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Lake Area Technical College Earns Top 3 Aspen Honors

Posted on: March 18, 2015   |   Category: News

Lake Area Technical College Named One of Top Three Community Colleges in America by Aspen College; Chosen as Finalist-with-Distinction from 1,123 Nationwide for Third Time


Lake Area Technical College awarded $100,000 prize for achieving outstanding outcomes in: learning, degree completion, minority and low-income student success, and employment and earnings


Washington, DC, March 18, 2015 – The Aspen College announced today that Lake Area Technical College (LATI) in Watertown, South Dakota is a Finalist-with-Distinction for the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. Selected from 1,123 community colleges nationwide, this is the third time LATI has been awarded this honor along with $100,000 in Prize funds.

“Today we celebrate in the company of an esteemed group of Top 10 community colleges who work every day to improve the lives of seven million community college students nationwide,” LATI President Mike Cartney commented. “We are extremely proud to be named a finalist with distinction for the third time in a row – the only college in history to attain that status every consecutive time. It is a tribute to our faculty, staff and leadership who strive each and every day to improve student outcomes on our campus.  It’s not about being the best, it is about doing our best and the rest will follow!”
The Aspen Prize, the nation’s preeminent recognition of high achievement and performance in America’s community colleges, is awarded every two years and recognizes institutions for outstanding outcomes in four areas: student learning; certificate and degree completion; employment and earnings; and high levels of access and success for minority and low-income students.

This year’s Aspen Prize winner, Santa Fe College (Gainesville, FL), will receive $800,000, while a second finalist-with-distinction, West Kentucky Community & Technical College, and the “Rising Star” recipient, Kennedy-King College (Chicago, IL), will receive $100,000 prizes. (See full list of Top Ten Prize Finalists below and read more information about them at http://www.aspenCollege.org/policy-work/college-excellence/2015aspenprize.)

“Lake Area Technical College has a graduation rate that rivals most top-tier four-year colleges,” said Joshua Wyner, Executive Director of the Aspen College College Excellence Program and author of What Excellent Community Colleges Do. “Every faculty and staff member has a single-minded focus: ensuring students succeed and are prepared for careers in good, available jobs.”

Lake Area Technical College (LATI) has been a finalist-with-distinction each of the three years the Aspen Prize has been awarded since 2011. Its graduation/transfer rate is among the highest in the nation, fueled by its highly structured programs of defined courses and hands-on educational approach. LATI’s 2,000 students, most attending full-time, are guided into a technical program when they enroll – based on their aptitude, goals and interests – and guided on a clear pathway to a degree or certificate. LATI faculty track student success from start to finish and also work with local employers to build and fine-tune their exemplary workforce training programs to provide students with the exact skills they need to be job-ready. The college is part of a solid, perpetual employment loop with regional employers investing heavily in LATI and its students, providing equipment, scholarships, and field experiences and collaborating with instructors and hiring LATI graduates who then go on, as employers themselves to continue the cycle.

Student outcomes:

  • 73% graduation/transfer rate, among highest in the nation (40% national average)
  • 98% of graduates are employed or continuing their education six months after graduation
  • Graduates earn 49% more than  other new hires in the region

Community colleges today enroll more than 40 percent of all US undergraduates – 7 million students – working toward degrees and certificates. These include rapidly growing numbers of lower-income and minority students. While nationwide, fewer than half of all community college students graduate, Aspen Prize finalist institutions demonstrate that community colleges can help students achieve higher levels of success while in college and after they graduate.

At today’s Prize announcement event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, national and state leaders joined in celebrating the program and the accomplishments of the finalists.  Speakers included Dr. Jill Biden, Second Lady of the United States; Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee – the first state in the nation to offer free community college; and Aspen Prize Jury co-chairs Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue University and former Governor of Indiana, and former Representative George Miller (D-CA).

“So many Americans are relying on community colleges to provide the stepping stones to a college degree and a better future,” Dr. Biden said.  “Our nation’s prosperity truly depends on our higher education system delivering more high-quality degrees to an increasingly diverse group of students. This is the time for community colleges to shine, and the institutions Aspen honors today are leading by example.”