Bay picked as top college

ESCANABA – Bay College has been named one of the top community colleges in the nation as part of the recently released “Washington Monthly” rankings of America’s best community colleges.

Bay College ranked 30th of the roughly 700 institutions participating in the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE), part of which is used to calculate the results. This year marks Bay College’s first year included in the rankings, the only Michigan college in the top 50. There are more than 1,160 community colleges in the country.

Aside from the CCSSE results, the other portion of the community college rankings centers on U.S. Department of Education measures of student retention and completion efforts.

“Miami-Dade and Valencia College are recognized as two of the top colleges in this country on a regular basis and we’re right in the middle of them, so it’s just a very, very cool thing. We’re very excited,” said Bay College President Laura Coleman.

The CCSSE survey aggregates “benchmark” scores in the categories of active and collaborative learning, student effort, academic challenge, student-faculty interaction, and support for learners. Bay College provides the survey to students every other year. The CCSSE benchmarks comprise five-eighths of each college’s ranking, with the remaining three-eighths based on data compiled annually by the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education.

According to Coleman, the college has been addressing all five of the CCSSE categories since starting out as an Achieving the Dream school six years ago.

“We formed different task forces to go after these issues and we have an amazing orientation group and a really amazing advising group. They worked together to change how we were doing that,” she said.

By making the change, for instance, students suddenly knew where their advisor’s offices were located when preparing for winter enrollment in October; because of this faculty met with many students they had not seen before.

“It was a big huge change in how we conducted our business and it really helped our students and students are recognizing that,” said Coleman.

The college has also used grant monies from Achieving the Dream on professional development regarding active and collaborative learning. For two years in a row, the college designated a consulting firm to work with faculty on this aspect, one of the measures addressed in the CCSSE.

“The students, when they took this survey, recognized the fact that active and collaborative learning was actually really happening in the classroom,” she said.

Students also recognized the challenging, rigorous academic setting at Bay College, as well as the support for learners – the college’s tutoring system and supplemental instruction opportunities available to them.

Concerning the portion of the results focused on retention and graduation rates, Bay College was rated fifth in credentials awarded per 100 full-time equivalent students of all top 50 colleges.

Moving forward, Bay College hopes to keep up the good work; faculty and staff continue to work toward implementing many measures to continue its success and to improve services to students.

“One of the things that we’re doing this semester is a pilot on an early alert system, so when a faculty member recognizes that a student’s really struggling in class or a student hasn’t been to class, they make contact with the student,” said Coleman.

The alert system has been used in Bay College’s nursing program this past year with positive results.

Bay College’s student services group will also focus on better helping students in the inquiry stage when they begin looking at colleges and in filling out their applications, as well as providing more career counseling so students are better set when declaring their majors.

This year the college has also received permanent funding for supplemental instruction, which is beneficial to students moving forward.

“I am so absolutely fantastically proud of every single solitary employee at this college,” said Coleman. “They have just done a tremendous job of working within their own groups, of reaching out to other groups and always keeping students at the forefront of every decision that they make. They are just an amazing group.”

Coleman also thanked the Bay College Board of Trustees for the recognition and the support they have provided for student success initiatives.

“Their leadership and their commitment to student success has allowed us to do the work that we need to complete,” she said.

For more information on the 2013 Community College Rankings or on “Washington Monthly,” visit