March 18, 2016
Leadership & Awards
We take a closer look at some of the nation’s best community colleges to see what they are doing to offer a high quality education at a low cost, with a high success rate and a good return on investment.
Top Community Colleges Eligible for Aspen Prize for Excellence

In the editorial mission statement of The Advocate of Affordable College, we promised to “take a closer look at some of the nation’s best community colleges to see what they are doing to offer a high quality education at a low cost, with a high success rate and a good return on investment.”

So, we were paying close attention when the Aspen Institute College Excellence Programrecently named the nation’s top 150 community colleges that are eligible to compete for the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The $1 million dollars in prize funds highlights the critical importance of improving student success in America’s community colleges.

The Prize, awarded every two years, is the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges and recognizes institutions for exceptional student outcomes in four areas: student learning; certificate and degree completion; employment and earnings; and access and success for minority and low-income students.

“There are exceptional community colleges across our country providing students with a high-quality, affordable education that leads to good careers and strong economic opportunity,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, in a press release. “Through this competition, we’re working to inspire community colleges and help them understand how to ensure that more students succeed.”

We applaud the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, which complements ourCommunity College Success Fund, which provides financial support for community colleges to increase enrollment, retention, and transfer rates.

Nearly half of America’s college students attend community college, with more than seven million students—youth and adult learners—working toward certificates and degrees in these institutions across the country.

The top 150 community colleges named recently represent the diversity and richness of the community college sector. They are located in 35 states in urban, rural and suburban areas, serving as few as 300 students and as many as 60,000 students.

This year, California saw the largest increase among states in the number of colleges eligible for the Prize—tripling from seven to 21 since the last Prize cycle in 2015. Most states saw only small changes in the number of eligible institutions. A full list of the selected colleges and details on the selection process can be found below.

2017 Eligible Community Colleges

The Aspen Institute named the 152 community colleges below (rather than 150), which are eligible for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. Due to winning in prior cycles, four high-performing colleges were not eligible: Santa Barbara City College, Santa Fe College, Valencia College, and Walla Walla Community College.

The Aspen Institute recognizes that there are many community colleges around the country that are employing innovative strategies and achieving excellent results for their students. However, the bar for the Aspen Prize is intentionally set high in order to identify those institutions that have demonstrated exceptional levels of student success.

In a comprehensive review of the publicly available data, these 152 two-year institutions have demonstrated strong outcomes considering three areas of student success:

  • Student success in persistence, completion, and transfer;
  • Consistent improvement in outcomes over time; and
  • Equity in outcomes for students of all racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

To ensure full representation of the range and diversity of the sector, adjustments were applied with respect to mission, size, and minority representation. For more information on these institutions, you can download the 2017 Round I data here. In addition, a detailed technical description of how Round 1 eligibility was determined can be found here


  • Northeast Alabama Community College Rainsville, AL


  • AVTEC-Alaska's Institute of Technology Seward, AK


  • Chandler-Gilbert Community College Chandler, AZ
  • Cochise College Douglas, AZ
  • Estrella Mountain Community College Avondale, AZ
  • GateWay Community College Phoenix, AZ
  • Mesa Community College Mesa, AZ
  • Paradise Valley Community College Phoenix, AZ
  • Phoenix College Phoenix, AZ
  • Scottsdale Community College Scottsdale, AZ
  • South Mountain Community College Phoenix, AZ


  • Arkansas State University-Beebe Beebe, AR
  • Arkansas State University-Mountain Home Mountain Home, AR
  • Southern Arkansas University Tech Camden, AR
  • University of Arkansas Community College-Batesville Batesville, AR


  • Allan Hancock College Santa Maria, CA
  • Chaffey College Rancho Cucamonga, CA
  • Citrus College Glendora, CA
  • Coastline Community College Fountain Valley, CA
  • De Anza College Cupertino, CA
  • El Camino Community College District Torrance, CA
  • Fullerton College Fullerton, CA
  • Imperial Valley College Imperial, CA
  • Los Medanos College Pittsburg, CA
  • Modesto Junior College Modesto, CA
  • Mt. San Jacinto Community College District San Jacinto, CA
  • Napa Valley College Napa, CA
  • Norco College Norco, CA
  • Pasadena City College Pasadena, CA
  • Riverside City College Riverside, CA
  • San Bernardino Valley College San Bernardino, CA
  • San Joaquin Delta College Stockton, CA
  • San Jose City College San Jose, CA
  • Santa Ana College Santa Ana, CA
  • Santiago Canyon College Orange, CA
  • Ventura College Ventura, CA


  • Trinidad State Junior College Trinidad, CO


  • Broward College Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Chipola College Marianna, FL
  • College of Central Florida Ocala, FL
  • Daytona State College Daytona Beach, FL
  • Eastern Florida State College Cocoa, FL
  • Florida SouthWestern State College Fort Myers, FL
  • Florida State College at Jacksonville, FL
  • Indian River State College Fort Pierce, FL
  • Lake-Sumter Community College Leesburg, FL
  • Northwest Florida State College Niceville, FL
  • Palm Beach State College Lake Worth, FL
  • Saint Johns River State College Palatka, FL
  • South Florida State College Avon Park, FL
  • Tallahassee Community College Tallahassee, FL


