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3 California schools compete for national community college prize

Three California schools made the first cut for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence for the second consecutive time and will compete for a share of $1 million in award money, officials announced Monday.

Santa Barbara City College, Coastline Community College in Fountain Valley and San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton are among the Aspen Institute's top 120 schools in the nation, as they were last year, and will compete for the award that will be announced next year.

Of the three, Santa Barbara City College was the only California school to be named a top 10 finalist last year. The main prize is handed out every two years.

“Some good things have taken place since last year, so hopefully that will strengthen our application,” said Santa Barbara City College acting superintendent and President Jack Friedlander. “This is great news. To be invited back a second time is a good tribute to us.”

Aspen Institute officials said they evaluated more than 1,000 schools on a number of quantitative factors and will review more data and visit campuses before announcing the grand-prize winner and runners-up in March. Competition officials say they use publicly available data on student outcomes to develop the list of 120.

“The success of our nation’s community colleges is more important than ever before,” Josh Wyner, Aspen Institute college excellence program executive director, said in a statement. “At a time when a college degree is essential to entering the middle class, community colleges offer the most promising path to education and employment for literally millions of Americans.”

The 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence will be only the second in the history of the award. In 2011, 70,000-student Valencia College in Orlando, Florida, took the inaugural prize. At the time, it was the first major award competition that recognized accomplishments of the nation’s individual community colleges.  

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-- Matt Stevens

 
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