The Aspen Institute and the Community College Research Center Selects the Alamo Colleges District for “Unlocking Opportunity” Initiative
February 7, 2023
National network of exceptional community colleges commits to ensuring that every student can earn a bachelor’s degree or a high-quality workforce credential
The Aspen Institute, in partnership with the Community College Research Center at Teacher College, Columbia University today announced the Alamo Colleges District was selected to be among community colleges selected for Unlocking Opportunity: The Post-Graduation Success and Equity Network. Announced last fall, this network will be comprised of 10 community colleges committed to improving students’ post-completion outcomes and proving that—by focusing on delivering credentials of value—colleges can strengthen the programs they offer and the advising they provide.
San Antonio College will serve as the pilot college across the district. Alamo Colleges District and San Antonio College leaders will participate in coaching and work closely to prioritize Unlocking Opportunity strategies to implement across each college.
“The Alamo Colleges is proud to participate in this first-of-its-kind initiative that will build upon our goal of thousands more students entering and completing programs that lead to high-wage, high-demand fields,” said Dr. Mike Flores, Alamo Colleges District Chancellor.
This national network will lead the field in shifting from the important but incomplete goal of graduating students with any credential to advancing access and completion with the end in mind: credentials of value. That means making sure that every student is set up to earn a bachelor’s degree or a high-quality workforce credential—including students of color and low-income students who are least likely to enroll in and complete the programs that most often result in strong outcomes.
“San Antonio College is honored to be named the pilot college for the district in this groundbreaking work,” said Dr. Naydeen Gonzalez-De Jesus, president of San Antonio College. “As winner of the Aspen Prize, we are uniquely positioned to contribute to this collaborative effort that will boost student outcomes for Alamo Colleges and, ultimately, community colleges across the nation.”
In May 2022, the Alamo Colleges earned national recognition from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) for its work of offering seamless pathways that lead to student success through its Transfer Advising Guides (TAGs). With clear and concise pathways through TAGs, students can transfer with courses that are degree applicable not only for the Alamo Colleges but the student’s university of choice. That saves students time and money and minimizes any loss of credit hours.
“For many years, community colleges have been focused on improving graduation rates—and progress has been steady and impressive,” says Josh Wyner, founder and executive director of the Aspen College Excellence Program. “But with enrollments dropping for a decade, it is time for community colleges to turn their attention to increasing the value of the credentials they deliver, especially for the large numbers of Black, Hispanic, and low-income students who rely so heavily on community colleges to provide a path to a better life. The colleges selected for this network have shown that they can make scaled and systemic change, and are ready to work together on this critical goal.”
The network will run from 2023 through 2028. During the first three years, colleges will set concrete goals, plan reform strategies, and implement changes with the support of coaches and learning sessions. The final three years will include continued monitoring and research by CCRC and Aspen alongside the continuing release of publicly-accessible tools, case studies, and reports to share the lessons with the field. Throughout the process, colleges will focus on strengthening and rethinking existing programs and developing new program models that expand career and educational opportunity for all students.
“We’re excited to work with these colleges to help them evaluate and strengthen their programs and see which lead to great outcomes: either good jobs right away or via completion of a bachelor’s degree,” said Davis Jenkins, senior research scholar at the Community College Research Center. “This requires intensive work, and I cannot imagine a better group of institutions from which we can learn and share lessons with the field on how to deliver excellent and equitable programs.”
The colleges in the network are:
- Alamo Colleges District with San Antonio College as a pilot college
- Laramie County Community College, WY
- Lorain County Community College, OH
- Monroe Community College, NY
- Odessa College, TX
- Sinclair College, OH
- Southwest Wisconsin Technical College, WI
- St. Petersburg College, FL
- Tulsa Community College, OK
- Valencia College, FL
San Jacinto College in Texas will also participate, as a resource college for the network. This project is made possible by Arnold Ventures, Ascendium, ECMC Foundation, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and Lumina Foundation.