WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Washington think-tank The Aspen Institute honored Lake Area Technical Institute with the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Tuesday.
“We’re so humbled and honored to be the Aspen recipient this year," said LATI president Michael Cartney.
Every two years, Aspen recognizes community colleges around the country for their achievements in student learning, degree completion, job placement for graduates, and access for minority and low-income students.
The judges say Lake Area improved in two key areas: teaching the skills needed to succeed in the workplace and closing the graduation rate gap between students who receive Pell grants and those who don’t.
Cartney calls it a “family effort.”
“Everyone who works there joins together. We work hard together. It’s all about students succeeding, and not just graduating, but getting good jobs," he said.
Lake Area beat out nine other finalists and an original pool of 1,000 public community colleges. It was also a finalist four other times.
“Watertown’s a fantastic place to go, but people fly over it. They got on our radar right from the beginning of the Aspen Prize, they kept improving, and now they’re finally the winner," explained Executive Director Joshua Wyner.
With the prize comes $600,000. Cartney says staff and students will form a community to decide what to spend the money on.
“We do know we need to expand, so that will probably be one of the priorities," he said.
Lake Area is no longer eligible to win the award again, but Cartney says he’ll stay active the in the Aspen Institute’s President’s Academy and hopes other college can learn from his.