It’s official – Ridgewater College is one of the best community and technical colleges in the United States! Many of you already knew that, given the dozens of program options, quality education, and the emphasis Ridgewater places on helping students succeed.
Those qualities are now being recognized nationally, as well. This spring, the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program named Ridgewater College as one the nation’s 120 top community colleges, challenging it to compete for the $1 million fund for the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.
The Aspen Institute identified the 120 community colleges — 10 percent of all institutions — using a quantitative formula that assesses performance and improvement in four areas: graduation rates, degrees awarded, student retention rates, and equity in student outcomes.
Ridgewater and the other colleges will now compete for the prestigious honor following a year-long research process into how well their students learn, complete degrees, and get jobs with competitive wages after graduating. A full list of the 120 community colleges is available at www.AspenCCPrize.org. Prize winners will be announced in March 2013.
The first inaugural Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence was awarded to the 70,000-student Valencia College (Orlando, Florida) in December 2011. It was the first broad national recognition of extraordinary accomplishments at individual community colleges.
Some seven million students – youth and adult learners – enroll in America’s nearly 1,200 public and private community colleges every year.
“The success of our nation’s community colleges is more important than ever before,” said Aspen Institute College Excellence Program Executive Director Josh Wyner, who announced the names of the 120 top community colleges at the annual convention of the American Association of Community Colleges in Orlando, Florida. “At a time when a college degree is essential to entering the middle class, community colleges like Ridgewater offer the most promising path to education and employment for literally millions of Americans.
Ridgewater and 119 other community colleges will be winnowed to eight-to-ten finalists in September based on how much students learn, how many complete their programs on time, and how well students do in the job market after graduating.
“American employers have jobs open right now but lack enough skilled, educated workers to fill them,” Engler said. “The job training programs at community colleges must play a central role in filling those gaps and preparing the American workforce. Community colleges’ success will help determine whether and in what sectors America will continue to lead in the global economy.”
While every community college faces challenges, particularly in today’s economic climate, Secretary Riley underscored the importance of improving outcomes for community college students, the majority of whom are underrepresented minorities, “Many community colleges across this country are doing an excellent job of boosting student success, but we need to encourage all community colleges achieve excellence. When students learn more, graduate or transfer to four-year institutions, and get competitive-wage jobs after college, it helps everyone – students, employers and our nation’s economy as a whole.”