Sunday, February 14 , 2016, 12:50 am | Fair 63º

SBCC Shares Aspen Institute’s Top National Prize for Excellence

The college is named a co-winner with Walla Walla Community College in Washington and will receive $400,000

SBCC student Edith Rodriguez, left, and SBCC President Lori Gaskin, right, take a photo with Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, at the Aspen Institute luncheon on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. SBCC was named a co-winner of the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.
SBCC student Edith Rodriguez, left, and SBCC President Lori Gaskin, right, take a photo with Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, at the Aspen Institute luncheon on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. SBCC was named a co-winner of the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.  (Patrice Gilbert photo)

By Joan Galvan for SBCC | updated logo |

The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program announced Tuesday that Santa Barbara City College and Walla Walla Community College in Washington are co-winners of the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

The two winners, along with the two finalists-with-distinction, were selected from the nation’s more than 1,000 public community colleges. Santa Barbara City College and Walla Walla Community College will each receive a $400,000 prize to support their programs, while finalists-with-distinction — Kingsborough Community College-CUNY (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Lake Area Technical Institute (Watertown, S.D. — will each receive $100,000.

As the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance in America’s community colleges, the prize recognizes institutions for outstanding achievement in four areas: student learning outcomes, degree completion, labor market success in securing good jobs after college, and facilitating minority and low-income student success.

Dr. Jill Biden, second lady of the United States, joined John Engler, president of Business Roundtable and former governor of Michigan, Richard Riley, former U.S. secretary of education and South Carolina governor, and Rich Karlgaard, publisher of Forbes magazine, at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., in celebrating the program and the hard work of the applicants. The winners were selected by a prize jury of 12 prominent leaders in education, business, civil rights and public service.

“Santa Barbara City College and Walla Walla Community College offer outstanding models for achieving exceptional levels of student success at a time when our nation needs community colleges to do even more than they have in the past. The prize co-winners are especially strong in two key areas every community college aims to achieve: preparing students for jobs and to transfer to four-year colleges,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program. “At Santa Barbara City College, faculty and staff are providing students just what they need to transfer and complete a four-year degree — a rigorous classroom education surrounded by first-rate supports from remedial math to college level writing. Walla Walla Community College’s visionary leaders stay on top of local economic job trends and job growth, and the entire college provides the kind of excellent training that students need to access well-paying jobs and that employers know will ensure future investments in the regional economy will pay off.”

Nearly half of America’s college students attend community college, with more than 7 million students — youth and adult learners — enrolled across America, working toward degrees and certificates.

“As a community college teacher, I have seen firsthand the tremendous power community colleges have to change lives,” Dr. Biden said. “Community colleges are essential to the president’s goal of having the best-educated, most competitive workforce in the world. They represent a uniquely American idea — that if you work hard and get a good education, you can get the skills you need for a good job and build a better life for you and your family. We are pleased to celebrate the contributions of these prize winners and finalists.”

Community college students are more likely than four-year college students to be minorities, to come from low-income backgrounds, and to be the first in their families to pursue higher education. As the most affordable option in higher education, the average tuition at community colleges is about $3,000 per year per student, less than half the average at public four year colleges and 10 percent of what is now charged by top private four-year colleges and universities.

“Community colleges are vital to a healthy American economy,” said Engler, co-chair of the jury that selected the winners. “With millions of unfilled jobs in this country because workers don’t have the skills to fill them, it’s critically important that we continue to support a strong community college system.”

“We owe it to students to shine a spotlight on community colleges like SBCC and Walla Walla that are excelling at providing students with an affordable high-quality education,” said Riley, jury co-chair. “This prize is about improving student achievement and raising the bar for all community colleges because all Americans, particularly the growing population of low-income and minority students, are increasingly relying on community colleges to give them the skills they need for a better future.”

Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Top Ten Finalists


Santa Barbara City College (Santa Barbara)
Walla Walla Community College (Walla Walla, Wash.)


Lake Area Technical Institute (Watertown, S.D.)
Kingsborough Community College- CUNY (Brooklyn, N.Y.)


Brazosport College (Lake Jackson, Texas)
Broward College (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
College of the Ouachitas (Malvern, Ark.)
Santa Fe College (Gainesville, Fla.)
Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College (Cumberland, Ky.)
West Kentucky Community and Technical College (Paducah, Ky.)

— Joan Galvan is a public information officer for Santa Barbara City College.

» on 03.19.13 @ 04:47 PM

Great news!  Congratulations, SBCC!

» on 03.19.13 @ 05:43 PM

Count me as very confused by this award. The latest statistics by the National Center of Education Statistics do not paint a pretty picture of graduation and transfer rates for SB City College.

