About the Aspen Institute Award
The Aspen Institute began their quest for the top community college with a short list of 1,000 community colleges across the country. According to the Aspen Institute website, colleges were assessed on the following criteria:
- Student Learning
- Degree Completion and Transfer Rates
- Equity in Education
- Employment and Earning Potential after College
The Contest for Top Spot
Now that the top 10% college list has been completed, the Aspen Institute hopes to continue the process by choosing 10 colleges out of the original 120. From the list of 10, the organization will select a single, top-performing school to award a $1 million for excellence in school performance. According to the Aspen Institute's website, the purpose of the contest is to raise awareness of the value of community colleges, as well as reward those institutions that are committed to maintaining the highest standards of excellence in their educational pursuits.
What is Accreditation?
According to the Maryland Higher Education Commission, accreditation is "a voluntary process of self-regulation and peer review adopted by the educational community." This means that educational institutions have agreed to evaluate one another to determine whether each has successfully achieved its stated educational goals.
When a school is accredited, it has been proven to provide a quality of education recognized by the educational community at large. Accredited schools are better recognized for their coursework and credits earned, and students who attend these institutions are more likely to be able to receive financial aid or transfer credits to another college or university.
One publication, Washington Monthly, has created a simple ranking system of the top community colleges in the country. Which community colleges are at the top of the list – and do the Washington Monthly’s rankings truly matter?