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Southeast is Eligible for $1 Million Aspen Institute Prize Fund;
Nations Signature Recognition of Excellence in More Than 1,000 Community Colleges, Which Serve Nearly Half of All Undergraduates in U.S.

Highlighting the critical importance of improving student success in Americas community colleges, the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program today named Southeast Kentucky Community amp; Technical College as one the nations 120 top community colleges, challenging it to compete for the $1 million fund for the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. This is the second consecutive year SKCTC, with campuses in Harlan, Bell and Letcher counties and serving nearly 5,000 students, has been singled out.

The Aspen Institute identified the 120 community colleges -- 10 percent of all institutions -- using a quantitative formula that assesses performance and improvement in four areas: graduation rates, degrees awarded, student retention rates and equity in student outcomes. These colleges will now compete for the prestigious honor following a year-long research process into how well their students learn, complete degrees, and get jobs with competitive wages after graduating. A full list of the 120 community colleges is available at Prize winners will be announced in March 2013.

The first inaugural Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence was awarded to the 70,000-student Valencia College (Orlando, Florida) in December 2011. It was the first broad national recognition of extraordinary accomplishments at individual community colleges.

Some seven million students youth and adult learners enroll in Americas nearly 1,200 public and private community colleges every year.

The success of our nations community colleges is more important than ever before,
said Aspen Institute College Excellence Program Executive Director Josh Wyner, who today announced the names of the 120 top community colleges at the annual convention of the American Association of Community Colleges in Orlando. At a time when a college degree is essential to entering the middle class, community colleges like Southeast offer the most promising path to education and employment for literally millions of Americans. This competition spotlights excellence and we encourage Southeast to apply for the nations top community college prize to help raise the bar for all community colleges to improve student achievement and better prepare the next generation for the job market after college.

SKCTC and 119 other community colleges will be winnowed to eight-to-ten finalists in September based on how much students learn, how many complete their programs on time, and how well students do in the job market after graduating. The local college is now eligible to submit an application containing detailed data on these criteria. It must demonstrate that it delivers exceptional student results, uses data to drive decisions and continually improves over time.

The Aspen Institute will conduct site visits to each of the finalists in the fall. A distinguished Prize Jury co-chaired by John Engler, president of Business Roundtable, former Michigan Governor, and former president of the National Association of Manufacturers and Richard Riley, former South Carolina Governor and U.S. Secretary of Education, will select a grand prize winner and four runners-up, to be announced in March 2013.

American employers have jobs open right now but lack enough skilled, educated workers to fill them, Engler said. The job training programs at community colleges must play a central role in filling those gaps and preparing the American workforce. Community colleges success will help determine whether and in what sectors America will continue to lead in the global economy.

While every community college faces challenges, particularly in todays economic climate, Secretary Riley underscored the importance of improving outcomes for community college students, the majority of whom are underrepresented minorities, Many community colleges across this country are doing an excellent job of boosting student success, but we need to encourage all community colleges achieve excellence. When students learn more, graduate or transfer to four-year institutions, and get competitive-wage jobs after college, it helps everyone - students, employers and our nations economy as a whole.