  • Darton State College Albany, GA
  • Gordon State College Barnesville, GA


  • Ellsworth Community College Iowa Falls, IA
  • North Iowa Area Community College Mason City, IA
  • Northwest Iowa Community College Sheldon, IA


  • Eastern Idaho Technical College Idaho Falls, ID


  • City Colleges of Chicago-Kennedy-King College Chicago, IL
  • John A Logan College Carterville, IL
  • Kaskaskia College Centralia, IL
  • Lincoln Trail College Robinson, IL
  • Olney Central College Olney, IL
  • Rend Lake College Ina, IL
  • Wabash Valley College Mount Carmel, IL
  • William Rainey Harper College Palatine, IL


  • Cowley County Community College Arkansas City, KS
  • Flint Hills Technical College Emporia, KS
  • Hutchinson Community College Hutchinson, KS
  • Manhattan Area Technical College Manhattan, KS
  • Neosho County Community College Chanute, KS
  • North Central Kansas Technical College Beloit, KS
  • Northwest Kansas Technical College Goodland, KS
  • Pratt Community College Pratt, KS
  • Salina Area Technical College Salina, KS


  • Hazard Community and Technical College Hazard, KY
  • West Kentucky Community and Technical College Paducah, KY


  • Northwest Louisiana Technical College Minden, LA
  • South Central Louisiana Technical College-Young Memorial Campus Morgan City, LA


  • Kennebec Valley Community College Fairfield, ME


  • Alpena Community College Aplena, MI
  • Delta College University Center, MI
  • Mott Community College Flint, MI
  • Schoolcraft College Livonia, MI
  • Wayne County Community College District Detroit, MI


  • Alexandria Technical & Community College Alexandria, MN
  • Anoka-Ramsey Community College Coon Rapids, MN
  • Minnesota State Community and Technical College Fergus Falls, MN
  • Minnesota West Community and Technical College Granite Falls, MN
  • Northland Community and Technical College Thief River Falls, MN
  • Ridgewater College Willmar, MN


  • Coplah-Lincoln Community College Wesson, MS
  • East Mississippi Community College Scooba, MS
  • Hinds Community College Raymond, MS
  • Holmes Community College Goodman, MS
  • Itawamba Community College Fulton, MS
  • Meridian Community College Meridian, MS
  • Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Perkinston, MS
  • Northeast Mississippi Community College Booneville, MS


  • Ozarks Technical Community College Springfield, MO
  • State Technical College of Missouri Linn, MO


  • Dawson Community College Glendive, MT
  • Miles Community College Miles City, MT


  • Central Community College Grand Island, NE
  • Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture Curtis, NE
  • Northeast Community College Norfolk, NE

New Jersey

  • Essex County College Newark, NJ

New Mexico

  • Central New Mexico Community College Albuquerque, NM

New York

  • CUNY Bronx Community College Bronx, NY
  • CUNY Hostos Community College Bronx, NY
  • CUNY Kingsborough Community College Brooklyn, NY
  • Herkimer County Community College Herkimer, NY
  • Rockland Community College Suffern, NY

North Carolina

  • Johnston Community College Smithfield, NC


  • Community College of Beaver County Monaca, PA
  • Lancaster County Career and Technology Center Willow Street, PA
  • Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology Lancaster, PA

South Carolina

  • Tri-County Technical College Pendleton, SC

South Dakota

  • Lake Area Technical Institute Watertown, SD
  • Mitchell Technical Institute Mitchell, SD


  • Columbia State Community College Columbia, TN


  • Brazosport College Lake Jackson, TX
  • Cedar Valley College Lancaster, TX
  • Del Mar College Corpus Christi, TX
  • El Paso Community College El Paso, TX
  • Kilgore College Kilgore, TX
  • Lamar State College-Port Arthur Port Arthur, TX
  • Lee College Baytown, TX
  • North Lake College Irving, TX
  • Odessa College Odessa, TX
  • San Jacinto College Pasadena, TX
  • South Texas College McAllen, TX
  • Trinity Valley Community College Athens, TX
  • Tyler Junior College Tyler, TX
  • Vernon College Vernon, TX
  • Western Texas College Snyder, TX
  • Wharton County Junior College Wharton, TX


  • Snow College Ephraim, UT


  • Richard Bland College of the College of William and Mary Petersburg, VA
  • Southwest Virginia Community College Richlands, VA


  • Clark College Vancouver, WA
  • Everett Community College Everett, WA
  • Highline College Des Moines, WA
  • Olympic College Bremerton, WA
  • Pierce College-Fort Stellacoom Lakewood, WA
  • Renton Technical College Renton, WA
  • South Puget Sound Community College Olympia, WA
  • Tacoma Community College Tacoma, WA
  • Whatcom Community College Bellingham, WA

West Virgina

  • Carver Center Charleston, WV


  • Lakeshore Technical College Cleveland, WI
  • Northcentral Technical College Wausau, WI
  • Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College Shell Lake, WI

The Advocate of Affordable College plans to write a follow-up story when the 10 finalists for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence are announced in the fall 2016.


(Greg Jarboe is the editor of The Advocate of Affordable College blog and the former editor of the Knowledge Transfer blog. He’s also the president and co-founder of SEO-PR, an instructor at the Rutgers Business School, the content marketing faculty chair at Market Motive, as well as the author of YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day.)