ASPEN PRIZE for Community College Excellence

Harford Community College has been named by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program as one of 150 community colleges eligible to compete for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition for 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.

“Harford Community College is the anchor institution for higher education in Harford County,” says HCC’s president, Dr. Dianna G. Phillips. “We are a community of educators who pride ourselves on fostering academic growth and achievement and preparing our students for a successful future. Our campus is a resilient community—an environment where students can progress, persist, and thrive. We are honored by this invitation from the Aspen Institute, which represents a great deal of faith in our institution. I know our faculty, staff, and administrators will continue their important work to fulfill, and exceed, the expectations set by the Aspen Institute.”

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 and as many as 75,000 students, these institutions 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.

For the full list of the top 150 eligible institutions and to read more on the selection process, visit