Students gain new experiences at NCK Tech
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Kyle Rice didn't know of the national rankings bestowed upon his new school when he enrolled for the 2013-14 school year at Hays' campus of North Central Kansas Technical College.
He had just heard good things about the college's welding program through acquaintances.
So Rice came all the way from Horton, a town of approximately 1,775 people in the far northeast corner of Kansas, to enroll in the Kansas Institute of Welding, a cooperative between NCK Tech and Fort Hays State University.
NCK Tech has two campuses, the other in Beloit, but Rice said he chose Hays because "I wanted to go to a little bigger town."
"We don't have a single stoplight in Horton," Rice said. "And Beloit (population 4,800) didn't have a lot more than that. I wanted to step up a little."
Rice had attended Highland Community College but realized it wasn't for him, even though it too has technical programs, including welding.
"I'd heard some really good things about (NCK Tech)," said Rice, who checked out the Hays campus and liked what he saw.
Rice is able to take advantage of the Gateway Program, an agreement between NCK Tech and Fort Hays State where technical college students live on the Fort Hays campus and participate in university activities.
And the welding classes are at FHSU, in its welding lab.
"So I'm there (at FHSU) for welding class and out here to take the gen eds," Rice said of the NCK Tech campus. "I really like living on (FHSU's) campus."
The welding program in Hays has gained such popularity since combining five years ago that NCK Tech now offers a second-year program.
"I'm a farm kid, and this is definitely hands-on," Rice said during a back-to-school picnic on the Hays NCK Tech campus last week. "I've only been here a week, and I already love it."
Eric Burks, president of NCK Tech, likes hearing those kinds of things from his students. He also likes the fact the school is recognized by organizations that rank higher education institutions as one of the best of its kind.
This summer, NCK Tech was ranked the No. 6 two-year college in the United States by TheBestSchools.org, a higher education website.
The only other Kansas schools were a ways down the list, ranked 31st and 32nd, respectively -- Garden City Community College and Independence Community College.
There are numerous components taken into consideration for the rankings, including sustained achievement outcomes, learning outcomes, cost-to-value outcomes and more.
"We're ranked high on our return for your investment, for the cost of getting their training and the learning experience while they're with us," Burks said.
"We're setting them up with a lot of experience. Here, they haven't just learned about it in a classroom, they've actually done it," Burks said.
NCK Tech also was ranked as one of Kansas' best two-year schools by the Aspen Institute and was in the top five in the nation for graduate success, according to CNNMoney.com.
Those ranking systems use information taken from data collections schools are required to submit for both state and federal government data.
"Our tuition costs are low, very reasonable, and we have great access to financial aid," Burks said. "And we don't have any trouble with placement. Those who graduate don't have any trouble finding jobs."