150 colleges eligible for 2023 Aspen Prize


The Aspen Institute on Tuesday announced the 150 community colleges that are eligible to compete for the $1 million 2023 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

The Aspen Prize review committee selected the colleges from more than 1,000 community colleges nationwide based upon having high and improving levels of student success as well as equitable outcomes for Black and Hispanic students and those from lower-income backgrounds. 

Located in 34 states in urban, rural and suburban areas, and serving as few as 230 students and as many as 57,000 students, the selected colleges represent the diversity and depth of the community college sector, according to the Aspen College Excellence Program.

Among states, California again had the most number of selected colleges (29), followed by Florida (14), Washington and Illinois (10 each), Georgia and Wisconsin (nine each) and Texas (8).

The Aspen Prize, which is awarded every two years, focuses on student success and looks at outstanding achievements in four areas: learning; certificate and degree completion; employment and earnings; and high levels of access and success for minority and low-income students. The idea is to share promising practices as well as spotlight the need for a quality postsecondary education to attain good jobs and careers, according to officials.

Three cheers

Many of the selected colleges rolled out their press announcements throughout the day and posted on social media. Several highlighted some of the achievements that helped them make the list.

“Students are #1 at Union, and we are committed to equity and diversity at our campuses,” said Margaret M. McMenamin, president of Union County College in New Jersey, which was first recognized as an Aspen Prize Top 150 college in 2019. “The invitation by the Aspen Institute to apply once again for this prestigious award is an acknowledgment of our commitment to student success.”

Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) in Cleveland made the top 150 for the second straight time — and the only college from Ohio to make the list this year. (Three colleges from the state made the list for the 2021 competition.)

“The fact that we have now been able to garner this honor twice in a row shows how consistently high our performance is as an institution and how committed everyone at Tri-C is to maintaining those standards,” said President Alex Johnson.

Lakeshore Technical College (Wisconsin) and West Kentucky Community and Technical College have each made the top 150 for their sixth time.

“A direct reflection of the outstanding work of the faculty and staff!” President Paul Carlsen posted on Twitter.

There are colleges new to the list for the first time, and some that are familiar, such as Broward College and Tallahassee Community College (both Florida), Amarillo College and San Jacinto Community College (both in Texas), Pasadena City College in California, and Borough of Manhattan Community College, which were all among the 2021 Aspen Prize top 10 finalists.

Speaking of New York, all six of the state’s nominated colleges come from the City University of New York system. For the 2021 competition, all three colleges selected to the top 150 list also were in the CUNY system.

“We pride ourselves on empowering students to transform their lives through the advancement of educational access, equity and socioeconomic mobility,” said Anthony E. Munroe, president of Borough of Manhattan Community College. “We strive to improve our student retention and bring educational and career opportunities to all of our students so they can strive for a better future for themselves and their families.”

Next steps

The top 10 finalists for the 2023 Aspen Prize will be named in spring/summer 2022. The Aspen Institute will then visit each of the finalists and collect additional quantitative data, including employment and earnings data. A jury will then select in late spring 2023 a grand prize winner, finalists with distinction and rising stars.

Previous winners of the Aspen Prize include:

Ascendium and the Joyce Foundation are the funders for this cycle of the prize.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.