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The W.K. Kellogg Foundation and America Achieves plan to commit $1.5 million to support the Aspen Prize For Community College Excellence, a program developed by the Aspen Institute to honor high-achieving community colleges.
The award, inaugurated in 2011, recognizes the most outstanding community colleges for their achievements in student learning outcomes, college completion, labor market success leading to jobs and equitable opportunity.
W.K. Kellogg, with a grant of $1 million over two years, and America Achieves, with a grant of $500,000 over one year, join the Joyce Foundation, Lumina Foundation, Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the JP Morgan Chase Foundation in supporting the prize in its second year.
“With 40 percent of America’s college students attending community colleges, tuition rising across the country and the increasing need for college graduates to have job-ready skills after graduation, excellence in the nation’s community colleges is not merely an option,” Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen College Excellence Program, said in a press release. “It must happen because the nation is depending on community colleges to provide a quality education that is within reach of millions of American families.”
The initiative is important because it identifies what works at high-performing community colleges preparing students for high-wage jobs, said Jon Schnur, executive chair of America Achieves.
“It also creates impact by distilling lessons learned and providing practical tools to help spread those successes to other colleges and students across the country,” he said. “And it will lead to an understanding of strong and effective leadership at the community college level.”
The inaugural Aspen Prize was awarded in December to Valencia College in Florida, which received a $600,000 award, and four finalists-with-distinction: Lake Area Technical Institute (South Dakota), Miami Dade College (Florida), Walla Walla Community College (Washington) and West Kentucky Community and Technical College. Each college received $100,000.
In April, Aspen released the names of the 120 community colleges eligible for the second prize competition. The institute will name eight to 10 finalists in September and then conduct site visits in the fall.
A jury, chaired by John Engler (former Michigan governor and current president of the Business Roundtable) and Richard Riley (former South Carolina governor and U.S. education secretary), will select a grand prize winner and four runners-up. They will be announced in March 2013.
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