Selection Process

To award the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the College Excellence Program engages in a rigorous 14-month-long process that assesses student outcomes at over 1,000 community colleges in the United States, leading to the selection of ten finalists and, ultimately, one winner. Throughout the process, we look extensively at data, engage with community college leaders, and take guidance from experts in higher education. Below is a detailed explanation of that process. 
Round 1
From over 1,000 community colleges to 150 eligible.
Aspen convened a national panel of community college experts, which devised a formula—based on national data on performance and improvement in student completion, as well as completion for underrepresented racial and ethnic groups—to assess every U.S. public two-year college and identify 150 eligible to apply for the Prize.
Round 2
From 150 eligible to 10 finalists.
Aspen invited each eligible institution to submit an application, and convened a selection committee of higher education experts to select 10 finalists from among 106 applications submitted. The committee identified the finalists based on Round 1 data and information from applications, including institutional data on completion, labor market, and learning outcomes, disaggregated by race and ethnicity; descriptions of how institutions have achieved and improved student outcomes; and interviews with the leadership teams of 54 colleges.
Aspen convenes a Finalist Selection Committee of former community college presidents, respected researchers, and policy experts, to review the applications and select 10 institutions that deliver exceptional student outcomes in the following four areas:
Completion Outcomes: Institutional practices and policies leading to high levels of completion of associates’ degrees, credentials at least one-year in duration, and/or transfer to four-year colleges.

Labor Market Outcomes: Institutional practices and policies aligned with labor market needs and student labor market success, resulting in high rates of employment and earnings for graduates.

Learning Outcomes: Institutional practices and policies that result in strong and improving levels of student learning in courses, within programs, and college-wide.

Equitable Outcomes: Institutional practices and policies that ensure access and success among students who are often underserved, including students from three underrepresented racial/ethnic groups—African American, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian—and low-income students.

Prior to the selection of the 10 finalists, Aspen conducts interviews with the leadership teams of approximately half of the institutions that submit applications.