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September 6, 2012 at 7:29 AM

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Props to Walla Walla Community College, named one of 10 best

Congratulations to Walla Walla Community College, which has been named one of the country's 10 best community colleges by the Aspen Institute.

Walla Walla is a finalist for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The ten finalists were selected from a pool of 1,000 schools. The winner gets a $1 million prize. Here is the Aspen Institute's announcement.

The schools were judged based on student-learning results, degree and college output, graduates' ability to find jobs and access to minority and low-income students.

The institute will visit each of the finalists to do more research and announce a grand prize winner and four finalists that deserve recognition in March. In 2011, Walla Walla was named one of the four finalists.

The Aspen Institute reminds us that as tuition at four-year public universities skyrockets, community college is the only affordable option for many students in our community. The school serves 13,000 students in southeast Washington.

I fear that state leaders will assume that since Walla Walla is excelling that our state's community colleges don't need more resources. Let's aim higher. Imagine what Walla Walla, and all of the state's community colleges, could accomplish if state leaders made investing in higher education a priority in the next budget.

As former President Bill Clinton reminded the nation on Wednesday at the Democratic national convention, "There are already more than 3 million jobs open and unfilled in America, mostly because the people who apply for them don't yet have the required skills to do them. So, even as we get Americans more jobs, we have ot prepare more Americans for the new jobs that are actually going to be created. The old economy is not coming back. We've got to build a new one and educate people to do those jobs.

"After a decade in which exploding college costs have increased the dropout rate so much that the percentage of our young people with four-year college degrees has gone down so much that we have dropped to 16th in the world," Clinton said.

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