West Kentucky Community and Technical College has once again been named one of ten finalists for the 2021 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. It is the nation's signature recognition of high achievement and performance among community colleges, and takes place every two years.
WKCTC President Dr. Anton Reese told West Kentucky Star, "They rank 1,000 community and technical colleges who compete for a top prize of a million dollars across the nation, and we have been selected to be in the top ten to compete for that prize for the fifth time."
The college has earned a place on Aspen's Top ten finalists' list in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017. The college did not participate in 2019.
WKCTC was named a "campus of distinction," in 2011 and 2015 for being among the top three colleges in the nation, falling just short of the $1 million prize.
Reese outlined achievements that he hopes will carry them to the top prize this year.
"We have incredibly high retention and graduation rates, more than double the national average. The career placement is a big factor, so jobs and the placement of our graduates is an important piece. A lot of our diversity initiatives, getting more underserved populations from around our region is also a factor that can make us very, very competitive this year, and certainly the graduates that we have coming across that stage is where we tend to excel at more than double the national rate, Reese said.
He also stressed community support is an important factor that makes them competitive. Those who judge the competition visit the campuses and interview people in the area as they evaluate each entry.
Reese said this type of recognition should help feed their future success, and the community, too.
He said, "Quality matters to students and parents. That national recognition speaks volumes. I've also got to add that it's also an important link to economic development. As our chamber (of commerce) and economic development areas throughout the region try to recruit top-notch and competitive business and industries, the quality of education and the preparation of the workforce are huge factors. So these designations and recognitions have implications beyond the education corridor, because there's also economic and societal benefits as well."
Two other KCTCS schools, Big Sandy and South Central, were among the 150 schools named in the competition last November, but WKCTC once again emerged in the top tier.
Awarded every two years since 2011, the Aspen Prize recognizes institutions that achieve strong student outcomes across four key areas:
• Teaching and learning
• Degree completion and successful transfer to four-year institutions
• Success in the workforce
• Equitable outcomes for diverse student groups
"The Aspen Prize finalists define what it means to be an excellent community college," said Josh Wyner, executive director of the College Excellence Program. "By organizing everything they do around student success, these colleges stand at the forefront of national efforts to develop the talents of diverse students that we need to strengthen our nation's economic future."
Here are the 2021 Aspen Prize Finalists:
Amarillo College, Amarillo, TX
Borough of Manhattan Community College, New York, NY
Broward College, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Odessa College, Odessa, TX
Pasadena City College, Pasadena, CA
Pierce College, Pierce County, WA
San Antonio College, San Antonio, TX
San Jacinto College, Pasadena, TX
Tallahassee Community College, Tallahassee, FL
West Kentucky Community and Technical College, Paducah, KY
WKCTC in Aspen Award's 10 Finalists for 5th Time
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