Three Maine community colleges selected to compete for $1 million Aspen Prize

Posted Feb. 11, 2014, at 5:31 p.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Three community colleges in Maine have been selected by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program as being among the top 150 in the nation for their commitment to student success and community college excellence.

The selection of Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle, Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield, and Washington County Community College in Calais, makes the three institutions eligible for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

Sue Bernard, director of development and college relations for NMCC, said Tuesday that the school was singled out as one of the top community colleges eligible for the Aspen Prize, and it was not an honor for which the college had applied.

The Aspen Prize, awarded every two years, is the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among the more than 1,000 community colleges in the country. The program recognizes institutions 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.

A selection committee of former community college presidents and faculty, education researchers and policy experts, will select ten finalists from the 150 nominees.

“We are extremely proud to be selected and counted among this elite group of community colleges which brings well-deserved attention to our exceptional faculty,” said Tim Crowley, president of NMCC. “We are grateful that the Aspen program honors community colleges for the important role we have in society.”

Bernard said that NMCC will now complete a written application containing detailed data on degree/certificate completion, labor market outcomes and student learning outcomes. The ten finalists will be named in the fall of this year. A grand prize winner and a few finalists with distinction will be selected in early 2015.

Joe Cassidy, president of Washington County Community College, said Tuesday that the campus was very proud of its selection, which marked the third time WCCC made it into Aspen’s top 120-150 colleges in each of the last three rounds of the competition.

“We treat each student with great respect,” said Cassidy. “We are doing a good job of meeting Maine students where they are and helping them to reach their dreams.”

This also marked Kennebec Valley Community College’s third consecutive selection.

“Community colleges have tremendous power to change lives, and their success will increasingly define our nation’s economic strength,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of 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 road map for community colleges nationwide.”

Profiles of the winners’ practices will be publicized to increase public understanding of the work being done at outstanding community colleges. The Aspen Prize works to stimulate efforts that result in improved student success and to advance colleges’ and policy-makers’ understanding of what is needed to teach and graduate post-secondary students, especially the growing population of low-income and minority students on American campuses.

On March 19, 2013, the Aspen Institute announced the Co-Winners of the 2013 Aspen Prize, Santa Barbara City College in California and Walla Walla Community College in Washington.

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