WATERTOWN, S.D. — The community college where President Obama delivered a commencement speech last year is once again a finalist for a prestigious higher education award.

Lake Area Technical Institute is one of 10 finalists for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the Watertown Public Opinion (http://bit.ly/2d04KF1 ) reported.

It’s the fourth time the institute has been named among the top 10, having finished as a finalist with distinction in 2011, 2013 and 2015.

Other community colleges listed as finalists for the 2017 prize include Broward College in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California; and Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska.

The institute’s president, Mike Cartney, credited the community college’s good standing to the superintendent and school board’s leadership as well as engagement from the community.

“Whenever we receive an honor like this, we’re always humbled,” Cartney said. “This isn’t something that happens because Lake Area Tech does a good job. This is something that happens because we’ve got great people at LATI.”

The institute has a 70 percent graduation rate, which is one of the highest in the country and greatly exceeds the national average of 39 percent.

The institute’s graduates also make an average salary that’s 49 percent higher than the region’s other new hires. Additionally, 99 percent of students have said they are employed or continuing their education within six months of graduation.

Aspen Institute judges will visit the campus Nov. 16 and 17 to interview students, staff, officials and employees. The winner of the $1 million award will be announced at an event in Washington, D.C., in March 2017.


Information from: Watertown Public Opinion, http://www.thepublicopinion.com