Being named recently as one of the top-performing community colleges in the nation definitely thrilled employees of Trinity Valley Community College.

But for TVCC and other colleges eligible to compete for a prize from the Aspen Institute, there is still plenty of work to do.

In an effort to identify the nation’s best community colleges and award $1 million in prize money, the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program last week ranked what the group considered to be the nation’s 120 best community colleges.

Each of those colleges, which represent what the institute labeled as the top 10 percent in the country, were also named eligible to compete for the Aspen Prize.

TVCC was one of only nine colleges in Texas to make the list.

The 120 two-year institutions from 32 states have demonstrated strong outcomes considering three areas of student success:

• student success in persistence and completion,

• consistent improvement in outcomes over time, and

•  equity for students of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

According to a recent release from the organization about the prize, Aspen Institute’s mission is “twofold: to foster values-based leadership, encouraging individuals to reflect on the ideals and ideas that define a good society, and to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues.”

The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

“It is a tremendous honor for the college to be named one of the elite community colleges in the nation.  It is highly reflective of the dedication and concern of the TVCC faculty and staff for the success of our students,” said TVCC President Dr. Glendon Forgey.

“The recognition as one of the nation’s top community colleges indicates that TVCC builds champions inside and outside of the classroom.”

Aspen Institute College Excellence Program Executive Director Josh Wyner said the country has an urgent need to focus on the value and potential of community colleges.

“We must set the bar much higher than we have in the past. To achieve excellent student outcomes, we need to highlight our country’s success stories and learn from them so that we can keep reaching higher. Recognizing community colleges like Trinity Valley Community College sends a message to others that aspire to excellence.

“As a country, now more than ever, we need all community colleges to graduate more students with the knowledge and degrees they need to be successful in the workforce.”

The next step for TVCC and other colleges vying for prize is to complete an application process, said Jerry King, TVCC’s vice president of instruction.

“For Trinity Valley Community College to be recognized in the top 10 percent of the country's 1,200 community colleges and one of only nine community colleges to be recognized in Texas is quite an honor,” said King.

“This recognition validates the dedication, effort, and quality of the faculty and staff at TVCC. Our students and communities are the beneficiaries of their efforts.”

The Aspen Prize was announced at the White House Community College Summit hosted by President Barak Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, in October.

At that time, the president noted how critical community colleges are to the millions of youth and adult learners who enroll in America’s nearly 1,200 community colleges every year.

The 120 selected colleges will be narrowed to eight-to-ten finalists in September based on how much students learn, how many student complete their programs on time, and how well students do in the job market after graduating.

The winners of the prize will be announced in December. The top college will receive $700,000 and two to three runners-up will receive $100,000 to $150,000.

For more information and a complete list of schools, log onto www.AspenCCPrize.org.

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