College Excellence Program

Guides to Effective Practices

The Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program (CEP) works to identify and replicate college practices and policies aimed at significantly improving student outcomes. A central way CEP pursues this goal is by using our research and learning from the Aspen Prize to write and disseminate guides that help colleges improve practices that support student success. The guides described below share some of what the College Excellence Program has learned through the Prize’s information gathering process.

Crisis and Opportunity Report
Crisis and Opportunity Executive Summary

Crisis and Opportunity: Aligning the Community College Presidency with Student Success
Aspen’s first higher education leadership initiatives address the community college presidency. In partnership with Achieving the Dream (ATD), the Aspen College Excellence Program has conducted research into the qualities of presidents who lead Aspen Prize winning community colleges and ATD leader colleges. The report summarizing our findings, “Crisis and Opportunity: Aligning the Community College Presidency with Student Success,” assesses the looming leadership crisis in the community college presidency and identifies the steps needed to identify, select, and develop a new generation of leaders. To read the full report, please click here; the executive summary is here.    

The 2013 Aspen PrizeThe Aspen Prize

2013/2011 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence 
For millions of Americans, community colleges provide an essential pathway to well-paying jobs and continuing higher education. The Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence honors those institutions that strive for and achieve exceptional levels of success for all students, while they are in college and after they graduate. Download the 2013 Aspen Prize publication here and download the 2011 Aspen Prize publication here.  

Defining ExcellenceWhat is Community College Excellence?

Defining Excellence: Lessons from the 2013 Aspen Prize Finalists    The Aspen College Excellence Program works to investigate, synthesize, and share what colleges do to achieve high and improving levels of student success.  This publication describes what we have learned from the 2013 Aspen Prize Finalists, who achieve impressive outcomes for their students in the four areas that comprise the Aspen Prize’s definition of excellence-- completion, learning, labor market outcomes, and equity. Download here

What is Community College Excellence? Lessons from the Aspen Prize. 
In 2008, President Obama set a goal of the US regaining its worldwide preeminence in the percentage of citizens with a college degree by the year 2020. In doing so, he elevated the importance of what those outside the academy have coalesced around as the primary reform agenda for higher education: improving college graduation rates. Read articlehere.
Using Labor Market Data to Improve Student SuccessCreating A Faculty Culture of Student Success
Using Labor Market Data to Improve Student Success
Community colleges have a unique opportunity to enable students to acquire the skills they need to land good jobs with strong wages, but colleges can only fulfill this promise if they are taking advantage of available data to tailor their educational programs to current labor market needs and measure the labor market outcomes of their graduates. This guide explains how colleges can improve student labor market success after graduating, offering concrete examples and describing six data sets that colleges can use today. Download here.
Creating A Faculty Culture of Student Success
This guide describes how leading community colleges have created cultures in which faculty members consistently work to reform and improve their teaching in ways that measurably improve student learning. It provides a look at some innovative approaches, including the unusual tenure process at Valencia College  - winner of the 2011 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence –  which is built around a system that requires faculty members to use data and experiment with their own teaching in ways that will improve student learning, and supports them along the way.Downnload here.