College Excellence Program — The Aspen Institute


The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program aims to advance higher education practices, policies, and leadership in ways that help institutions of higher education make the choices that matter most to improving student outcomes in four areas believed to define student success:

  • Completion - Do students earn degrees and other meaningful credentials while in college?
  • Equity - Do colleges work to ensure equitable access and outcomes for minority and low-income students?
  • Labor Market - Do students get good jobs after leaving college?
  • Learning - Do colleges and faculty set expectations for and measure student learning, and use that information to improve?

Founded in January 2010, the Aspen College Excellence Program has grown from a single project – the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence – to more than 10 initiatives designed to influence college and university practice.

College Excellence Program work includes research on effective practice, developing open-access analytic tools, disseminating reports and other publications, providing technical assistance to colleges and college boards, and running multiple leadership programs. Areas of focus include:

  • Community College Practice – assessing student outcomes, understanding how strong outcomes are attained, and assisting institutional leaders and teams in replicating the practices of community colleges that achieve exceptional outcomes
  • Community College Leadership – initiatives to develop and place in presidencies leaders who possess the attributes, knowledge, and skills needed to dramatically improve student success across their institutions
  • Four-year College and University Initiatives – strengthening the college and university presidency as well as how top-performing four-year colleges and universities can improve equitable access and outcomes
  • Transfer Initiatives – conducting research, developing tools, and supporting state and institutional efforts to improve bachelor’s degree attainment among students who begin in community college and aspire to transfer to four-year institutions.

The College Excellence Program is one of the programs of The Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit organization founded in 1949 as the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies.


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