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Allan Hancock College Selected to Compete for Aspen Prize for Excellence

Allan Hancock College has been named one of the nation’s top 150 community colleges eligible to compete for the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence and $1 million in prize funds. It is among just seven community colleges in California to be singled out for this recognition.

The prize, awarded every two years, is the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges and 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.

Hancock has twice been selected as a top college by Aspen.

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.

“It’s exciting that others recognize the results of the amazing work that our faculty and staff do every day. Allan Hancock College is a life-changing institution that is making a substantial difference on the Central Coast,” said Kevin Walthers, the college’s superintendent/president.

Seven million students — nearly half of America’s college students — attend a community college.  n California, 2.4 million students are enrolled in 112 community colleges.

“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 more than 1,000 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 focus 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 2014. 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 2015. A full list of the selected community colleges is available by clicking here. Prize winners will be announced in early 2015.

— Sonja Oglesby is a public affairs technician for Allan Hancock College.

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