Central Lakes College, Brainerd and Staples, for the second straight year has been named one of the top 120 community colleges in the United States. The Aspen Institute identified 120 community colleges -- 10 percent of all institutions -- using a formula that assesses performance and improvement in four areas: graduation rates, degrees awarded, student retention rates, and equity in student outcomes. The College Excellence Program, directed by the Washington, D.C.-based Aspen Institute, challenges Central Lakes College and the 119 other institutions to compete for prize money from a $1 million fund to be given to the select few with the most innovative strategies and measurable student success.
“The designation by the Aspen Institute that CLC is ‘one of the nation’s 120 best community colleges’ recognizes the great teaching and learning that takes place at CLC because of our outstanding faculty, dedicated staff, and regional partners,” said Dr. Larry Lundblad, president of the community and technical college.
He said the college has earned its place among the best by insisting on high standards for learning, college completion without delay, and serving as a training ground for jobs that pay competitive wages.
Ahead for CLC is a year-long research process into how well the college’s students learn, complete degrees, and get jobs with competitive wages after graduating. A full list of the 120 community colleges is available at www.AspenPrize.org.
Prize winners will be announced in March 2013.
CLC joins six other two-year colleges in Minnesota which prevailed in the first round using nationally available data. The others are Alexandria Technical and Community College, Minnesota State Community and Technical College (Fergus Falls), Minnesota West Community and Technical College (Granite Falls), Northland Community and technical College (Thief River Falls), Rainy River Community College (International Falls), and Ridgewater College (Willmar).
The previous winner of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence was 70,000-student Valencia College of Orlando, Florida. Central Lakes College annually serves about 6,000 full- and part-time students.
The 120 community colleges announced today were selected from a national pool of over 1,000 public two-year colleges using publicly available data on student outcomes. The data were analyzed by an expert advisory committee co-chaired by William Trueheart, CEO of Achieving the Dream, and Keith Bird, former chancellor of the Kentucky Community College System.
These community colleges have been invited to submit applications containing detailed data on degree/certificate completion (including progress and transfer rates), labor market outcomes (employment and earnings) and student learning outcomes. They must demonstrate that they deliver exceptional student results for all students – including those who come from racial minority and/or low-income backgrounds – and also use data to inform decisions and continually improve over time.
Ten finalists will be named in September. The Aspen Institute will conduct site visits to each of the finalists in the fall.
The Aspen Institute said the competition stems from initiatives to improve community college completion rates driven by President Obama. The goal is to enable more students to succeed in high-wage careers and further educational attainment.
The purpose of the Aspen Prize is to recognize community colleges with outstanding academic and workforce outcomes in both absolute performance and improvements over time. By focusing on student success and lifting up models that work, the Aspen Prize will honor excellence, stimulate innovation, and create benchmarks for measuring progress.
More information can be found at http://www.aspeninstitute.org/policy-work/aspen-prize