Santa Barbara City College was awarded the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence along with Walla Walla Community College in Washington this past March.

The two winners, as well as the runners-up with distinction, were selected by a Prize Jury of 12 prominent leaders in education, business, civil rights and public service. SBCC and WWCC each received $400,000 as prize money to be used to fund academic programs.
According to a press release, the co-winners were selected from a pool of the nation’s 1,000 leading public community colleges. The award recognizes institutions for outstanding achievement in four primary areas: student learning outcomes, degree completion, facilitating minority and low-income student success and labor market success in securing good jobs after college.
The Aspen Institute cites strong marks in these four categories as evidence of SBCC’s high achievement and performance including its high completion and transfer rates — about two out of three students, or 64 percent compared to the national average of 40 percent — student learning programs, labor market wages and equity — about a 48 percent graduation/transfer rate for Hispanic students alone.
SBCC was chosen out of 112 community colleges in California, having been continually recognized for its student success initiative programs, SBCC Public Information Officer Joan Galvan said. The college was also ranked in the Top 10 Community Colleges in the nation by the Aspen Institute in 2011.
“This is the second time that the Aspen Institute has given [SBCC] the award,” Galvan said. “In the past, we have received federal grants that have enabled us to come up with student success initiative programs, like Express to Success.”
Express to Success, SBCC’s accelerated learning program which aims to help students complete their associate’s degree or transfer in under three years, earned the Chancellor’s Award for Best Practices in Student Equity among California community colleges in 2012, and SBCC has been commended in the past for its efforts in helping underrepresented and minority students succeed academically.
The selection process for the award was lengthy as colleges had to first submit an application, with the Top 10 schools chosen by a group of judges. SBCC was the only community college in California to make the Top 10 list two years in a row. After choosing finalists, a site team was sent to the schools along with a committee who interviewed faculty, students and community partners to evaluate the colleges’ qualifications.
Galvan said SBCC has always had a superior reputation for academics, and being ranked first out of more than 1,000 community colleges nationwide further proves this point.
“[This award has] been a wonderful validation of our reputation as one of California’s top premier community colleges,” Galvan said. “It’s a huge point of pride for us … we are working very hard to share that pride and honor with our community college family and also with the Santa Barbara Community College.”
Galvan said while there are still discussions occurring as to what the money will be used for, SBCC will continue to follow the school’s mission of providing students with routes to success.
“We consider ourselves a very creative school when it comes to student success initiative programs,” Galvan said. “We will continue going down that path with an emphasis on excellence. We are an institution of excellence.”



A version of this article appeared on page 4 of the May 2st, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus