Walla Walla Community College has been recognized as one of top 10 two-year colleges in the nation.
We are not surprised.
We have watched WWCC, under the leadership of President Steve VanAusdle, grow into a fantastic institution of higher education. The college serves a wide cross section of the community and is particularly skilled at figuring out what occupations will be in demand and then designing programs that deliver graduates who are highly employable.
The top-10 honor came as WWCC was named one of the finalists for a $1 million prize for the two-year college that does the most exceptional work in educating students and training them for good jobs. The winner and up to three runners-up will share the Aspen Prize for College Excellence, which will be awarded by the nonprofit Aspen Institute in December.
WWCC is one of the 10 finalists because its full-time, first-year students have a college graduation and transfer rate that's about 12 percent higher than the national average. That rate is improving, and minority students do equally as well as nonminority students, said Josh Wyner, executive director of the institute's College Excellence Program.
"Walla Walla Community College is doing great things for students and the Walla Walla Valley," Wyner said. "The school deserves special recognition for its success in helping students overcome gaps in their K-12 education to finish their programs and complete college. At all three fronts, they've exceeded the national average."
Notice was taken of several of WWCC's innovative programs.
This included the enology and viticulture -- winemaking and grape growing -- program. The programs aimed at the wine industry are housed in the Center for Enology and Viticulture, which opened in 2002. It was the first teaching and commercial winery in the country at a two-year college.
WWCC was also noticed for its nursing and medical programs, the new Water & Environmental Center and its new wind technology program.
When the $1 million prize is given in December, we fully expect WWCC to win.
But even if it is not awarded the top prize, being picked as one of the 10 best out of over a thousand colleges throughout the nation is an incredible honor.
Being a finalist for this prestigious award simply confirms what we already knew -- WWCC is a top-notch school and well deserving of this honor.