Aspen Institute Names Ten Finalists for 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence

September 13, 2016

Winner to be Announced in March 2017, $1 Million Prize for Excellence in Four Areas: Learning, Degree Completion, Graduates’ Employment and Earnings, and Access and Success for Minority and Low-Income Students

Contact: Gingle Lee
Senior Program Manager
Aspen College Excellence Program
202-736-3504 |

Washington, D.C., September 13, 2016 – The Aspen Institute announced today the ten finalists for the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s preeminent recognition of high achievement and improvement in America’s community colleges.

The $1 million prize fund will be awarded in March 2017 in Washington, D.C. to the winner and up to four finalists with distinction. Three states—California, Florida, and Texas—each have two schools in the running for the award. (See complete list of finalists below.)

The Prize, awarded every two years since 2011, recognizes outstanding institutions selected from an original pool of more than 1,000 public community colleges nationwide. With a singular focus on student success, the Prize assesses community colleges’ achievements in four areas: student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings for graduates, and access and success for minority and low-income students.

“The success of our nation’s community colleges is integrally tied to the success of millions of students, thousands of communities, and the economy of our entire country. Simply put, what community colleges do matters,” said Joshua Wyner, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program and author of What Excellent Community Colleges Do. “By delivering quality education and affording opportunities for good jobs, this diverse set of ten community colleges is setting a standard for what all community colleges can achieve.”

Through four cycles of awarding the Prize, the College Excellence Program has gathered and published a unique set of data and qualitative assessments that point the way for community colleges aiming to dramatically improve student success.

Community colleges today enroll nearly half of all US undergraduates—7 million students—working toward degrees and certificates. This includes rapidly growing numbers of low-income and minority students. While fewer than 40 percent of all community college students graduate, Aspen Prize finalist institutions demonstrate that every community college can help more students achieve success while in college and after they graduate.

This fall, the Aspen Institute will conduct a rigorous review process that includes examination of extensive data on performance and improvements in learning, graduation, workforce, and equitable outcomes for all students as well as multi-day site visits to each of the ten finalist institutions. Then, a distinguished Prize Jury of higher education experts will select a grand prize winner and up to four finalists with distinction.

The 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence was awarded to Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida. In 2013, Santa Barbara City College (California) and Walla Walla Community College (Washington) were co-winners. In 2011, Valencia College (Florida) was the inaugural Prize winner. According to the Prize rules, former winners were not eligible to reapply this cycle.

The Aspen Prize Finalists selected today reflect the diversity and richness of American community colleges—from Broward College in suburban Fort Lauderdale, Florida with a majority Latino student body of 62,000, to Lake Area Technical College in Watertown, South Dakota with 1,900 students.

The 2017 Aspen Prize Finalists (listed in alphabetical order): 

Two colleges have been named finalists in four consecutive Prize cycles (indicated with *) and two others were finalists for a second time (indicated with #)

Anoka-Ramsey Community College – Coon Rapids, MN
Contact: Mary Jacobson, 763-433-1315,

Broward College – Fort Lauderdale, FL#
Contact: Don Cook, 954-201-7238,

Chaffey College – Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Contact: Ms. Alisha Rosas, 909-652-6115,

Indian River State College – Fort Pierce, FL#
Contact: Andy Treadwell, 772-462-4804,

Lake Area Technical Institute, Watertown, SD*
Contact: LuAnn Strait, 605-882-5284 ext. 241,

Northeast Community College – Norfolk, NE
Contact: Jim Curry, 402-844-7063,

Odessa College – Odessa, TX
Contact: Kim McKay, 432-335-6683,

Pasadena City College – Pasadena, CA
Contact: Alexander Boekelheide, 626-585-7422,

San Jacinto College – Pasadena, TX
Contact: Amanda Fenwick, 281-998-6160,

West Kentucky Community and Technical College, Paducah, KY*
Contact: Janett Blythe, 270-534-3079, 

The Aspen Prize is funded by the Joyce Foundation, the Siemens Foundation, and the Kresge Foundation.

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. For more information, visit

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

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