Blog: The Educated Reporter

Today’s Aspen Prize Award: Top Community Colleges to Share $1 Million

Today, the Aspen Institute will award the first-ever Aspen Prize for community college excellence, choosing from a list of 10 finalists (the original candidate pool was over 1,200).

The winning campus and four runners-up will share the $1 million prize, which recognizes both exceptional educational programs and student success.

The nonprofit think tank selected the finalists because “they are relentlessly focused on three non-negotiable outcomes — a high bar for learning, a focus on college completion, and real attention to preparing their students for 21st century jobs,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, in a written statement. “Needless to say, no institution is perfect, and each school in America – from elementary through higher education — has its own challenges, particularly in today’s economic climate. But, we believe that these 10 (community colleges) embody many of the elements that all community colleges should seek to emulate.”

I’m glad to see the Aspen Institute paying close attention to what’s happening at community colleges, and sharing stories of success. At the same time, I encourage education writers to spend some time on their own local campuses, meeting the students, hearing the challenges and — most importantly — pushing for accountability and transparency in how the business of higher education is being carried out.

Community colleges are understandably in the spotlight right now, largely because of the promise and opportunity they represent. As Inside Higher Ed’s co-founder and editor Scott Jashnik told us at EWA’s recent seminar at UCLA, this is a story that all education reporters should be covering. (Click here for my blog on the subject, and more of Jashnik’s excellent story suggestions.)

The Aspen Award ceremony will be here in D.C., and the roster of featured speakers include U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Jill Biden, a longtime educator and wife of Vice President Joe Biden (sorry, I just struggle with the “second lady” nickname). You can watch the live webcast of the awards ceremony starting at about 12:20 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The link is here.


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