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Five community colleges showing the way

Dec 13, 2011

Former Secretary of Education Richard Riley and John Engler, president of Business Roundtable, on Monday highlighted five community colleges doing great work for students and employers, as they presented honors for the first-ever Aspen Prize For Community College College Excellence. The Orlando based  Valencia College was named the nation's best community college, and four others were "finalists with distinction."

As the Aspen Instiute's news release explained:

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.

In his remarks, BRT's Engler noted that the United States currently has 3.3 million job openings, even at a time when more than 13 million Americans are looking for work. A big reason for this mismatch is a lack of skills by jobseekers, and it's here community colleges can step up. Engler:

The job training programs at these schools are incredibly important to America’s employers in search of skilled employees. As the winners of the Prize show us, community colleges can help students achieve higher levels of success, translating into job-ready skills after their graduation. If other campuses followed the practices of Valencia and the other top community colleges, it would make a tremendous difference for students, employers and the economy as a whole.

Secretary Riley, also former governor of South Carolina, and the BRT's Engler co-chaired the jury that selected the prize winners. Valencia College receives a $600,000 as its prize, and the four finalists with distinction will each receive $100,000: Lake Area Technical Institute, Watertown, S.D.; Miami Dade College, Miami, Fla.; Walla Walla Community College in Walla Walla, Wash.; and and West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah, Ky.




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