College Excellence Program

Round III

From 10 finalists to one winner and up to four finalists-with-distinction. In round three, teams of experienced researchers and practitioners 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, labor market, learning, and equitable outcomes.

In addition to the information collected during the site visits, the Aspen Institute gathers three additional datasets 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 job growth rates for 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 NCHEMS to collect and evaluate standardized information concerning each institution’s efforts to assess and improve learning.
  • Four-year transfer and completion outcomes: Aspen works with the National Student Clearinghouse to collect and analyze data on four-year transfer and completion for three cohorts of first-time students.

A full analysis of quantitative and qualitative data collected throughout the 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 on student outcomes is presented alongside the context in which each institution operates. Specifically:

  • 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 count five-year job growth rate.
  • Learning outcomes are considered in the context of variables such as the percentage of students need 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.