Wytheville Community Makes the Cut (but Where are the Other Community Colleges?)

Drawing upon on data relating to student success, the Aspen Institute has published a list of 120 community colleges across the nation that are eligible to compete for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. Only one community college in Virginia made the cut. And it is (drum roll)….

Wytheville Community College!

That doesn’t say much about Virginia’s community college system as a whole. With a population of 7,750,000, Virginia is home to one out of 40 Americans. Proportional representation in the list of top community colleges suggests that we would have at least three represented.

What, exactly, is being measured? Let me quote the Aspen Insitute:

We looked at … graduation rates, retention rates, and the total number of degrees/certificates awarded relative to total enrollment, taking into account part-time students as well as full-time students. Using these measures, equal weight was given to overall performance, improvement, and performance by minority students. The selection process measured outcomes with a comprehensive set of data points that took into account the varied missions and populations served by community colleges.

OK, there’s a touch-feely element to all of this. Aspen is not measuring the number of grads who go on to start their own IT start-ups, work for Wall Street or become millionaires. But it’s worth taking a look at the methodology, deciding if it measures something worthwhile and, if it does, ask why Virginia community colleges aren’t meeting Aspen’s standard of excellence.

But don’t let that take anything away from Wytheville Community. Good going, guys!

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