Structured Pathways Help Community Colleges Succeed

The emphasis on community college excellence needs to move from a discussion just about student access to one of both access and success.

That’s the sentiment expressed Wednesday by many college leaders and politicians in the District of Columbia for the announcement of the Aspen Institute’s 2015 Prize for Community College Excellence, given to Santa Fe College, of Gainesville, Florida, which received $800,000 in prize funds. Kennedy-King College of Chicago won the institute’s “Rising Star” award, and $100,000 in prize funds, in part due to its work to triple the school’s graduation rate in five years. The prize, first awarded in 2011, is given every two years by the Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization in the District of Columbia.

Two other community colleges – Lake Area Technical Institute of Watertown, South Dakota, and West Kentucky Community and Technical College, of Paducah, Kentucky – were named finalists with distinction and also were awarded $100,000 each in prize funds. A panel of experts judged more than 1,000 community colleges that applied on measures of learning, degree completion, minority and low-income student success and employment and earnings after graduation.

 “The deep appreciation these colleges have for excellent practice – we have got to shift our thinking in this country from community colleges as ‘also rans,’ as second choices, to a sector that educates half of students and has some really exceptional institutions,” says Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program and author of “What Excellent Community Colleges Do,” a book published in 2014. “Across the sector, outcomes are not good enough. They absolutely have to get better. But within the sector there is remarkable practice that can not only teach other two-year colleges what to do, but can teach all of higher education how to become more successful.” <Read more.>

Via Allie Bidwell, U.S. News & World Report.