What is the Aspen Prize?
The Aspen Prize, which has only been awarded to four community colleges since 2011, recognizes outstanding institutions selected from an original pool of more than 1,000 public community colleges nationwide. With a particularly tight focus on student success, the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program assesses community colleges’ performance and achievements in four areas: student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings for graduates, and access and success for minority and low-income students.
“Odessa College has made dramatic improvements in student success over the past several years,” said Joshua Wyner, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program in Washington, D.C. “Using an innovative model of eight-week semesters, which allow students to focus and tailor their education to their busy schedules, Odessa College has increased enrollment, graduation rates, and financial aid awards.”
The Aspen Institute’s national press release naming the 2017 Aspen Prize Top 10 Finalists states that Odessa College is one of the nation’s top community colleges for many reasons, including:
- A 66 percent increase in annual graduation/transfer rates in just four years
- First-year graduates’ average earnings are 39 percent higher than the state average
- A record low course withdrawal rate of 1.8 percent, a huge decline from prior years
- A program allowing students to take one free class, letting them explore and experience college, and speak with student mentors and success coaches about career options, leading to $653,102 in total tuition savings in 2015