November 5, 2019 5:02 pm

The prestigious Aspen Institute College Excellence Program has named both Pierce College Fort Steilacoom and Pierce College Puyallup as Aspen Prize Top 150 Community Colleges. Pierce College is now eligible to compete for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America's community colleges.

Pierce College is joined by only three other Washington community and technical colleges in the Top 150 community colleges in the nation. The others are Bellingham Technical College, Renton Technical College, and South Puget Sound Community College.

Earlier this year, Pierce College Fort Steilacoom was named an Aspen Rising Star college, placing it in the Top 5 community colleges in the nation.

“As the new president of a 2019 Aspen Rising Star College, it is so exciting to be part of this work,” said Pierce College Fort Steilacoom President Julie White, Ph.D. “I heard so many good things about Pierce College nationally over the years. It’s such a privilege to continue the work in helping students achieve their goals."

In addition, Pierce College Puyallup is an Aspen Prize Top 150 U.S. Community College for the first time in its history.

“It is an honor for Pierce College Puyallup to be named an Aspen Prize Top 150 college,” said Pierce College Puyallup President Darrell Cain, Ph.D. “This recognition is a wonderful confirmation that our focus on student success is helping more people positively change the trajectory of their lives.”

The 150 community colleges were selected from a pool of nearly 1,000 public two-year colleges nationwide using publicly available data on student outcomes. Pierce College was recognized for its strength and improvement in student outcomes—including in learning, completion rates, employment rates and earnings, and equity. Only the top 15 percent of community colleges nationwide have been invited to apply for the Aspen Prize.

“After our experience as an Aspen Rising Star college in the 2019 selection, we’re looking forward to once again beginning our journey to the top prize as we continue to improve and refine our efforts in student success,” said Chancellor Michele Johnson, Ph.D. “We are so pleased that both Fort Steilacoom and Puyallup have been recognized and included in the Top 150 community colleges in the nation.”

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.

“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 top ten finalists for the 2021 Aspen Prize will be named in May 2020. A distinguished jury will make award decisions in Spring 2021.

Learn more about Aspen or view the full list of the Top 150 Community Colleges.