SMCC top ranked

Ramsey Sanders performs with the Southwest Mississippi Community College Redline dancers.

A college education is an investment for the future — and an expensive one at that. As costs rise, so does the importance of getting the best value.

Southwest Mississippi Community College recently strengthened its case significantly for student enrollment.

SMCC was recently recognized as the No. 1-ranked community college in Mississippi by Niche, an organization that ranks and analyzes institutions of education across the United States.

Niche also ranked SMCC the No. 16 community college in the country.

City University of New York-Stella and Charles Guttman Community College scored the best in the country.

Southwest Mississippi Community College President Dr. Steven Bishop expressed his pleasure at the recent ranking.

“I was very pleased to hear about it, of course,” Bishop said. “I was also thrilled to hear that we were ranked 16th in the country among community colleges.”

Bishop said that the ranking represents the effort and dedication put forward by employees and students across the campus.

“A lot of hard work by a lot of quality people on campus has paid off,” he said.

The distinction is especially impressive in Mississippi, which regularly tops nationwide rankings for its system of community colleges.

“I was grateful, especially knowing how good community colleges are in Mississippi,” Bishop said. “The Mississippi community college system has always ranked in the top three or four in the country.”

That honor speaks to the quality of education at Southwest, he said.

“We’re grateful for the recognition that our college has received from Niche.com,” Bishop said, “The number-one ranking in the state is a testament to our outstanding employees and to our very supportive board of trustees.”

The rankings are determined by a patchwork of factors including academic rigor, financial and student life data made available by the U.S. Department of Education, plus reviews from students and alumni.

The goal is to provide a ranking that is representative of the experience of the average student.

For students looking at taking courses at SMCC, such a ranking may embolden confidence. Dr. Bishop noted that the ranking supports Southwest’s institutional credibility.

“Students can look forward to quality instruction and trust that the courses they take will transfer,” Bishop said.

SMCC first-year student Ramsey Sanders is happy that she chose to attend the college and said that so far she has enjoyed her experience.

“I like it so much more than I thought I would,” Sanders said. “I thought that I would like it before, but it’s so much different than I expected.”

A big part of that difference is the feeling of community present at SMCC — “all of the new people that you get to meet and all of the opportunities that Southwest gives you,” she said.

An aspect that influenced her decision in selecting a college was the small class sizes that students expect at SMCC.

“It was close to home, but I had also heard that you get basic skills courses and smaller classroom environments instead of big university classrooms,” she noted. “Teachers are very good at helping students individually.”

She has especially enjoyed attending sports events and has become involved with the Baptist Student Union.

The Niche ranking is important for two reasons. First, it speaks to the hard work of staff and students at SMCC and to the dedication of the benefactors willing to support the college. Second, Niche is widely used by students who are anticipating applying for college to gain an understanding for what life might look like on a given campus.

Positive reviews work as a highly effective recruiting tool. Enrollment is what keeps colleges alive and recruiting is a major aspect of that. This ranking serves as a testament to those ideas.

“It also shows that we are able to recruit and retain outstanding students from our area as well as from all over Mississippi and from other states,” Dr. Bishop said.

SMCC employs an open-enrollment policy, meaning that a student can attend as long as they can pay the tuition.

According to Niche, average tuition is $5,079 per year after financial aid and the college has 1,565 students enrolled full-time. 94% of students receive some sort of financial aid. The most commonly-pursued majors are liberal arts and humanities and nursing, respectively.

Those figures provide an example of growth at the college. Dr. Bishop said that enrollment this fall is up by about 4% over a year ago.

“There seems to be an excitement around the college these days,” Dr. Bishop noted.

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