Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College is once again ranked as one of the country's top 100 community colleges. For the fourth straight year, the college has made the annual national rankings in Community College Week, an educational magazine. This year, MGCCC climbed 13 spots to No. 67 overall.
For the second year in a row, Gulf Coast is the only community college in the states of Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas to make the overall top 100 list. The ranking is based on the number of degrees awarded to students from the country's 1,300 community colleges.
"Anytime you're recognized nationally, it's a tremendous honor," said Willis Lott, Gulf Coast president. "To move up the rankings like we have is awe inspiring, considering what we've had to deal with in the past year. Hurricane Katrina slowed us down. However our staff, instructors and students continue to excel."
Gulf Coast, established in 1911, was the largest community college in Mississippi before Hurricane Katrina. Its eight locations in Stone, George, Harrison and Jackson counties were hit hard on Aug. 29, 2005, by the storm.
The college saw more than 3,000 of its 10,500 students withdraw after Katrina because of life circumstances. Also, the homes of more than 200 Gulf Coast employees were either lost or uninhabitable.
Despite those setbacks, Gulf Coast re-opened just 17 days after Katrina made landfall.
"What we experienced after Katrina is almost indescribable," Lott said. "We saw enrollment drop 25 percent, with more than 3,000 having to withdraw because they had to relocate or couldn't afford college because they were coping with monumental loss. What we have done at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College is make courses more accessible, whether online or through fast-track semesters or our Project Outreach and Project Retrain programs, which give students the training they need now so that they can aid in the Coast's recovery. Our online courses stayed steady through it all, and they proved a valuable resource for our students."
The college was again highly ranked in several lists the magazine compiled as part of this year's article "Interpreting Numbers." Gulf Coast's education majors continued an upward surge, earning a No. 4 spot with 262 students earning associate degrees.
This is the third year in a row the college has placed in the top 10. Last year Gulf Coast came in at No. 8 on this list. T
he college's Associate Degree Nursing program also continues to shine as it came in at No. 23 in that category. Dr. Victor Borden and Pamela C. Brown, authors of "Interpreting Numbers," compiled the list using data certified by the U.S. Department of Education. Borden reports that a total of nearly 1.4 million associate's degrees and one-and two-year certificates were awarded in academic year 2004-'05, representing a near 5 percent increase from the 2003-'04 campaign.
"Today's students, who shoulder the cost burden more so than their predecessors, require the kind of flexibility, relative low cost and convenience available when pursuing certificates and associate degrees," said Borden.