New $1,000,000 Aspen Prize to Reward Community College Excellence

October 5, 2010


For Immediate Release

Contact: Jeff Harris
The Aspen Institute

Charles Boesel
The Joyce Foundation

Lucia Anderson
Lumina Foundation


 New $1,000,000 Aspen Prize to Reward Community College Excellence
Leading Foundations Fund Award to Recognize
Outstanding Academic and Workforce Outcomes

Washington, DC, October 5, 2010 –– A $1,000,000 prize competition to recognize community colleges with outstanding academic and workforce outcomes was announced today by President Obama at the White House Community College Summit. The Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence is a project of the Aspen Institute, in partnership with the Joyce Foundation, the Lumina Foundation for Education, Bank of America Charitable Foundation and the JP Morgan Chase Foundation, and was designed in cooperation with senior officials from the Obama Administration. 

“The Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence is designed to change the way community colleges are understood, by raising up effective leaders and highlighting excellent performance,” said Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute. “If the nation is to meet President Obama’s challenge to increase the number of college graduates, we must recognize and support best practices.”

Improving community college completion rates is a vital national priority. Labor economists at Georgetown University project that the U.S. faces a shortfall of at least 3 million workers with college degrees (Associate or higher) and at least 4.7 million workers with postsecondary certificates by 2018.

Prizes have unique potential to spur innovation by focusing a field intently on a bold goal, galvanizing collaboration, accelerating learning and transformation, stimulating private sector investment, and ultimately changing the public’s perception of what is possible. The Aspen Prize will:

  • Honor Excellence. Shine a spotlight on outstanding performers and rising stars that deliver exceptional results in student completion rates and workforce success, both in terms of absolute performance and dramatic transformation;
  • Stimulate Innovation. Generate momentum for reform-minded educators, governors, employers, and community college presidents across the nation; identify and distill successful practices and create opportunities to learn from them; and
  • Clearly Define Success. Contribute to the development of high-quality, consistent measures and benchmarks for assessing community college outcomes so prospective students and businesses can get a clear sense of how effective schools are in helping students – including the most disadvantaged – learn, graduate, and advance their careers.

The Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence will be awarded annually beginning in the fall of 2011 and is supported by a partnership of leading philanthropies.

“We are pleased to be engaged in this effort to recognize the best-performing community colleges in the nation, and discover what these institutions are doing. It’s our belief that, along with honoring excellence, the entire field will benefit from this spotlight,” said Lumina Foundation President Jamie Merisotis.

Ellen Alberding, Joyce Foundation President, noted, “This competition will highlight the critically important role of community colleges in workforce development, and will emphasize workforce outcomes as a key indicator of success.”

“Community colleges are uniquely positioned as postsecondary education and training are becoming critical credentials for meaningful employment,” said Kerry Sullivan, president, Bank of America Charitable Foundation. “We are pleased to support this effort designed to spur innovation and best practices while serving as a needed catalyst for workforce development.”

“Human capital is a critical element of what is needed to drive America’s growth and prosperity in the 21st century. Community colleges are important institutional partners who can help ensure that our economy has the skilled, productive citizens needed to fuel our future growth,” said Kimberly Davis, president, JPMorgan Chase Foundation. “To make sure that we maximize the potential of students enrolled in the nation’s community colleges, it is important to identify innovative educational strategies and support their widespread adaptation and adoption. The Community College prize will help accelerate this process and reward the cutting edge work being done by institutions across the country.”

 Over the next year, Aspen Institute will convene leading researchers and community college leaders to help design and administer the prize competition, with an emphasis on making the competition fair, inclusive, and comprehensive. “We know that community colleges serve a broad range of students who are seeking to advance their studies and their careers,” said Ross Wiener, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Program on Education and Society, “but we also know that what community colleges do matters a lot in whether students succeed. The competition rules will seek to create a level playing field so that the community colleges that are making the biggest contributions can get the credit they deserve.”

For more information about the Aspen Prize to Reward Community College Excellence please visit  

The Joyce Foundation, based in Chicago, makes grants of almost $40 million a year throughout the Great Lakes region through its programs in Education, Employment, Environment, Gun Violence, Money and Politics, and Culture. For more information, visit

Lumina Foundation for Education is committed to enrolling and graduating more students from college—especially low-income students, students of color, first-generation students and adult learners. Our goal is to increase the percentage of Americans who hold high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025. Lumina pursues this goal in three ways: by identifying and supporting effective practice, through public policy advocacy, and by using our communications and convening power to build public will for change. For more information, visit

Bank of America Charitable Foundation

Building on a long-standing tradition of investing in the communities it serves, last year Bank of America embarked on a new, 10-year goal to donate $2 billion to nonprofit organizations engaged in improving the health and vitality of their neighborhoods. Funded by Bank of America, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation gave more than $200 million in 2009, making the bank one of the largest corporate cash donors in the United States.  For more information about Bank of America Corporate Philanthropy, please visit 

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $2.0 trillion and operations in more than 60 countries. The firm is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers, small business and commercial banking, financial transaction processing, asset management and private equity. A component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, JPMorgan Chase & Co. serves millions of consumers in the United States and many of the world’s most prominent corporate, institutional and government clients under its J.P. Morgan and Chase brands. Information about JPMorgan Chase & Co. is available at  

The Aspen Institute mission is twofold: to foster values-based leadership, encouraging individuals to reflect on the ideals and ideas that define a good society, and to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues. The Aspen Institute does this primarily in four ways: seminars, young-leader fellowships around the globe, policy programs, and public conferences and events. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has an international network of partners. For more information, visit



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