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The Aspen Institute Names Semifinalists for 2023 Aspen Prize, Adding a Milestone in the Award Process

25 Colleges Are Eligible for $1 Million Prize to Be Awarded Next Year;  Expanded Prize Field Signifies Growing Momentum for Community College Reform

Today the Aspen Institute announced that Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College is one of the 25 semifinalists for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, adding a milestone in the award selection process. The $1 million Aspen Prize is the nation’s signature recognition of community colleges that are achieving high, improving, and equitable outcomes for students. In years past, only ten finalists have been named on the road to the winner, and this change is designed to highlight the increased number of colleges across the country doing excellent work.

Awarded every two years, the Aspen Prize honors colleges with outstanding performance in five critical areas: teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, transfer and bachelor’s attainment, workforce success, and equitable outcomes for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. The winner will be announced in the spring of 2023.

“MGCCC’s main focus is student success, and to be recognized as a semifinalist for the 2023 Aspen Prize signifies the work our institution does to help students with their educational goals,” said Dr. Mary S. Graham, MGCCC president. “In line with our new strategic plan to ‘inspire excellence and accelerate achievement,’ MGCCC will continue to be innovative in our approaches to student success, and we look forward to working with the experts at Aspen Institute to showcase our efforts.”

“We are thrilled to see America’s community colleges making meaningful and measurable progress, educating people from all backgrounds and preparing them for good jobs,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. He cited graduation rates that have risen more than six percent for all students since 2015, and five percent for students of color. “These twenty-five colleges represent our dreams for a better country and a reinvigorated democracy.”

The Prize selection process began this past October, when the Aspen Institute invited 150 community colleges to apply, based on data showing strong and improving student outcomes in key areas such as retention, completion, transfer, and equity. Applications went to a diverse selection committee of 16 higher education experts who reviewed extensive data and application narratives. Next, the committee will review interviews with leadership teams and narrow this selection of 25 semifinalists to 10 finalists, to be announced in early June 2022.

After 10 finalists are announced, next steps include:

  • Fall 2022: Multi-day site visits to each of the 10 finalists, when teams of experts collect even more student outcomes data and gather insights about effective practices
  • Winter of 2023: A distinguished jury decides who wins the Aspen Prize, based on quantitative data and qualitative information from each of the 10 finalists Late spring 2023: Announcement of the Aspen Prize winner


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