2 Kentucky community colleges among 10 finalists for excellence prize

Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Cumberland and West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah have been named finalists for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, one of the nation's signature honors for community college achievement.

Only 10 finalists are chosen nationwide, and Kentucky is one of only two states to have more than one college recognized as an Aspen Top 10 finalist.

"This is an incredible honor to have two of our colleges chosen as finalists for the Aspen Prize," said Michael B. McCall, president of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. "I congratulate SKCTC and WKCTC presidents Dr. Bruce Ayers and Dr. Barbara Veazey on this outstanding recognition."

SKCTC and WKCTC will continue into the last stage of the competition for a $1 million prize fund that will be awarded to the winner and up to four finalists. Last year, WKCTC was chosen as one of the top five finalists and received $100,000 from the Aspen Prize fund.

In April, five KCTCS colleges were named among the nation's 120 best community colleges and recognized as the top 10 percent in the country.

They were: Hazard Community and Technical College, Madisonville Community College, Somerset Community College, Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College and West Kentucky Community and Technical College.

"To have a total of five of our colleges recognized in this process is a true indication KCTCS is on the right path to become the nation's premier community and technical college system," said McCall.

After the announcement, Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute's College Excellence Program, highlighted the achievements of the Kentucky finalists, saying, "Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College demonstrates that even community colleges facing tremendous barriers to student success can overcome them and excel. The long-standing economic and social challenges of Appalachia are well-known. Through well-constructed support services and strong developmental education programs, SKCTC is helping students earn degrees and certificates that lead to living wage jobs."

Wyner also recognized WKCTC as a repeat finalist and added, "WKCTC has demonstrated that it is a top community college for a second consecutive year. Its leadership is driven to assess both community and student needs. By identifying barriers to student success and removing them, WKCTC is able to deliver custom-trained graduates who fit the bill for available jobs."

The Aspen Prize recognizes achievements in four areas: student learning outcomes, degree and college completion, labor market success in students securing jobs after college, and minority and low-income student success.

A grand prize winner and up to four finalists-with-distinction will be announced in March.