Higher education attainment has never been more important. Estimates from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce suggest that out of the 11.6 million jobs created in the post- recession economy, 11.5 million require at least some college education. The vast majority of students who enroll in community colleges do so because they believe that postsecondary education will provide them a path to rewarding work, stable employment, and family-sustaining wages.
“Especially in the current social and economic climate, it is exceptionally important that our nation’s community colleges develop the diverse talent needed to fuel democratic engagement, social mobility, and economic opportunity and growth,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. “Through this competition we’re working to inspire other institutions across our country to ensure more students succeed in college and their lives beyond those campuses.”
The 150 community colleges named today as eligible to compete for the 2019 Prize were selected from a pool of nearly 1,000 public two-year colleges nationwide using publicly available data on student outcomes. Located in 39 states in urban, rural, and suburban areas, serving as few as 300 students and as many as 95,000 students, these colleges represent the diversity and depth of the community college sector. This year, there are nearly 60 institutions eligible to compete for the Prize that were not eligible for the 2017 Aspen Prize.
The top ten finalists for the 2019 Aspen Prize will be named in May 2018. The Aspen Institute will then conduct site visits to each of the finalists and collect additional quantitative data, including employment and earnings data. A distinguished Prize Jury will select a grand prize winner, finalist(s) with distinction, and rising star(s) in spring 2019.
Previous winners of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence include: Lake Area Technical College in Watertown, South Dakota (2017); Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida (2015); co-winners Santa Barbara City College in Santa Barbara, California and Walla Walla Community College in Walla Walla, Washington (2013); Valencia College in Orlando, Florida (2011 inaugural Prize winner). According to the Prize rules, former winners are not eligible to reapply this cycle.