150 colleges eligible for 2025 Aspen Prize

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The Aspen Institute on Tuesday announced the 150 community colleges that are eligible to compete for the $1 million 2025 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

The award’s 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. 

The colleges are located in 30 states (the 2023 Top 150 colleges came from 34 states) in urban, rural and suburban areas. Among states, California again had the most number of selected colleges (20, compared to 29 in 2023), followed by Florida (15, up from 14 in 2023), Texas (13, up from 10) and North Carolina (10).

The absence of some states is noticeable. For example, there are no colleges from Ohio on this year’s list, after having one college on the 2023 Top 150 list, and three colleges from the state on the list for the 2021 competition.

All eight of the 2023 Aspen Prize finalists (excluding the co-winners) — Broward College (Florida), Hostos Community College (New York), Kingsborough Community College (New York), Moorpark College (California), Northwest Iowa Community College, San Jacinto College (Texas), South Puget Sound Community College (Washington), Southwest Wisconsin Technical College (Wisconsin) — are again on the long list.

The Aspen Prize, which is awarded every two years, focuses on student success and looks at outstanding achievements in six areas: teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, transfer and bachelor’s-degree attainment, workforce success, equitable access to the college, and equitable outcomes for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.

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.

“When you look at our model, our business processes, our culture, we are leading the way in our field,” said Jim Murdaugh, president of Florida’s Tallahassee Community College, which was named a finalist for the Aspen Prize in 2021 and a semifinalist in 2023. “When you look at our data around fall-to-fall persistence, four-year completion rates, and success rates in gateway math and English courses, and the narrowing of equity gaps with our Black and Hispanic students, the outcomes are impressive. Everyone and everything we do here at TCC is there to help our students succeed and that really shows in our results.”

Union College of Union County, New Jersey (UCNJ) has made the list for the third time in a row. In 2023, it was named a semifinalist for the award.

“We are committed to not only providing access to an affordable and excellent education but also to embracing the diversity at our campuses,” UCNJ President Margaret M. McMenamin said in a release. “This invitation by the Aspen Institute is an acknowledgment of our commitment to student success and corresponding outcomes.”

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

In New York, colleges in the City University of New York (CUNY) system again comprise most of the selected institutions. This year, five of the six colleges are in CUNY; in the 2023 competition, all six of the nominated colleges were in the system.

Next steps

Aspen will name 25 semi-finalists by next April and 10 finalists in June. Following site visits to each of the finalist campuses, an independent jury will select the winner, which Aspen will announce in June 2025.

Previous winners of the Aspen Prize include:

Ascendium, Joyce Foundation, JPMorgan Chase and the Kresge 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.