Aspen Prize Selection Process (OLD)

To award the Aspen Prize, the College Excellence Program engages in a rigorous two-year-long process that assesses student outcomes at over 1,000 U.S. community colleges, leading to the selection of 10 finalists and, ultimately, one winner. Throughout the process, Aspen and the higher education experts they engage analyze a range of quantitative data, evaluate detailed applications from colleges, and interview a wide range of stakeholders at colleges.
Round 1: From nearly 1,000 colleges to 150 eligible.
In collaboration with an expert Data/Metrics Advisory Panel and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, Aspen uses a model that relies on nationally available data on institutional performance, improvement, and equity in student retention and completion to identify approximately 150 community colleges that are invited to apply for the Aspen Prize.

2023 Data/Metrics Advisory Panel
Kathy Booth, WestEd
Sue Clery, ASA Research
Darla Cooper, Research and Planning Group for California Community Colleges
Kim Dancy, Institute for Higher Education Policy
Afet Dundar, National Student Clearinghouse
John Fink, Community College Research Center
Laurie Heacock, Achieving the Dream
Kent Phillippe, American Association of Community Colleges
Francisco Solis, San Antonio College
Christina Whitfield, State Higher Education Executive Officers Association 
Round 2: From 150 eligible to 25 semifinalists, then 10 finalists.
In April 2022, Aspen added a milestone: announcing 25 semifinalists before narrowing to 10 finalists. This extra step is designed to highlight the increased number of colleges doing excellent work from which others can learn.

The Aspen Prize Selection Committee, a group of 16 higher education experts, selects 25 semifinalist institutions based on:
  • The student outcomes reflected in Round 1 data
  • Additional data on completion, workforce outcomes, early momentum indicators, and transfer to four-year universities
  • Explanations of how institutions have achieved and improved outcomes provided in applications and in interviews with leaders at colleges in the top tier of applicants
After announcing the semifinalists, the committee meets to discuss and select 10 finalist institutions, based on additional close review of the information from Round 2 as well as reflections shared from interviews with colleges’ senior teams.
Round 3: From 10 finalists to 1 winner.
With a small team of experts in community college practice, research, and leadership, Aspen conducts two-day site visits—typically in person, but in 2020 virtual—to each finalist institution. Partnering with NCHEMS, Aspen also collects additional information on employment and earnings outcomes and learning assessment practices. A jury of prominent leaders in business, politics, policy, journalism, and other relevant fields reviews quantitative and qualitative analyses of each institution to select a winner, finalists with distinction, and notable improvers (Rising Stars).
The Aspen Prize is made possible by generous support from Ascendium, the Joyce Foundation, and the Kresge Foundation.
Contact us for more information.
Ben Barrett, Program Manager