SJR State named a Top 150 U.S. Community College by Aspen Institute
St. Johns River State College (SJR State) has been named a Top 150 U.S. Community College by the Aspen Institute, a community-serving organization with global reach whose vision is a free, just and equitable society. As a result of this recognition, SJR State is now eligible to compete for the $1 million 2023 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation's signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America's community colleges.
Since 2010, Aspen has chosen to focus intensively on community colleges because they are, as First Lady Dr. Jill Biden stated at the 2021 Aspen Prize ceremony, “a powerful engine of prosperity.” This is the fifth year SJR State has been named a Top 150 U.S. Community College by the Aspen Institute for standing out among more than 1,000 community colleges, nationwide, and having high and improving levels of student success as well as equitable outcomes for Black and Hispanic students and those from lower-income backgrounds.
Because student outcomes vary enormously among community colleges, improving those outcomes is essential to securing the nation’s economic future, strengthening communities, and ensuring that diverse populations experience economic mobility and prosperity. With these goals in mind, the Aspen Prize honors colleges with outstanding achievement in five critical areas: teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, transfer and bachelor’s attainment, workforce success, and equity for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.
According to the Aspen Institute, the 15 percent of community colleges (150 of the approximately 1,000 public two-year colleges nationwide assessed for the Prize) represent the diversity and depth of the community college sector. Located in urban, rural and suburban areas across 34 states, these colleges serve as few as 230 students and as many as 57,000. Winning colleges have ranged from smaller institutions serving rural community and smaller towns to large community colleges serving major metropolitan areas.
Noting quality over quantity and the rewards of hard work, SJR State President Joe Pickens said, “A college doesn’t necessarily have to be bigger to be better. We have proven that our size does not limit us in our mission to achieve academic excellence and make a difference in the communities we serve. SJR State is honored to be recognized for its consistent commitment to student success. Our dedicated staff consistently strives to provide students with the essential pathways to success.”
The first round of eligibility for the Aspen Prize, which is funded by Ascendium and the Joyce Foundation, is based on publicly available data. Eligible colleges must show strong and improving student outcomes in key areas such as retention, completion, transfer and equity. To view the full list of colleges and for additional Prize information, visit https://highered.aspeninstitute.org/aspen-prize.
In a statement from Executive Director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program Josh Wyner, he said, “In an era of persistent inequity and workforce talent gaps, our nation’s best community colleges are stepping up to deliver more degrees to increasingly diverse students so they are prepared for the good jobs waiting to be filled. Leaders of exceptional community colleges understand that achieving excellence requires expanding college access and increasing degree completion, but it doesn’t stop there,” Wyner continued. “They are committed to ensuring that all students—including students of color and those from low-income backgrounds—graduate with the skills needed to secure a job with family-sustaining wages or successfully transfer to and graduate from a university. That same commitment that stands at the center of the Aspen Prize: to advance the goals of social mobility and equitable talent development.”
The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program aims to advance higher education practices, policies, and leadership that significantly improve student outcomes, especially for the growing population of low-income students and students of color on American campuses. For more information, visit https://highered.aspeninstitute.org/ and www.linkedin.com/showcase/aspenhighered, and follow @AspenHigherEd on Twitter. The Aspen Prize hashtag is #AspenPrize.
For 70 years, the Aspen Institute has driven change through dialogue, leadership and action to help solve the world’s greatest challenges. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Institute has offices in Aspen, Colorado and New York City, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.
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