WWCC in Top 5 Nationwide





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Published on Dec 12, 2011

Walla Walla Community College Named Top Five Community College In America By Aspen Institute; Chosen from More Than 1,000 Community Colleges Nationwide

Walla Walla Community College Shows Strong Results in Student Learning, Completion, Equity and Employment/Earnings After College; National Leaders in Business, Labor, Education and Philanthropy Endorse National Initiative to Spotlight and Foster Community College Excellence

Washington, DC, December 12, 2011 -- Highlighting the need to improve student learning and graduation rates in community colleges — leading to good jobs — the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program today announced Walla Walla Community College as a ―finalist with distinction‖ for the first annual Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, chosen from an original pool of over 1,000.

The announcement follows a rigorous, year-long effort by the Aspen Institute to assemble and review an unprecedented collection of data on community colleges and the critical elements of student success: student learning, degree completion and transfer, equity and employment/earnings after college.

This is the first national recognition of extraordinary accomplishments at individual community colleges. The Prize celebrates these top performers both to elevate the community college sector nationwide and help other institutions understand how to improve outcomes for the seven million students — nearly half of all undergraduates in post-secondary education — working toward degrees and certificates in community colleges.

The announcement made today at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, involved leaders from across the fields of education, business, labor and philanthropy, including Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden, a longtime educator; Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; Aspen Institute President and CEO and Steve Jobs' biographer Walter Isaacson; John Engler, former Governor of Michigan and President of the Business Roundtable; and highly respected former Secretary of Education and South Carolina Governor Richard Riley.

The naming of the winner follows an announcement of the ten finalists in September and the project's unveiling at the White House Community College Summit in October 2010.

Walla Walla stands out among American community colleges for its visionary development of programs that not only create job opportunities for its graduates, but drives economic development in the region around the college. Seeing the demise of traditional agriculture, for example, the college developed new programs related to the land, from wine-making to wind energy and water management.

As a result of this vision and other exceptional practices, 2010 graduates from Walla Walla earn more than twice the wages of other new entrants in the regional labor market. ―Some colleges wait to respond to the labor market, but Walla Walla analyzes data and anticipates needs, building programs respond,‖ said Joshua Wyner, Executive Director of the

The Prize Jury was impressed with the college's adaptability, which has been crucial to meeting students' needs for job-relevant credentials.

In an era where every college needs to improve graduation rates, Walla Walla Community College engages in model practices to make sure students stay on track. With mandatory quarterly advising and an exceptional technology system for tracking student success, the college has achieved graduation and transfer rates much higher than the national average, even as its student body has become increasingly diverse.

Walla Walla's effort in this and other areas yields real results for students — while in college and after they graduate. Washington State records show that 2010 graduates of Walla Walla earn more than twice the wages of other new hires in the area around the college.

As it pursues these outcomes, Walla Walla strives to serve student populations that others might ignore. Underrepresented minorities graduate at a rate nine percent above the national average. A partnership with a Native American tribe to develop a water management program not only helped boost enrollment of Native students but helped return salmon to the stream on the reservation.

―Walla Walla really is a community college in the true sense,‖ said Wyner. ―Its programs exhibit deep commitment to area students and communities. Congratulations to Walla Walla for all the hard work that is so clearly paying off.

Each ―finalist with distinction‖ will receive $100,000. The Finalists with Distinction are: Lake Area Technical Institute (Watertown, SD); Miami Dade College (Miami, FL); Walla Walla Community College (Walla Walla, WA); and West Kentucky Community and Technical College (Paducah, KY). Valencia College, the Prize winner, will receive $600,000.

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