Allan Hancock College has been named one of the nation’s top 150 community colleges and is eligible to compete for the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence and $1 million in prize funds. It marks the third time since 2011, when the institute started identifying the nation’s top community colleges, that Hancock has been recognized.

The prize, awarded every two years, is the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges. Institutions are recognized for exceptional student outcomes in four areas: student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings, and high levels of access and success for minority and low-income students.

“It’s exciting that others recognize the results of the amazing work that our faculty and staff do every day,” said Hancock Superintendent/President Kevin G. Walthers, Ph.D. “We see this as further evidence that Allan Hancock College is changing the odds for our students and our community.”

Highlighting the critical importance of improving student success in America’s community colleges, the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program identified the top community colleges through an assessment of institutional performance, improvement and equity on student retention and completion measures.

More than seven million students – nearly half of America’s college students – attend a community college. In California, 2.1 million students are enrolled in 113 community colleges. Twenty-one community colleges from California are among the 150 honored by the Aspen Institute in 2016, triple the number recognized in 2014.

“Community colleges have tremendous power to change lives, and their success will increasingly define our nation’s economic strength and the potential for social mobility for every American,” said Josh Wyner, executive director for the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. “This competition is designed to spotlight the excellent work being done in the most effective community colleges, those that best help students obtain meaningful, high-quality education and training for competitive-wage jobs after college. We hope it will raise the bar and provide a roadmap for community colleges nationwide.”

Allan Hancock College and the other 149 community colleges were selected from a national pool of nearly 1,050 public two-year colleges using publicly available data on student outcomes. According to the Aspen Institute, the formula used to select the colleges was devised by the national Center for Higher Education Management Systems in consultation with an expert advisory committee. The data focuses on student retention and completion, considered from three perspectives:

  • Performance (retention, graduation rates including transfers, and degrees and certificates per 100 “full-time equivalent” students)
  • Improvement (awarded for steady improvement in each performance metric over time)
  • Equity (evidence of strong completion outcomes for minority and low-income students)

To ensure full representation of the range and diversity of the sector, adjustments were applied with respect to mission, size and minority representation.

Hancock will now submit an application containing detailed data on degree/certificate completion (including progress and transfer rates), labor market outcomes (employment and earnings) and student learning outcomes.

Ten finalists will be named in fall 2016. The Aspen Institute will then conduct site visits to each of the finalists and collect additional quantitative data, including employment and earnings data from states and transfer data from the national Student Clearinghouse. A distinguished Prize Jury will select a grand prize winner and a few finalists with distinction in early 2017. A full list of the selected community colleges is available at www.AspenPrize.org. Prize winners will be announced in early 2017.

For the first time, the 150 prize-eligible institutions will also nominate exceptional students enrolled in their middle-skill STEM programs for scholarships. Up to 50 Siemens Technical Scholars will be selected from programs that provide outstanding preparation for high-demand jobs in manufacturing, energy, health care and information technology. A partnership between the Siemens Foundation and the Aspen Institute, the program aims to help the nation’s community colleges and their business partners bridge the gap between projected shortages of skilled workers and the millions of high-demand jobs in the STEM industries. Scholarship winners and the programs that deliver rigorous training enabling their success will be announced in fall 2016.