Aspen Prize finalists include familiar and new faces


The Aspen Institute on Tuesday announced the 10 finalists for its 2021 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, which include four two-year colleges from Texas and a Kentucky college that has been a finalist in five of the six award cycles.

Awarded every two years since 2011, the prize recognizes outstanding institutions selected from a pool of more than 1,000 public community colleges nationwide. The winner, finalists with distinction and a rising star will be announced in May 2021 and share in a $1 million award.

The 2021 finalists are:

The finalists include a mix of familiar faces and new ones. Odessa, San Jacinto, Pasadena and Pierce colleges were finalists in 2019. Six of 2021 finalists have made the list several times, including West Kentucky (five times), Broward (four), Odessa (three), San Jacinto (three), Pasadena (three) and Pierce (twice).

Four of the finalist colleges are appearing on the top 10 for the first time: Amarillo, Borough of Manhattan, San Antonio and Tallahassee.

Among the previous prize winners, four were from Florida, including 2019 co-winners Indian River State College and Miami Dade College.

The selection process

The finalists were selected from the nation’s more than 1,000 community colleges in a process that included qualitative and quantitative data analysis and engaged more than 30 experts in the field. The finalist colleges vary widely in size, location, demographics and type of degrees offered.

The prize recognizes institutions that achieve strong student outcomes across four key areas:

  • Teaching and learning
  • Degree completion and successful transfer to four-year institutions
  • Success in the workforce
  • Equitable outcomes for diverse student groups

For the rest of 2020, Aspen will work with a team of national experts to complete a rigorous review process to determine the eventual prize winner. This will include a comprehensive examination of outcomes data as well as multi-day virtual site visits to each of the finalists.

The Aspen Prize is funded by Ascendium Education Group, Joyce Foundation and Siemens Foundation.

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