College Excellence Program
College Excellence Program
From 10 finalists to one winner and up to four finalists with distinction. In round three, teams of experienced researchers and practitioners led by the RP Group, a consulting company focused on community colleges, conduct two-day site visits to each of the finalist institutions to gather qualitative information. During the site visits, teams collect evidence – through interviews with leadership, staff, faculty, students, community partners, and others – about how excellence was achieved in completion outcomes, labor market outcomes, learning outcomes, and equitable outcomes. Then, teams evaluate each institution using a rubric developed by the RP Group and the Aspen Institute.
In addition to information collected during the site visits, Aspen gathers three additional data sets in round three:
• Labor market outcomes (employment and earnings): In partnership with NCHEMS, Aspen collects state-level data on the employment rates and earnings of graduates from each community college at different points in time (immediately after graduation, one year after graduation, and five years after graduation), as well as the regional unemployment and jobs’ growth rates around each community college.
• Learning outcomes assessment: Measuring whether and what students learn is not standardized across community colleges, preventing easy quantitative comparisons. Aspen partners with nationally renowned learning experts at NCHEMS to collect and evaluate standardized information concerning each institution’s efforts to assess and improve student learning.
• Four-year transfer and completion outcomes: Aspen works with the National Student Clearinghouse to collect and analyze data on 4-year transfer and completion for three cohorts of each finalist institution’s first-time students.
A full analysis of quantitative and qualitative data collected throughout the entire Prize process is provided to a Prize Jury of prominent former elected officials, national business and civic leaders, and education experts, who review the information and select a winner and up to four finalists-with-distinction. Information about learning, completion, labor market, and equitable outcomes is presented alongside the context in which each institution operates. Specificallly:
• Completion outcomes are considered in the context of variables such as the percentage of students in academic/transfer programs (as opposed to vocational/technical programs), the demographic make-up of the student body, and the percentage of students attending the institution part-time.
• Labor market outcomes are considered in the context of variables such as county unemployment rate and county 5-year job growth rate.
• Learning outcomes are considered in the context of variables such as the percentage of students needing remediation, student language diversity, and the range of programs offered.
• Equitable outcomes are considered in the context of variables such as the percentage of minority and low-income students at the college and in each community college's service area.