Three National Leaders Join Jury That Selects Top Community Colleges

January 28, 2013

Contact: Rachel Roth
Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence
202-736-2924 |

Esther Aguilera, President/CEO, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute;
Michael Lomax, President/CEO, United Negro College Fund;
General Anthony Zinni, Former Commander in Chief, US Central Command (CENTCOM)

New Jury Members Reflect Focus on Diversity and Veterans’ Access to High Quality Post-Secondary Education

Washington, DC, January 25, 2013 – The Aspen Institute today announced that three national leaders join the jury to help select the winner of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence:

  • Esther Aguilera, President and CEO of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute,
  • Michael Lomax, PhD, President and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, and
  • General Anthony Zinni, United States Marine Corps (retired), former Commander in Chief of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM).

The nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance in America’s community colleges, the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, recognizes the most outstanding institutions-selected from an original pool of more than 1,000 community colleges-for their achievement in four areas: student learning outcomes, degree completion, labor market success in securing good jobs after college, and minority and low-income student success. Valencia College in Florida won the inaugural Prize in December 2011, sharing the $1 million prize fund with four finalists-with-distinction. The next Prize will be awarded in March 2013.

“Esther Aguilera, Michael Lomax and General Anthony Zinni will bring invaluable expertise to our rigorous evaluation process,” said Josh Wyner, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. “Ms. Aguilera is deeply dedicated to helping Hispanics overcome the hurdles of accessing a college education. The jury will benefit immensely from her insight on the needs of the nation’s fastest growing minority population. Dr. Lomax will bring to the Prize jury not only a deep commitment to closing the achievement gap and improving minority and low-income student success, but a deep knowledge of effective educational policy and practice. General Zinni understands the challenges and barriers faced by veterans as they re-enter civilian life. He shares Aspen’s vision that our nation should honor our veterans’ service by ensuring that they have the opportunity to access higher education, and gain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the 21st century workforce.”

Community colleges across the country are educating a rapidly growing numbers of veterans and minorities and, for these groups, offer a vital path to an affordable education and employment. With four-year colleges and universities costing up to $60,000 per year per student, the average annual tuition at a community college-$3,131-has driven enrollment in community colleges to grow at more than four times the rate of four-year colleges over the past decade. And among young full-time college students, Hispanics are far more likely to attend community colleges and less likely to go to four-year colleges than their white peers.

As part of its commitment to shaping a world-class Prize for Community College Excellence, the Aspen Institute convenes three committees of thought leaders and practitioners to evaluate community college performance through rigorous review of data and practice. The Prize Jury – the third and final committee to assess community colleges, after the Data/Metrics Advisory Panel and the Finalist Selection Committee – reviews statistical data on graduation, transfer, employment and earnings outcomes and site visit reports for each of the ten finalists to choose a winner and up to four finalists-with-distinction.

Aguilera, Lomax and Zinni join nine others who have served on the Aspen Prize Jury since 2011. The jury panel is co-chaired by John Engler, president of The Business Roundtable and former Governor of Michigan, and Richard Riley, former South Carolina Governor and U.S. Secretary of Education, and includes nationally prominent individuals and leaders in government, business, labor, education and civil rights:

  • Dr. Anthony Carnevale, Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce
  • David Leonhardt, The New York Times
  • Joe Loughrey, Cummins, Inc. (retired)
  • Wes Moore, Author, The Other Wes Moore
  • John Morgridge, Cisco Systems, Inc. (emeritus)
  • Dr. Charlene Nunley, University of Maryland University College; Montgomery Community College (emeritus)
  • Jon Schnur, America Achieves

For more information on the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, please visit:

Affiliations of Prize Jury, Finalist Selection Committee and Data/Metrics Advisory Panel members listed solely for purposes of identification, and do not reflect organizational endorsement of the Aspen Prize.


The Aspen Prize is funded by America Achieves, Bank of America Charitable Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, JPMorgan Chase Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the Lumina Foundation for Education.

The Aspen College Excellence Program aims to identify and replicate campus-wide practices that significantly improve college 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

View Comments