WASHINGTON, D.C., November 2, 2021 — The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program today named Union County College as one of 150 institutions 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. Union County College was chosen for this honor among more than 1,000 community colleges nationwide based upon 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. Union County College was first recognized as an Aspen Prize Top 150 U.S. Community College in 2019.
“At Union County College, every day we live our mission of transforming our community, one student at a time. We are honored that the Aspen Institute is recognizing Union once again as an elite community college based on the incredible efforts of our faculty and staff, and the support of the College’s Boards and Union County Board of County Commissioners. Students are #1 at Union, and we are committed to equity and diversity at our campuses. The invitation by the Aspen Institute to apply once again for this prestigious award is an acknowledgement of our commitment to student success,” stated Union President Margaret M. McMenamin.
The Aspen Prize spotlights exemplary community colleges 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 college because they are — as First Lady Dr. Jill Biden stated at the 2021 Aspen Prize ceremony—“a powerful engine of prosperity.”
Because student outcomes vary enormously among community colleges, and improving those outcomes is essential to securing our 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,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. “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 that stands at the center of the Aspen Prize: to advance the goals of social mobility and equitable talent development.”
The 150 eligible colleges have been invited to submit data and narratives as the next steps in an intensive data and practice review process, including outcomes on retention, completion, transfer, and equity culminating in the announcement of the Prize winner in spring 2023.
Previous winners of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence are: Lake Area Technical Institute (SD, 2017 Prizewinner) and Walla Walla Community College (WA, 2013)—to large community colleges serving major metropolitan areas, including Miami Dade College (FL, 2019) and San Antonio College (TX, 2021).
For a full list of the top 150 eligible institutions and to read more on the selection process, visit https://highered.aspeninstitute.org/aspen-prize/.
The Aspen Prize is generously funded by the Ascendium and the Joyce Foundation.
The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program aims to advance higher education practices, policies, and leadership that significantly improve student outcomes, especially for the growing population of low-income students and students of color on American campuses. For more information, visit highered.aspeninstitute.org and www.linkedin.com/showcase/aspenhighered,
and follow @AspenHigherEd on Twitter. The Aspen Prize hashtag is #AspenPrize.
The Aspen Institute is a community-serving organization with global reach whose vision is a free, just, and equitable society. For 70 years, the Institute has driven change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the world’s greatest challenges. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Institute has offices in Aspen, Colorado, and New York City, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.
Ann Larken, 208-596-5886, (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Jaime Segal, Union County College, 908-709-750, (email@example.com).