Valencia named top 10 finalist of community college contest

Valencia College math tutor Marisela Rey helps Valencia student Deidre Dungee

By Denise-Marie Balona, Orlando Sentinel
12:05 a.m. EDT, September 13, 2011

Valencia College today was named one of 10 national finalists for a big new award — the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, which comes with prizes totaling $1 million.

The award seeks to spotlight community colleges with a track record for excellence that will ultimately become models for the rest of the country. Community colleges, which serve nearly half of all college students, are a main focus of President Obama’s plan to boost the nation’s number of college graduates.

One other Florida school — Miami Dade College — was selected as a finalist from among the 120 institutions in the competition.

The schools were chosen based on high performance and their improvements in graduation rates and other indicators of student success.

For example, Valencia students graduate or transfer to other higher-education institutions at a rate of nearly 12 percent above the national average, college officials said.

Last year, 94 percent of Valencia nursing graduates passed their national exam, surpassing the state and national averages.

Community College Week magazine recently ranked Valencia No. 1 in the country for the number of associate degrees awarded.

Valencia’s president, Sandy Shugart, said being a finalist for the Aspen Prize is an affirmation of his faculty’s hard work.

“For more than 15 years, Valencia has been deeply focused on improving student graduation and learning, and we have begun to see extraordinary results in the last five to six years, especially,” he said. “The whole country is interested in those results.”

The $1 million in prize money will be awarded in December. The winner will receive $700,000. The rest will be split among three runners-up.

dbalona@tribune.com or 407-420-5470

Copyright © 2011, Orlando Sentinel

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