San Jacinto College recognized as a top 150 community college

Nov 15, 2023Amanda Fenwick
San Jacinto College News

Aspen InstituteSan Jac now eligible for 2025 Aspen Prize

 PASADENA, Texas — The Aspen Institute has named San Jacinto College as one of the 150  institutions eligible to compete for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence,  the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among two-year colleges.  The institutions selected for this honor stand out among more than 1,000 community colleges  nationwide as having high and improving levels of student success as well as equitable outcomes  for Black and Hispanic students and those from lower-income backgrounds.  

“We appreciate this recognition from the Aspen Institute,” said Dr. Brenda Hellyer, San Jacinto  College Chancellor. “Our ultimate goal at San Jacinto College is to ensure that all of our students  succeed, whether they are just beginning their higher education journey or are returning to further  their skills and advance in their careers. On behalf of our entire institution, I thank the Aspen  Institute for again recognizing the excellent work being done at San Jacinto College.”  

The Aspen Prize spotlights exemplary community colleges in order to drive attention to colleges  achieving post-graduate success for all students, and is a central way Aspen researches highly  effective student success strategies that are shared with the field. The 150 eligible colleges have  been invited to submit student success data and narratives about strategies to achieve better and  more equitable student outcomes as the next step in an intensive review process that culminates in  the naming of the Aspen Prize winner in spring 2025. The eligible colleges represent the diversity  and depth of the community college sector. Located in urban, rural, and suburban areas across 30  states, these colleges serve as few as 169 students and as many as 49,619.   

“The Aspen Prize is rooted first and foremost in an assessment of whether colleges are walking the  walk,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. “As  community colleges face enrollment variations, enroll students with pandemic-related learning loss,  and graduate students into a rapidly changing labor market, it is easy to lose track of what matters  most. The best community colleges are continuing to focus on advancing the core mission: making  sure as many students as possible graduate with credentials that lead to fulfilling careers and  reflect the development of diverse talent that communities, states, and our nation need.”   

While community colleges are an essential contributor to our nation’s success, student outcomes  vary substantially among institutions. Aspen measures those variances using multiple data sources  and honors colleges with outstanding achievement in six critical areas: teaching and learning,  certificate and degree completion, transfer and bachelor’s attainment, workforce success, equitable  access to the college, and equitable outcomes for students of color and students from low-income  backgrounds.  

“These 150 colleges have achieved high and improving levels of student success for all students,  including those who are often failed by our institutions,” added Wyner. “We’re excited to learn over  the coming months how they achieved that success so we can share the most impressive practices  with others in the field.”   

In this first round, eligibility for the Aspen Prize is based on publicly available data. Colleges must  show strong, improving, and equitable student outcomes in first-to-second year retention,  credentials awarded, and completion and transfer rates. Nationwide, about 15 percent of  community colleges have been invited to apply (150 of just under 1,000 public two-year colleges  assessed for Prize eligibility). The full list can be accessed on the Prize homepage.  

The next steps in the process include:

  • April 2024: Announcement of 25 semifinalists, selected based on assessments of extensive  data and strategy documents by the Prize selection panel, a group of 16 experts in  community colleges, higher education, and workforce training, and interviews with  institutional leadership teams
  • June 2024: Announcement of 10 finalists, selected by the Prize selection panel * Fall 2024: Site visits to each of the ten finalists, during which the Aspen Institute and  partners will collect additional information, including employment and earnings data and  insights about promising practices
  • January 2025: Prize award decisions made by distinguished, independent Prize jury at full- day meeting 
  • Spring 2025: Announcement of the Aspen Prize winner and celebration of the 10 finalists in  Washington DC  

For a full list of the top 150 eligible institutions and to read more on the selection process, visit  

The Aspen Prize is generously funded by Ascendium, the Joyce Foundation, JPMorgan, and the  Kresge Foundation. Previous winners are: 

  • 2023: Amarillo College (TX) and Imperial Valley College (CA)
  • 2021: San Antonio College (TX)
  • 2019: Indian River State College (FL) and Miami Dade College (FL)
  • 2017: Lake Area Technical Institute (SD)
  • 2015: Santa Fe College (FL)
  • 2013: Santa Barbara City College (CA) and Walla Walla Community College (WA)
  • 2011: Valencia College (FL)

Note: Colleges that have won the Aspen Prize are not eligible to apply in subsequent years  

The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program supports colleges and universities in their quest to achieve a higher standard of excellence,  delivering credentials that unlock life-changing careers and strengthen our economy, society, and  democracy. We know it takes visionary college leaders to lead scaled, sustainable reforms, and we  make it our mission to equip them with the knowledge, skills, and research-backed tools to inspire  change, shift practice, and advance the capacity of colleges to deliver excellent and equitable  student outcomes. For more information, visit our website and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.  

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization whose purpose is to ignite human potential  to build understanding and create new possibilities for a better world. Founded in 1949, the Institute  drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve society’s greatest challenges.  It is headquartered in Washington, DC and has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, as well as an  international network of partners. For more information, visit

About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, evolving industries, maritime enterprises of today, and the space  age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has served the people of East Harris County, Texas, since  1961. The College is one of the top 10 community colleges in the nation as designated by the Aspen  Institute, and was named an Achieving the Dream Leader College of Distinction in 2020. The College is  a Hispanic-Serving Institution that spans five campuses, serving approximately 41,000 credit and non- credit students annually. It offers more than 200 degrees and certificates across eight major areas of  study that put students on a path to transfer to four-year institutions or enter the workforce. The College  is fiscally sound, holding bond ratings of AA and Aa2 by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s.

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