After placing among the finalists for three years in a row, Lake Area Technical Institute has won the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.
The $600,000 prize is awarded by The Aspen Institute to one community college every two years based on factors that include graduation rates, employment and salary outcomes, and student success for minority and low-income students.
"It's basically the Oscars for great community colleges," former President Barack Obama said of the prize in his 2015 commencement address at the institution—the school had made the short list that year.
Lake Area Tech reports student success metrics significantly higher than national averages:
- 74% of students graduate or transfer to 4-year institutions;
- 80% retention rate; and
- 99% of students are employed or continuing their education within six months of graduation.
To ensure strong employment outcomes, the institution partners with local employers such as FedEx to provide hands-on education for certain academic programs. The school's goal is to provide students with the exact technical skills they'll need to succeed in the workforce.
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"What people need to know to get that entry-level job is much more than it used to be," said Michael Cartney, president of Lake Area Tech.
"On every measure of community college excellence, Lake Area Technical Institute is firing on all cylinders," Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute's College Excellence Program, wrote in a news release (White House release, 5/8/2015; Lobosco, CNN Money, 3/17; Aspen Institute site, accessed 3/22).
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