For example, in 2011, only 36% or 23% of full-time students, respectively, either graduate or transfer-out to 4-year colleges within 150% of normal time to completion of their program. The percentage falls to 15% within normal time for their program. It should be noted that this doesn’t include part-time students, who probably have far worse graduation and transfer rates. If this is considered deserving of an award, then we need new awards or different criteria.

» on 03.19.13 @ 07:24 PM

According to Wyner,
“at both of the 2013 winning colleges—Santa Barbara City College in California and Walla Walla Community College in Washington—more than half of full-time students earn a credential and/or transfer to a four-year college, far above the national average. While both are comprehensive colleges, each achieves exceptional outcomes by focusing on a different, equally important goal. Santa Barbara orients most of its programs to four-year transfer. Not only do unusually large numbers of students achieve that goal, but the majority of transfers go on to complete bachelor’s degrees as well.”

Congrats to SBCC, its staff, trustees and, especially, students!

» on 03.19.13 @ 10:57 PM

It would be encouraging to know that some of the prize money would go toward alleviating the reliance upon and emphasis upon out of state students for the extra revenue.  The trend of favoring non local students based purely on extra per unit fees goes against what a ” community college “should stand for.

» on 03.19.13 @ 11:54 PM

Looking West, with all due respect his claims are totally contradicted by the official data as collected by the National Center of Education Statistics. This is the official federal agency within the Dept of Education for collecting and analyzing data relating to educational research.

This guy, Wyner, claims that 2/3 of SBBC students are graduating and are moving on to 4-year colleges and getting their degrees. This is completely false. It is more like a 1/3 than 2/3. It is probably way lower if you include part-time students. Also, he would have no way of knowing if the majority of SBCC students are graduating 4-year colleges because SBCC doesn’t collect this data. You would need to do a longitudinal study and follow these students after SBCC.

Looking West, to give you some incentive, if you can verify the claims this guy is making, I will promise to make a contribution to SBCC. It is a sad state of affairs to distort and exaggerate the data (or just make it up) to falsely misrepresent the academic outcomes of a school. It is actually despicable.

» on 03.20.13 @ 10:30 AM

We are so fortunate to have an institution such as SBCC in our community.I know first hand that the Professors are dedicated to their students and the classes are small enough for them to know and take an active interest in each and everyone of them. I am happy to show my Love for them by donating to their cause and urge each and everyone of you to do the same, Many students, who possibly otherwise would have ended up on the streets have gone on to become fruitful tax paying citizens. I personally believe some should be given a second chance and helping young students does not create a co-dependent relationship like other forms of giving might. Please hide my handle.

» on 03.20.13 @ 11:07 AM

Congratulations SBCC!

A wonderful acknowledgment and achievement.

and a great way to enter your second century of success!!

Best wishes,
Leslie Westbrook
author/A Century of Success: 100 years of SBCC

» on 03.20.13 @ 11:56 AM

I would like to point out that Edith Rodriguez came from a very rough background,turned her life completely around and became a City College Honor student and represented SBCC in Washington D.C.  Let’s see some more attention paid to that accomplishment!!! Instead of all the negative news we hear everyday!!!  Way to go Edith!!!!

» on 03.20.13 @ 03:15 PM

LouSegal: I do not challenge your statistics. I point out only that this is the the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program’s award—- and questions should be directed to them about the statistics they use, sources and quality. Are those for Walla Walla Community College also inaccurate according to the NCES? (And for the runners-up, as well?) It may well be the Aspen Institute is using a different standard, which, of course, is their prerogative for their award.

As for follow-up on graduating from 4-year-colleges, interesting, but perhaps the UC and CalState systems do provide statistics? Those campuses are probably where most go.

» on 03.22.13 @ 01:15 PM

Lou, you are again asking the right questions. 

Keep in mind the Aspen Institute Award is only a very new two year award with vague criteria. From the research I was able to do, it seems to be part of the Obama administration efforts to increase the numbers of US college graduates.  The money for the award comes from large US corporations and may be part of a positive public relations effort to support public education, after taking such a bashing recently from the teacher union-sponsored Occupy movement.

So this particular Aspen Award celebrates a small but very important part of the SBCC and the community college overall mission: the success of full time students completing their college degree in under 6 years. Bravo, SBCC job well done.

Academics and credit student success has long been a strong part of the SBCC mission. And while SBCC did not garner the very top state ranking in this criteria according to the state’s own record keeping, it has long enjoyed exceptional success for this limited group of full time students which the Aspen award evaluated.

SBCC achieved even greater success for its vocational certificate completions which is also a point of great pride, but this was not what the Aspen award apparently was interested in. And SBCC continues to make great strides with its grant-supported student support programs: Partnership for Student Success and Express to Success started a number of years ago.

An SBCC student learns early if they choose to come to SBCC, the college bends over backwards to help them succeed and move towards their educational goals. Applying this Aspen award money to support continued credit student success programs will be money well spent.

