Aspen Institute Names West Hills College Lemoore as a Top 150 US Community College

The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program has named West Hills College Lemoore one of 150 community colleges eligible to compete for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation's signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America's community colleges. This marks the second time in a row WHCL has made this list based on the college's strong and improving student outcomes—including in learning, completion rates, employment rates and earnings, and equity.

"West Hills College Lemoore is grateful to receive this prestigious recognition," said James Preston, West Hills College Lemoore Interim President. "The strong institutional outcomes that led to the Aspen 150 are a testament to the dedication, innovation, and determination of our Golden Eagle team. We are committed to student learning and achievement to promote economic development and social mobility in our community, and we continue to stay focused on the relentless pursuit of student success.”

The Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence is awarded every two years and spotlights exemplary community colleges in order to elevate the sector, drive attention to colleges doing the best work, and discover and share highly effective student success and equity strategies. 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."

The 150 eligible colleges have been invited to submit data and narratives as the next steps in an intensive data and practice review process, culminating in the announcement of the Prize winner in spring 2023.

"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," said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. "Leaders of exceptional community colleges understand that achieving excellence requires expanding college access and increasing degree completion, but it doesn't stop there.  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 eligible colleges 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.

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, completion, transfer, and equity. Nationwide, 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—the full list can be accessed on the Prize homepage. 

The next steps in the process include:

  • Selection of the top ten finalists by an expert panel of 15 experts in community colleges, higher education, and workforce training, to be announced in spring/summer 2022
  • Fall 2022 site visits to each of the ten finalists, during which the Aspen Institute and partners will collect additional information, including employment and earnings data and insights about promising practices
  • A distinguished jury will meet and make award decisions in the first quarter of early 2023
  • Announcement of the Aspen Prize in late spring 2023

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

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

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 www.highered.aspeninstitute.org and www.linkedin.com/showcase/aspenhighered, and follow @AspenHigherEd on Twitter. The Aspen Prize hashtag is #AspenPrize.

The Aspen Institute is a community-serving organization with global reach whose vision is a free, just, and equitable society. For 70 years, the 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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