Oscar Rosado
Editor-in-Chief

LCCC President Marcia Ballinger, Ph.D. is pleased with the college being named among the top 150 community colleges in the country by the Aspen Institute.  As one of the 150 top community colleges, LCCC is eligible to compete for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among America’s community colleges.

“This designation by the prestigious Aspen Institute is quite an honor, and a true indicator of LCCC’s continued commitment and progress toward student success,” Dr. Ballinger said.

LCCC one of three in OH

Based on strong performance and continued improvements in student outcomes — including graduation rates, employment rates, earnings, and equity — 15 percent of community colleges nationwide have been invited to apply for the Aspen Prize – and LCCC is just one of three Ohio community colleges to be among those contenders. The other two Ohio colleges named are Cuyahoga County Community College and Ohio State University’s Newark Campus.

“LCCC has made student success, that means success in academics and in careers, a top priority.  We have redesigned programs and systems to best meet the needs of our students today, while building a highly skilled workforce to meet the needs of employers and drive our economy,” Dr. Ballinger said.

Words from Vice President  

Vice President for Strategic and Institutional Development Tracy Green expressed a similar reaction.

“So much of what we do is driven by the needs of our students today and what they are going to need to be successful in the economy of the future and really looking at our local needs. What has transpired that’s made us one of the best in the country, but it’s really driven by what do our students need and it’s constantly looking at how can we do better for our students to help them complete, to get to the finish line with less time and less cost,” said Green. 

Green said they were not aware where among the top 150 the institution is at, but said Purposely institutions are not told where they are ranked among the 150, because it can be discouraging.

The Aspen Institute looks at what colleges continuously improve where they’re at. The next step in the process is that LCCC has to apply and submit an application as one of the 150, and the Aspen Institute will narrow the 150 down to the top 10.

“This has qualified us to apply for the Aspen prize, so they will narrow this done by way of process. It is completely done by their own data using the info that gets reported. The next step is to apply for the Aspen prize,” said Green.

According to Green, there are about a little over 1,250 community colleges in the country alone. 

The next step

The 150 community colleges named today are eligible to compete for the 2021 Aspen Prize and 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 students and as many as 75,000 students, these colleges represent the diversity and depth of the community college sector according to a press release.

Data shows 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. Locally, Lorain County Community College has seen a 93 percent increase in the number of degrees and certificates awarded since 2011.

“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,” said Executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program Josh Wyner.

“We’re very proud of being named one of the top 150. It is such an honor, and we will celebrate that recognition,” said Green. She then said, “More importantly, we will use it to help inspire what more we need to do. We are really focused on what our strategic plan is, what is our vision, which is that 10,000 degrees of impact and really helping our students, get to where they need to be. Everything we do is driven by the needs of our students and by the needs of the community.”

LCCC won’t be notified until next Spring around late May, when the finalists will be announced. Regardless, Green said there is value even in the application process, and said, “It makes you really look at what are the things we’ve been doing really well and how is that connected to that plan and what are the things we will be doing next.”

Green then said “That is what is going to keep driving us, this will help us celebrate, saying ‘hey we’re on the right path, but we got a long way to go’ and so everything we’re doing right now is being focused on, is not necessarily that national recognition, that’s a great thing to have, but more importantly it’s what is the impact we need to have right now in our own backyard.”

“This is an extraordinary recognition of the College’s focus on providing this community with access to high quality, affordable education that aligns with careers and jobs in growing sectors.  We’ve made great progress, but in this rapidly changing economy we have more work to do,” said Ballinger.  

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.  This Aspen recognition follows LCCC being recognized by the American Association of Community College as the 2018 Top Community College for Excellence in Student Success, according to a press release.