What the community college ranking means for Minnesota

I've been giving some ink to Saint Paul College and its topping of Washington Monthly's list of Best Community Colleges in America.

But in the haze of the endless summer rankings season, I neglected to mention the other Minnesota two-year stars on the list.

With rankings season over, I realize now that they deserve more attention. After all, the community college list stands apart from the conventional frenzy over four-year institutions.

Dane Smith of the St. Paul progressive research organization Growth & Justice took care of all that in a piece he wrote for Finance & Commerce.

The high-performers he praises:

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  • Itasca Community College (#5)

  • Leech Lake Tribal College (#7)

  • Alexandria Technical College (#8)

  • Minnesota West Community and Technical College (#30)

  • Minnesota State Community and Technical College (#37)

  • Vermilion Community College (#43)

Smith also stresses the unusual number of Minnesota institutions, calculating that with less than 2 percent of the nation’s population, the state has 14 percent of the best community colleges.

Smith, himself the product of a two-year college, says:

Two-year colleges clearly are underrated and a tremendous value, but people are figuring it out. Most of these colleges in Minnesota are bulging at the seams, with healthy enrollment growth caused in part by the recession; the schools themselves are doing a better job of getting students through to completion.

You may remember that Smith's Growth & Justice recently got together with the Minnesota Minority Education Partnership in calling on the gubernatorial candidates to make higher education a priority issue.