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Community College Excellence Awarded to Lake Area Tech
South Dakota Ag Connection - 03/16/2017

The Aspen Institute announced today that Lake Area Technical Institute (LATI) in Watertown, S.D., is the winner of the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation's preeminent recognition of high achievement and improvement in America's community colleges and benchmark for community college reform.

The $1 million Aspen Prize, awarded every two years since 2011, recognizes outstanding institutions selected from an original pool of more than 1,000 public community colleges nationwide. With a singular focus on student success, the Prize process centers on a rigorous assessment of institutions' achievements in four areas: learning; certificate and degree completion; employment and earnings; and high levels of access and success for minority and low-income students.

Lake Area Technical Institute President Mike Cartney exclaimed, "I am overwhelmed with emotion! In this moment, my heart and thoughts go to the great faculty, staff, and students of Lake Area Tech. Their hard work, dedication, and innovation epitomize that it is not about being the best, but doing your best. I could not be more proud of each and every one of them!" He continued, "The Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence has helped Lake Area Tech identify that college is pathway, not a destination. We care about our students, and they know we care. We believe in our students, and they know we believe in them. And, we listen to our students, and they know we are listening."

Aspen named two Florida colleges as finalists-with-distinction: Broward College (Fort Lauderdale) and Indian River State College (Fort Pierce). Two top ten finalists were recognized for their strong record of improvement with the "Rising Star" award: Odessa College (Odessa, TX) and San Jacinto College (Pasadena, TX). All four will receive $100,000 in Prize funds, while grand prize winner LATI will receive $600,000 in Prize funds.

"On every measure of community college excellence, Lake Area Technical Institute is firing on all cylinders," said Joshua Wyner, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. "Its outstanding graduation and job placement rates are a result of its deep commitment to ensure that all students thrive in the classroom and in great jobs after graduation. LATI and all the Prize finalists offer lessons for community colleges across the nation--large and small, rural and urban--on how to improve student success. In the end, the Prize winning colleges provide a blueprint for student-centered reform."

The Prize winner and finalists were announced at an event at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., by Aspen Prize Jury co-chairs Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue University and former Governor of Indiana, and former Representative George Miller (D-CA). Governor Daniels and Representative Miller lead a distinguished Prize Jury of higher education experts to select the top colleges, part of a rigorous review process that included the examination of extensive data on performance and improvements in learning, graduation, workforce, and equitable outcomes as well as multi-day site visits to each of the ten finalist institutions.

Community colleges today enroll more than 40% of all US undergraduates 6 million students working toward degrees and certificates. These include growing numbers of lower-income and minority students. While nationwide, fewer than 40% of all community college students graduate, Aspen Prize finalist institutions demonstrate that community colleges can help students achieve higher levels of success while in college and in completing a degree that leads to well-paying jobs and careers after college.

The Aspen College Excellence Program aims to advance higher education practices, policies, and leadership that significantly improve student outcomes. Through the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the Siemens Technical Scholars Program, and other initiatives, the College Excellence Program works to improve colleges' understanding and capacity to teach and graduate students, especially the growing population of low-income and minority students on American campuses. The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland's Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners.

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