Highlighting the critical importance of improving student success in America’s community colleges, the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program recently named Pasco-Hernando Community College as one the nation’s 120 top community colleges, challenging it 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.
“We are honored to be one of the 120 community colleges in the United States and one of the 15 institutions within the Florida College System deemed eligible to compete for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence,“ said PHCC President Katherine Johnson, Ed.D. “PHCC is extremely proud of this recognition as a top performing college on a national level and we look forward to the next round of competition that will hopefully move us closer to meeting the final qualifications for this prestigious award.”
Some seven million students—youth and adult learners—enroll in America’s nearly 1,200 public and private community colleges every year.
PHCC and 119 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.
PHCC is now eligible to submit an application containing detailed data on these criteria. The college must demonstrate that it delivers exceptional student results, uses data to drive decisions, and continually improves over time.
The Aspen Institute will conduct site visits to each of the finalists in the fall. A 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.
“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.”
For more information on the Aspen Institute, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.