AVON PARK, Fla.–Jan. 27, 2016–Highlighting the critical importance of improving student success in America’s community colleges, South Florida State College (SFSC) has been chosen as one of the nation’s top 150 out of 1,000 public colleges eligible for the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence and $1 million dollars in prize funds, as well as Siemens Technical Scholars Program student scholarships. The Aspen Prize has been awarded every two years since 2011. This is the fourth time SFSC has been part of such an honored group of colleges.

The Aspen Prize is the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges and recognizes institutions for exceptional student outcomes in four areas: student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings, and access and success for minority and low-income students.

“The success attributed to SFSC results from the dedication and commitment of the faculty and those employees who support our instructional mission,” said Dr. Thomas C. Leitzel, SFSC president. “It is an honor to work with outstanding professionals who value open access and place student learning as their highest priority.”

SFSC joins 13 other Florida College System institutions in the top 150 colleges eligible for the 2017 Aspen Prize. They are Broward College, Chipola College, College of Central Florida, Daytona State College, Eastern Florida State College, Florida SouthWestern State College, Florida State College at Jacksonville, Indian River State College, Northwest Florida State College, Palm Beach State College, Saint Johns River State College, and Tallahassee Community College. Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Fla. was awarded the Aspen Prize in 2015, and Valencia College in Orlando, Fla. was awarded the inaugural prize in 2011. A full list of the selected colleges and details on the selection process are available at www.aspenprize.org.

Nearly half of America’s college students attend community college, with more than seven million students – youth and adult learners – working toward certificates and degrees in these institutions across the country.

Scholarship Opportunities

For the first time, the 150 prize-eligible institutions are also invited to nominate exceptional students enrolled in their best middle-skill STEM programs for scholarships. Up to 50 Siemens Technical Scholars will be selected from programs that provide outstanding preparation for high-demand jobs in manufacturing, energy, health care, and information technology. A partnership between the Siemens Foundation and the Aspen Institute, the Siemens Technical Scholars Program intends to help our nation’s community colleges and their business partners bridge the gap between projected shortages of skilled workers and the millions of high-demand jobs in these STEM industries. Scholarship winners and the programs that deliver rigorous training enabling their success will be announced in fall 2016. For more information and to view video profiles of 2015 Siemens Technical Scholars, go to: http://as.pn/stscholars.

South Florida State College and 149 other community colleges were selected from a national pool of over 1,000 public two-year colleges using publicly available data on student outcomes in three areas:

  • Performance (retention, graduation rates including transfers, and degrees and certificates per 100 full-time equivalent students)
  • Improvement (awarded for steady improvement in each performance metric over time)
  • Equity (evidence of strong completion outcomes for minority and low-income students)

South Florida State College has been invited to submit an application to the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence containing detailed data on degree and certificate completion (including progress and transfer rates), labor market outcomes (employment and earnings), and student learning outcomes.

Ten finalists will be named in fall 2016. The Aspen Institute will then conduct site visits to each of the finalists and collect additional quantitative data. A distinguished Prize Jury will select a grand prize winner and a few finalists with distinction in early 2017.