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West Kentucky Community and Technical College Named One of Ten Finalists for 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence

West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC) was named today one of ten finalists for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nations preeminent recognition of high achievement and performance in Americas community colleges.

Located in Paducah, WKCTC with 10,000 students has earned a place on the ten top finalists list in each of the three years the Prize has been awarded and was named a finalist-with-distinction in 2011. The $1 million prize fund will be awarded in March 2015 in Washington, D.C. to the winner and up to four finalists-with-distinction. *see complete list of finalists below*

The Prize, awarded every two years, recognizes outstanding institutions selected from an original pool of more than 1,000 community colleges. With a singular focus on student success, the Prize assesses community colleges achievements in four areas: student learning, certificate and degree completion, high rates of employment and earnings for graduates, and high levels of access and success for minority and low-income students.

Since the Aspen Prize started in 2010, West Kentucky Community and Technical College has been a finalist in every cycle, demonstrating its place as one of the top community colleges in the country, said Joshua Wyner, Executive Director of the Aspen Institutes College Excellence Program in Washington, D.C. WKCTC demonstrates that a community college can help students be successful in the classroom and in the job market when faculty consistently measure and improve student learning, when programs are aligned to economic opportunity, and when leaders strategically build and sustain a culture of continuous improvement.

West Kentucky stands out as one of the nations top community colleges for many reasons, including:

  • Strong graduation/transfer rate (48% compared to 40% national average)
  • Exceptional culture among faculty for improving teaching practice across the college, resulting in measurable improvements in student learning
  • Alignment of programs to both long-term and short-term needs of local community and businesses, resulting in the college playing a central role in regions economic development

The success of our nations community colleges is more important than ever before. Nearly half of all college students attend community college, with more than seven million studentsyouth and adult learnersworking toward degrees and certificates. This includes rapidly growing numbers of lower-income and minority students.

The federal government is increasingly looking to community colleges to help educate and transform our nations workforce and grow the countrys middle class. And constrained family budgets and mounting student debtwhich recently surpassed $1 trillion nationallywill only serve to increase the appeal of community colleges. With average tuition of about $3,000 per year per studentless than half the average at public four-year colleges and less than 10 percent of what is now charged by top private four-year colleges and universitiescommunity colleges offer a uniquely affordable path straight to a job or an on-ramp to a bachelors degree.

The Selection Process

Aspens Finalist Selection Committee, comprised of former community college presidents, respected researchers and policy experts, selected the ten finalist institutions after reviewing extensive data on performance and improvements in learning, graduation, workforce outcomes, and equitable outcomes for all students, especially those in traditionally underserved racial/ethnic groupsAfrican American, Hispanic/Latino and Native Americanand those from low-income backgrounds. Of the 150 institutions named eligible in January, over one hundred applied to compete for the Prize.

This fall, the Aspen Institute will conduct site visits to each of the ten finalist institutions. Following a rigorous review process, a distinguished Prize Jury will select a grand prize winner and up to four finalists-with-distinction to be announced in March 2015. To learn more about the selection process, go towww.aspeninstitute.org/aspen-prize-selection-process.

The 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence was awarded to Santa Barbara City College (California) and Walla Walla Community College (Washington). In 2011, Valencia College (Florida) was the inaugural Prize winner. According to the Prize rules, former winners were not eligible to reapply for this cycle.

The Aspen Prize Finalists selected today reflect the diversity and richness of American community collegesfrom the large El Paso Community College in El Paso, Texas, with a majority Latino student body of 40,000, to the small-town Lake Area Technical College in Watertown, South Dakota with 1,700 students, to the urban, ethnically diverse Eugenio Mara de Hostos Community College, part of the City University of New York and located in the South Bronx, the nations poorest congressional district.

The 2015 Aspen Prize Finalists (listed in alphabetical order):

Two colleges have been named finalists in three consecutive Prize cycles (indicated with *) and two others were finalists for a second time (indicated with #)

Brazosport College - Lake Jackson, TX#
Contact: Kyle Smith, tel: 979-230-3489, kyle.smith@brazosport.edu

El Paso Community College El Paso, TX
Contact: Keri Moe, tel: 915-831-6475, kmoe@epcc.edu

Eugenio Mara de Hostos Community College, CUNY Bronx, NY
Contact: Ana Carrin-Silva, tel: 718-518-4246, amcarrion@hostos.cuny.edu

Indian River State College Fort Pierce, FL
Contact: Dr. Mary Locke, tel: 772-462-7225, mlocke@irsc.edu

Kennedy-King College Chicago, IL
Contact: Katheryn Hayes, tel: 312-553-2719, khayes32@ccc.edu

Lake Area Technical Institute, Watertown, SD*
Contact: LuAnn Strait, tel: 605-882-5284 ext. 241, straitl@lakeareatech.edu

Olympic College Bremerton, WA
Contact: Joan Hanten, tel: 360-475-7120, jhanten@olympic.edu

Renton Technical College Renton, WA
Contact: Kendra Smith, tel: 425-235-2356, ksmith@rtc.edu

Santa Fe College, Gainesville, FL#
Contact: David Houder, tel: 352-381-3625, david.houder@sfcollege.edu

West Kentucky Community and Technical College, Paducah, KY*
Contact: Janett Blythe, tel: 270-534-3079, janett.blythe@kctcs.edu