Renton Technical College and Olympic College in Bremerton are finalists for the $1 million Aspen Prize for community college excellence, which will be awarded March 18.
Next week, the nonprofit Aspen Foundation will award its prestigious $1 million prize to one of the nation’s 1,000-plus community colleges — the one it believes does the best job of helping students get a credential and a good job after graduation. Two Washington community colleges are on the list of 10 finalists — Renton Technical College and Olympic College of Bremerton.
They were among the colleges picked for doing an outstanding job of “student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings, and high levels of access and success for minority and low-income students,” according to the foundation’s description.
The foundation looked at data summing up five years of retention and graduation rates, and six years of data on the number of credentials awarded per 100 students. According to Aspen’s number-crunching (available for download here), both Renton and Olympic scored well.
Renton Tech has a three-year graduation-transfer rate of 66 percent — 65 percent for minority students, who make up 17 percent of enrollment. It awards about 35 credentials for every 100 students. And almost 70 percent of its students are nontraditional — that is, they’re 25 or older.
Olympic College in Bremerton has a three-year graduation or transfer rate of 43 percent, and awards about 40 credentials for every 100 students. Among minorities, who make up 11 percent of enrollment, the rate is 24 credentials awarded for every 100 students. About 40 percent of its students are 25 or older.
In all, six Washington community colleges made the initial list of 150 finalists, including Walla Walla and Whatcom community colleges, and Skagit Valley and Columbia Basin colleges.
The prize will be awarded March 18. Two years ago, Walla Walla Community College shared the top prize with Santa Barbara City College.