South Louisiana Community College’s inclusion among 150 two-year campuses that are eligible to compete for the million-dollar Aspen Prize was met with some apparent delight Tuesday.

“I am immensely proud of the mission-driven work by our faculty and staff, as well as the incredible support and collaboration from our partners and stakeholders,” Vincent June, chancellor, said. He extended thanks to all those who had a hand in landing SLCC on the Aspen list of 150 for the second, consecutive time.

Inclusion in the list of 150 institutions that are eligible to compete for the Aspen Prize, which is awarded every other year, completes the first of three rounds in the biennial selection process. The two-year schools that were chosen to compete were selected based on “publicly available data” on some 942 public community colleges. Leaders from those two-year institutions were invited to participate Tuesday afternoon in a webinar that explained the rest of the selection process.

The 150 eligible institutions are now invited to send data and narratives to explain to the Aspen Institute why they deserved the top million-dollar prize. Ten finalists will be selected from the 150 eligible colleges in spring or summer 2022; the selection committee will visit the institutions. The winner will be revealed in spring 2023.

In a message to staff, faculty and students, June said, “The implementation of best practices and innovative solutions at SLCC have resulted in positive outcomes that have caught attention at the national level. Bravo to you, and I am so proud to be a part of this SLCC team.”

SLCC spokesperson Christine Payton said the Institutional Research Office will be charged with collecting much of the data that will go into the institution’s packet for the Aspen Institute.

The Aspen Institute was founded in Colorado in 1949 as an international, non-profit organization. Supporters include The Carnegie Corp., the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

The prize honors colleges with outstanding achievement in teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, transfer and bachelor’s degree attainment, workforce success and equity for students of color and for low-income students. Supporters called it “the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges.”

SLCC and Central Louisiana Technical and Community College in Alexandria were the two Louisiana two-year schools that were selected among what were actually 153 announced Monday.

Ben Barrett, program manager, said about 50 people are involved over two full years in the process of choosing an award winner, an institution that represents elite overall performance, improvement over time and demonstrated equity for low-income people.

“Community colleges matter,” Barrett said. “They are engines of social mobility.”

The two-year San Antonio College in Texas was selected as the prize winner in 2021.

Originally published by the Acadiana Advocate, 11/3/21