The Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics in West Mifflin has landed at No. 1 on Forbes’ second annual list of the top two-year trade schools in the country.
The West Mifflin school, with branch campuses in Youngstown, Ohio, Hagerstown, Md., and Myrtle Beach, S.C., was in a celebratory mood on Thursday over the top ranking.
“I got some big hugs this morning,” said President and CEO Suzanne Markle.
Markle said she hopes the ranking helps increase public knowledge of PIA and its degree programs.
“For so long, we feel like we’re doing this great work, yet somehow we’re the best-kept secret in Pittsburgh. That doesn’t have to be the case anymore,” Markle said.
The school, which sits next to the Allegheny County Airport, offers two-year degrees in aviation maintenance technology and aviation electronics technology, or avionics. Qualified aviation mechanics are in especially high demand as many older mechanics reach retirement age.
The Forbes listing takes into account factors such as academics, post-graduate salary and debt load.
“They were trying to nail down what makes PIA special,” Markle said. “The takeaway was how much we care for the students as individuals. Our smallness gives it a feeling - every student is an individual, not a number.”
PIA currently has an enrollment of 400 students in the two aviation degree programs, including 209 at the West Mifflin campus.
“We are hoping that this national exposure will bring to a national audience the kinds of careers that are possible with a technical education,” Markle said.
Two other Pittsburgh area schools also made the Forbes Top 25 list: the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science in Shadyside (No. 20) and Rosedale Technical College in Kennedy Township (No. 11).