Recognition ‘affirms work we do’

Aspen Prize cites Rowan College for its student career opportunities

Albert J. Countryman Jr./The Sun
Rowan College of South Jersey and county officials broke ground last month for the first Academy of Neurodiversity on the school’s Deptford campus. Rowan is among 150 schools that will compete to win the Aspen Prize, which recognizes a school’s high achievement and performance.

Rowan College of South Jersey was named this month as one of 150 institutions eligible to compete for the $1-million 2025 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement and performance among two-year colleges.

“Receiving this recognition affirms the work we continue to do – creating more opportunities for students – while fulfilling the academic and industry needs in the communities we serve,” Rowan President Dr. Fred Keating said.

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“I am extremely proud of our employees for their dedication, but most importantly, I am proud of our students for persisting and inspiring us every day,” he added. “I know our model works when I go to my local doctor’s office and a current student completes my intake, then a RCSJ graduate completes my vitals, and when I see the doctor, he tells me some of his best employees graduated from RCSJ.”

The biennial Aspen Prize spotlights community colleges in order to bring attention to colleges who achieve post-graduate success for all students. It is also a way that the Aspen Institute – a nonprofit that focuses on human potential – searches highly effective student success strategies shared with the field.

The 150 colleges eligible for the award submit student success data and narratives about strategies to achieve better and more equitable student outcomes.

“The Aspen Prize is rooted first and foremost in an assessment of whether colleges are walking the walk,” explained Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program. “As community colleges face enrollment variations, enroll students with pandemic-related learning loss, and graduate students into a rapidly changing labor market, it is easy to lose track of what matters most.

“The best community colleges are continuing to focus on advancing the core mission: making sure as many students as possible graduate with credentials that lead to fulfilling careers and reflect the development of diverse talent that communities, states, and our nation need,” he added.

The schools selected for the Aspen Prize stand out among more than 1,000 community 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 backgrounds.

“These 150 colleges have achieved high and improving levels of student success for all students, including those who are often failed by our institutions,” Wyner noted. “We’re excited to learn over the coming months how they achieved that success so we can share the most impressive practices with others in the field.”

The highly coveted prize is often referred to as “the Oscars for great community colleges,” the nation’s signature acknowledgment of exceptional performance and achievement among two-year colleges. Winners must demonstrate exceptional success in six critical areas, including teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion and workforce success.

The Aspen Institute invited 150 community colleges across 30 states to apply for its prize, schools with as few as 169 students and as many as 49,619. In the first round, eligibility for the prize is based on publicly available data. Colleges must show strong, improving, and equitable student outcomes in first-to-second year retention, credentials awarded, and completion and transfer rates.

In April, the Aspen Institute will announce 25 semifinalists; 10 finalists will be named in June. They will all be visited and a prize selection panel will collect additional information, including employment and earnings data and insights about promising practices.

A winner will be announced and celebrated in the spring of 2025 in Washington, D.C.

For a full list of the top 150 eligible schools and to read more on the selection process, visit

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