Let the numbers crunching begin – at least for 120 lucky community colleges.
Those institutions are being invited to compete for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, an effort by the Aspen Institute for College Excellence to identify and replicate best practices leading to college completion, student learning outcomes and labor market outcomes.
At a Washington D.C. event attended by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Second Lady Jill Biden, the Aspen Institute announced the first significant phase of the community college competition, which was announced at the White House Summit on Community Colleges last October.
The institute ranked 120 colleges based on publicly-available data on student outcomes, including performance (retention and graduation rates); improvement of student outcomes over time and equity (the record of outcomes for disadvantaged students). The data was analyzed by an advisory committee co-chaired by William Trueheart, CEO of Achieving the Dream, and Keith Bird, former chancellor of the Kentucky Community College System.
According to a press release, the purpose of the Aspen Prize is to recognize community colleges with outstanding academic and workforce outcomes. By focusing on student success and lifting up models that work, the prize is intended to honor excellence, stimulate innovation, and create benchmarks for measuring progress.
“Unprecedented numbers of students are choosing to attend community college as the cost of four-year college grows increasingly out of reach for many families in America,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the college excellence program. “To ensure student success and fuel economic growth for communities and the nation, community colleges must—now more than ever—make a commitment to excellence and stronger student outcomes.”
The select 120 community colleges named today are eligible to submit applications containing detailed data on degree/certificate completion (including progress and transfer rates), labor market outcomes (employment and earnings) and student learning outcomes. They must demonstrate that they deliver exceptional student results, use data to drive decisions, and continually improve over time. Eight to ten finalists will be named in September. The Aspen Institute will conduct site visits to each of the finalists in the fall. Based on this evidence, a grand prize winner and two-to-three runners-up will be announced in December.
More information, and a list of the 120 colleges, will be made available at http://www.AspenCCPrize.org.