One of Washington’s many talented community colleges, Walla Walla, was honored on Tuesday with the prestigious Aspen Award – along with a $400,000 grant to grow their successful programs.
The national award recognizes a community college that does an exceptional job at graduating students and preparing them for careers or further education at a four year institution. Schools are judged on student learning outcomes, degree completion, labor market success in securing good jobs after college, and facilitating minority and low-income student success.
Traditionally the Aspen Award is presented to just one community college, but Walla Walla shared the top honors with Santa Barbara City College. The selection committee felt that both had excelled equally among the criteria.
WWCC was chosen for its success in predicting and meeting demand in new and growing industries. During the recession they were one of the few rural community colleges to grow, primarily because of their willingness to shrink or close programs and shift resources to more popular areas.
The college doubled enrollment in their nursing program when market research suggested an upcoming shortage, and they successfully anticipated the explosive growth of Washington’s wine industry with their viticulture program. Their efforts paid off for students as well: recent Walla Walla graduates earn nearly double annual amount of other new hires in the region.