Joliet Junior College is one of 150 community colleges eligible to compete for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.
The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program awards the 2021 Aspen Prize, according to a news release. It recognizes high achievement and performance based on strong and improving student outcomes, including learning, completion rates, employment rates and earnings, and equity.
JJC is one of just 11 eligible institutions in Illinois and among 15% of community colleges nationwide that were invited to apply for the prize.
The Joliet school was selected from a pool of nearly 1,000 public two-year colleges, using data on student outcomes.
"We have worked with diligence and passion to ensure our students earn the success they deserve," JJC President Judy Mitchell said. "I am thrilled that the tremendous, collective effort we've invested to grow JJC has been acknowledged with this prestigious, national recognition."
The Aspen Institute said the 150 eligible colleges are located across 39 states in urban, rural and suburban areas, serving from as few as 500 students to as many as 75,000 students. They represent the diversity and depth of the community college sector, according to the release.
Data show that over the past two years, student retention, graduation rates and degree completion have improved at the top tier of 150 Aspen Prize-eligible colleges.
"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 Institute College Excellence Program. "We're pleased to see evidence that these institutions are improving, that more are delivering on their promise."
The top 10 finalists for the 2021 Aspen Prize will be named in May. The Aspen Institute will then conduct site visits to each of the finalists and collect additional quantitative date, including employment and earnings data. A jury will decide the award winner in spring 2021.
View the full list of the top 150 eligible institutions and read more about the selection process at the Aspen Institute's website.