By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
FULTON – A national organization on Friday recognized Itawamba Community College as being among the top 10 percent of community colleges in the nation.
The school was among 120 in the country to be honored by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. Three other Mississippi colleges – Meridian Community College, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and Pearl River Community College – were also recognized.
The distinction is based upon data that community colleges submit annually to the U.S. Department of Education. The top 120 institutions are chosen based on a formula that analyzes graduation rates, degrees awarded, student retention rates and equity in student outcomes (lower-performing students making the same progress as higher-performing ones).
Itawamba Community College President David Cole said the recognition validates several recent initiatives the college has put into place. Those include the “Graduation It Matters” campaign, an advising program more realistic about student course work needs, a course designed to help freshmen be successful in college, a tutorial center and math and writing labs.
“They were all designed based on research to produce preferred outcomes on student learning,” Cole said of the new initiatives. “This data validates that the research is correct, and the initiatives are on target.”
The 120 community colleges that were recognized are eligible to compete for the $1 million fund for the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. A list of eight- to 10 finalists will be named in September, and the winner will be announced in March.
“At a time when a college degree is essential to entering the middle class, community colleges like Itawamba Community College offer the most promising path to education and employment for literally millions of Americans,” Josh Wyner, the Aspen Institute College’s Excellence Program executive director, said in a news release.