Jun 09, 2020 12:53 pm

The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program today announced that Pierce College is one of 10 finalists for the 2021 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among community colleges.
This is Pierce College’s second time as an Aspen Prize top finalist. In 2019, Pierce College was honored as a Rising Star for exceptional levels of improvement. Our Rising Star designation placed us in the top 5 community colleges in the nation. Today’s announcement of our recognition as one of 10 finalists in the nation means we are once again eligible to compete for the Aspen Prize.  

“We’re very honored to be recognized again, and this motivates us even more in our movement toward the top prize to continue with our focus of centering equity and eliminating equity gaps between all of our students,” said Pierce College Chancellor Michele Johnson, Ph.D.
The 10 Aspen Prize finalists were selected from the nation’s 1,000 community colleges in a process that included qualitative and quantitative data analysis and engaged more than 30 experts in the field. These finalists all effectively identify, develop, and scale strategies to propel all students to not just complete college but also succeed after graduation.
“Being recognized as one of the top community colleges in the nation again is a great achievement. It shows we’re making progress and it’s a call to further action in promoting student success,” said Pierce College Fort Steilacoom President Julie White, Ph.D.
“Pierce College has achieved exceptional graduation and transfer rates for its students, while narrowing gaps for students of color,” said Joshua Wyner, executive director of the College Excellence Program. “Their faculty, staff, and leaders continuously find ways to remove barriers to student success, and they work across campuses as a transparent, connected team to ensure students have the support and skills they need to excel while in college and after graduating.”
Awarded every two years since 2011, the Aspen Prize recognizes institutions that achieve strong student outcomes across four key areas:
    •    Teaching and learning
    •    Degree completion and successful transfer to four-year institutions
    •    Success in the workforce
    •    Equitable outcomes for diverse student groups

“The focus on equity guides and inspires our work,” said Pierce College Puyallup President Darrell Cain, Ph.D. “We continue to respond to the needs of our most marginalized populations as we strive toward excellence.”
“The Aspen Prize finalists define what it means to be an excellent community college,” said Wyner. “By organizing everything they do around student success, these colleges stand at the forefront of national efforts to develop the talents of diverse students that we need to strengthen our nation’s economic future.”
What community colleges do has a significant impact on our nation’s ability to develop diverse talent and promote social mobility, given that they enroll 6 million students—about 40 percent of all U.S. undergraduates—and disproportionately serve low-income and minority students.
For the rest of 2020, the Aspen Institute will work with a team of national experts to complete a rigorous review process to determine the eventual winner of the prize. This encompasses a comprehensive examination of outcomes data as well as multi-day virtual site visits to each of the 10 finalist institutions.
In early 2021, a distinguished jury will convene to select the prize winner, finalists with distinction, and a rising star and allocate a $1 million award among them. The winner will be announced at a May 2021 event in Washington, D.C.

The Aspen Prize is generously funded by Ascendium Education Group, Joyce Foundation, and Siemens Foundation.
2021 Aspen Prize Finalists

  • Amarillo College, Amarillo, TX
  • Borough of Manhattan Community College, New York, NY
  • Broward College, Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Odessa College, Odessa, TX
  • Pasadena City College, Pasadena, CA
  • Pierce College, Pierce County, WA
  • San Antonio College, San Antonio, TX
  • San Jacinto College, Pasadena, TX
  • Tallahassee Community College, Tallahassee, FL
  • West Kentucky Community and Technical College, Paducah, KY