About Us

Advancing practices, policies and leadership to support improved college student outcomes.

What colleges do matters.

The choices colleges make matter to students and the world they will inhabit after college. Decades of evidence and experience demonstrate that similar groups of students at similar colleges achieve different outcomes, and those differences correlate to community college and university practice and leadership. While many institutions of higher learning are working hard to improve student success, most could do better.

The Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program aims to advance higher education practices, policies, and leadership in ways that help institutions of higher education make the choices that matter most to improving student outcomes in four areas that, we believe, define student success: 
Do students earn degrees and other meaningful credentials while in college?
Do colleges work to ensure equitable access and outcomes for minority and low-income students?
Labor Market
Do students get good jobs after leaving college?
Do colleges and faculty set expectations for and measure student learning, and use that information to improve?

The Role of the College Excellence Program

Founded in January 2010, the Aspen College Excellence Program has grown from a single project – the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence – to a multi-faceted set of more than 10 initiatives designed to influence college and university practice. Our strategies have also evolved to include research on effective practice, developing open-access analytic tools, disseminating reports and other publications, providing direct technical assistance to colleges and boards, and running multiple leadership programs. Aspen CEP’s work is divided into four broad areas:

Community College Practice

We are working to assess student outcomes, deeply understand how strong outcomes are attained, and assist institutional leaders and teams in replicating the practices of community colleges that achieve exceptional outcomes.

Community College Leadership

We are designing and executing initiatives to develop and place in presidencies leaders who possess the attributes, knowledge, and skills needed to dramatically improve student success across their institutions.

Four-year College and University Initiatives

We are investigating steps needed to strengthen the college and university presidency as well as how top-performing four-year colleges and universities can improve equitable access and outcomes.

Transfer Initiative

We are conducting research, developing tools and supporting state and institutional efforts to improve bachelor’s degree attainment among students who begin in community college and aspire to transfer to four-year institutions.
  • Meet the dedicated professionals who work to improve student outcomes.
    The staff of the Aspen College Excellence Program proudly work together to achieve a singular purpose: To improve student outcomes on American college campuses.
  • Explore the breadth of work we do to support improved student outcomes.
    We help colleges and universities achieve a higher standard of excellence through research, the development of tools and other materials, and highly visible programs like the Aspen Prize and the Aspen Presidential Fellowship.