Overview of the Aspen Prize

The $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, awarded every two years, is the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges. 

Improving community college student success is a vital national priority. The open access and affordability that characterizes these colleges has benefitted millions of Americans, but now the nation must get more community college students successfully through to high-wage career opportunities and further education. Today, there are 13 million students being educated in more than 1,000 community colleges across the country. Of these students, nearly seven million – over forty percent of all those enrolled in postsecondary education – are working towards degrees and certificates. 

By focusing on student success and lifting up models that work, the Aspen Prize aims to further the national understanding of community colleges that strive to increase student success, stimulate innovation, and create benchmarks for measuring progress. The Prize recognizes institutions for exceptional student outcomes in four areas: student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings, and high levels of access and success for minority and low-income students. The 2017 Aspen Prize is supported by the Kresge Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, Pearson, and the Siemens Foundation.