Santa Barbara City College in California and Walla Walla Community College in Washington state will each receive $400,000 as co-winners of the 2013 Aspen Institute Prize for Community College Excellence, it was announced in Washington, D.C., this afternoon. Also recognized as top finalists and awarded $100,000 each: Kingsboro Community College-CUNY in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Lake Area Technical Institute of Watertown, S.D.
This is the second time that the Aspen Institute has sponsored the national competition that honors community colleges with high student achievement, degree completion, job placement and success among low-income and minority students. The inaugural winner named in December 2011 was Valencia Community College, a 70,000-student school with eight campuses in Orlando, Fla. There was not a prize awarded in 2012.
Santa Barbara Community College was recognized, in part, for having the largest dual-enrollment program for high school students among California’s 112 community colleges. With 64 percent of its first-time, full-time students transferring or graduating within three years, it is significantly surpassing the national average of 40 percent.
Walla Walla Community College works closely with area businesses to design courses that have helped place many of its students into solid, well-paying jobs. New graduates make about $41,500, which is 80 percent higher than the average entry-level salary in the area. It also beats the average completion rates for underrepresented minority students and full-time students in general.
Other campuses honored by Aspen this year as finalists:
• Brazosport College, Lake Jackson, Tenn.
• Broward College, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
• College of Ouachitas, Mavern, Fla.
• Santa Fe College, Gainsville, Fla.
• Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, Cumberland, Ky.
• West Kentucky Community and Technical College, Paducah, Ky.
The prize was designed to highlight best practices on campuses that help improve student outcomes and encourage some of the nation’s other 1,200 community colleges to try new approaches to increase success. The $1 million annual prize is sponsored by American SIC??? Achieves, Bank of America Charitable Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, JPMorgan Chase Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the Lumina Foundation for Education. (Joyce and Lumina also underwrite news coverage in Education Week.)
A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.