Statement by President and CEO of Achieving the Dream, Dr. William E. Trueheart on the Awarding of the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence

Silver Spring, MD (March 18, 2015) - Santa Fe College of Gainesville, Florida today won the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the culmination of many years of hard work and the achievement of exceptional levels of student success. Winning the Aspen Prize demands that a college examine its goals, culture, operations and policies and then commit to undergoing the institutional change required to make dramatic improvements in student outcomes. But raising student learning, completion, labor market and equity outcomes to the highest levels requires a sustained, intensive effort that deserves our attention and our respect. Santa Fe College is an exemplary leader from which the community college reform movement has much to learn.

This year’s Aspen Prize is being awarded against a backdrop of increasingly worrisome national trends. Income inequality has grown to levels not seen since before the Great Depression. Median family income declined 6% between 2000 and 2011. Seventy percent of children raised in the bottom fifth of the income distribution will remain below the middle of the income ladder as adults. If they are willing to engage in the hard work of institutional change, community colleges can help counter these trends by preparing students, and especially low-income students and students of color, to earn certificates and degrees that open doors to jobs with family-sustaining wages. Achieving the Dream colleges, Aspen Prize winners, finalists, and applicants have shown extraordinary commitment to student success. They are the colleges that will make a difference in our nation’s future.

I offer my deepest congratulations to Santa Fe College President Dr. Jackson Sasser and his team. I also congratulate West Kentucky Community and Technical College, an Achieving the Dream Institution, for being selected as a Finalist-with-Distinction. And I again congratulate the Achieving the Dream colleges selected in September as finalists for the prize – Brazosport College, El Paso Community College, Indian River State College, Renton Technical College, and West Kentucky Community and Technical College. They are courageous and diligent in their pursuit of student success and equity.

Achieving the Dream, Inc. is a national nonprofit that is dedicated to helping more community college students, particularly low-income students and students of color, stay in school and earn a college certificate or degree. Evidence-based, student-centered, and built on the values of equity and excellence, Achieving the Dream is closing achievement gaps and accelerating student success nationwide by: 1) guiding evidence-based institutional improvement, 2) leading policy change, 3) generating knowledge, and 4) engaging the public. Conceived as an initiative in 2004 by Lumina Foundation and seven founding partner organizations, today, Achieving the Dream is leading the most comprehensive non-governmental reform network for student success in higher education history. With over 200 institutions, more than 100 coaches and advisors, and 15 state policy teams - working throughout 35 states and the District of Columbia – the Achieving the Dream National Reform Network helps more than 4 million community college students have a better chance of realizing greater economic opportunity and achieving their dreams.

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