WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Aspen Institute has named Northeast Community College as one of the nation’s top 150 institutions and is eligible to compete for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation's signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America's community colleges.
The colleges selected for this honor stand out among more than 1,000 community colleges nationwide as 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 150 eligible colleges have been invited to submit data and narratives as the next steps in an intensive data and practice review process, culminating in the announcement of the Prize winner in spring 2023.
“We are honored to be selected by the Aspen Institute for this distinguished recognition,” said Leah Barrett, president of Northeast. “The selection is an honor in itself and demonstrates the commitment of our faculty and staff in preparing our students to enter the workforce in the communities across the college’s entire 20-county service area. It is also a reflection of Northeast’s efforts to empower our graduates, develop our workforce, and positively contribute to our region’s economy.
The Aspen Prize spotlights exemplary community colleges in order to elevate the sector, drive attention to colleges doing the best work, and discover and share highly effective student success and equity strategies. Since 2010, Aspen has chosen to focus intensively on community colleges because they are -as First Lady Jill Biden stated at the 2021 Aspen Prize ceremony – “a powerful engine of prosperity.”
Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, said student outcomes vary enormously among community colleges, and improving those outcomes is essential to securing the nation’s economic future, strengthening communities, and ensuring that diverse populations experience economic mobility and prosperity. With these goals in mind, the Aspen Prize honors colleges with outstanding achievement in five critical areas: teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, transfer and bachelor’s attainment, workforce success, and equity for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.
“In an era of persistent inequity and workforce talent gaps, our nation’s best community colleges are stepping up to deliver more degrees to increasingly diverse students so they are prepared for the good jobs waiting to be filled,” Wyner said. “Leaders of exceptional community colleges understand that achieving excellence requires expanding college access and increasing degree completion, but it doesn’t stop there. They are committed to ensuring that all students - including students of color and those from low-income backgrounds - graduate with the skills needed to secure a job with family-sustaining wages or successfully transfer to and graduate from a university. That same commitment stands at the center of the Aspen Prize: to advance the goals of social mobility and equitable talent development.”
The eligible colleges represent the diversity and depth of the community college sector. Located in urban, rural, and suburban areas across 34 states, these colleges serve as few as 230 students and as many as 57,000. Winning colleges have ranged from smaller institutions serving rural community and smaller towns - including Lake Area Technical Institute (So. Dak. - 2017 Prize winner) and Walla Walla Community College (Wash. - 2013) - to large community colleges serving major metropolitan areas, including Miami Dade College (Fla. - 2019) and San Antonio College (Tex. - 2021).
Northeast Community College has been recognized by the Aspen Institute in the past. It was named a Top 120 institution in both 2011 and 2013, a Top 10 college in 2017, and Top 150 in 2019 and 2021.
In this first round, eligibility for the Aspen Prize is based on publicly available data. Eligible colleges must show strong and improving student outcomes in key areas such as retention, completion, transfer, and equity. Nationwide, 15 percent of community colleges (150 of the approximately 1,000 public two-year colleges nationwide assessed for the Prize) have been invited to apply—the full list can be accessed on the Prize homepage.
For a full list of the top 150 eligible institutions and to read more on the selection process, visit www.highered.aspeninstitute.org/aspen-prize.