Aspen Prize finalists include new and familiar faces


The Aspen Institute on Tuesday announced the 10 community colleges that are finalists for the biennial $1 million Aspen Prize. Among them are four finalists from the previous 2023 competition, including one college that has been a finalist five times.

The 2025 Aspen Prize finalists are:

Four of the colleges — Moorpark College, San Jacinto College, South Puget Sound Community College and Southwest Wisconsin Technical College — were top 10 finalists for the 2023 award; this is the fifth time San Jacinto has made the finalist list. Six of the finalist colleges are appearing on the top 10 list for the first time: Georgia Highlands, Northeast Wisconsin Tech, Northwest Vista, Seminole State, UCNJ and Wallace State.

Finalist colleges sent releases on Tuesday about the recognition, acknowledging the hard work and team effort from faculty, staff, trustees and others to attain the honor.

“Wallace State has been committed to achieving the highest levels of success for our students for many years so that students regardless of their backgrounds are equipped to enter the workforce in a rewarding career or continue to excel upon transfer to a university,” said Wallace State President Vicki Karolewics, who also serves on the American Association of Community Colleges board of directors.

“Being named a 2025 Aspen Prize Finalist is an honor, but it also serves as a reminder of our ongoing commitment to excellence, equity and innovation in education,” said UCNJ President Margaret M. McMenamin. “We will continue to live our mission of transforming our community, one student at a time.”

Next steps in the competition include multi-day in-person site visits this fall to each of the finalists, an independent jury review of finalists in the winter that will include selecting the winner and others for recognition, and finally the announcement of the winner and celebration of the 10 finalists in Washington, D.C., on April 17, 2025.

Awarded every two years since 2011, the Aspen Prize recognizes outstanding institutions selected from a pool of more than 1,000 public community colleges nationwide. The award honors colleges with outstanding performance in five critical areas: teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, transfer and bachelor’s attainment, workforce success, and equitable outcomes for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.

Among the previous prize winners, four hail from Florida, two were from California, and two of the most recent winners were from Texas. The past winners are:

2023: Amarillo College (Texas) and Imperial Valley College (California)
2021: San Antonio College (Texas)
2019: Indian River State College (Florida) and Miami Dade College (Florida)
2017: Lake Area Technical Institute (South Dakota)
2015: Santa Fe College (Florida)
2013: Santa Barbara City College (California) and Walla Walla Community College (Washington)
2011: Valencia College (Florida)

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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.
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