POPLARVILLE - Pearl River Community College today was named one the country’s top 150 community colleges eligible to compete for the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.
The eligibility marks the third time the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program has recognized PRCC for the prize, which carries with it $1 million in funds.
“Pearl River Community College has been extremely fortunate to have been recognized for the third year in a row as being eligible to compete for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence,” said Dr. William Lewis, PRCC president. “This honor is afforded to the top ten percent of community colleges in America. This places Pearl River in a unique position among community colleges nationwide. It is our belief that this is a most significant reflection on the quality of the product produced by our institution.”
The prize, awarded every two years, is the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges and recognizes institutions for exceptional outcomes in student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings, and high levels of access and success for minority and low-income students.
Ten finalists will be named in the fall of 2014 and site visits will be conducted at those colleges. The grand prize winner and a few finalists with distinction will be named in early 2015.
In recent years, several organizations have listed PRCC among the country’s best:
• Create a Career website ranks PRCC as 23rd on its December 2013 list of the 25 Best Community Colleges in the United States.
• TheBestSchools.org website listed PRCC as 28th nationally in 2013.
• CNN Money’s list of top community colleges ranked PRCC 20th in 2012.
• PRCC is listed on the Military Friendly Schools list for 2013 and 2014.
The 150 colleges eligible for the Aspen Prize were selected from more than 1,000 public two-year colleges based on publicly available data on student outcomes.
“I think that it speaks volumes about the level of quality in the educational opportunities we provide here,” said Dr. Justin Williamson, English instructor and president of the Poplarville campus Faculty Association. “Just to be in the company of these other institutions is an honor in itself. It’s a tremendous recognition and honor and it seems to be a really happy trend with the Aspen Prize and the other recognitions.”
The 150 community colleges are located in 37 states, represent urban, rural and suburban markets large and small schools, such as Miami Dade College with more than 100,000 students in Florida and Carver Career Center in West Virginia with fewer than 500. PRCC has more than 4,000 students enrolled.
Other Mississippi community colleges eligible to apply include East Mississippi, Hinds, Holmes, Itawamba, Mississippi Gulf Coast and Southwest.
The 2013 Aspen Prize was awarded to co-winners Santa Barbara (Calif.) City College and Walla Walla (Wash.) Community College. Valencia College in Florida won the inaugural 2011 prize.
PRCC will submit an application containing detailed data on degree/certificate completion, employment and earnings of PRCC graduates and student learning outcomes.
“Community colleges have tremendous power to change lives, and their success will increasingly define our nation’s economic strength and the potential for social mobility for every American,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, in a prepared statement. “This competition is designed to spotlight the excellent work being done in the most effective community colleges, those that best help students obtain meaningful, high-quality education and training for competitive-wage jobs after college. We hope it will raise the bar and provide a roadmap for community colleges nationwide.”
More information about the Apsen Institute can be found at http://www.aspeninstitute.org/policy-work/aspen-prize/about.