The college with a 99% graduate employment rate—and the secret of its success

Earlier this year, the Lake Area Technical Institute (LATI) won the prestigious Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

The prize is awarded by the Aspen Institute and comes with $600,000. It is given to one community college every two years based on factors that include graduation rates, employment and salary outcomes, and success for minority and low-income students.

The Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence is co-chaired by Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue University, and former Rep. George Miller (D-Calif). They wrote in Time magazine about the reasons why LATI has had so much success.

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They start with a few of LATI's impressive statistics:

  • 99% of LATI students are employed or continuing their education six months after they graduate;
  • After five years, LATI graduates have salaries higher than the average for other local workers; and
  • 74% of students at LATI graduate or transfer to a four-year school within three years—compared with a nationwide average of less than 40%.

The key to LATI's success has been its partnerships with local and regional businesses, Daniels and Miller argue. These businesses host internships and supply training equipment such as airplanes for students studying aviation and a cadaver lab for nursing students. They help colleges recruit star faculty by supplementing salaries and supporting curriculum planning to ensure students have the most in-demand skills.

Indian River State College, a 2017 Aspen Prize finalist, has similarly partnered with businesses to offer experiential learning opportunities to students. For example, the campus includes an imitation hospital ward for students studying health care and a real on-campus dental clinic for students studying dentistry.  Employers have also helped the college build soft skills training into the curriculum to help students be more successful after graduation.

The incentive for employers to participate is the pipeline of valuable workers. Daniels and Miller argue that these industry partnerships are a model that every college should consider (Daniels/Miller, TIME, 5/22).

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