Nine Washington community colleges have been picked as among the best two-year colleges in the nation.

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Nine Washington community colleges — including seven in the Puget Sound region — are on the list of the nation’s 150 best, as picked by the nonprofit Aspen Institute.

The list includes Everett Community College, Highline College, Olympic College (Bremerton), Pierce College-Fort Steilacoom, Renton Technical College, South Puget Sound Community College, Tacoma Community College, Clark College (Vancouver) and Whatcom Community College.

The Aspen College Excellence Program picks its top 150 by doing a review of publicly available data, and choosing those schools that show student success in persistence, completion and transfer; consistent improvement in outcomes over time; and equity in outcomes for students of all racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Those schools are then meant to serve as models for other schools trying to improve. The institute awards $1 million in prize funds to the top colleges.

Both Renton Technical College and Olympic College were recognized when the prize was last given two years ago, and finished in the top 10. In 2013, Walla Walla Community College shared the prize with Santa Barbara City College.

Ten finalists will be named in fall of this year, and the Aspen Institute will then conduct site visits and collect more data. A jury will select a grand prize winner, as well as a handful of finalists with distinction, in early 2017.

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