Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence

Recognizing institutions that achieve exceptional student outcomes.
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. Their open access and affordability have 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 and the Siemens Foundation.

2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence – Finalist Announcement

The Aspen Institute is pleased to name the following 10 community college finalists for the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. Aspen’s Finalist Selection Committee, comprised of former community college presidents, respected researchers and policy experts, selected the ten finalist institutions after reviewing extensive data on performance and improvements in learning, graduation, workforce outcomes, and equitable outcomes for all students, focusing on those in traditionally underserved racial/ethnic groups – African-American, Hispanic/Latino and Native American – and those from low-income backgrounds. Of the 150 institutions named eligible in January, over one hundred applied to compete for the Prize. Read more about our ten finalists here.
Winners
2015 Santa Fe College (Gainesville, FL)
2013 Santa Barbara City College (Santa Barbara, CA)
2013 Walla Walla Community College (Walla Walla, WA)
2011 Valencia College (Orlando, FL)
Finalists with Distinction
2015, 2013, 2011 Lake Area Technical Institute (Watertown, SD)
2015, 2011 West Kentucky Community and Technical College (Paducah, KY)
2013 Kingsborough Community College (Brooklyn, NY)
2011 Miami Dade College (Miami, FL)
“Rising Star” – Award for Rapid Student Improvement
2015 Kennedy-King College (Chicago, IL)
Finalists
2015, 2013 Brazosport College (Lake Jackson, TX)
2015 El Paso Community College (El Paso, TX)
2015 Eugenio María de Hostos Community College (Bronx, NY)
2015 Indian River State College (Fort Pierce, FL)
2015 Olympic College (Bremerton, WA)
2015 Renton Technical College (Renton, WA)
2013 Broward College (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
2013 College of the Ouachitas (Malvern, AR)
2013 Santa Fe College (Gainesville, FL)
2013 Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College (Cumberland, KY)
2013 West Kentucky Community and Technical College (Paducah, KY)
2011 Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (Perkinston, MS)
2011 Mott Community College (Flint, MI)
2011 Northeast Iowa Community College – Calmar (Calmar, IA)
2011 Santa Barbara City College (Santa Barbara, CA)
2011 Southwest Texas Junior College (Uvalde, TX)

How the Winner is Chosen

Round One

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 Two

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.
Data/Metrics Advisory Panel
The Data/Metrics Advisory Panel regularly reviews and modifies the formula—based on existing national data (provided by NCHEMS)—to assess over 1,000 public two-year colleges and select 150 eligible to apply for the Prize.
Keith Bird
Chancellor-Emeritus of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System

Rob Johnstone
National Center for Inquiry and Improvement 

Patrick Kelly
National Center for Higher Education Management Systems

Jon O’Bergh
U.S. Department of Education
Jon O’Bergh
U.S. Department of Education

Kent Phillippe 
American Association of Community Colleges

Jeff Strohl
Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce
Finalist Selection Committee
The selection committee reviews applications and extensive data on completion, learning, labor market, and equitable outcomes from eligible community colleges to select 10 finalists.
Kathy Booth
WestEd

Kimberly Green
Advance CTE

Meredith Archer Hatch
Achieving the Dream, Inc.

Alfred Herrera
University of California, Los Angeles

Marc Herzog
Connecticut Community College System

Robert Johnstone
National Center for Inquiry and Improvement

Melinda Karp
Community College Research Center 
Amy Laitinen
New America Foundation

Nancy Poppe
Portland Community College Extended Learning Campus

LaShawn Richburg-Hayes
MDRC

Gretchen Schmidt
American Association of Community Colleges

Nicole Smith
Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce

Heather Wathington
Mary Angelou Schools and the See Forever Foundation

Jane Wellman
College Futures Foundation
Decision makers: Prize Jury
Using site visit reports, labor market outcomes, an assessment of learning outcomes, four-year transfer and completion outcomes, and other information gathered in the first two rounds, the Prize Jury thoughtfully deliberates and selects the winners and finalists with distinction from among the 10 finalist community colleges.
Decision makers: Site Visitors
Teams of experienced researchers and practitioners conducted two-day site visits to each of the ten finalist institutions to gather qualitative data.
Elaine Baker
Colorado Community College System

Darla Cooper
The Research & Planning Group for California Community Colleges

Marc Herzog 
Connecticut Community College System 
Robert Johnstone
National Center for Inquiry and Improvement

Robert Templin
Aspen Institute College Excellence Program

Joshua Wyner
Aspen Institute College Excellence Program

Eligible Institutions

Related Posts

The 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence
The 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence
The 2011 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence
Lessons from the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence
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Gingle Lee, Program Manager