WALLA WALLA -- Walla Walla Community College has been ranked among the top 10 percent of community colleges in the nation by the Aspen Institute.
The Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence program listed the school as among the country's 120 best community colleges, and one of four from Washington state.
The ranking makes each college eligible for $1 million in prize money.
Colleges were chosen for their commitment to high standards for learning, for students achieving college completion without delay and for serving as a training ground for students into jobs paying competitive wages.
Clint Gabbard, WWCC vice president of student services, said the college would submit its application in May with the hopes of earning the top prize. But whatever the outcomes later this year, Gabbard said it is already an honor just to be considered for the Aspen Prize.
"They drew this directly from some outcome data that is already available at the national level," he said. The college data shows years of student success both completing programs and getting into jobs or continuing education.
"They looked at it in terms of our numbers and our facts. To be nominated on those facts is a real honor."
The Aspen Prize is a new award that was announced at the White House Community College Summit in October 2010. Aspen has committed a $1 million award to the community college that best meets the stated goals of achievement, high standards, and support for students.
The top eight to 10 colleges will be narrowed down by September with a winner and runners-up to be announced in December.
As one of the top colleges, Walla Walla Community College can seek the prize money through an application process.
The college will have to collect and present data on student learning, on-time program completion and how well students do in the job market after graduating.
Colleges must demonstrate they deliver exceptional student results, use data to drive decisions and use that information to continually improve over time, according to the Aspen Institute website.
Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8317.
The Aspen Institute is an international nonprofit focused on promoting leadership and dialogue for the advancement of society with a focus on supporting individuals.
The Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence was established last year to recognize outstanding community colleges, particularly those graduating students into competitive jobs while tracking and studying academic successes for future growth.
The full list of eligible institutions can be found at AspenCCPrize.org.