Aspen Prize Top 10 Community College

Aspen Prize Top 10 Community College

Odessa College Among Ten National Finalists for 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence 

ODESSA (September 13, 2016) – Odessa College was named today as one of just 10 national finalists for the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, an award which is recognized among American institutions of higher education as the most prestigious and elevated affirmation of high achievement and exemplary performance that a community college can receive. The $1 million prize fund will be awarded in March 2017 in Washington, D.C. to the Grand Prize winner and up to four Finalists with Distinction. (See complete list of finalists below.)

The Aspen Prize, which has only been awarded to four community colleges since 2011, recognizes outstanding institutions selected from an original pool of more than 1,000 public community colleges nationwide. With a particularly tight focus on student success, the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program assesses community colleges’ performance and achievements in four areas: student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings for graduates, and access and success for minority and low-income students.

Before the Grand Prize winner of the 2017 Aspen Prize is announced in March, 2017 in Washington, D.C., the Aspen Institute will conduct multi-day site visits to each of the Top 10 finalist institutions as part of a rigorous final review process. The final determination of the top community college in the nation will be made only after examination of extensive data on performance and improvements in learning, graduation rates, work force entry and success, and equitable outcomes for all students. All facets of this intensive process must be completed before a distinguished Prize Jury of higher education experts select a Grand Prize winner and as many as four Finalists with Distinction.

“Odessa College has made dramatic improvements in student success over the past several years,” said Joshua Wyner, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program in Washington, D.C. “Using an innovative model of eight-week semesters, which allow students to focus and tailor their education to their busy schedules, Odessa College has increased enrollment, graduation rates, and financial aid awards.”


The Aspen Institute’s national press release naming the 2017 Aspen Prize Top 10 Finalists states that Odessa College is one of the nation’s top community colleges for many reasons, including:

  • A 66 percent increase in annual graduation/transfer rates in just four years
  • First-year graduates’ average earnings are 39 percent higher than the state average
  • A record low course withdrawal rate of 1.8 percent, a huge decline from prior years
  • A program allowing students to take one free class, letting them explore and experience college, and speak with student mentors and success coaches about career options, leading to $653,102 in total tuition savings in 2015 

Community colleges enroll almost half of all undergraduate students working toward degrees and certificates in the U.S. today. That statistic includes approximately 7 million individuals of all economic, ethnic and social backgrounds, with a rapidly growing percentage of low-income and minority students included in that number. While fewer than 40 percent of all community college students graduate nationwide, the Aspen Prize Top 10 Finalist institutions demonstrate that every community college can empower more students to achieve success, both while in college and after they graduate.

The 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence was awarded to Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida. In 2013, Santa Barbara City College (California) and Walla Walla Community College (Washington) were co-winners. In 2011, Valencia College (Florida) was the inaugural Prize winner. According to the Prize rules, former winners were not eligible to reapply this cycle.  

The Aspen Prize Finalists selected today reflect the diversity and richness of American community colleges.

                                    The 2017 Aspen Prize Finalists (listed in alphabetical order):

 Two colleges have been named finalists in four consecutive Prize cycles (indicated with *) and two others were finalists for a second time (indicated with #) 

  • Anoka-Ramsey Community College – Coon Rapids, MN
  • Broward College – Fort Lauderdale, FL#
  • Chaffey College – Rancho Cucamonga, CA
  • Indian River State College – Fort Pierce, FL#
  • Lake Area Technical Institute, Watertown, SD*
  • Northeast Community College – Norfolk, NE
  • Odessa College – Odessa, TX
  • Pasadena City College – Pasadena, CA
  • San Jacinto College – Pasadena, TX
  • West Kentucky Community and Technical College, Paducah, KY

The Aspen Prize is funded by the Joyce Foundation, the Siemens Foundation, and the Kresge Foundation.

The Aspen Institute's College Excellence Program aims to advance higher education practices, policies, and leadership that significantly improve student outcomes. Through the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the New College Leadership Project, and other initiatives, the College Excellence Program works to improve colleges' understanding and capacity to teach and graduate students, especially the growing population of low-income and minority students on American campuses. For more information, visit

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit