Olympic College scores three-peat in rankings

Named one of 150 top community colleges in the nation by Aspen Institute

BREMERTON — Once again, Olympic College has been named one of the top 150 community colleges in the country by the Aspen Institute.

Every two years, the Aspen Institute identifies 150 top community colleges in the nation to consider for its Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. In the last three award cycles, OC has been asked to apply for the prize as one of those 150 colleges.

Nearly 1,000 colleges are considered each award cycle. The field is narrowed down to the top 150; those 150 can apply for the $1 million award.

“It’s a distinct honor to be recognized by the Aspen Institute as one of the top community colleges in the nation,” Olympic College President David Mitchell said in an announcement of the honor. “With 80 percent of new jobs in Washington requiring a post-secondary credential, local access to higher education serves an important role in providing the skills needed to obtain a living-wage job.”

Olympic College partners with Washington State University, Western Washington University and others to provide advanced degree studies at OC’s Bremerton and Poulsbo campuses. Olympic College also provides college-level evening classes at Chief Kitsap Academy on the Suquamish reservation. In addition to certificate and two-year degree programs, OC also awards undergraduate degrees in digital filmmaking, information systems, nursing, and organizational leadership and technical management — all emerging or in-demand career fields in Kitsap.

In 2015, OC made Aspen Institute’s top 10 list; the top prize was ultimately awarded to Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida.

At the time, Mary Garguile, OC’s vice president of instruction, said of making the top 10: “It’s definitely an honor. I think it’s the recognition of hard work that many people at the college have been engaged in, worked around helping students progress, helping retain our students and helping them complete their educational goal.”

The colleges are selected for consideration for the award based on student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings, and levels of access and success for minority and low-income students.

Since OC was named in the top 150, it is now eligible to apply for the honor of being the award recipient. To do that, OC must submit an application that will undergo a “rigorous evaluation” for a spot in the top 10 list, according to OC. The top 10 finalists will be revealed in May 2018. The grand prize winner will be selected by a prize jury; that decision will be revealed in spring 2019.

To read more on the selection process, visit highered.aspeninstitute.org/aspen-prize-program.

— Michelle Beahm is the online editor for the Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at mbeahm@soundpublishing.com.