Harper College is among 25 semifinalists for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, a milestone in the award selection process for the nation’s signature recognition of community colleges that are achieving high, improving and equitable outcomes for students in and beyond college.
The 25 semifinalists are vying for the 2023 Aspen Prize and $1 million in shared prize funds.
“Harper becoming a semifinalist for the Aspen Prize is an incredible achievement and a true testament to the dedication and innovation shown by our extraordinary faculty and staff to help more students achieve their dreams,” said Dr. Avis Proctor, president of Harper College. “To have our commitment to excellence and equity in student success recognized by such a respected organization is a tremendous honor.”
In the past, only 10 finalists have been named on the road to the winner. The semifinalist stage, new this year, is designed to highlight the increased number of colleges across the country doing excellent work and the growing momentum for reform in the community college sector, the Aspen Institute said in a release on Wednesday.
Awarded every two years, the Aspen Prize honors colleges with outstanding performance in five critical areas: teaching and learning; certificate and degree completion; transfer and bachelor’s attainment; workforce success; and equitable outcomes for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.
The selection process began this past October, when the Aspen Institute invited 150 community colleges to apply out of more than 1,000 institutions nationwide based on data showing strong and improving student outcomes in key areas such as retention, completion, transfer and equity.
Applications went to a diverse selection committee of 16 higher education experts who reviewed extensive data and application narratives.
Next, the committee will review interviews with leadership teams and narrow this selection of 25 semifinalists to 10 finalists, to be announced in early June 2022. The Aspen Prize winner will be announced in late spring 2023.
“We are thrilled to see America's community colleges making meaningful and measurable progress, educating people from all backgrounds and preparing them for good jobs,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. He cited graduation rates that have risen more than six percent for all students since 2015, and five percent for students of color. “These 25 colleges represent our dreams for a better country and a reinvigorated democracy.”
Harper was previously eligible to apply for the 2017 honor, as well. Harper is one of two Illinois schools to be named a semifinalist; nearby Elgin Community College also advanced.
The Aspen Prize is funded by Ascendium, the Joyce Foundation, JPMorgan and the Kresge Foundation. For more information, visit the Aspen Institute.