Palo Alto College named among 10 finalists for 2019 Aspen Prize
May 15, 2018
Palo Alto College, part of the Alamo Colleges District, was named one of 10 finalists for the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance in America’s community colleges. Palo Alto College is one of three colleges in Texas to make the top 10 list and is one of three first-time finalists.
Awarded every two years since 2011, the Prize recognizes institutions that achieve high and improving student outcomes. Palo Alto College was selected from a pool of more than 1,000 public two-year colleges nationwide to compete for the $1 million Aspen Prize, which recognizes educational organizations with outstanding achievements in four areas: student learning; certificate and degree completion; employment and earnings after graduation; and high levels of access and success for minority and limited income students.
“Being recognized by the Aspen Institute as one of the best community colleges in the nation is an incredible honor,” said Dr. Mike Flores, president of Palo Alto College. “Moving forward in the Aspen process is a testament to the hard work, innovative ideas, and collaboration among our faculty, staff, and students, and we are honored to represent Texas.”
Palo Alto College stands out as one of the nation’s top one percent of community colleges for many reasons, including incredible improvement in three-year graduation/transfer rates from 28 percent in 2011 to 47 percent in 2015; a bachelor’s completion rate after its students transfer to a four-year institution that is eight percentage points higher than the national average; strong pathways and advising systems that result in students taking the right courses, including math courses, which across the country impede many community college students from succeeding; and partnerships with eight K-12 school districts to provide up to 60 college credit hours free to high school students through Early College High School and Dual Credit programs.
“Palo Alto College has made faster gains in graduation rates than virtually any community college Aspen has analyzed since the Prize began,” said Joshua Wyner, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program in Washington, D.C. “The College has developed strong advising systems, created clear program pathways, and reformed math education in ways that translate into incredible gains in student success. Many of these reforms and student success gains have taken hold across the impressive Alamo system, of which Palo Alto College is part, proving that concerted efforts can lead to dramatic gains in student success across multiple colleges.”
Community colleges today enroll about 40 percent of all U.S. undergraduates—six million students—who are working toward earning degrees and certificates. Improving student success across the more than 1,000 community colleges in the U.S. is critical to national efforts to develop talent and enable individual social mobility, because a college degree is today more important than ever before. Recent research shows that out of the 11.6 million jobs created in the post-recession economy, 11.5 million require a college education.
The $1 million prize will be announced at an event in April 2019 in Washington, D.C. and awarded between the winner, two or three finalists-with-distinction, and a “Rising Star” that has achieved exceptional levels of improvement. Between now and then, Aspen will work with a team of national experts to collect extensive, additional data and conduct multi-day site visits to the 10 finalists.