Aspen Prize 2021 - Top 10 Finalist

Odessa College Is Named One of 10 National Finalists For $1 Million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence

Ten community college finalists are honored for achieving exceptional, equitable outcomes for students.

Washington, D.C., June 9, 2020 – The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program today announced that Odessa College is one of 10 finalists for the 2021 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among community colleges.

This is Odessa College’s third time as an Aspen Prize finalist. In 2017 and 2019 Odessa was honored as a Rising Star for exceptional levels of improvement.

The 10 Aspen Prize finalists were selected from the nation’s 1,000 community colleges in a process that included qualitative and quantitative data analysis and engaged more than 30 experts in the field. These finalists all effectively identify, develop, and scale strategies to propel all students to not just complete college but also succeed after graduation.

“Odessa College continues to steadily improve student enrollment and success rates by meeting students where they are,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the College Excellence Program. “College leaders, faculty, and staff work hard to ensure students have a sense of belonging in college, and deliver the skills they need to advance over the long term—rather than just in jobs that pay well but don’t last.”

Awarded every two years since 2011, the Aspen Prize recognizes institutions that achieve strong student outcomes across four key areas:

  • Teaching and learning
  • Degree completion and successful transfer to four-year institutions
  • Success in the workforce
  • Equitable outcomes for diverse student groups

“The Aspen Prize finalists define what it means to be an excellent community college,” said Wyner. “By organizing everything they do around student success, these colleges stand at the forefront of national efforts to develop the talents of diverse students that we need to strengthen our nation’s economic future.”

“The college is proud to once again be recognized as one of the preeminent community colleges in the nation,” said Odessa College President Gregory D. Williams. “Even in these uncertain and unpredictable times, we have not lost focus on students.  We are concluding a record setting year at the college – connecting more students than ever to a meaningful pathway, while producing a talent pipeline of OC graduates for our workforce.  Our work continues.”

What community colleges do has a significant impact on our nation’s ability to develop diverse talent and promote social mobility, given that they enroll 6 million students—about 40 percent of all U.S. undergraduates—and disproportionately serve low-income and minority students.

For the rest of 2020, the Aspen Institute will work with a team of national experts to complete a rigorous review process to determine the eventual winner of the prize. This encompasses a comprehensive examination of outcomes data as well as multi-day virtual site visits to each of the 10 finalist institutions.

In early 2021, a distinguished jury will convene to select the prize winner, finalists with distinction, and a rising star and allocate a $1 million award among them. The winner will be announced at a May 2021 event in Washington, D.C.

The Aspen Prize is generously funded by Ascendium Education Group, Joyce Foundation, and Siemens Foundation.

2021 Aspen Prize Finalists

  • Amarillo College, Amarillo, TX
  • Borough of Manhattan Community College, New York, NY
  • Broward College, Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Odessa College, Odessa, TX
  • Pasadena City College, Pasadena, CA
  • Pierce College, Pierce County, WA
  • San Antonio College, San Antonio, TX
  • San Jacinto College, Pasadena, TX
  • Tallahassee Community College, Tallahassee, FL
  • West Kentucky Community and Technical College, Paducah, KY


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 and follow CEP on LinkedIn ( and Twitter (@AspenHigherEd). 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