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Community colleges named in college excellence program

April 11, 2019

Two community colleges in Florida became the winners of the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, which recognizes high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges. Winners were Indian River State College (IRSC) ($350,000) in Fort Pierce, Florida, and Miami Dade College ($350,000) in Miami; Odessa College and Palo Alto College in Texas and Pierce College in Washington were named as Rising Stars ($100,000 each). The $1 million shared prize is awarded every two years and focuses on student success, looking at institutional performance in four areas: student learning; certificate and degree completion; success after graduation in the labor market and in transfer to four-year institutions; and equity in access and success for students of color and low-income students.

The prize finalists came from different contexts, from rural and urban areas, serving demographically different student bodies, and offering a mix of technical workforce and academic transfer programs, and each was noted as having designed thoughtful approaches.

For example, Indian River was able to improve student success rates at scale and is likely to continue to build on its successes, according to Aspen. It built on two strategic efforts to provide guidance so that students develop academic plans that clearly map a path to transfer without losing time or credits, and IRSC made a decision to build 17 of its own bachelor’s degree programs. As a result, the semirural college has a 56 percent transfer rate (compared to a national average of 32 percent) and a 52 percent bachelor’s attainment rate for students who go on to pursue a bachelor’s degree, compared to the national average transfer rate of 42 percent.

Miami Dade provides a clear path to economic and social mobility for its demographically diverse students. It has transformed the student experience over the past decade by building clear program maps, redesigning academic and nonacademic supports, improving developmental education, and strengthening faculty professional development. Miami Dade has a 43 percent graduation and transfer rate for students of color, compared to the national average of 35 percent, and it has a 47 percent bachelor’s attainment rate for transfer students, compared to the national average of 42 percent.

More information on the 10 finalists and their programs can be found here.

community college, higher ed, awards