Aspen Prize

San Antonio College Awarded the 2021 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence

The $1million prize, given by the Aspen Institute, recognizes excellence in equitable outcomes for students during and after college 

The Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program announced today that San Antonio College is the winner of the 2021 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges.

It is the first time in its 10-year history that the award has been given to a Texas community college.

The Aspen Prize, awarded every two years since 2011, recognizes outstanding institutions selected from a pool of more than 1,000 community colleges nationwide. With a singular focus on student success, the Aspen Prize honors institutions with outstanding achievement in six areas: teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, transfer and bachelor’s attainment, workforce success, equitable outcomes for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds, and leadership and culture.

As winner of the Aspen Prize, San Antonio College will receive $600,000. Aspen also recognized three community colleges as Finalists with Distinction: Broward College (Florida), San Jacinto College (Texas), and West Kentucky Community and Technical College (Kentucky). Amarillo College (Texas) received the Rising Star award for rapid improvement. Each will receive $100,000.

“This is the highest national honor that a community college can receive. Today’s news makes me proud, happy and just about every good feeling you can imagine,” said SAC President Dr. Robert Vela.  “It’s a breathtaking achievement for our faculty, staff and students and it embodies the very best of everyone who worked so hard to make it happen.”

"The Board and all of us in the Alamo Colleges District family are so proud of San Antonio College's outstanding accomplishment as the number one community college in the nation, honored with the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. This recognition for San Antonio College reflects their faculty and staff’s dedication, hard work and commitment to student success and performance excellence," said Dr. Mike Flores, chancellor of the Alamo Colleges District. "They are the first of our colleges to win this prestigious national honor and one of three named to the Aspen Top 150 community colleges this year, along with Northwest Vista College and Palo Alto College. In 2019, four of our five colleges were named to the Aspen Top 100, the same year Palo Alto College was named in the top one percent of community colleges and a Rising Star by the Aspen Institute's College Excellence Program,” he added.

In October 2017, SAC first gained recognition from the Aspen Institute when it was selected as one of 150 community colleges eligible for the 2019 Aspen Prize.

In November 2019, SAC was named to the list of 150 community colleges eligible for the 2021 Aspen Prize. In addition to San Antonio College, two other institutions in the Alamo Colleges District, Northwest Vista College and Palo Alto College, were named as Top 150 Community Colleges.

In June 2020, the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program announced San Antonio College as one of the top 10 finalists for the 2021 Prize. All the colleges, according to the Aspen Institute, “were recognized for effectively identifying, developing, and scaling strategies to propel all students to not just complete college but also succeed after graduation.”

The Aspen Prize is generously funded by ECMC Foundation, Joyce Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, and Siemens Foundation.

The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program aims to advance higher education practices, policies, and leadership that significantly improve student outcomes, especially for the growing population of low-income students and students of color on American campuses. 

The program is part of The Aspen Institute, which has a mission of fostering leadership based on enduring values and providing a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. For more information, visit and and follow @AspenHigherEd on Twitter.

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, D.C.; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

San Antonio College (SAC), part of the Alamo Colleges District, is among the largest, single-campus community colleges in Texas and the nation. SAC has been designated as an official Hispanic Serving Institution and also serves the largest student veteran population in Texas and has earned a partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Founded in 1925, SAC offers courses in the Arts and Sciences and Professional/Technical Fields. SAC is also a leader in the field of online education.