2021 Aspen Prize Finalists

The Aspen Institute recently announced the ten finalists for the 2021 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

The Aspen Institute recently announced the ten finalists for the 2021 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. Throughout the rest of this year, the finalists will continue to be evaluated, and a $1 million total award will be divided among a single prize winner, finalists with distinction and a “rising star” college. Prior to the selection of the ten finalists, a group of 150 community colleges are chosen for consideration. The prize focuses on four areas that include teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, workforce success, and equitable outcomes for students of color and low-income students. This year, nine out of the ten finalists are ACCT members. 

“We in the community college sector appreciate and are gratified by the recognition increasingly bestowed on our leaders and the important contributions they make,” said ACCT President and CEO J. Noah Brown. “The Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence shines a bright light on the work to reach ever-higher levels of equity and excellence for our students.  We congratulate those member institutions recognized by Aspen this year.”

Amarillo College

Amarillo Collegein Amarillo, Texas is a first-time finalist after making the top 150 in 2019. Amarillo College President Russell Lowery-Hart presented at ACCT’s Leadership Congresslast year in San Francisco, and discussed the three-fold strategy his institution uses to help students persist to graduation: Remove a life barrier, make use of expedited learning, and create a culture of caring. Completion rates improved from 19% to 48% over a three-year period. Amarillo’s spring 2020 graduating class was the largest in the institution’s history. 

Broward College

Broward Collegeis located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. No stranger to the Aspen Prize, Broward is a finalist for the fourth time after making the top ten list in 2013, 2017, and 2019. In 2017, Broward was named a Finalist-with-Distinction, resulting in a $100,000 award. The college has focused on reaching students in the lowest-income ZIP Codes and giving them the tools necessary to secure a bright economic future. 

Borough of Manhattan Community College

Borough of Manhattan Community College(BMCC) is part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system in New York City. BMCC credits its place on the finalists list to the advances the institution has made in implementing pathways to graduation and transfer to four-year institutions. BMCC has over 26,000 students in more than 50 associate degree programs, and over 10,000 students in adult and continuing-education programs. 

Pasadena City College

Pasadena City College(PCC) is located in Pasadena, California. 2021 marks the third award-year that PCC has made the finalist list. A key focus for PCC has been ensuring equitable access to education for all students within their reach. One method PCC uses to give students a sense of community and drive to complete their educational goals is career communities. These six communities (STEM, Business & Industry, Health Sciences & Wellness, Liberal Arts, Social & Behavioral Sciences, and Arts, Communication & Design) seek to group students who have similar career goals.  

Pierce College

For the second award-year in a row, Pierce College, located in Pierce County, Washington, is a finalist for the Aspen Prize. Key to Pierce’s success has been achieving exceptional graduation and transfer rates for all students and narrowing gaps for students of color. Pierce also makes use of guided career pathways to help students focus their interest and get on a trajectory towards on-time completion of their course of study. 

San Antonio College

San Antonio College(SAC)is located in San Antonio, Texas, and is part of the Alamo Colleges District. Over the past few years, SAC has made substantial progress in improving student outcomes. Through the development of clear pathways to graduation, intensive advising, and transfer agreements with area universities, the college has been effective in putting students on a path to success. 

San Jacinto College

San Jacinto Collegeis located in Pasadena, Texas. A key component to San Jacinto’s success is a strong focus on completion, resulting in a 168.7 percent increase in certificates and degrees from 2009 to 2019. Critical to this increase has been intensive advising and career exploration to ensure that students are aware of all educational opportunities that are available and what jobs they might lead to. San Jacinto has developed over 100 program maps to guide students toward graduation and a rewarding career. 

Tallahassee Community College

Tallahassee Community College(TCC) is located in Tallahassee, Florida. TCC has worked to improve its student-centered focus in recent years. In addition to increasing access and workforce development, TCC is developing strong partnerships with K-12 schools and four-year universities to develop a wholistic economic mobility strategy. The college has a higher-than-state-average transfer rate to four-year institutions, and pathways to ensure the transition is seamless.  

West Kentucky Community and Technical College

West Kentucky Community and Technical College(WKCTC) is located in Paducah, Kentucky, and made the finalist list for the fifth time. WKCTC is one of sixteen institutions in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System WKCTC has a long track record of placing students in jobs through partnerships with local business and industry. A key to these partnerships has been providing educational offerings that meet local needs. 

​“What these 10 finalists have in common is the ability to effectively identify, develop, and scale strategies to propel all students to not just complete college but also succeed after graduation,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the College Excellence Program, said in the official announcement.

The winner will be announced at a May 2021 event in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit

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