EMSI Clients Shine in Aspen Prize for Comm. College Excellence

Congratulations to Aspen Institute LogoValencia College in Orlando, an EMSI client, for taking home the inaugural Aspen Prize, awarded Monday in Washington, D.C. Valencia was selected as the top two-year college — from a pool of 1,200 in the nation — based on its academic and workforce outcomes.

We’re happy to report four of the top five Aspen finishers regularly use EMSI’s labor market data, tools, and reports to help strengthen their program offerings and support their students’ career decisions. In addition to Valencia, Walla Walla Community College, Miami Dade College, and West Kentucky Community and Technical College — three of the four “finalists with distinction” — are EMSI clients. Nine of the 10 previously announced finalists have worked with EMSI as well.

Valencia’s top honor comes with $600,000 in prize money, while the four runner-ups receive $100,000 each.

Here’s more on Valencia from the Miami Herald:

Valencia was noted for its graduation, retention and employment rates, which are higher than at many community colleges. The three-year graduation and transfer rate is 51 percent, compared to 39 percent nationwide.

The college was one of 10 finalists chosen from a pool of 1,200 schools. It will share the $1 million prize with four other schools: Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, S.D.; Miami Dade College in Miami, Fla.; Walla Walla Community College in Walla Walla, Wash.; and West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah, Ky.

And here are details on WWCC’s top-five finish from the Seattle Times:

Walla Walla Community College was named one of the top five community colleges in the nation Monday by the Aspen Institute.

The school was one of 4 “finalists with distinction” for the inaugural Aspen Prize, winning $100,000. The prize was awarded to highlight two-year colleges that do exceptional work in educating students and training them for good jobs. The top prize-winner was Valencia Community College in Florida.

Former Michigan Gov. John Engler, who helped present the prize at a luncheon in Washington, D.C., Monday, said that “one of the most impressive things about this college is that they award degrees and certificates that are tied to real jobs.” Walla Walla graduates’ wages are 261 percent higher the the average wage paid to workers in the surrounding rural area, he said.

Walla Walla made the final cut 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, Aspen Institute officials said.

The community college has also been nimble at changing its degree offerings as the local economy has changed. Its enology (the study of winemaking) and viticulture (the study of growing grapevines for winemaking) programs have helped fuel the expansion of wineries in the Walla Walla area by teaching students how to make great wine.

And now that Walla Walla’s wines have put the town on the tourist map, the college is expanding its culinary, performing- and visual-arts programs — the kinds of entertainment that wine-tasting tourists seek out when planning a vacation, said the school’s president, Steve VanAusdle.

The Aspen Institute has more on the final selections in this press release. Scroll to the bottom to see the names on the prize jury, which included Georgetown’s Anthony Carnevale and David Leonhardt of the New York Times.

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