WyoTech ranked first in graduation rate
BURRELL TOWNSHIP — Wyoming Technical Institute doesn’t have a football team.
WyoTech, the automotive trade school with a campus in Burrell Township, doesn’t have much in the way of a marching band, either.
Unlike other area post-secondary schools, WyoTech won’t be gunning for any NCAA national championship trophies.
But WyoTech has just earned bragging rights that no other area schools can touch.
Its graduation rate is No. 1 in the nation among schools of its kind.
The ranking appears in the Almanac of Higher Education 2013, a statistical profile of colleges, universities and trade schools published in the Aug. 23 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The study of U.S. Department of Education data puts the Burrell Township campus of WyoTech first among two-year for-profit schools, where 85.1 percent of students graduated within three years, or 150 percent of the normal time to earn a degree.
Two other Pennsylvania schools made the published top 10: Pennco Tech of Bristol is third at 83.4 percent, and YTI Career Institute in York ranks ninth with 79.6 percent
WyoTech has more to boast about, though, because the main campus in Laramie, Wyo., is fifth in the nation with a rate of 80.1 percent.
Art Herman, the president of the WyoTech school at the Corporate Campus industrial park near Blairsville, said that having a high graduation rate is a natural for the school.
“It surprised me to be in the No. 1 spot, but the fact that we tend to be higher than most institutions doesn’t surprise me because we offer a very focused education here,” Herman said. “Many of the students who come here really have a clear idea of what it is they want to do, and their goals.”
WyoTech tends to attract a student body dedicated to finishing the program, he said.
“We take our vision, mission and values very seriously here,” Herman said. “Our vision is to be the best automotive and diesel school in the world — today Blairsville, tomorrow the world — and our mission here on our campus is to help our students to change their lives.
“The company’s core values, that we want our students to embrace because it helps to make them employable, is to live with integrity, pursue excellence, be accountable and to serve others.”
WyoTech’s reputation for producing competent auto technicians is so strong that the school recently developed a relationship with Volvo and Mack Truck, which donated more than $2 million worth of tools, equipment and trucks to WyoTech.
In turn, the school developed an advanced, manufacturer-specific program to turn out students ready to work for the two companies.
“We launched our first class in April and had our first graduating class of 12 students in June. They are the cream of the crop,” Herman said. “They need to have at least a B grade average, 97 percent attendance or better, and they go through a rigorous interview process to make sure they have the right soft skills as well as the hard skills the manufacturer is looking for.
“And our first graduating class had a 100 percent placement rate.”
Most WyoTech training is compacted to eight hours a day, five days a week, so students can complete their program in just nine months. Herman said it’s the kind of program that attracts students of a certain level of discipline.
“I would say roughly 30 percent of our students are military veterans, and we feel very fortunate … that they have lived a lot of life and they know what the real world is about,” he said. “And we have a number of high school students and others who are finding their way and making that transition from high school mentality to the workplace. We’re set up here to model the workplace. Our goal is to help our students change their lives by getting jobs in meaningful careers and being productive members of our communities.”
WyoTech started its program in 2002 near downtown Blairsville, first holding classes in the former Vale Tech buildings while constructing new buildings at Corporate Campus in Burrell Township.
The number of students enrolled at the Indiana County WyoTech campus rises and falls with the class cycle. Enrollment now stands at 750 and is expected to jump to about 1,000 when a new program begins later this month.
Herman said attendance has averaged about 1,200 students, and the enrollment peaked at 1,650 in 2010.
The Chronicle of Higher Education also listed the public two-year colleges, private four-year colleges and public four-year colleges with the best graduation rates, and only two other Pennsylvania schools made the lists.
The University of Virginia is No. 1 among public four-year collages with a six-year graduation rate of 93.9 percent. Penn State was eighth on the list at 86.7 percent.
The list of private four-year colleges is heavy in Ivy League schools, with Harvard first at 97.4 percent and the University of Pennsylvania ranked fifth at 95.8 percent.
The study counted the percentages of students who entered the four-year schools in 2005 and graduated by 2011, and those who entered the two-year schools in 2008 and completed their studies by 2011.
Only schools with at least 500 students were included.