What's the difference between a community college and a public, two-year postsecondary institution? Thirty years ago, the answer to that question would be "substantially, nothing." Since then, there has been significant change in the nature of institutions that fulfill the community college mission.
At the same time, community colleges have, in many cases, expanded their mission. More specifically, we have noted over the years of this annual analysis, the increasing number of community colleges that have become four-year institutions by virtue of offering a limited number of four-year degrees. The most notable among these, Miami Dade College, is one of several that dropped the community college designation from its name to acknowledge this expansion of mission. With the increase in our focus several years ago to include one- and two-year certificates, we noted the significant role of proprietary institutions in providing this type of education and development.
In this year's analysis of the Top 100 associate degree, one-year certificate, and two-year certificate producers, we continue to highlight the diverse array of U.S. postsecondary institutions that contribute to the personal and professional development of millions of students. We present listings of the top producers overall and across a wide range of disciplines and professions. We also present to you in this introductory section, a more in-depth look at the changing scene of institutions contributing to certificate and associate degree production.
As we note each year, degree and certificate production is just one of the many important things that community colleges, proprietary institutions, and others represented in this analysis contribute to their clients, communities and constituents. But it is one of the most tangible and countable outcomes that lends itself to analysis and ranking. As we also note each year, we do not rank institutions in an effort to indicate who is doing a better job.
The 2008 Top 100 analysis examines degree and certificates awarded during the 2006-07 academic year. The data are collected by the National Center for Education Statistics, or NCES, through the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Set, or IPEDS, completions survey.
The data are also considered preliminary. That is, the information is complete and accurate for those institutions included in the data sets but not every eligible institution is yet included. Typically, the preliminary dataset represents the vast majority of public and private, non-profit colleges and universities but is slightly less complete for proprietary institutions, particularly those that offer only certificates. These limitations rarely impact more than a few dozen among the 5,000 or so institutions that confer these degrees and certificates, and those excluded from the preliminary dataset are usually relatively small institutions.
We limit our analysis to Title IV eligible institutions, located in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. To be Title IV eligible, an institution must be accredited by either a regional or specialized accreditation agency that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
We limit this analysis, geographically, to include only those institutions in the 50 United States and the District of Columbia. Therefore, we exclude institutions in U.S. territories and protectorates, such as Puerto Rico, Guam and American Samoa, as well as the U.S.
Service Academies, such as the Community College of the Air Force, which includes over 100 colleges and offers programs at locations around the world.
Institutions completing the IPEDS survey must categorize their programs and their students according to several sets of definitions and standards provided by the National Center for Education Statistics. For example, race and ethnicity is captured in seven standard categories that include four minority groups (black, non-Hispanic; American Indian or Alaskan native; Asian or Pacific Islander; and Hispanic), two non-minority categories (white, non-Hispanic; and non-resident alien) and a final "unknown" category. Similarly, the field of study completed by the student is …