Once every two years, the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence is awarded to the country’s top community college. This year, for the first time, a school from Texas won the $600,000 prize: San Antonio College, a 95-year-old community college near the city’s downtown
Judges evaluate community colleges in six areas: teaching and learning; certificate and degree completion; transfer and bachelor’s attainment; workforce success; equitable outcomes for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds; and leadership and culture. One of the ways they do that is by interviewing dozens of students, faculty and community members about the school.
“It’s pretty intensive because graduating students is not enough,” said the school’s president, Robert Vela. “It’s what they’re doing beyond graduation from [San Antonio College] and whether they can actively contribute to the community.”
Vela told Texas Standard that one of the keys to his school’s success has ben tailoring each student’s academic experience to their personal needs as much as possible.
“We said … we’re going to focus on excellence and we’re going to provide excellence at every venue of our college instruction,” Vela said. “And we’re going to individualize that experience, meaning that every student that comes to our door, regardless of where they come from, they’re going to be treated like they’re the most important person for the college.”