FAQs on the U.S. News Community College Directory

Diane Tolis, Robert Morse

U.S. News has just published its first Community College Directory. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about this new project.

Why is U.S. News publishing a directory of community colleges?

U.S. News felt it was important to have key information about community colleges on our website because they play a crucial role in the U.S. higher education system. Community colleges not only educate traditional students but also put an emphasis on educating working adults.

Two-year colleges have the benefit of enabling students to stay in their communities while attending classes. Many community colleges have developed partnerships with local businesses and industries to provide specialized certificate programs or other training to enable students to successfully move from school to employment.

In addition, many students go to community colleges to save money and then transfer to four-year institutions in their state.

What are some key facts that students should know about community colleges?

According to the American Association of Community Colleges' 2014 fact sheet, nearly half of all U.S. undergraduates attend community colleges. More than half of the nearly 8 million students at community colleges enroll part time. Nearly 60 percent are women.

The average age of all students is 28, and around 70 percent are over 21 years old, per the AACC. Thirty-six percent of students are the first from their family to attend college, and 58 percent of students receive financial aid. Twenty-two percent of full-time students are employed full time, and 41 percent of part-time students are employed full time.

How many schools did U.S. News include in the Community College Directory on its website?

U.S. News has published data on nearly 950 community colleges from 50 states. These are colleges whose highest degree granted is an associate degree.

In order to be included in the U.S. News Community College Directory, a school has to hold regional accreditation from one of the six regional accrediting organizations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. U.S. News also requires U.S.-based schools to be regionally accredited to be included in our Best Colleges, Best Graduate Schools and Best Online Programs projects as a way of ensuring that the institutions have met a series of high standards.

Where did U.S. News obtain the data for its Community College Directory?

All the data for each school come directly from the U.S. Department of Education's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or IPEDS, website. Nearly all U.S. higher education institutions -- including community colleges -- are required to annually report a wide variety of education-related information to the U.S. government.

What kind of information has U.S. News published on each community college's profile pages?

There is information on such factors as location; tuition, fees and other expenses; payment plans, financial aid and other details on paying for school; the application process; full-time and part-time enrollment; gender distribution; ethnicity and age breakdown of the student body; retention, graduation and transfer-out rates; student-to-faculty ratio; types of services offered to students; and a list of all associate degree and certificate programs that are offered at the school.

How can users find specific community colleges and their programs in the Community College Directory?

U.S. News has created a search tool that enables users to find schools by name, ZIP code or state. In addition, you can search for the associate degree and certificate programs you are interested in and determine which schools offer them.

The search enables you to find which schools offer associate degrees and certificate programs in such areas as the liberal arts, business administration, criminal justice/law enforcement administration, legal assistant/paralegal, dental hygiene/hygienist and nursing, among others.

How will U.S. News evolve the Community College Directory?

U.S. News will refresh the Community College Directory information periodically, using updated data from the U.S. Department of Education. U.S. News is also studying the possibility of publishing evaluative information on community colleges and their programs in the future.