Montco is among the best online associate's degree programs in Public Health

By Eric Devlin
The Health Science Center at Montgomery County Community College. The Public Health program was recently ranked among the best online associate's degree programs in the country by College Consensus.

The Health Science Center at Montgomery County Community College. The Public Health program was recently ranked among the best online associate's degree programs in the country by College Consensus.

A Montgomery County Community College online associate’s degree program has garnered national attention for excellence. 

The college review aggregator, College Consensus, recently announced its list of the top colleges nationwide to earn an online associate’s degree in Public Health and MCCC’s program ranks among the best.

College Consensus combines the results of all of “the most reputable college ranking publishers and thousands of real student reviews from around the web”, in order to provide “the most accurate and comprehensive ranking of a school’s reputation and quality available anywhere,” according to its website.

Public Health programs were ranked based on the following criteria: cost, reputation and student success.

“There are many options if you want to achieve an online associate’s degree in public health,” the site states. “Online learning is a great idea in such uncertain times. Due to the coronavirus we don’t know how safe the classroom is, or if it is even a viable option for the foreseeable future. Not to mention, studying online offers unmatched opportunities for flexibility.”

The site highlighted several aspects of MCCC’s public health program that helped it stand out from the pack including the fact that the program is delivered primarily online, the entire course of study is made up of 61 credit hours and most graduates continue their education as part of a bachelor’s degree program at a four-year college or university upon completion.

“They have a team of advisors that are expressly there to help students take the proper course requirements for easy matriculation into the next phase of their education or entry level employment in the field of public health,” the site states. “Students will learn how to analyze the variety of perspectives and values held by diverse groups of people as they relate to health behaviors, decisions, and public health practices. Students will learn how to look at the ethical issues associated with public health systems, practices, and the related policies.”

Lastly the site notes that coursework includes classes that touch upon communication strategies including speech communication and public speaking.   

“This is amazing news, because the program is so new,” said Dr. Gifty Akomea Key, Public Health program coordinator. “The program launched in 2015 and began its first class during the 2016-17 school year. So this is a huge accomplishment for a program that’s relatively new.”

Key noted that while all Public Health classes are available online, they are also typically available in person. “We’re ensuring we’re not losing students because of opportunity,” she said. “For those who can only take online classes, every student can take every Public Health course online. But we do offer every class face-to-face as well.”

Every semester every class is offered as either an online or in person course, she explained. Half are available online during the fall semester. The other half are offered face-to-face. Then during the spring semester, the classes that were available online then become in-person classes. The half that were available in-person are then offered online. This fall, however, because of COVID-19, the classes will only be available online.

“With the nation’s public health officials working diligently to address the COVID-19 pandemic and promote social distancing, the college’s public health program makes a conscious and continued effort to educate on the pandemic and current careers that join in that fight,” said Key.

Twenty-five schools made College Consensus’ list and MCCC earned the 18th spot. The site notes there are several advantages to earning an associate’s degree in public health including the fact that it can lead you in many different directions.

“This is a very interdisciplinary field that sometimes has a foundation in liberal arts and other times the sciences,” according to the site. “Either way, the general education requirements are not that different than many other degree programs, and the core courses can generally be tailored to the student’s major and ultimate career goals. Having any degree is a good choice when navigating the work force and this is a great option that allows you to get your feet wet in a myriad of different introductory courses that tie into a range of topics.”

MCCC is one of only six community colleges nationally to offer an associate’s degree in Public Health, and one of only two in Pennsylvania, said Key.

This isn’t the first time the Public Health program has received recognition. In 2018, The League for Innovation in the Community College presented MCCC with the Riegelman Award for Excellence in Public Health and Health Navigation Education in Community Colleges.  MCCC received the award for the planning, development and enhancement of its current Public Health Program.

The Pennsylvania State Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs awarded over $46,000 in grant money to MCCC to work with the community to help address the opioid crisis. The grant funds the innovative initiative MCCC S.T.O.P. - Montgomery County Community College Students Tackling Opioid Prevention.

The Public Health program serves as a community hub for opioid prevention activities for adolescents.