Aspen Prize Selection Process

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.

The next cycle of the Aspen Prize will begin in October 2021 with the announcement of the 150 institutions eligible to apply for the award.
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 10 finalists.
A committee of higher education experts selects 10 finalist institutions, based on the student outcomes reflected in Round 1 data; additional data on completion, workforce outcomes, early momentum indicators, and learning assessments; and 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
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 and the Joyce Foundation.
Contact us for more information.
Ben Barrett, Program Manager