Lincoln Trail College has earned high scores from three different websites that rank colleges in Illinois for current and prospective students.
Schools.com, TheBestColleges.org, and the state's Illinois College 2 Career sites all provide students with information to help them make a college decision. All three give LTC high marks.
The high rankings come as no surprise to LTC President Dr. Ryan Gower.
` "To me it's really a reflection of what our faculty and staff here do every day. We work hard to put our students first and the data and rankings from these sites are showing that our team is making an impact."
Schools.com ranked the college as the second-best community college in Illinois. The ranking is the second top-three ranking LTC has received in the last month.
Schools.com pointed out LTC's degree and certificate programs in the health, construction, petroleum, engineering and telecommunications fields in its summary on the college. They also pointed out LTC's commitment to athletics and performing arts.
Schools.com ranked the 48 community colleges in the state on factors such as educational opportunity, student performance, and student services. They ranked each school on a ten-point scale using data from the National Center for Education Statistics.
Data they looked at included the percentage of students enrolled in distance education, the cost of attendance, student-to-faculty ratio, the graduation rate and the transfer-out rate.
"We do an excellent job of helping our students achieve their goals," said Chris Forde, coordinator of public information and marketing. "When students come to Lincoln Trail, they can expect one-on-one attention and we find out about their aspirations. Our faculty and staff work hard to make sure we can put our students on that trail to success."
Earlier, TheBestColleges.org rated the college as the third-best community college for online study in Illinois.
"We have online courses that appeal to many different types of students," says Brent Todd, dean of instruction. "These courses are taken by people who want to learn at their own pace or by people who have work or family commitments that prevent them from taking traditional face-to-face classes. We even have a number of students who take summer classes to transfer back to four-year schools."
Expanding online courses is a top priority. "Online courses give us the opportunity to reach different markets," said Gower. "Our tuition is reasonable and attractive to students who live in other parts of the state or country. Bringing students from other areas into online environments with students from Crawford County enriches the educational atmosphere for everyone."
The state recently unveiled a new website, www.ilcollege2career.com, intended to help students find Illinois colleges that best fit their educational priorities and career goals. It gave LTC high grades for its advancement rate of 84.2 percent, its tuition and fees of $3,810, and its low student debt of $4,500.
As far as jobs go, the site found the average salary for graduates of LTC working in Illinois is $38,428 with an earnings growth rate of 11.6 percent and job stability of 78 percent.
The site shows the top industries for graduates entering the job market from the college are manufacturing, health care and social assistance, and information. The site says students entering the manufacturing and information sectors are both averaging more than $50,000 per year with the latter earning close to $60,000.
"When you look at the metrics in most of these surveys are evaluating us based on it's about the return on investment for the students," said Gower. "Are we keeping the cost of tuition low? We absolutely are. Are our students graduating? We have one of the highest graduation rates in the state of Illinois. Are they earning a good wage when they complete? Out of all of the area community colleges, on average Lincoln Trail's graduates have the highest wage upon graduation. These are the things community colleges should be doing well. We are, and it is good to see it be recognized."
Gower said the college is fortunate that the K-12 schools in the area do a very good job preparing students to come to the college. From there, he says the faculty work hard to work with students to make sure that they are understanding the curriculum.
Cameron Ireland is a sophomore studying business. He says he's excited to know he's attending such a highly-rated college. "It's a really cool feeling knowing that you're going to one of the best community colleges in the state and I'm glad I'm able to get an education here."
To maintain quality, Gower says Lincoln Trail is investing in people and infrastructure.
"Our Dean of Instruction, Brent Todd ,has put together a professional development committee and we're sending our people on to get training to learn how to reach millennials, how to use new technology to reach them using the media they're used to. We're also investing in our physical infrastructure and making sure our classrooms have the technology that students expect to see. We are modernizing spaces, reinvesting in our STEM facilities and making sure that Lincoln Trail is going to be a great place for students to learn for the next 50 years."
One thing the surveys don't measure is what kind of quality of life students can expect when they attend LTC. "One of the things that's really hard to put down on a piece of paper is the intangibles. Our campus just has a really nice culture and 'feel' about it," said Gower. "When students come here, they immediately feel like they're part of a family. It's really clear that when you sit in a class of 20, 25 students, you're not just a face in the crowd. You're somebody that our faculty is going to get to know."