Arkansas State University-Beebe, College of the Ouachitas, and National Park Community CollegeEligible for $1 Million Aspen Institute Prize Fund;
Nation’s Signature Recognition of Excellence in More Than 1,000 Community Colleges, Which Serve Nearly Half of All Undergraduates in U.S.
Little Rock, AR, June 5, 2012 –Highlighting the critical importance of improving student success in America’s community colleges, the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program recently named Arkansas State University-Beebe, College of the Ouachitas, and National Park Community College to their list of the nation’s 120 top community colleges, challenging them to compete for the $1 million fund for the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.
The Aspen Institute identified the 120 community colleges — 10 percent of all institutions — using a quantitative formula that assesses performance and improvement in four areas: graduation rates, degrees awarded, student retention rates, and equity in student outcomes. These colleges will now compete for the prestigious honor following a year-long research process into how well their students learn, complete degrees, and get jobs with competitive wages after graduating. A full list of the 120 community colleges is available at www.AspenCCPrize.org. Prize winners will be announced in March 2013.
Some seven million students – youth and adult learners – enroll in America’s nearly 1,200 public and private community colleges every year.
“The success of our nation’s community colleges is more important than ever before,” said Aspen Institute College Excellence Program Executive Director Josh Wyner, who announced the names of the 120 top community colleges at the annual convention of the American Association of Community Colleges in Orlando, Florida. “At a time when a college degree is essential to entering the middle class, community colleges like Arkansas State University-Beebe, College of the Ouachitas, and National Park Community College offer the most promising path to education and employment for literally millions of Americans.”
Arkansas State University-Beebe, College of the Ouachitas, National Park Community College and 117 other community colleges will be winnowed to eight-to-ten finalists in September based on how much students learn, how many complete their programs on time, and how well students do in the job market after graduating.
The Aspen Institute will conduct site visits to each of the finalists in the fall. A distinguished Prize Jury co-chaired by John Engler, president of Business Roundtable, former Michigan Governor, and former president of the National Association of Manufacturers and Richard Riley, former South Carolina Governor and U.S. Secretary of Education, will select a grand prize winner and four runners-up, to be announced in March 2013.
“American employers have jobs open right now but lack enough skilled, educated workers to fill them,” Engler said. “The job training programs at community colleges must play a central role in filling those gaps and preparing the American workforce. Community colleges’ success will help determine whether and in what sectors America will continue to lead in the global economy.”
While every community college faces challenges, particularly in today’s economic climate, Secretary Riley underscored the importance of improving outcomes for community college students, the majority of whom are underrepresented minorities, “Many community colleges across this country are doing an excellent job of boosting student success, but we need to encourage all community colleges achieve excellence. When students learn more, graduate or transfer to four-year institutions, and get competitive-wage jobs after college, it helps everyone – students, employers and our nation’s economy as a whole.”