U.S. News & World Report also names PSC top public regional college in Florida and a top school for veterans, Pell Grant recipients
By Troy Moon, Pensacola State College
No college or university in the United States ─ public, private, big, small, hoity, plain or toity ─ sends its graduates off with less debt per student than Pensacola State College.
That’s just one highlight for Pensacola State from the coveted and anticipated U.S. News & World Report’s “Best College” rankings, released Monday, Sept. 9.
PSC was also the top-ranked public regional college in Florida, and the third-ranked public regional college in the South. PSC was ranked 26th in the Regional Colleges South ranking, which includes private and public schools.
The college also was named the top regional college in Florida for veterans, and the ninth-best school for veterans for regional colleges in the South.
Pensacola State President Ed Meadows was thrilled, but not surprised, to learn of the positive rankings.
“We’ve made a lot of improvements, and worked hard over the past five years to continue to improve retention and graduation rates,’’ Meadows said. “And we’ve worked to make sure we have programs that are meeting the local workforce needs.”
Meadows said retention and graduation rates were improved “through enhanced student support services and streamlined admission and advising processes.”
The rankings prove, Meadows said, that Pensacola State “is one of the best colleges not just in Florida, but in the South. And I’m very proud that our students aren’t (financially) burdened like students at other institutions.”
Using data from the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. News and World Report listed the median student debt for Pensacola State graduates in 2017 was $3,500, which tied Broward College for the lowest in the nation. But that figure only represents the median of graduates owing debt; not the median of all graduates. The report shows that 93 percent of Pensacola State students graduate debt-free.
Student loan debt for college and university students nationwide is estimated to be $1.6 trillion. But at a time when student debt has been labeled a “crisis” by many, Pensacola State grads median debt, coupled with the high rankings in other categories, is just more evidence to some students they made the right choice in education.
Sarah Zavoral is a registered nurse at Sacred Heart Hospital with two bachelor’s degrees from other schools. Yet she’s now a student at Pensacola State ─ taking classes to prepare her to go to medical school.
Does she have student debt?
“Yes, but not from PSC,’’ she said, noting that affordable fees allow her to “pay out of pocket.”
Yet even with the lower credit fees, Zavoral feels there is no compromise in quality of education offered by PSC.
“Of my top five professors I’ve ever had,’’ she said, “four are from PSC.”
Nathan Mathias, a Pensacola State cybersecurity student recently inducted into the National Technical Honor Society, said the college has been perfect for him. And he said he has “very little” debt.
“I really like the program, and the instructors have been great,’’ said Mathias, who is on schedule to earn a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity in May. “They really prepare you for the workforce, and they make it a lot of fun.”
A new listing to the annual “Best College Rankings” is the social mobility ranking, which evaluates schools based on graduation and performance rates of students who receive Pell Grants.
PSC finished 20th among regional colleges in the South, and third in the state, in the social mobility rankings.
Jo-Ann Price, who along with her husband, retired U.S. Navy Capt. Michael Price, are major Pensacola State supporters, called the news of the rankings “amazing.”
“Oh my gosh, I’m almost at a loss for words,’’ said Price, who along with her husband, are the signature sponsors of the college’s annual Holiday Experience, a major scholarship fundraiser which is scheduled for Dec. 3 on the Milton campus.
“Education changes lives. And when these students come to PSC, a lot of them are studying welding and these other certificate programs and they bring those skills they learned right into the local workforce. And to know you can go to school at an affordable price and gain a skill that puts food on the table, well, it’s just an amazing opportunity.”
Meadows also was pleased by the positive trajectory portrayed in the report, noting that nearly all scores were an improvement over last year’s rankings.
“I’m going to expect us to do even better next year,’’ he said, then a smile crept across his face as he pondered the student loan debt ranking. “Though when you’re No. 1 (in terms of low debt), it’s hard to get much better. But we’re going to try.”