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Green River College Recognized as a Top 150 U.S. Community College by Aspen Institute, Eligible for $1M 2023 Aspen Prize

By Philip Denman, November 2, 2021

Aspen Prize logoGreen River College has been named one of the top 150 community colleges in the country by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. As a Top finalist, GRC is eligible for the 2023 $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance.  

GRC was selected from nearly 1,000 public two-year colleges nationwide as having high and improving levels of student success as well as equitable outcomes for Black and Hispanic students and those from lower-income background.  

“Green River College being named an ‘Aspen Prize Top 150 U.S. Community College’ is very exciting and a huge honor,” GRC President Suzanne M. Johnson said. “I am very proud of the dedication and commitment of our faculty and staff to meet students where they are, and provide inclusive, equitable access to the quality education and support services needed for them to reach their personal, education, and career goals.” 

The Aspen Prize spotlights exemplary community colleges in order to elevate the sector, drive attention to colleges doing the best work, and discover and share highly effective student success and equity strategies. Since 2010, Aspen has chosen to focus intensively on community colleges because they are—as First Lady Dr. Jill Biden stated at the 2021 Aspen Prize ceremony— “a powerful engine of prosperity.”  

But student outcomes vary enormously among community colleges, and improving those outcomes is essential to securing our nation’s economic future, strengthening communities, and ensuring that diverse populations experience economic mobility and prosperity. With these goals in mind, the Aspen Prize honors colleges with outstanding achievement in five critical areas: teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, transfer and bachelor’s attainment, workforce success, and equity for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. 

“In an era of persistent inequity and workforce talent gaps, our nation’s best community colleges are stepping up to deliver more degrees to increasingly diverse students so they are prepared for the good jobs waiting to be filled,” said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. “Leaders of exceptional community colleges understand that achieving excellence requires expanding college access and increasing degree completion, but it doesn’t stop there.  They are committed to ensuring that all students—including students of color and those from low-income backgrounds—graduate with the skills needed to secure a job with family-sustaining wages or successfully transfer to and graduate from a university. That same commitment that stands at the center of the Aspen Prize: to advance the goals of social mobility and equitable talent development.” 

The top 150 colleges represent the diversity and depth of the community college sector. Located in urban, rural, and suburban areas across 34 states, these colleges serve as few as 230 students and as many as 57,000. 

Next Steps 
The next steps in the process include:  

  • Selection of the top ten finalists by an expert panel of 15 experts in community colleges, higher education, and workforce training, to be announced in spring/summer 2022 
  • Fall 2022 site visits to each of the ten finalists, during which the Aspen Institute and partners will collect additional information, including employment and earnings data and insights about promising practices 
  • A distinguished jury will meet and make award decisions in the first quarter of early 2023
  • Announcement of the Aspen Prize in late spring 2023 


For a full list of the top 150 institutions and to read more on the selection process, visit www.highered.aspeninstitute.org/aspen-prize

The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program aims to advance higher education practices, policies, and leadership that significantly improve student outcomes. Through the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the Siemens-Aspen Community College STEM Award, and other initiatives, the College Excellence Program works to improve colleges’ understanding and capacity to teach and graduate students, especially the growing population of low-income and minority students on American campuses. For more information, visit http://highered.aspeninstitute.org

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org

Green River College is an open-access, public college where students from all over the world come together to learn, grow and enrich their lives. Green River’s main campus stretches over 180 acres of beautifully forested land. Branch campuses, located in downtown Auburn, Kent and Enumclaw, bring the college’s unique educational experiences to local communities. At Green River, students can choose from a wide variety of transfer degrees, Bachelor of Applied Science degrees, career and technical education, pre-college and basic skills courses and continuing and community education classes. High-quality faculty and motivated staff advise, counsel and support students in their chosen educational careers, creating an encouraging atmosphere that fosters achievement. For more information, visit www.greenriver.edu. 

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