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COOS BAY — Southwestern Oregon Community College has been named one of the nation’s top 150 community colleges eligible to compete for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. On Nov. 5, The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program named the community colleges eligible to compete for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges. Southwestern is the only school in Oregon that has been invited to apply.

Based on strong and improving student outcomes — including in learning, completion rates, employment rates and earnings, and equity — 15 percent of community colleges nationwide have been invited to apply for the Aspen Prize. Data show that over the last two years, student retention, graduation rates, and degree completion have improved at the top tier of 150 Aspen Prize-eligible colleges.

“We are surprised and excited at Southwestern with the announcement that our college is being considered for this honor,” said President Dr. Patty Scott. “Southwestern started down this path 15 years ago. Achieving excellence is about more than numbers to us. We created systems and connections to support our students in being successful. I’m so pleased to see our faculty and staff being recognized for their dedication. It’s possible because every person who works on our campuses – at every level and in every job – is committed to removing barriers to give all students the support they need to succeed. Today, our students lead the state in completing degrees and high-skill job training, and transferring to universities,” Dr. Scott said.

Southwestern leads the state in community college graduation and transfer rates, and has the lowest time to completion in years.

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The 150 community colleges named as eligible to compete for the 2021 Prize were selected from a pool of nearly 1,000 public two-year colleges nationwide using publicly available data on student outcomes. Located in 39 states in urban, rural and suburban areas, serving as few as 500 students and as many as 75,000 students, these colleges represent the diversity and depth of the community college sector. The top 10 finalists for the 2021 Aspen Prize will be named in May 2020.

“Community colleges play a vital role in developing talent and enabling social mobility across the country, and it’s critical for them to get better at what they do,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. “We’re pleased to see evidence that these institutions are improving, that more are delivering on their promise. We’re also pleased to play a role in honoring outstanding community colleges and sharing what works to ensure great outcomes for students — through graduation and beyond.”

The Aspen Prize is generously funded by ECMC Foundation, Joyce Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, and Siemens Foundation. The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program aims to advance higher education practices, policies and leadership that significantly improve student outcomes, especially for the growing population of low-income students and students of color on American campuses. For more information, visit www.highered.aspeninstitute.org.

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