Pierce College’s Fort Steilacoom campus was recently recognized for its improved student retention and completion rates.

The college was recognized by the Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C. The college was a finalist for the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. Aspen gave the college its Rising Star award at a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday for dramatically improving student outcomes. The college received a $100,000 cash award.

The award recognizes the college’s improved student retention and completion over time, a commitment to equitable outcomes for students, service to military students and their families, and a dedicated focus on helping all students overcome obstacles, according to a press release from the college. The school’s completion rate of 59 percent is nearly 20 percentage points above the national average.

The college’s implementation of an evidence-based approach called Guided Pathways is further helping the college’s student retention and completion, the release states. Golden Pathways “simplifies choices about college courses, and helps to streamline the process from college entrance to completion.”

“Our progress in improving student outcomes would not have been possible without the incredible work from everyone at our college and from our board of trustees,” said Pierce College Fort Steilacoom Interim President Deidre Soileau in a prepared statement. “Our employees have been willing to ask hard questions, bring data and evidence to the center of the conversation, and innovatively create new possibilities for our students.”

The $1 million Aspen Prize, for which Pierce College was a finalist, is awarded every two years and recognizes outstanding institutions selected from an original pool of more than 1,000 community colleges nationwide.

“At every turn, Pierce College identifies and lifts barriers that stand in students’ way,” said Joshua Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, in a prepared statement. “By enacting comprehensive reforms — and measuring impact every step of the way — Pierce has improved student success at a remarkable rate.”