College Excellence Program

The Aspen Institute's 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 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

Announcing the first class of Aspen Presidential Fellows



The Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence is a highly selective yearlong program to prepare leaders aspiring or recently appointed to the community college presidency. Fellows will participate in a series of innovative, action-oriented seminars and ongoing mentorship focused on a new vision for leadership, delivered in collaboration with Stanford University faculty and top community college leaders. Click here to read more about the first class of fellows.

New Publication: Transfer Playbook

National surveys reveal that 80 percent of students who begin in a community college aim to earn a bachelor’s degree, but only 14 percent achieve that goal within six years. It doesn’t have to be that way. Based on original research into the practices of six highly effective community college-university partnerships, this joint report from the Aspen Institute and Columbia University’s Community College Research Center (CCRC) provides a roadmap for how institutions can improve transfer student outcomes by prioritizing transfer, creating clear transfer program maps, and establishing dedicated transfer advising. The report provides concrete examples of essential strategies as well as a checklist of “How to Get Started.” 


New Report on the Leaky Transfer Pipeline

in Higher Education

Click the image below to download the publication.

Tacking Transfer Front Page


This research report recommends a comprehensive set of five measures as a new way to track which institutions are effective in serving transfer students and which states have a robust transfer pipeline from community colleges to four-year schools. Using this common set of metrics for measuring effectiveness, the report examines the average outcomes for students who first started college at two-year institutions by a variety of institutional characteristics including urbanicity, student body socioeconomic status, selectivity (at four-year institutions), and state.


Congratulations to our 2015 Siemens Technical Scholars!

Click the image below to learn more about their work.

2015 Aspen Prize Event Logo


Congratulations to our 2015 Aspen Prize Winners!

Click the image below to learn more about their work.

2015 Aspen Prize Event Logo


Our Work

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 honors excellence, stimulates innovation, and creates 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.

 Read More