The Kent Station campus of Green River College. COURTESY PHOTO, Green River College

The Kent Station campus of Green River College. COURTESY PHOTO, Green River College

Aspen Institute honors Green River College on top 150 junior college list

Auburn-based college, with branch campuses in Kent and Enumclaw, eligible for a $1 million prize.

The following is a press release from the Green River College:

Green River College, which is based in Auburn with branch campuses in Kent and Enumclaw, has been named one of the top 150 community colleges in the country by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. As a top finalist, GRC is eligible for the 2025 $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance.

GRC was selected from nearly 1,000 public two-year 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 background. The Aspen Prize 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.

By focusing on student success and lifting models that work, the Aspen Prize aims to celebrate excellence among our nation’s best community colleges, drive colleges toward a holistic definition of student success, and stimulate replication of highly effective practice and leadership.

“It’s incredibly exciting and a tremendous honor for Green River College to be recognized as one of the ‘Aspen Prize Top 150 U.S. Community Colleges,’” GRC President Suzanne M. Johnson said. “Our faculty and staff are dedicated and committed professionals who go above and beyond to support our students at every stage of their educational journey. They have much to be proud of.”

The Aspen Prize spotlights exemplary community colleges 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 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,” Wyner said. “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).

Next Steps

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 institutions and to read more on the selection process, visit www.highered.aspeninstitute.org/aspen-prize.

The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program aims to advance higher education practices, policies, and leadership that significantly improve student outcomes. Through the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the Siemens-Aspen Community College STEM Award, and other initiatives, the College Excellence Program works to improve colleges’ understanding and capacity to teach and graduate students, especially the growing population of low-income and minority students on American campuses. For more information, visit https://highered.aspeninstitute.org/.

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.

Green River College is an open-access, public college where students from all over the world come together to learn, grow and enrich their lives. Green River’s main campus stretches over 180 acres of beautifully forested land. Branch campuses, located in downtown Auburn, Kent and Enumclaw, bring the college’s unique educational experiences to local communities. At Green River, students can choose from a wide variety of transfer degrees, Bachelor of Applied Science degrees, career and technical education, pre-college and basic skills courses and continuing and community education classes. High-quality faculty and motivated staff advise, counsel and support students in their chosen educational careers, creating an encouraging atmosphere that fosters achievement. For more information, visit www.greenriver.edu.


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