The Aspen Institute awarded the prestigious Aspen Prize on March 14 during a live stream from the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
The $1 million prize was awarded to Lake Area Technical Institute, Watertown, South Dakota, but Anoka-Ramsey Community College students, faculty, staff and administration celebrated their rank as a Top 10 Finalist during a Watch Party held at both campuses.
“I am extremely proud of our college and to be one of the Aspen Prize Top 10 community colleges in the nation,” said Anoka-Ramsey Community College President Kent Hanson. “It’s a great honor to be part of such a wonderful college and to work with such amazing people—faculty, staff and students. Though we didn’t win the top prize this year, we’ll be back. The whole Aspen Prize nomination process provides yet another opportunity to advance our commitment to student success.”
The national honor, presented as part of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, is awarded every two years, and it is the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges.
Anoka-Ramsey was ranked among the Top 150 in the country in early 2016, alongside six community colleges from Minnesota. The community college was named a Top 10 Finalist in September, after Aspen’s Finalist Selection Committee reviewed performance data. To select the winner of the Aspen Prize, the Aspen Institute conducted two-day site visits to the campuses of the finalists.
The Aspen Prize recognizes institutions for exceptional student outcomes in four areas of excellence, including learning, degree completion, employment and earnings of college graduates, and access and success for minority and low-income students.
Although Anoka-Ramsey did not win the Aspen Prize, it is an honor for any community college to be named a finalist by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. Of the 150 institutions that were named eligible for the competition, over 100 applied to compete for the $1 million Aspen Prize.
Improving community college student success is a vital national priority. Open access and affordability have benefitted millions of Americans, but now the nation must get more community college students successfully through to high-wage career opportunities and further education. Today, there are 13 million students being educated in more than 1,000 community colleges across the country. Of these students, nearly 7 million – over 40 percent of all those enrolled in postsecondary education – are working toward degrees and certificates.
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 2017 Aspen Prize is supported by the Kresge Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, Pearson and the Siemens Foundation.
Nationwide, fewer than half of all community college students graduate. Despite this low rate, Aspen Prize finalist institutions demonstrate that community colleges can help students achieve higher levels of success while in college and after they graduate.
For a complete list of 2017 Aspen Prize finalists and more details, visit: http://highered.aspeninstitute.org/aspen-prize/.