Washington, D.C., May 15, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program announced today the 10 finalists for the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance in America’s community colleges. (See complete list of finalists below.)

Awarded every two years since 2011, the Prize recognizes institutions that achieve high and improving student outcomes, selected from over 1,000 community colleges nationwide. Focused solely on student access and success, the Aspen Prize recognizes community colleges with exceptional achievements in four areas:

  • Student learning;
  • Certificate and degree completion while in community college and after transferring to a four-year institution;
  • Employment and earnings rates after graduation; and
  • Access for and success of students of color and low-income students.

In April 2019, the $1 million Prize purse will be awarded at an event in Washington, D.C. to the winner, two or three finalists-with-distinction, and a “Rising Star” that has achieved exceptional levels of improvement. Between now and then, Aspen will work with a team of national experts to collect extensive, additional data and conduct multi-day site visits to the 10 finalist colleges.

“These top 10 Prize Finalists serve as models for what community colleges can achieve,” said Joshua Wyner, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program and author of What Excellent Community Colleges Do: Preparing All Students for Success. “Their leaders, faculty, and staffs have developed cultures that drive toward scaled improvements in completion and classroom learning as well as students’ post-graduation success – at universities where they transfer and in the job market. And they work hard to achieve strong results for all students, understanding the critical role community colleges play in advancing social mobility for the many students who historically have been underserved in higher education.”

Through the Aspen Prize, the College Excellence Program drives attention to community colleges with high and improving levels of student achievement and conducts extensive research into outcomes and practices at those exceptional community colleges. Aspen works across the country to replicate effective practice, including by delivering professional development to presidents and leadership teams on how to advance student success institution-wide. Among the program’s most intensive efforts is the Aspen Presidential Fellowship, which has in two years graduated 77 fellows who aspire to the community college presidency, 22 of whom are today sitting community college presidents. Now in its fifth award cycle, the Aspen Prize is well established as a highly visible platform to elevate, measure, and replicate effective community college practice.

Community colleges today enroll about 40 percent of all U.S. undergraduates – six million students – who are working toward earning degrees and certificates. Improving student success across the more than 1,000 community colleges in the U.S. is critical to national efforts to develop talent and enable individual social mobility, because:

The 10 Aspen Prize Finalists have achieved strong and improving student success rates in very different contexts – they are from rural and urban areas, serve demographically different student bodies, and offer a varied mix of technical workforce and academic transfer programs. These 10 institutions offer proof that every community college can achieve higher levels of success for students while in college and after they graduate.

The 2019 Aspen Prize Finalists (listed in alphabetical order):

  • Alamo Colleges District – Palo Alto College – San Antonio, TX
    • First time Finalist
  • Broward College – Fort Lauderdale, FL
    • 2017 Finalist-with-Distinction
    • 2013 Finalist
  • CUNY Kingsborough Community College – Brooklyn, NY
    • 2013 Finalist-with-Distinction
  • Indian River State College – Fort Pierce, FL
    • 2017 Finalist-with-Distinction
    • 2015 Finalist
  • Miami Dade College – Miami, FL
    • 2011 Finalist-with-Distinction
  • Mitchell Technical Institute – Mitchell, SD
    • First time Finalist
  • Odessa College – Odessa, TX
    • 2017 Rising Star Award (for rapid improvement)
  • Pasadena City College – Pasadena, CA
    • 2017 Finalist
  • Pierce College at Fort Steilacoom – Lakewood, WA
    • First time Finalist
  • San Jacinto College – Pasadena, TX
    • 2017 Rising Star Award (for rapid improvement)

During the remainder of 2018, the Aspen Institute will complete a rigorous review process that includes examination of data on learning, graduation, workforce, and equitable outcomes for all students as well as multi-day site visits to each of the 10 finalist institutions. In early 2019, a distinguished Prize Jury will select a grand prize winner, finalists-with-distinction, and a Rising Star.

The 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence was awarded to Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, South Dakota. Previous Prize winners also include: Santa Fe College, Gainesville, Florida (2015); Santa Barbara City College, Santa Barbara, California and Walla Walla Community College, Walla Walla, Washington (co-winners 2013); Valencia College, Orlando, Florida (2011). Former Prize winners are not eligible to reapply. 

The 2019 Aspen Prize is generously funded by the Joyce Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, and the Siemens Foundation.

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The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program aims to advance higher education practices, policies, and leadership that significantly improve student outcomes. Through the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the Siemens-Aspen Community College STEM Award, and other initiatives, the College Excellence Program works to improve colleges’ understanding and capacity to teach and graduate students, especially the growing population of low-income and minority students on American campuses. For more information, visit http://highered.aspeninstitute.org/.

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.

Caroline Broder
The Aspen Institute
202-464-4353
Caroline.broder@aspeninst.org