Hesston College ranked No. 2 two-year college in U.S.
August 25, 2010
by Rachel Schlegel
Washington Monthly magazine released its national College Guide and Rankings Aug. 23. Hesston College is ranked second on the list of two-year colleges in terms of student success.
“We’re grateful for this recognition,” said President Howard Keim. “This is a tribute to the fine work our faculty and staff do day in and day out to create a positive learning experience for our students.”
The rankings for the two-year college category are compiled from graduation rates published by the Department of Education and results from the Community College Survey of Student Engagement or CCSSE. The survey evaluates the way two-year colleges encourage good student learning habits, which have been shown to be directly relational with high levels of learning and student success.
The benchmarks that the CCSSE measures are active and collaborative learning, student effort, academic challenge, student-faculty interaction and support for learners. Hesston College ranked above the 95th percentile in four of the five areas. All benchmarks increased from the last time the survey was conducted. Hesston conducts the CCSSE survey every third year, the most recent being 2009. 663 of about 1000 two-year institutions with student populations as large as 15,000 participated in the 2009 CCSSE. Hesston’s population is about 450 students.
Washington Monthly notes that the colleges listed in the rankings put an emphasis on teaching before research, unlike many four-year institutions, and ultimately are more successful in helping students earn degrees. Smaller class sizes and lower student to teacher ratios mean students at two-year colleges often receive more timely feedback from professors, are able to get assistance more readily, work collaboratively with other students and participate in class discussions. These factors have shown that students at two-year institutions often outperform their peers at four-year research institutions.
In response to the ranking, faculty members Nelson Kilmer and Bonnie Sowers, who analyze and interpret Hesston College’s survey data, released the following statement. “The survey results were a tremendous affirmation that the Hesston College academic environment is doing exactly what we intend it to do: challenging students while ensuring that the learning comes alive by engaging students with each subject they are studying, encouraging students through positive relationships with faculty, and offering active and effective academic support.”
The official rankings are based on graduation rates for all two-year institutions along with the CCSSE survey data. CCSSE officials indicate their measurement tool is designed for benchmarking and not for ranking. However, the Hesston College campus sees the recognition as a testament to the excellent work faculty and staff do to create learning opportunities that lead to student success.
Hesston College’s Vice President of Academics Sandra Zerger is excited that the effort to raise the survey results is paying off in a tangible way.
“Assessment isn’t viewed as a dirty word here,” Zerger said. “We conduct these surveys to highlight the areas that we are doing well in and to see where we need to make improvements. Then we find ways to improve in those areas.”
Zerger has consciously worked with the faculty to get away from the “sage on the stage” method of classroom teaching, focusing instead on collaborative and hands-on learning among students.
“Students learn more when they are able to process the information with each other, whether it is through collaborative projects or classroom discussion,” said Zerger.
The full Washington Monthly article and rankings can be found online.
Located 30 miles North of Wichita, Hesston College is the two-year liberal arts college of Mennonite Church USA.