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By Alex Ross 

Site ranks Northern plumbing program 10th in nation


February 22, 2018

An education website has rankled Montana State University-Northern as the college with the 10th-best plumbing degree program in the nation for the 2017-2018 academic year.

The ranking was done by schools.com based on a variety of factors using data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics. Rankings, the website said, were based on factors such as in-state undergraduate tuition and fees, graduation, accessibility based on admission rate, institutional spending, student-to-faculty ratio, flexibility and size of the program.

Northern Maine Community College was ranked as having the best program.

The class size at Northern was one of the factors.

“With a low 14:1 to student ratio, students can expect greater interaction with their instructors and a more personalized education experience,” the website says,

Northern’s College of Technical Science offers an Associate of Applied Science in plumbing technology and is the only college in Montana to do so.

Lorren Schlofeldt, an assistant professor at Northern and himself a master plumber, said he learned about the ranking last week.

“It makes you feel good,” he said. “It makes you feel like you are doing something right,” he said.

“We are very pleased that our plumbing program has received the national attention it deserves. We started the program over 10 years ago and when Lorren Schlotfeldt came on board as an instructor and the director of the state’s apprentice related training, I challenged him to build the best program in the country,” Northern Chancellor Greg Kegel said in a statement today. “He’s well on the way of doing that.”

“Word is getting out that we have a pretty good program here,” Schlofeldt said. “They (students) can work as a plumber and have the knowledge and skill sets needed to be competent on the job site.”

Though he can’t control a lot of the factors that went into Northern’s ranking, he said, he can work to retain and recruit new students.

Schlofeldt said typically about 15 to 20 freshmen enter the program each year, but this year it brought in 31 freshmen.

He said that he and Northern welding instructor Chuck Terry have developed strong relationships with administrators and school counselors, often visiting shop classes in schools as far east as Glasgow, west as Kalispell and as far south as Billings and Bozeman.

Students who enter the program, he said, initially came from northern Montana, but now come from throughout the state and beyond. Schlofeldt says he has had out-of-state students who have come from Pennsylvania and Alaska.

The program, Schlofeldt said, is four semesters. Three of the semesters focus on plumbing as it relates to drains, water piping and setting up appliances, and the fourth focuses on heating and hot water.

The program, he said, is very hands-on with lab work and some book work.

“Kids like this program because it is very hands-on,” he said.

Northern’s program allows students to get the book work done required to become an apprentice before they graduate, so when they graduate they can focus fully on completing the about 8,000 hours on the job training typically required of an apprentice.

He said that the increasing number of people entering the program is due in part to the large number of retiring plumbers, He added the rising cost of a four-year degree has also made people realize the value of a two-year degree,

The program also has a 100 percent job placement rate, Schlofeldt said, aided in part by relationships with more than 400 employers in Montana.

“I know we are doing something right because the kids leave here with a good skill level and good jobs. And that is why we are here,” Schlotfeldt said.


Schools.com plumbing page: https://www.schools.com/programs/plumbing


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