The ultimate irony in this entire Aspen Award exercise however, is their reliance on the Chancellor’s Office ARCC rankings, which were established by none other than the state wide work group led by our former Supt/President Dr Andreea Serban, when she was SBCC’s Director of Institutional Research. And then later when she was SBCC Supt/President, the college obtained grants to fund the innovative Express to Success program which was recognized in last years Aspen Top 10 runner-up award.

Lou, I believe those state wide Chancellors office ARCC rankings are the annual report numbers you have been tracking that leaves open the need to pay attention to all parts of the community college mission, and not just a select parts of it, if one wants the best return for the investment of our public education tax dollars.

May SBCC continue to pay attention to both Aspen and ARCC rankings and respond as effectively as it has in the past, when challenges to student success continue to present themselves.

» on 03.22.13 @ 02:18 PM

My own memories are vague and imprecise now, but I recall the overall student population at SBCC broke down very roughly as one third credit transfer students, one third vocational and two-year certificate program students,  and one third “other” including non-credit (Adult Ed).

This made us a “comprehensive” community college in that we were broadly serving the public needs as set out in the Ed Code Mission statement for community colleges: academic and vocational credit education.

From the little information I have from the media about the Aspen Award, it appears they only looked at a small group within the one third of the student population that have transfer as their goal - the smaller sub group being those who are also full-time, and not part-time, credit students.

Since most community college students are older and working, they are more likely part-time college students who naturally take much longer to reach their final educational goals.

So it appears superficially, and correct me if this is wrong, Aspen looked at only the smaller sub-group of full-time credit students who were able to continue and complete their degrees within 6 years.

I don’t know their numbers or their percentages, but they are certainly not the majority of students that make-up any community college these days. This is what makes community colleges difficult to measure and compare success rates to other institutions of higher education - the mission is much wider than traditional colleges and universities like CSU or UC.

This is why I also suspected this Aspen award is tied into Obama’s challenge to increase the numbers of US college graduates - which schools are showing success fast tracking students to obtain their degrees and what can other colleges learn from them. 

Such as SBCC being lucky by location to have a very good public four year institution in its own back yard, which makes it more likely to have higher transfer and completion rates. This is similar to other UC “farm club” community colleges like Diablo Valley College who transfers to Berkeley and Santa Monica College who transfer to UCLA.

Bottomline, SBCC has long been dedicated to student success and that should always be its guiding principle, regardless of additional awards or luck of location.

» on 03.22.13 @ 07:57 PM

Thank you Joan for your thoughtful response. My problem with this award is that the statistics that are cited by the gentleman who runs the Aspen Institute don’t seem to square with the numbers collected by the National Center for Education Statistics, the agency in the Dept of Education, which has responsibility for collecting data from every school in the country.

If you click the video from LookingWest’s post, this guy indicates that 2/3 of SBCC students are graduating and most of them are transferring and graduating from 4-year colleges. This claim by the Aspen Institute is preposterous and, frankly, outrageous. According to the NCES (see link from my post) only 36% of full-time students graduate in 3 years and only 23% transfer to 4-year colleges. Also, I don’t think it is possible for him to say that most are graduating 4-year colleges. SBCC and other community colleges don’t collect this data, so I have to wonder if he is either confused or maybe quoting incorrect data to justify this award.

When so few full-time students are actually graduating community colleges and fewer are even transferring to 4-year colleges, you have to wonder why. I know SBCC is probably looking good relative to other community colleges, but I would say that is more an indictment of the entire system rather than a reflection of how well SBCC is doing.

I know the anemic graduation or transfer rates is not entirely the fault of SBCC or other community colleges in the state, particularly when 70 to 90% of all students entering community colleges require remedial courses in English and/or math. Our public schools are doing a poor job getting students ready for college, and SBCC and other colleges are, unfortunately, given the responsibility to remedy the educational deficiencies in our K-12 schools.

My problem is that we have schools winning awards and people running our public schools patting themselves on the back for what a great job they are doing while every objective source of data indicates that our public educational system is failing our country and an entire generation of kids.

» on 03.22.13 @ 09:16 PM

Lou, again it is reasonable to question who exactly is handing out this award and for what reasons.

The reasons SBCC got a top 10 ranking from Aspen last year as reported was that even in the face of budget cuts we did not cut back on our innovative Express to Success program.

If this fellow had done his homework properly, he would have realized this Express to Success program was funded by a multi-million grant from the federal government for Hispanic Serving Institutions, so there was no way we would be cutting back on this and diverting this money to general college operational funds. Of course this program would continue even with state funding budget cuts. Hello?

Nothing wrong with showcasing what we do right at SBCC, but no reason he has to sacrifice his organization’s credibility in the process.  I hope the check gets cashed quickly!  ;-)

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