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West Kentucky Community and Technical College selected as finalist for 2020 Bellwether Awards

West Kentucky Community and Technical College is one of 30 community colleges selected as 2020 finalists for the highly coveted Bellwether Awards.

Bellwether Finalists represent leading institutions of higher education whose outstanding and innovative programs and practices in community college education were selected among competitive submissions as exemplary. In February, the finalists will undergo a rigorous second and final round of peer review at the 2020 Community College Futures Assembly coordinated by the Bellwether College Constortium.

This is the fourth time WKCTC has been selected as a Bellwether Awards Finalist, having also been selected in 2005, 2013, and 2017.

“WKCTC is deeply honored to be a four-time finalist for the Bellwether Awards,” said WKCTC President Anton Reece. “The various consistent national recognition is directly attributed to the daily commitment of our administration, faculty and staff’s laser focus on student access, retention and graduation, ultimately leading to jobs throughout our region.”

(Pictured left to right): Community Scholarship Program recipients Abijah Williams, Jay Smith and Quincy Bell celebrate completing West Kentucky Community and Technical College credentials during the college commencement at the Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center in May. (WKCTC photo)

The Bellwether Awards are widely regarded as the nation’s most competitive and prestigious recognition for community colleges and the only award evaluated by experts and practitioners in the field. In its 26 years of celebrating community colleges, the BCC identifies outstanding and innovative programs or practices which can then be shared and replicated. The consortium names 10 finalists in three categories before selecting a winner in each category.

WKCTC was selected in the Instructional Programs and Services category, which recognizes programs and services that foster or support teaching and learning in the community college. WKCTC’s submission titled, “The Community Scholarship Program, A Decade of Student Success,” describes the program, which started in 2010. Through the program, McCracken County residents can attend WKCTC tuition-free and earn up to 60 credit hours.

The goals of the Community Scholarship Program are to increase high school graduation rates, increase high school transition rates to postsecondary education, and improve the quality and skill level of the workforce in McCracken County by reducing financial barriers to college. High school graduates meeting minimum academic thresholds are eligible to receive “last-dollar” scholarship funds. Funding sources include the Rotary Club of Paducah, the City of Paducah, McCracken County Fiscal Court, and private donors.

Since 2010, this public/private partnership has raised nearly $4 million (60 percent public/40 percent private). WKCTC staff begin reaching out to students and their families when the students are in the 8th grade. After enrolling at WKCTC, students receive targeted services including advising, coaching, and student engagement until the student transitions to the workforce or transfers. The first CSP cohort transitioned to WKCTC in fall 2014; the sixth cohort enrolled this fall.

Compared to the 2013 baseline, graduation rates for high schools in McCracken County have increased 5 percent. After enrolling at WKCTC, CSP recipients have significantly higher retention rates, cumulative GPAs, graduation rates, and transfer rates compared to non-CSP recipients. The combined graduation/transfer rate for the 2016 cohort was 67 percent, well above the national average.

“The statistical data indicates the CSP program is having a major impact on the awareness and increased success rates of postsecondary education attainment in McCracken County,” Reece said. “It’s clear that the monetary investment by our community partners is yielding a high return and significantly bolstering workforce skill levels and career readiness.”

Other finalists in the Instructional Programs and Services category were: Austin Community College District, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, Central Carolina Community College, Housatonic Community College Nicolet College, Onondaga Community College, Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College, Pima Community College and Roxbury Community College.

The Planning, Governance and Finance category of the Bellwether Awards recognizes programs or activities that improve efficiency and effectiveness in the community college. The 10 institutions named finalists in this category are: Alamo Colleges District, Arizona Western College, College of the Desert, Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Howard Community College, Montgomery County Community College, Pima Community College, South Mountain Community College, Tulsa Community College and Western Dakota Technical Institute

Workforce Development category of the Bellwether Awards identifies strategic alliances that promote community and economic development. The 10 institutions have been named finalists in the Workforce Development category are Central Arizona College Lakeshore Technical College, Maysville Community & Technical College, Missouri State University – West Plains Polk State College, Richland Community College, San Jacinto College, San Jose City College, Wayne Community College and Williston State College.

All finalists will be presented at the 2020 Community Colleges Futures Assembly and one winner will then be selected from each category by a panel of national experts. The assembly, now in its 26th year, convenes annually as an independent national policy forum for key opinion leaders to work as a “think tank” in identifying critical issues facing the future of community colleges, and to recognize Bellwether winners and finalist as trend-setting institutions.

The Bellwether College Consortium is a group of colleges charged with addressing the critical issues facing community colleges through applicable research and the promotion and replication of best practices addressing workforce development, instructional programs and services, and planning governance and finance.

The Bellwether Award is sponsored by the Alamo Colleges District in San Antonio, Texas.

From West Kentucky Community and Technical College

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