Olympic College, Renton Technical College among ten national finalists for Aspen Prize
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Olympic College in Bremerton and Renton Technical College are among the nation’s ten finalists for a $1 million prize by the prestigious Aspen Institute. Awarded every two years, the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence is based on student academic achievement, certificate and degree completion, job placement and minority and low-income student success.
The Aspen Institute selected the two colleges from an original pool of more than 1,000 community colleges.
According to the Aspen Institute, Olympic College stands out as one of the nation’s top community colleges for many reasons, including:
- Steadily improving retention of some of the least academically prepared students.
- Close ties with local industry reflected in dozens of programs in skilled trades.
- Strong, well-established pathways to a bachelor’s degree, including collaborative engineering program with Washington State University that provides a pipeline to high-paying jobs.
The Aspen Institute said Renton Technical College stands out as one of the nation’s top community colleges for many reasons, including:
- Excellent graduation/transfer rate.
- Exemplary workforce training programs and strong partnerships with local industry, including Boeing and Ford Motor Company, reflected in high job placement rates.
- Strong partnerships with K-12 school districts to prepare students for college through early interventions.
- Structured career pathways that move students quickly to a degree or other credential, coupled with integrated learning support strategies focused on underprepared students.
The last round involves an on-site visit by Aspen officials and data analysis. Prize winners will be announced in March in Washington D.C. The winner and up to four finalists-with-distinction will be awarded monetary prizes, according to Aspen, with the winner receiving as much as $600,000, and finalists with distinction as much as $100,000 each.
Washington’s community and technical colleges have been on the finalist list for all three Aspen prizes since the program began in 2011. The last prize, in 2013, went to Walla Walla Community College with co-winner Santa Barbara City College. As a former winner, Walla Walla Community College was not eligible to reapply for the 2015 prize.