Pratt Community College has been named one of the top 150 colleges in the nation by the Aspen Institute. The College IT staff has stopped two hacking attempts on the college.

Consistency in providing a quality education is a primary goal of Pratt Community College. Four the fourth time in a row, the Aspen Institute has awarded PCC the prestigious Aspen Prize that ranks the college in the top 150 community colleges in the country.

The award is presented every two years and this is the fourth time in a row that PCC has been honored with this award, said PCC President Michael Calvert who announced the award at the PCC Board of Trustees meeting on Oct. 16.

A total of three Kansas community colleges and five Kansas technical schools are listed in the Aspen top 150.

The award makes the college eligible to compete for the $1 million 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The college is also eligible to compete for the 2019 Siemens Technical Scholars program that provides $50,000 for further program development and scholarships. Eight colleges will win Siemens awards and each will received $50,000. Top 10 finalists for the 2019 Aspen Prize will be announced in May 2018.

Only 10 percent of the colleges nation-wide are eligible to apply for either the Aspen or the Siemens programs and only three percent of colleges are eligible to apply for both, Calvert said.

The Aspen Prize recognizes student success and focuses on four areas: learning; certificate and degree completion; employment and earnings; high levels of access and success for minority and low-income students.

The Aspen Institute determines the 150 top colleges using information the colleges submit to the government. The colleges do not apply for the prize, it is completely up the Aspen Institute to select the colleges based on the government's information, Calvert said.

Credit for being named to the top 150 colleges goes to the faculty, staff and trustees that help the students meet their goals and provide a wonderful culture at PCC, Calvert said.

Jerry Sanko, PCC director of information technology, shared some recent technology projects completed and upcoming at the college to provide the students, faculty and staff with the best possible technology available.

Sanko said there were two recent attempts to hack into the college computer system but thanks to the efforts to the IT staff, they caught the event and were able to block it.

Sanko shared information about Ransomware that gets into a computer system and prevents the company or user from accessing their information. The hacker then holds the system for ransom and they have to pay to get access to their information again. Lately, some hackers have gotten the ransom money and have refused to release the files to their rightful owner.

The two hack attempts on the PCC computer system were both Ransomware. One event was in August 2016 and one in 2017 using different forms of Ransomware.

Sanko said all computer systems were vulnerable to Ransomware and his department works hard to keep all PCC computer systems secure and operational.

"It's really scary. If the system is down, we're not functioning," Sanko said.

Sanko encouraged everyone at PCC to "think before you click" on attachments to e-mails because Ransomware can come in on anyones computer.

The PCC nursing program continues to make positive progress towards getting the Associate Degree in Nursing program accredited again. The ADN program lost accreditation when the first time passing rates for the NCLEX exam fell below minimum accepted level. Every nursing student is required to pass the NCLEX exam before they are allowed to be come a nurse. The Kansas State Board of Nursing looks at the scores from the first attempt to pass the NCLEX to determine what percentage of students are passing the test the first time.

The ADN program is taking a year off to re-evaluate the entire program and why they do everything they do as well as rework the curriculum and get the NCLEX numbers above the state requirements.

The latest NCLEX numbers are at 71 percent passing on the first try. Calvert said the nursing department expects that number to be above 75 percent the next time data is collected.

Kim Hansen, PCC director of nursing, said the KSBN will be on campus on Nov. 30 to answer any questions the department has about their program and what they are doing to get the NCLEX passing numbers up and getting the ADN program up and running again.

The goal for the college is to start up the ADN program for the fall 2018 semester.

Barry Fisher, PCC Foundation and executive director of Institutional Advancement and Alumni Relations, said the Foundation capital campaign was underway and they were raising funds for three particular projects: Upgrading the rodeo facilities, a track and soccer complex and establishing a scholarship endowment to free up dollars for other college projects.

Dave Chambers, PCC science instructor, shared a slide presentation of his “Teacher at Sea” adventure on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 208 feet long research vessel Reuben Lasker from July 16 to Aug. 1. Chambers help process fish eggs and small fish, sardines, krill and black dragon fish off the California coast. The data is used for regulating fishing. Besides collecting data, Chambers got to drive the $73 million vessel and saw hump back whales.

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