Oakton Community College gets a top-level ranking in a new assessment by the Washington Monthly, but didn’t do so well in a different ranking out this week.

Oakton ranks 15th in the nation for adult learners, according to Washington Monthly’s first-ever list of the best two-year colleges for adult learners.

The magazine says more than 40 percent of the 20.2 million students attending American colleges and universities are adults, age 25 or older. The average age of Oakton students is 26, and 37 percent of Oakton students are at least 25 years of age.

“Oakton is a smart choice for adults in terms of convenience, flexibility and affordability,” said Oakton President Joianne Smith. “Adult students benefit from Oakton’s flexible programs delivered online and during convenient times and locations, allowing them to work toward a credential while they build a career at the same time. The valuable education they receive for a relatively small investment also allows them to dramatically increase their earning potential and also avoid crushing student loan debt.”

But a separate analysis by the website WalletHub ranks Oakton 663rd of 821 community colleges studied nationwide. The WalletHub report looked at the cost and educational and career outcomes for all students at the schools. WalletHub also didn’t have much good to say about the community college system in Illihnois as a whole, ranking it 40th among the 50 states.

Paul Palian, Oakton’s Director of College Relations, in commenting on the WalletHub study, said that Oakton does really well on return on investment and low student default rates. But, he said, because many Oakton students transfer out before graduating, Oakton’s persistence rate and graduation rates are lower than those of many other schools.

And Palian says the school is focusing on improving the persistence rate by working to improve student connections to the school. He says that rate is expected to be up by about 2.5 percent when new figures are released next week.

The WalletHub study relied on date from the National Center for Education Statistics, Council for Community and Economic Research and College Measures.

Washington Monthly used data from the College Scorecard, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and the College Board. It considered  ease of transfer and enrollment, flexibility of programs, services available for adult students, the percent of adult students at the college, average earnings of adult students 10 years after entering college, loan repayment rates of adult students five years after entering repayment and the tuition and fees for in-district students.

Oakton has about 9,500 students taking credit classes and offers associate degree or certificate programs in 80 areas of study from from health careers, science and technology to business and liberal arts.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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