Two Washington community colleges — Renton Technical College and Olympic College in Bremerton — have been named among the top 10 two-year colleges in the nation, and will compete for $1 million in prize money.
The two schools were named to the finalist list for the Aspen Prize, a recently-established prize that honors community colleges that are standouts for student academic achievement, certificate and degree completion, job placement and minority and low-income student success. The prize is awarded by the nonprofit Aspen Institute.
Two years ago, Walla Walla Community College shared Aspen’s top prize with Santa Barbara City College. Washington’s community college network is considered by many researchers to be one of the top-achieving systems in the country.
Renton Technical College was named to the list for its graduation and transfer rates, workforce training programs, partnerships with local industry and the K-12 school districts, and structured career pathways that move students quickly to a degree or other credential.
Olympic College was recognized for steadily improving the retention of some of the least academically prepared students, establishing close ties with industry, and creating pathways to a bachelor’s degree — including a collaborative engineering program it runs with Washington State University.
Only two other states — Texas and Florida — had more than one finalist on the Aspen list. The winner and up to four runners-up will be announced in March, after Aspen officials make site visits to the 10 top colleges.