College of the Ouachitas Among TOP TEN Community Colleges in Nation

Dr. Stepen Schoonmaker with Jill Biden at the Aspen Institute Awards Ceremony

College of the Ouachitas is among the 10 best community colleges in the nation, representatives for the Aspen Institute said recently.
Dr. Stephen Schoonmaker, College of the Ouachitas’ President, was presented the prestigious award in a ceremony in Washington, D.C.  College of the Ouachitas was the only Arkansas college to be recognized as a top 10 finalist.

The Aspen Prize College Excellence Program was designed to recognize community colleges with strong records of preparing students for jobs or transfer to four-year colleges, as well as attracting and graduating low-income and minority students. The Aspen Institute is an educational studies organization based in Washington, D.C.  Since 2011, the institute has awarded an annual prize for Community College Excellence to a community college that provides students with the highest level of skills and best outcomes for jobs.

The Aspen Institute first selected 120 two-year colleges from the pool of about 1,000 eligible institutions.  From the 120, the institute selected 10 finalists that offer the best outcomes in four areas: degree completion or transfer to four-year colleges, success in job market, student learning, and equity of opportunity and successes for underserved students.

“The Aspen Prize process evaluated more than a thousand community colleges. Being one of the top ten is itself something to celebrate,” said Josh Wyner, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program. “College of the Ouachitas’ recognition is well-deserved. In a region with limited economic opportunity, the College works hard to provide students with the tools and support they need to be successful in the classroom and in the workforce. From analyzing data on student success, to altering remedial math and English programs, to building strong relationships with regional employers, everything the college does is trained to improve student learning and completion so that graduates have the best chance to succeed in life after graduating. Above all else, College of the Ouachitas works to raise and maintain academic rigor, resulting in three-year graduation and transfer rates significantly increasing over the past several years.”

Among the reasons College of the Ouachitas stands out as one of the nation’s top community colleges:
• Steady increases in the number of credentials awarded – from 28 for every 100 full-time equivalent students in 2006, up to 46 in 2010
• 47% of first-time full-time students graduate or transfer within three years, compared to the national average of 40%
• Serves low-income student body -- 61% of first-time full-time undergraduates receive Pell grants

To View College of the Ouachitas information on the Aspen Institute’s Website, go to:
http://www.aspeninstitute.org/policy-work/aspen-prize/2013-aspen-prize/CollegeoftheOuachitas

College of the Ouachitas Media Contact
Amber Childers, (501)332-0234, amber [at] coto.edu