Santa Barbara City College, which launches many students on the path to a bachelor’s degree, and Walla Walla Community College, which excels in job training, are winners of this year’s Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. Each college will receive $400,000.
Students at each college spoke at the presentation. Edith Rodriguez, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, “learned about Santa Barbara City College in a high-school assembly shortly after her release from a juvenile detention center,” reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. A six-week summer bridge program and a support group for students interested in mathematics and science persuaded her to major in electrical engineering.
Getting in front of prospective students is vital, said Lori Gaskin, president of Santa Barbara. “We reach out to students like Edith even before they set foot on campus, before they realize that college is a potential opportunity for them,” she said in an interview. “Our students don’t necessarily have role models or cheerleaders at home.”
Sixty-four percent of the college’s first-time, full-time students transfer or graduate within three years, compared with the national average of 40 percent.
Walla Walla Community College also posts higher-than-average transfer rates, but won for its workforce training programs in high-demand fields including wine making, wind energy, and watershed ecology. ”In 2011 its new graduates earned $41,548, or 79 percent more than what other new hires in the region were making,” reports the Chronicle. “Since Walla Walla began its viticulture-degree program, the number of local wineries has grown from 16 to more than 170.”
By building the wine industry, Walla Walla Community College‘s Enology and Viticulture program may have saved a community, according to Learning Matters. Eighty percent of program graduates find jobs in the wine industry.
The college is one of 10 finalists for the Aspen Prize for community college excellence.
Valencia’s Start Right program has raised student success rates by providing early advising and orientation and redesigning introductory courses. “All the failure occurs at the front door,” says Sandy Shugart, the president since 2000.
. . . because data showed that students who start classes late are the least likely to complete them, nobody could add a course that had already met, even once. But the school didn’t want to slow anyone’s progression. So for the classes first-time students typically take, Valencia created “flex start” sections a month into the semester for students enrolling late.
. . . Two-fifths of Valencia students—including all those with the greatest developmental needs—now take a course called Student Success, where they create a personalized education plan and learn organizational skills. ow.
As a result, more remedial students are passing and moving on to college-level classes.
“Finalists with distinction” are: Walla Walla Community College (Washington), West Kentucky Community and Technical College (Paducah, Kentucky), Lake Area Technical Institute (Watertown, SD) and Miami Dade College (Florida). Each will receive $100,000.
Go here to view the webcast of the event in Washington, D.C.
Community colleges should be included in the discussion about excellence in higher education, writes Kevin Carey.