Alexandria Technical & Community College has been selected as one of 150 community colleges nationwide that is in the running for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

Only 15 percent of U.S. community colleges have been invited by The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program to apply for the Aspen Prize, which recognizes high achievement and performance among America's community colleges. The selections were based on strong and improving student outcomes — including in learning, completion rates, employment rates, earnings and equity.

The Aspen Prize is awarded every two years, and ATCC is one of only two Minnesota colleges consistently named eligible since the award’s inception in 2011.

ATCC provides hands-on and liberal arts education to more than 3,900 students in 40-plus programs and transfer pathways each year. Most programs can be completed in two years or less. The college has the highest graduation rate of all Minnesota State institutions and a 98% job placement rate.

“Our legacy is built on a culture of excellence, innovation and learning,” said ATCC President Michael Seymour. “ATCC continues to challenge and empower students and faculty resulting in the highest graduation and job placement rates among Minnesota’s two-year colleges. We are proud to once again be named in the top 15 percent of community colleges nationwide.”

The 150 community colleges eligible for the 2021 Aspen Prize were selected from a pool of nearly 1,000 public two-year colleges nationwide, using publicly-available data on student outcomes. The 150 colleges are located in 39 states in urban, rural and suburban areas, and serve as few as 500 students and as many as 75,000 students.

Four other Minnesota schools were chosen: Minnesota State Community and Technical College; Northland Community and Technical College; Ridgewater College; and Saint Paul College.

Over the last two years, student retention, graduation rates and degree completion have improved at the top tier of 150 Aspen Prize-eligible colleges, according to the institute.

“Community colleges play a vital role in developing talent and enabling social mobility across the country, and it’s critical for them to get better at what they do,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen program. “We’re pleased to see evidence that these institutions are improving, that more are delivering on their promise. We’re also pleased to play a role in honoring outstanding community colleges and sharing what works to ensure great outcomes for students – through graduation and beyond.”

The top 10 finalists for the 2021 Aspen Prize will be named in May 2020. The Aspen Institute will then conduct site visits to each of the finalists and collect additional quantitative data, including employment and earnings data. A jury will make award decisions in spring 2021.