Aspen Institute Recognizes WKCTC as Finalist with Distinction in 2021 Prize
Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Recognizes Colleges That Achieve Strong, Equitable Outcomes for Students During and After College
Washington, D.C., May 18, 2021 – On May 18, 2021, West Kentucky Community and Technical College was recognized in a virtual award ceremony as one of the top five community colleges nationally. It won $100,000 and the honor of Finalist with Distinction in the 2021 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.
More than 75 WKCTC faculty, staff, administrators, and supporters in the Clemens Fine Arts Theatre cheered as they watched the virtual announcement ceremony from Washington D.C. The Aspen Prize is the nation's signature recognition of high achievement and performance among community colleges.
"It is with profound appreciation that I accept the Aspen Institute's 2021 Finalist with Distinction award as one of the top five community and technical colleges in the nation. I accept this award on behalf of the incredible and dedicated faculty and staff, WKCTC Board of Directors, PJC Foundation, KCTCS and regional community stakeholders," said WKCTC President Anton Reece, who was watching from a meeting in Versailles, Ky., "It was wonderful to be one of the runner ups to the overall winner. It's an exciting day for our college and regional stakeholders, and great to once again hear WKCTC on a national stage. This is our fifth opportunity as a top ten college to have been invited to compete for this prestigious prize and today's announcement speaks to our dedication to student success, resiliency, and excellence."
The $1 million Aspen Prize, awarded every two years since 2011, recognizes outstanding institutions selected from more than 1,000 community colleges nationwide. The Aspen Prize assesses performance in six areas: teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, transfer and bachelor's attainment, workforce success, equity in access and success for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds, and leadership and institutional culture.
As the winner of the 2021 Aspen Prize, San Antonio College will receive $600,000. In addition to WKCTC, Broward College and San Jacinto College were also recognized as Finalists with Distinction and Amarillo College was named a Rising Star. Each will receive $100,000. "WKCTC has long been noted for its role in fostering economic opportunity in the region," said Linda Perlstein, a director at the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. "The college has also developed into a national exemplar in reaching out to underserved populations and ensuring that students complete their degrees."
WKCTC's graduation and transfer rate in 2018 was 55 percent, 9 percentage points above the national average; the graduation rate for students who receive federal Pell Grants because of financial need was 43 percent, compared to 25 percent for community college students nationally. On average, five years after graduating with an associate degree, WKCTC alumni earn $37,000, $10,000 more than all newly hired employees in the county.
The Aspen Prize winner, Finalists with Distinction, and Rising Star were announced today by Aspen Prize jury co-chairs Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and Ruth Williams-Brinkley, president of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States. They led a distinguished jury of education, business, and nonprofit leaders to select the top colleges-part of a rigorous, 18-month review process that included the examination of extensive data on performance and improvements.
In announcing the award, Hrabowski said, "WKCTC plays a crucial role in providing a path to economic opportunity in an area with low college degree attainment. In recent years, WKCTC has launched an intensive effort to deepen its relationships with community organizations, an effort that has been effective at drawing people of color to the college and modeling inclusion for the region. The college has long been a proactive leader in rebuilding the local economy and creating paths to good jobs. In recent years it has built exemplary systems for student onboarding, academic planning, and advising."
A proud member of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), WKCTC is one of the most-recognized colleges in the history of the Aspen Prize. The college was an Aspen Prize Finalist with Distinction in 2011 and 2015, and a finalist in 2013 and 2017.
"Being a Finalist with Distinction for the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program demonstrates West Kentucky Community and Technical College's high standards and commitment to students." said Dr. Paul Czarapata, KCTCS president, "The entire KCTCS family is proud of the extraordinary team at WKCTC."
Kentucky Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman sent a message of praise to the WKCTC Community. "Congratulations to West Kentucky Community and Technical College on being named a finalist for the 2021 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence!" Coleman said. "As the only college in Kentucky to make this prestigious list, WKCTC's award is an award for all of Team Kentucky."
In offering congratulations to the Aspen Prize finalists today, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said, "Each of your institutions is helping to transform the lives of a diverse and deserving group of students. This year's finalists are an impressive roster of innovative and inclusive institutions that put student success at the core of all they do."
The Aspen Prize is generously funded by Ascendium Education Group, Joyce Foundation, and Siemens Foundation.
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- WKCTC Cabinet