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story.lead_photo.caption Entrance to the campus of State Technical College of Missouri in Linn.

The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program announced Wednesday that State Technical College of Missouri is one of only two Missouri schools — and one of only 150 nationwide — eligible to compete for the $1 million "Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence."

"We have received numerous national accolades — it is hard to top this," State Tech President Shawn Strong said.

"I suspect many people don't recognize we have one of the very best technical colleges in the country in Linn, Missouri. It means a lot when national ranking agencies such as Aspen recognize this."

The institute describes its prize as "the nation's signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America's community colleges."

In announcing the 150 eligible schools, the institute also said its competition has a singular focus on student success and its prize "recognizes institutions with outstanding achievements in four areas: learning; certificate and degree completion; employment and earnings; and high levels of access and success for minority and low-income students."

The process first cuts the field from 150 to 10 finalists, then a winner.

State Tech officials will spend time over the next few weeks completing the application the prize requires.

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"A selection committee of higher education experts reviews submitted materials and selects 10 finalist institutions," the Aspen Institute explained.

It said the review includes "institutional data on completion, labor market outcomes, and learning assessment, as well as descriptions of how institutions have achieved and improved student outcomes."

The 10 finalists get site visits and are reviewed on more detailed information on employment, earnings outcomes and learning assessment practices.

Missouri has 13 public two-year colleges, but only State Tech and Springfield's Ozarks Technical College were included in the national competition.

"When you consider only 10 percent (of the community colleges) are asked to apply for the Aspen, and only 3 percent are asked to apply for both the Siemens Technical Scholars Program and the Aspen — we are very pleased," Strong said Wednesday.

He didn't say how State Tech would use the $1 million prize if it's the winner.

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