The Aspen Institute ranked Santa Barbara City College among the nation’s top 120 community colleges from a pool of more than 1,000 schools.

The international nonprofit organization released the rankings last week as part of their College Excellence Program, highlighting the educational successes of the country’s junior colleges. SBCC was chosen for its high graduation rate, technical education programs and diverse networking opportunities.

All 120 colleges are eligible to apply for spots on the Aspen Institute’s Top 10 list and compete for first place, complete with a grant of $1 million. Finalists will be announced in September.

According to SBCC President Andreea Serban, the ranking reflects the high expectations and work ethic of the campus’ students and faculty.

“SBCC’s ranking among the top 10 percent of community colleges is a recognition of the hard work and innovation of our teachers, administration and student body,” Serban said. “As part of our mission to provide quality education to all who seek it, the university has continued to make its resources more accessible to students.”

Aram Kushigian, a first-year SBCC student, said he decided to attend the college after learning about its positive reputation within the community.

“The campus is beautiful, the professors really know their subjects and the other students are outgoing and easy to talk to,” Kushigian said. “The class sizes are small, so you really get to know your professors and they are very accessible if you need help outside of class. Even if I disagree with a professor, I have to think hard and challenge myself to debate them. The professors really bring out the best in me; I’m doing better in school now than I have ever done before.”

Kushigian said the college also keeps his interest outside of academics with its various extracurricular opportunities.

“They have lots of political film screenings which I find relevant to my political science classes,” Kushigian said. “I also plan to try out for the baseball team next year.”

The college created several new programs designed to accelerate graduation and improve accessibility for students at risk of not graduating, including in-class tutoring and a newly developed math lab and writing center.

According to Serban, nearly one quarter of the student body takes advantage of these programs.

“Our Express to Success program dramatically accelerates remedial education compared to programs in the past,” Serban said. “These students are registering for classes earlier, trying harder and recognizing the value of higher education and becoming successful in their careers.”

Additionally, SBCC expanded its technical education and workforce training programs to help students prepare for their first jobs, re-enter the career world and advance in their current work.

Serban said these services are the backbone of the college’s success.

“These occupational programs are one of the core components of the community college system — workforce training and economic development,” Serban said. “Many of them are funded by partnerships the college has formed with various industries over the years and offer direct employment opportunities for the students who participate.”