College Excellence Program

The College Excellence Program aims to identify and replicate policies and  practices that significantly improve college student outcomes. Through the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the New College Leadership Project 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.

Program Updates

What Excellent Community Colleges Do Wyner Cover

On March 13, 2014, the Aspen Institute held a book talk for What Excellent Community Colleges Do: Preparing All Students for Success by Joshua Wyner. Published by Harvard Education Press, this book offers inspiring stories about what Aspen Prize winning community colleges have done to achieve exceptional levels of student success. To see the full video of the book talk, moderated by Aspen Institute President and CEO, Walter Isaacson, click here. To see more on the book, click here. You can order the book through Harvard Education Press, or on Amazon.  

Our Work

Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence

Josh Wyner, Executive Director of the College Excellence Program, on the announcement of the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

The purpose of the Aspen Prize is to recognize community colleges with outstanding academic and workforce outcomes in both absolute performance and improvements over time. By focusing on student success and lifting up models that work, the Aspen Prize will honor excellence, stimulate innovation, and create benchmarks for measuring progress.

Read More

New College Leadership Project


Efforts to improve college student success have accelerated in recent years, focused largely on the need to increase graduation rates which currently stand at about 50% nationally.  With the majority of college presidents over 60 years old, higher education systems and institutions have an opportunity and challenge: how to recruit, hire, and prepare the next generation of college presidents so that they can lead institutions to higher levels of student success.

The New College Leadership Program aims to help meet that challenge through research into the attributes and actions of college presidents whose institutions achieve high levels of student success, and programs that work to increase the number of college presidents with the ability to replicate exceptional results.  In our first initiative, we partnered with the national non-profit organization Achieving the Dream to conduct research and issued a report into the qualities of presidents who lead Aspen Prize winning community colleges and ATD leader colleges. For more information, including links to the Crisis and Opporutunity report, please click here.