Santa Fe College Named Best Community College by Aspen Institute

aspen prize 2015

The Aspen Institute selected Santa Fe College as the winner of the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

The $1.1 million Aspen Prize, awarded every two years, recognizes institutions for outstanding outcomes in four areas: student learning; certificate and degree completion; employment and earnings; and high levels of access and success for minority and low- income students.

Selected from 1,123 public community colleges nationwide, Aspen Prize winner Santa Fe College will receive $800,000 in prize funds.

“Aspen Prize winner Santa Fe and the finalists offer lessons in how community colleges large and small can provide an outstanding, affordable, and job-relevant education for every student,” said Joshua Wyner, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program and author of What Excellent Community Colleges Do. “Santa Fe College particularly stands out for its exceptional work in keeping students on track to graduate with degrees that have incredible value after they graduate. Faculty and staff provide rigorous preparation for transfer to four-year universities like the nearby University of Florida (UF) and have proactively worked with local employers to meet their changing workforce needs. The results are clear: Santa Fe graduates have one of the highest transfer and bachelor’s attainment rates in the country as well strong employment and earnings outcomes.”

The prize was announced at an event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. National and state leaders joined in celebrating the program and the accomplishments of the finalists. Speakers included Dr. Jill Biden, Second Lady of the United States; Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee – the first state in the nation to offer free community college; and Aspen Prize Jury co-chairs Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue University and former Governor of Indiana, and former Representative George Miller (D-CA).

Community colleges today enroll more than 40 percent of all US undergraduates – 7 million students – working toward degrees and certificates. These include rapidly growing numbers of lower-income and minority students. Nationwide, fewer than half of all community college students graduate.

Santa Fe College serves nearly 22,000 socioeconomically diverse students on main campuses and six satellite centers. Santa Fe’s president, Dr. Jackson Sasser, has set out to address regional workforce development needs that nearby University of Florida cannot meet alone. For example, Dr. Sasser installed a bachelor’s degree programs in information technology in response to local companies’ needs for programmers and network specialists.

Student outcomes:

  • Excellent overall graduation/transfer rates – 62% compared to 40% national average – supported by comprehensive systems to keep students on track
  • Clear and highly successful transfer pathways with four-year universities, including the highly-selective University of Florida – 70% acceptance rate for Santa Fe graduates
  • Strong success rates for underrepresented minority students, who make up 20% of the student body – graduation/transfer rate 49% compared with 34% national average

The Aspen Prize is funded by the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, and Lumina Foundation.


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