Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence

On April 2, 2019, Palo Alto College was named a Rising Star of the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance in America’s community colleges. 

What is the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence?

Awarded every two years since 2011, the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence recognizes institutions that achieve high and improving student outcomes, selected from over 1,000 community colleges nationwide. Focused solely on student access and success, the Aspen Prize recognizes community colleges with exceptional achievements in four areas: student learning; certificate and degree completion while in community college and after transferring to a four-year institution; employment and earnings rates after graduation; and access for and success of minority and limited-income students.

Why did we win?

Palo Alto College was honored for building clear pathways to degrees and transfer, exceptional student advising, and strong partnerships with K-12 systems, which have resulted in remarkable improvement in the graduation and transfer rate over four years, from 28 percent to 47 percent.

Joshua Wyner, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, stated, “Palo Alto College has engaged in an impressive set of structural reforms over the past few years focused on building clear pathways to transfer and restructuring advising. These reforms, which the college has extended into its work with high school students, have enabled Palo Alto to improve student success rapidly, delivering to more and more students what they want and need: a valuable degree."

Aspen Prize Application

Our Journey

As part of Palo Alto College’s journey to performance excellence, we pursued opportunities like the Texas Award for Performance Excellence and the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award as an effort to maintain our organizational strengths and opportunities for improvement. As one of only 15 in the Texas named to the top 150 community colleges eligible for the Aspen Prize, Palo Alto College moved forward to the next round of the competition by submitting an application in November 2017. The application was reviewed through a rigorous evaluation before being announced as one of the ten finalists eligible for the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

A distinguished Prize jury of education, business, and civil rights experts held multiday site visits to each finalist school. The winners were selected as part of a rigorous review process that included the examination of extensive data on performance and improvements in learning, graduation, workforce, and equitable outcomes.

Site Visit and Four Areas of Exceptional Performance

Aspen Institute’s Four Areas of Student Success Palo Alto College’s Exceptional Achievement Areas
Learning Student Learning
Completion Certificate/Degree Completion and Transfer
Labor Market Employment and Earnings after Gradution
Equity Success for Minority and Limited-Income Students

  

Highlighted Initiatives at Palo Alto College

Learning Communities: Catch The Next-Ascender

Learning Communities: Catch The Next-Ascender

This learning community for underserved first-time-in-college students (FTICs) combines a rigorous literacy-based and culturally relevant curriculum across disciplines, individualized advising and personal counseling, leadership development, and community outreach.

Developmental Education: Mathematics Redesign

Developmental Education: Mathematics Redesign

Palo Alto College’s restructured developmental mathematics sequence created well-defined, accelerated pathways to and through College Algebra, aiming to increase the number of students who complete the entry math course within their first year.

Partnerships: Early College High School & Dual Credit

Partnerships: Early College High School & Dual Credit

Through the College’s dual credit and Early College High School (ECHS) programs, approximately 3,000 local high school students in limited-income and primarily Hispanic communities are earning college credit while completing requirements for their high school diploma each year.

Student Resource Initiative: Advocacy

Student Resource Initiative: Advocacy

The S.H.A.R.E. (Student Health, Advocacy, Resource and Engagement) Center addresses the challenges our students face by providing a central on-campus location that offers in-demand services like a clothes closet, food pantry, financial wellness, health screenings, and referrals to additional supportive services. The Center’s donor-funded emergency aid program also provides short-term financial assistance that allows students to stay enrolled and on track toward achieving their degree or certificates.

Academic Advising: AlamoADVISE

Academic Advising: AlamoADVISE

This unique, comprehensive advising model is focused on case management and proactive outreach to support students in achieving their educational goals.