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Why WCC will never win the Aspen Prize

The Aspen Prize is a $1M competitive award, given every other year to recognize high-achieving community colleges. Using a two-year grant cycle, the Aspen Institute recognizes community colleges that excel in four primary areas: teaching and learning; certificate and degree completion; workforce success; and equitable outcomes for students of color and low-income students.

The evaluation for the Aspen Prize begins with an analysis of more than 1,000 community colleges in the United States. Using nationally available data, the Aspen Institute identifies potential high-achieving candidates. The Round 1 model considers basic factors such as:

  • First-year retention rates
  • Three-year graduation rates
  • Certificates and degrees per 100 FTE students
  • Change in these metrics over time
  • Graduation rate for under-represented minorities
  • Certificates and degrees per 100 FTE minority students
  • Graduation rates for low-income students
  • Low-income service area/share of students receiving Pell Grants

From this initial assessment, the Aspen Institute selects about 150 community colleges to advance to Round 2.

In Round 2, the committee considers additional factors, including completion rates; graduates’ workforce outcomes; early momentum indicators and learning assessments; assessment of how the preliminary candidates achieved their improvements in the base metrics; and interviews of leadership at candidate institutions.

10 schools move on to Round 3, where the committee conducts site visits; evaluates employment and earning data of graduates; and analyses learning assessment practices. In the final stage, the committee selects one winning school. The 10 2021 finalists are:

  • Amarillo College (TX)
  • Broward College (FL)
  • Borough of Manhattan Community College (NY)
  • Odessa College (TX)
  • Pasadena City College (CA)
  • Pierce College (WA)
  • San Antonio College (TX)
  • San Jacinto College (TX)
  • Tallahassee Community College (FL)
  • West Kentucky Community and Technical College (KY)

Aspen Prize prioritizes student outcomes

Not surprisingly, the focus of the Aspen Institute selection committee is on students and student outcomes. It selects colleges based on student success; learning; and labor market results in the context of racial and economic equity. In short, the Aspen Prize goes to the college that does the best job of delivering student-focused results over time.

You can find a community college’s “strategic plan” on its website. Typically, a strategic plan is a long-term roadmap for achieving prioritized institutional results. It differs from the Master Plan, which is more facilities oriented, but a facilities Master Plan often coordinates with the institution’s strategic plan.

So, if the best, most valuable and nationally recognized community colleges focus on student outcomes, what are WCC’s strategic priorities?

  • Professional Development and Organizational Health
  • Student Success and Satisfaction
  • Innovation, Agility, and Responsiveness
  • Visibility and Branding
  • Workforce Development
  • Partnerships
  • Funding and Resources
  • Community Engagement and Development

Students literally come second at WCC.

WCC Administration’s needs come first

This is the administration’s narcissistic and self-serving top priority for WCC.

“Create and deliver a holistic and comprehensive health and wellness program for WCC employees, including support through a learning-focused environment for a shared commitment to inclusiveness, equity, and diversity.”.

I’d be curious to know how this is supposed to benefit the students in any way. I’m sure that if I spent any more time with the “Strategic Plan,” I could find some kind of ridiculous and shameful “trickle-down” justification for why the needs of WCC employees outweigh the needs of WCC students. But it does go a long way to explaining why WCC will not be invited to compete for the Aspen Prize anytime soon.

Photo Credit: Matt Hamm , via Flickr