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(West Plains) – For the second consecutive year, Missouri State University-West Plains has been named one of the top 120 two-year colleges in the United States by the Aspen Institute Community College Excellence Program and is now eligible to compete for prize money from the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

The recognition, announced this week by Aspen Institute College Excellence Program Executive Director Josh Wyner, is based on a formula that assesses performance and improvement in graduation rates, degrees awarded, student retention rates and equity in student outcomes.

Missouri State-West Plains was selected out of 1,200 community colleges across the nation and is one of only two recognized in Missouri. Univesity officials explained that athough not a community college, Missouri State-West Plains is a member of the American Association of Community Colleges as an associate degree-granting institution.

Colleges selected among the top 10 percent of the nation’s community colleges were chosen after an analysis of publicly available data on student outcomes. An advisory committee considered three criteria: performance, which include retention, graduation rates, and degrees and certificates for full-time students; steady improvement in each performance; and evidence of completion outcomes for minority and low-income students.

Missouri State-West Plains is now eligible to submit an application to compete for the prize money, which will include a single winner and four runners up. The application must include detailed data on degree/certificate completion, including progress and transfer rates; labor market outcomes (employment and earnings); and student learning outcomes. The university also must demonstrate it delivers exceptional student results for all students, including those who come from racial minority or low income backgrounds.

Ten finalists for the prize money will be announced in September, and, following site visits to each of the 10 institutions this fall, winners will be announced in March 2013.

This is the second Aspen Prize to be awarded. The inaugural Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence was awarded to Valencia College in Orlando, FL, in December 2011. It was the first broad national recognition of extraordinary accomplishments at individual community colleges.

The Aspen Prize was announced at a White House summit on community college education in October 2010 hosted by President Barack Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and a community college professor.

The Aspen Institute’s mission is two-fold: to foster values-based leadership, encouraging individuals to reflect on the ideals and ideas that define a good society; and to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues. The Aspen College Excellence Program aims to identify and replicate campus-wide practices that significantly improve college student outcomes. The Aspen Prize is funded by the America Achieves, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Joyce Foundation, JPMorgan Chase Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Lumina Foundation for Education.

For more information about the Aspen College Excellence Program and the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, visit www.AspenPrize.org. For more information about Missouri State University-West Plains, visit www.wp.missouristate.edu.

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