WWCC is a finalist for a national community college award for the second year in a row.
WWCC in the Running for Second Consecutive Year; Top Community College and Finalists-With-Distinction to be Announced in March
Washington, DC, September 5, 2012 --Washington’s Walla Walla Community College was named today one of ten finalists for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance in America’s community colleges. Walla Walla Community College now enters the last stage of the competition for the $1 million prize fund that will be awarded in March in Washington, D.C. to the winner and up to four finalists-with-distinction.
Selected from an original pool of more than 1,000 community colleges, the Prize recognizes the most outstanding institutions for achievements in four areas: student learning outcomes, degree and college completion, labor market success in students securing jobs after college, and minority and low-income student success.
“Walla Walla Community College stands out among the nation’s community colleges because it stays on top of local economic trends and job growth, creating innovative programs that create tomorrow’s jobs,” said Josh Wyner, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program. “Its focus on growing the regional economy from the ground up and providing the students to fuel that economy is outstanding.”
Over the past several years, the College has evolved with the job market. By adding new programs and trimming others, Walla Walla Community College is helping students obtain degrees that are directly linked to good-paying jobs including many in the wine-making and wind energy industry.
With a majority of its students entering below college-ready standards, Walla Walla has placed a priority on responding to issues that cause students to drop out. The administration and faculty have developed strategies such as personal, academic and career advising, as well as financial supports and case managers to link at risk students to resources. These programs are designed to help students stay on track and have led Walla Walla to achieve a nearly 54% graduation and three-year transfer rate, well over the community college national average of 40%.
Nearly Half Attend Community College
Nearly half of all college students attend community college, with more than seven million students – youth and adult learners – enrolled across America, including rapidly growing lower-income and Hispanic student populations.
With four-year colleges and universities costing from $10,000-$60,000 per year per student, community colleges, growing at over four times the rate of four-year colleges, remain the most affordable option in higher education for millions of people in this country. In fact, average tuition and fees at public two-year colleges increased 1.8% per year from 1999-2000 to 2009-2010 after adjusting for inflation, compared to 4.9% at public four-year colleges and universities.
The ten community colleges named as finalists today were selected from an original national pool of over 1,000, and pared down to a list of 120 in April. An advisory committee expert in community college data and performance – co-chaired by William Trueheart, chief executive officer of Achieving the Dream, and Keith Bird, former college president and state community college system chancellor – devised a formula to select the 120 based on publicly available data. The formula considered three factors, each weighted equally:
· Performance (retention, graduation rates including transfers, and degrees and certificates per 100 “full time equivalent” students)
· Improvement (steady improvement in each performance metric over time)
· Equity (evidence of completion outcomes for minority and low-income students)
The Aspen Top Ten Finalists selected today reflect the diversity of America – from the large ethnically diverse Broward College in Fort Lauderdale, with 60,000 students, to the more homogeneous, small town Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, South Dakota with an enrollment of 1,500, from the urban Kingsborough Community College, part of the City University of New York, in Brooklyn to the suburban Brazosport College in Lake Jackson, Texas. The full list of the finalists includes:
· Brazosport College, Lake Jackson, TX
· Broward College, Fort Lauderdale, FL
· College of the Ouachitas, Malvern, AR
· Kingsborough Community College - CUNY, Brooklyn, NY
· Lake Area Technical Institute, Watertown, SD*
· Santa Barbara City College, Santa Barbara, CA*
· Santa Fe College, Gainesville, FL
· Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, Cumberland, KY
· Walla Walla Community College, Walla Walla, WA*
· West Kentucky Community and Technical College, Paducah, KY*
Four of the colleges on the list earned this distinction for a second straight year (indicated by an asterisk)
Engler, Riley Co-Chair Prize Jury
The Aspen Institute will conduct site visits to each of the ten finalist institutions this fall and will also gather additional data on graduates’ labor market outcomes from states. Following a rigorous review process of the data and practices on each finalist, a distinguished Prize Jury co-chaired by John Engler, president of The Business Roundtable and former Governor of Michigan, and Richard Riley, former South Carolina Governor and U.S. Secretary of Education, will select a grand prize winner and up to four finalists-with-distinction to be announced in March 2013.
The winner of the inaugural Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence awarded in December 2011 was Valencia College in Orlando, which shared the $1 million Prize fund with four Finalists with Distinction. Valencia’s president Sanford Shugart said, “All eyes are on us – on all community colleges – to raise the bar, to not only educate but also transform our nation’s workforce. It’s possible to improve student achievement. We know how to do this.”
Aspen’s Wyner emphasized that colleges like Valencia and this year’s Prize finalists represent the accomplishments of the best community colleges - big and small – that too often go unnoticed. “We’re showcasing excellence at a time when community college success is more important to the nation more than ever before. The leaders, faculty, and staff on these ten colleges’ campuses are working incredibly hard to meet the increasing demands being placed on two-year institutions. They deserve deep respect and admiration for what they are doing to enable student success,” he said.