April 2, 2019 5:16 pm

Pierce College Fort Steilacoom, a finalist for the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, was recognized today by Aspen with a Rising Star award for dramatically improving student outcomes, accompanied by a $100,000 cash award. During an award ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., Pierce College was honored for improved student retention and completion over time, a commitment to equitable outcomes for students, service to military students and their families, and a dedicated focus on helping all students overcome obstacles. The school’s completion rate of 59 percent is nearly 20 percentage points above the national average.

Pierce College’s implementation of Guided Pathways is also helping to further its success in improving student retention and completion. This evidence-based approach simplifies choices about college courses, and helps to streamline the process from college entrance to completion.

“Our progress in improving student outcomes would not have been possible without the incredible work from everyone at our college and from our board of trustees,” said Pierce College Fort Steilacoom Interim President Deidre Soileau. “Our employees have been willing to ask hard questions, use data to inform change, and to create new possibilities for students."

The $1 million Aspen Prize, awarded every two years since 2011, recognizes outstanding institutions selected from an original pool of more than 1,000 community colleges nationwide. With a singular focus on student success, the Aspen Prize assesses institutional performance in four areas: student learning, certificate and degree completion, success after graduation in the labor market and transfer to four-year institutions, and equity in access and success for students of color and low-income students.

“At every turn, Pierce College identifies and lifts barriers that stand in students’ way,” said Joshua Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program. “By enacting comprehensive reforms – and measuring impact every step of the way – Pierce has improved student success at a remarkable rate."