WASHINGTON, DC – Every two years, the Aspen Institute recognizes accomplishments in higher education with its Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The award has been established as the signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s 1,100 community colleges. In fall 2016, Northeast Community College joined institutions from across the United States in being named as Top 10 finalists for the 2017 prize.
On Tuesday in the nation’s capital, the Aspen Institute announced that Lake Area Technical Institute (LATI), Watertown, SD, is the winner of the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.
Selected from 1,123 public community colleges nationwide, Aspen Prize winner LATI will receive $600,000 in prize funds. Broward College, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and Indian River State College, Ft. Pierce, FL, were named finalists-with-distinction. Aspen also recognized two Top 10 finalists with the “Rising Star” award for rapid improvement in student completion with the honor going to Odessa College, Odessa, TX, and San Jacinto College, Pasadena, TX. All four will each receive $100,000 in prize funds.
Northeast Community College, Norfolk, NE, and four other Top 10 finalists were also recognized during Tuesday’s ceremony at the Knight Conference Center at the Newseum in Washington, DC.
The $1 million Aspen Prize recognizes institutions for outstanding outcomes in four areas: student learning; certificate and degree completion; employment and earnings; and high levels of access and success for minority and low income students.
By focusing on student success and lifting up models that work, the Aspen Prize aims to further the national understanding of community colleges that strive to increase student success, stimulate innovation and create benchmarks for measuring progress. The Prize recognizes institutions for exceptional student outcomes in four areas: student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings, and high levels of access and success for minority and low-income students.
Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, said Aspen’s extensive review indicates that Northeast Community College has evolved from a strictly agricultural-focused vocational school to an ambitious institution providing opportunities ranging from short-term job training to study abroad and academic preparation for transfer to a four-year college.
“Northeast’s greatest strength remains its exceptional workforce development programs in a variety of areas, from agriculture to utility line maintenance to construction. By using labor market statistics to inform new and existing programs, they’re responding to the needs of the region and training students with the skills needed for well-paying, in-demand jobs.”
In response to student feedback, the Aspen review noted that Northeast completely redesigned its academic advising program, including intensive faculty training and mandatory advising for the college’s 6,900 students. The college’s career and technical programs all require an internship, and frequent visits by faculty to students during their summer internships helps foster close relationships between faculty and employers. In a region where a large majority of people do not earn a college degree, Northeast’s strong partnerships with regional K-12 schools provide an early introduction to college, including its Fridays @ Northeast program, which gives high school students an opportunity for in-depth, hands-on exploration of career and technical fields.
During Tuesday’s ceremony, Northeast Community College was recognized for:
- Achieving a 60-percent, three-year graduation/transfer rate, well above the national average of 39-percent
- Students pursuing certificates or degrees achieving high completion rates, especially considering that 70-percent begin in developmental math and/or English
- Strong labor market outcomes: one-year post-graduation, graduates are making eight-percent more than other new hires in the region, five-years post-graduation. This is up to an 11-percent premium over all workers in the region
Dr. Michael Chipps, college president, expressed his gratitude to the faculty and staff of Northeast Community College for their dedication in ensuring students meet their goals and objectives.
“Throughout the Aspen process, our Northeast family has clearly demonstrated their dedication and passion for the work of successfully educating a highly skilled workforce. Heralded as a Top 10 institution among America’s 1,123 community colleges, Northeast will remain a ‘shining star’ for students to be successful.
Chipps said there are countless community colleges that serve their students very well.
“However, there are benchmarks that these community colleges have in common to better assure student success. Some of these standards are quantifiable, but there are also qualities that create an environment where students simply don’t have a choice but to succeed.”
Chipps said Northeast continuously searches for better ways to address programs and services specifically designed for the College’s 20-county service. The major method used to focus on these programs and services is through Northeast’s Vision 2020 strategic plan.
He said Vision 2020 is a guided, yet flexible plan that incorporates built-in performance measures designed to take the College through to the beginning of the next decade and beyond. The plan features four strategic goals and objectives - increase student success, increase student access, provide a globally competitive workforce and develop and maximize resources – to address workforce development needs and provide students with the skills necessary for well-paying, in-demand occupations.
Chipps said inclusion in the Aspen Top 10 reaffirms the excellent work that continually takes place at Northeast.
“This recognition is a special tribute to all past and current boards, administrators, faculty and staff. It honors the long-serving traditions of the past and is a beautiful reflection of the incredible work that goes on at Northeast each and every day.”
George Miller, left, Aspen Prize Jury co-chair and former California congressman, presents Dr. Michael Chipps, president of Northeast Community College, with an Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Top 10 Finalist award. Northeast was one of ten colleges from across the country to be recognized by the Aspen Institute during a ceremony on Tuesday in Washington, DC.