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Pierce College ranked number one

Military Times names Pierce College as the state's number one four-year college for 2018

After an arduous, independent assessment of services and support, Military Times named Pierce College as its number one four-year college for servicemembers and veterans in Washington State for 2018. Photo courtesy of Pierce College

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If you're a servicemember at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) searching for the best educational opportunities in the area, you won't have to look far: Pierce College made Military Times' Best Colleges 2018 list. It didn't just make the list -- the local college was selected as the top four-year college for servicemembers and veterans in Washington State for 2018.

"This (ranking) is a reflection of our commitment to serving the incredibly diverse (military) population, which has very distinctive needs and unique challenges," said retired Air Force Col. Mark Haskins, executive director of Pierce College at JBLM. "We appreciate the affirmation that we're serving the military population, which is so near and dear to us."

While Pierce College has made Military Times' Best Colleges list for the past three years, 2018 marks the first time the college competed as a four-year college rather than a community college. Its recent offerings of a Bachelor of Applied Science in dental hygiene, homeland security emergency management and teaching catapulted the institution into the four-year college category.

"Last year, we were number three in the nation for community colleges and number one in the state," said Haskins, who served 27 years as an electronic warfare officer prior to taking on his role at Pierce College. He's been heading Pierce College's JBLM campus for three years.

"Pierce College is honored, but for myself and for the leadership here ... (the ranking) is really just an affirmation of what we already know: that Pierce College is a part of the military community, and we've proudly served that community for as long as we've been around -- over 50 years. It's part of our DNA."

To participate in Military Times' annual, nationwide survey of best colleges, Pierce and other academic institutions must go through an arduous assessment of academic policies, success rates and quality of education, servicemember and veteran student services, university culture, and financial aid and costs. Military Times also reviews data from Defense departments, the Education Department and Veterans Affairs.

In total, more than 600 colleges this year competed for placement on Military Times' prestigious Best Colleges list. In addition to receiving the number one ranking for Washington State, Pierce also ranked 55th in the nation.

"One of the things that makes us so well poised to serve the military community is our location on JBLM," said Haskins. "It allows us to be flexible and to meet the servicemembers where they are, both in terms of location and their need for flexibility."

According to data from Military Times' Best Colleges list, more than 13 percent of the Pierce College student body during the 2016-2017 academic year was affiliated with the military. Moreover, more than 100 servicemembers, veterans and family members graduate from Pierce College's JBLM campus each year, and a third of the faculty and staff there are affiliated with the military themselves.

"We are the number one veteran-certifying school in the state of Washington," said Haskins. "(More than) one third of servicemembers at the JBLM campus are active-duty, National Guard and Reserve servicemembers. Another third are military-affiliated family members and veterans."

Across each of its JBLM, Puyallup and Steilacoom campuses, Pierce College holds a 43 percent retention rate among military-affiliated students.

"It's our flexibility, our willingness to allow students to extend, and our ability to provide credible, rigorous degrees that are no different for servicemembers than any other students that makes us military-friendly," Haskins said.

Pierce College at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Stone Education Center, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Friday, Building 6242, JBLM, 253.964.6567; McChord Field Education Center, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Friday, Building 851, McChord Field, 253.584.9348.

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