Two Northern Arkansas Community Colleges Compete for Aspen Prize

Press Release

The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program Tuesday named Arkansas State University-Mountain Home (ASUMH) and North Arkansas College (NAC) in Harrison among 150 community colleges eligible to compete for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges. Based on strong and improving in student outcomes-including in learning, completion rates, employment rates and earnings, and equity-15 percent of community colleges nationwide have been invited to apply for the Aspen Prize.

“I am delighted with the recognition of our outstanding faculty, staff, and students with this third consecutive Aspen Award. Congratulations to everyone at ASUMH for having been named among the top 150 Community Colleges in the nation! It is a privilege to work with such an exceptional group of people who are committed to the success of our students,” says Dr. Robin Myers, Chancellor of ASUMH.

“It’s an honor for Northark to be selected to compete with the top 15% of all community colleges in the nation,” says Northark President Dr. Randy Esters. “We focus on student success and provide a variety of holistic, wrap-around services designed to support students while they are here. We continue to support their success even after they leave us for the university or the career field.”

The 150 community colleges named Tuesday as eligible to compete for the 2021 Aspen Prize were selected from a pool of nearly 1,000 public two-year colleges nationwide using publicly available data on student outcomes. Located in 39 states in urban, rural, and suburban areas, serving as few as 500 students and as many as 75,000 students, these colleges represent the diversity and depth of the community college sector.

Data show that over the last two years, student retention, graduation rates, and degree completion have improved at the top tier of 150 Aspen Prize-eligible colleges.

“Community colleges play a vital role in developing talent and enabling social mobility across the country, and it’s critical for them to get better at what they do,” says Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. “We’re pleased to see evidence that these institutions are improving, that more are delivering on their promise. We’re also pleased to play a role in honoring outstanding community colleges and sharing what works to ensure great outcomes for students-through graduation and beyond.”

The top ten finalists for the 2021 Aspen Prize will be named in May 2020. The Aspen Institute will then conduct site visits to each of the finalists and collect additional quantitative data, including employment and earnings data. A distinguished jury will make award decisions in spring 2021.

Previous winners of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence are: Miami Dade College (FL) and Indian River State College (FL), 2019; Lake Area Technical College (SD), 2017; Santa Fe College (FL), 2015; Santa Barbara City College (CA) and Walla Walla Community College (WA), 2013; Valencia College (FL), 2011.


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