of our students are from out of state. The success of our graduates has been our sole marketing tool, as they tell others of their academic experience.”

Other offerings included in the category, most hosted by the School of Industrial and Engineering Technologies, include associate degrees in computer-aided drafting technology, automated manufacturing technology, civil engineering technology, five offerings in electronics and computer engineering technology, plastics and polymer technology, and surveying technology.

The college also earned top-20 rankings in the “natural resources and conservation” and “communication, journalism and related programs” study categories.

The college is ranked No. 11 in “natural resources and conservation” based on its 28 forest technology graduates during the survey year.

“Our forest technology program prepares students for a wide range of employment opportunities within the lumber and logging industry, as well as parks and recreation, consulting services and equipment sales,” said Mary A. Sullivan, assistant dean of the college’s School of Natural Resources, which houses the program. “To secure a rating such as this indicates that our exceptional facilities, experienced faculty and technologically relevant curriculum is delivering a high-quality education to our students.”

The School of Integrated Studies awarded 26 associate degrees in mass media communications and its predecessor majors during the survey year, earning a No. 19 ranking in “communication, journalism and related programs.”

The ranking indicates another increase in graduates and a jump in the rankings, from 29 on last year’s list.

“One of the reasons for the success of our mass media program is that students get real-world experience, not only with the equipment they use but with their actual projects, as well,” said Nick Vitterite, dean of the School of Integrated Studies. “For example, various nonprofit agencies within the area have contracted with students in one mass media class to create and develop public-service announcements that have been broadcast on Comcast. The small student teams met with representatives of the agencies to plan, write, shoot and edit, all on their own but with faculty supervision throughout the process. It is this kind of experience that sets us apart.”

The authors of the Community College Week article, Victor M.H. Borden and Pamela C. Brown, noted the importance of associate degrees and certificates to those who attain them.

“It is likely that many of the 1.4 million individuals who received an associate degree or a one- or two-year certificate in 2005-06 have taken new jobs or received raises or promotions as a result of their achievement,” they wrote.

For more information about the academic programs offered at Penn College, call (800) 367-9222 or visit online .

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