Aspen Institute names Grossmont College as a top 150 community college eligible for 2021 Aspen Prize

Courtesy Photo. Aspen Institute names Grossmont College as a top 150 U.S. community college eigible for 2021 Aspen Prize.

By Lorena Ruggero
Special to the East County Californian

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program today named Grossmont College as one of 150 community colleges eligible to compete for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges. Based on strong and improving student outcomes — including in learning, completion rates, employment rates and earnings, and equity — 15 percent of community colleges nationwide have been invited to apply for the Aspen Prize.

“We are gratified to be recognized for the second time in a row as the only community college in San Diego County for our efforts in improving student outcomes irrespective of college size,” said Grossmont College President Nabil Abu-Ghazaleh, Ed.D. “As the major awards program among two-year colleges, the Aspen Institute recognizes the best of the best. We are honored to be in such an esteemed group, and look forward to one day receiving the Aspen Prize as we continue to improve our support for more equitable and higher rates of student success.”

The 150 community colleges named today as eligible to compete 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. Located in 39 states in urban, rural and suburban areas, serving as few as 500 students and as many as 75,000 students, these colleges represent the diversity and depth of the community college sector.

Data show that over the last 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. 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 ten 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 distinguished jury will make award decisions in spring 2021.

Previous winners of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence are: Miami Dade College (FL) and Indian River State College (FL), 2019; Lake Area Technical College (SD), 2017; Santa Fe College (FL), 2015; Santa Barbara City College (CA) and Walla Walla Community College (WA), 2013; Valencia College (FL), 2011.

Grossmont College was recognized as a top 150 community college eligible for the 2019 Aspen Prize. For a full list of the top 150 eligible institutions and to read more on the selection process, visit

Grossmont College is “Transforming Lives Through Education” and has served the diverse educational needs of San Diego’s East County since 1961. With more than 150 certificate and associate-degree programs, Grossmont College provides workforce training, career development and transferable college-level coursework to its approximately 18,000 students. For more information, visit

The Aspen Prize is funded by ECMC Foundation, Joyce Foundation, The Kresge Foundation and Siemens Foundation.

The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program aims to advance higher education practices, policies, and leadership that significantly improve student outcomes, especially for the growing population of low-income students and students of color on American campuses. For more information, visit and and follow @AspenHigherEd on Twitter.

For 70 years, the Aspen Institute has driven change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the world’s greatest challenges.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Institute has offices in Aspen, Colorado, and New York City, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit