College Among National Leaders in Awarding Associate Degrees

Published 07.26.2006


Pennsylvania College of Technology was recognized among the nation's top 100 associate-degree producers in several categories in a special report published recently by Community College Week.

The college was named sixth in the nation for producing associate degrees in engineering-related technologies/technicians, with 320 degrees granted in 2004-05. Topping the list in the first, second and fifth positions were campuses of ITT Technical Institute in California, Texas and Florida. Purdue University and Pittsburgh Technical Institute granted the third- and fourth-highest number of associate degrees in the category.

Engineering technicians are in demand, according to U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. As technology becomes more sophisticated, employers continue to look for individuals who are skilled in new technology and require minimal job training. An increase in jobs is expected as competitive pressures force companies to improve and update manufacturing facilities and product designs.

Penn College offers 23 majors that are considered in the magazine's associate-degree category, including architectural technology; heating, ventilation and air-conditioning technology; environmental technology; automotive technology; plastics and polymer technology; and civil engineering technology.

Many of those majors including those in engineering-related technologies are found in the college's School of Industrial and Engineering Technologies.

"There are several reasons contributing to this standing," said Lawrence J. Fryda, dean of industrial and engineering technologies. "They include exceptional placement rates of graduates, highly qualified and motivated instructors, good working relationships with industry and high schools, state-of-the art laboratory equipment, and active advisory committee members who help guide the curriculum."

The college's School of Natural Resources Management is home to environmental technologies noted in the sixth-place ranking.

"The beauty of Penn College is that we are able to offer state-of-the art facilities, quality hands-on instruction and small class sizes with industry-experienced faculty," said Mary A. Sullivan, assistant dean of natural resources management. "Those factors contribute to a top-notch educational experience and, obviously, our high rankings on the list support that fact. We're pleased to be included on this list and feel that it speaks volumes about what the school has to offer."

Also in that engineering-related category were popular automotive technology majors in the School of Transportation Technology.

"I think it comes from the success of the graduates, who are our best recruiters," said Colin W. Williamson, school dean. "We have a long history one of the longest in the nation for automotive education and we simulate the workplace as much as possible."

With one vehicle project for every two students, the school also has one of the best laboratory ratios in the country, he explained. Faculty have extensive experience both as technicians and as teachers, Williamson added, and "significant industry support in terms of cars and training helps round out the program."

To the School of Construction and Design Technologies, where architectural and HVAC technologies contributed to Penn College's high-ranking performance, the report affirms the college's credibility with students, families and employers.

"I believe the continuing high enrollments and consequent graduations are driven by the demand for skilled technicians in these and other areas," said Tom F. Gregory, school dean. "Employers have been persistent in seeking our graduates; we relay the message to parents and prospects, and then we back up that message further with very high placement rates approaching 100 percent for our graduates."

Penn College's overall placement rate for 2003-04, the last year for which statistics are available, was 96 percent.

Other categories in which the college was rated include agriculture, agricultural operations and related sciences, for which the college was ranked No. 23 with 43 graduates in 2004-05; precision production, No. 5 with 40 graduates; communication, journalism and related programs, No. 29 with 19 graduates; natural resources and conservation, No. 10 with 28 graduates; parks, recreation, leisure and fitness studies, No. 22, with 10.

According to Community College Week, associate degrees remain a vital part of education and the economy, with combined one- and two-year certificates and degrees conferred across the nation just slightly under the total number of bachelor's degrees awarded in the same year.

"With the fast-changing demands of the 21st-century workforce, one- and two-year academic credentials are likely to play an increasing role in career and professional development," said the article's authors, Victor M.H. Borden and Pamela C. Brown. "As the knowledge economy advances, the education and training requirements for even modestly well-paying jobs become more sophisticated and require more than just a course or two to master. Certificate and degree programs provide the level of sophistication needed for entree and advancement through these evolving career paths."

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