The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program named Elgin Community College as one of the 150 institutions eligible to compete for the 2025 $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation's signature recognition of high achievement and performance among two-year colleges.  

Awarded every two years since 2011, this is the fifth time ECC has been recognized as a top 150 college. The institutions selected for this honor stand out among more than 1,000 community colleges nationwide as having high and improving levels of student success as well as equitable outcomes for Black and Hispanic students and those from lower-income backgrounds.   

"This recognition comes as a direct result of the extraordinary work of our faculty, staff, and administrators, supported by the District 509 Board of Trustees,” said David Sam, JD, PhD, LLM, president of Elgin Community College. “It is our responsibility as community college educators to recognize and eliminate the barriers our students face in pursuing an education. Consistently being included among this elite group of top 150 colleges in the United States validates the progress and outcomes of our continued efforts on behalf of our students and community.”

The Aspen Prize spotlights exemplary community colleges in order to drive attention to colleges achieving post-graduate success for all students. The Aspen Institute has invited ECC and the other eligible colleges to submit student success data and narratives about strategies to achieve better and more equitable student outcomes as the next step in an intensive review process that culminates in the naming of the Aspen Prize winner in the spring of 2025. The 150 eligible colleges represent the diversity and depth of the community college sector.  

"The Aspen Prize is rooted first and foremost in an assessment of whether colleges are walking the walk,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. "As community colleges face enrollment variations, enroll students with pandemic-related learning loss, and graduate students into a rapidly changing labor market, it is easy to lose track of what matters most. The best community colleges are continuing to focus on advancing the core mission: making sure as many students as possible graduate with credentials that lead to fulfilling careers and reflect the development of diverse talent that communities, states, and our nation need." 

While community colleges are an essential contributor to our nation’s success, student outcomes vary substantially among institutions. The Aspen Institute measures those variances using multiple data sources and honors colleges with outstanding achievement in six critical areas: teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, transfer and bachelor’s attainment, workforce success, equitable access to the college, and equitable outcomes for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. 

In this first round, eligibility for the Aspen Prize is based on publicly available data. Eligible colleges must show strong and improving student outcomes in key areas such as retention, credentials awarded, and completion and transfer rates. About 15 percent of community colleges (150 of the approximately 1,000 public two-year colleges nationwide assessed for the Prize) have been invited to apply. In April of 2024, the Aspen Institute will announce the top 25 community college semifinalists.  

For a full list of the top 150 eligible institutions and to read more on the selection process, visit https://highered.aspeninstitute.org/aspen-prize/. 


The Aspen Prize is generously funded by Ascendium, the Joyce Foundation, JPMorgan, and the Kresge Foundation. 

The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program supports colleges and universities in their quest to achieve a higher standard of excellence, delivering credentials that unlock life-changing careers and strengthen our economy, society, and democracy. We know it takes visionary college leaders to lead scaled, sustainable reforms, and we make it our mission to equip them with the knowledge, skills, and research-backed tools to inspire change, shift practice, and advance the capacity of colleges to deliver excellent and equitable student outcomes. For more information, visit our website and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter

The Aspen Institute
is a global nonprofit committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Institute has offices in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. Learn more at aspeninstitute.org


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